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I’m showing you step-by-step how to earn a FREE family vacation to Costa Rica with travel rewards credit cards using only your regular monthly expenses!
I seriously love a great deal. But when it comes to travel hacking, I held onto a misconception for so long. I thought that using points and miles was hard. And I mistakenly assumed travel rewards credit cards were not worth the hassle.
In fact, at one point my husband had hundreds of thousands of miles earned through his work travel just sitting there in his accounts because I had no idea how easy they were to use.
Well, it turns out you can actually take a killer free family vacation, even when you don’t have a spouse racking up the miles! I’m going to show you how to strategically earn points through your everyday expenses so you can take a super cheap family vacation to Costa Rica.
Getting Free Flights To Costa Rica With Travel Rewards Credit Cards
In my experience, JetBlue points are incredibly easy to earn and redeem. The current offer for the JetBlue Plus Card gives you a 40,000 point signup bonus after spending only $1000 within the first 90 days. Way easier than most other travel credit cards. And here’s a super bang-for-your-buck tip: use your regular grocery shopping budget to meet that spending requirement. All grocery store spending will get you 2x points, so it is an easy way to rack up extra points. Sooo easy!
We spent 20,600 True Blue points per person for round-trip flights from Boston to Liberia, Costa Rica. I found some flights even cheaper than that, but we spent a few thousand more points to fly at more convenient times. Use the Best Fare Finder calendar on JetBlue’s website to plan ahead and find the cheapest days to fly. With two adult cardholders in the house, it is possible to earn enough points to fly a family of four to Costa Rica by the time you’ve met the initial spending requirement.
Earning Free Hotel Stays In Costa Rica With Travel Rewards Credit Cards
The Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo is a category 4 Hyatt property. That means you will need just 15,000 points per night. And lucky for you, there are sooo many ways to earn Hyatt points! This is the hotel that inspired us to go to Costa Rica because it is so darn easy to book free nights.
Hyatt partners with Chase, so there are several ways you can earn points. The most straightforward is the Chase Hyatt Credit Card. Right now you will get a 40,000 point bonus after spending just $2,000 within the first three months. Hyatt also gives you one free night in a category 1-4 hotel each year after your first cardholder anniversary. And they even make it super easy to transfer points to your spouse!
So if two adults in your family sign up, you will have enough points to book 5 nights after the initial spending requirement. But if you waited one year to receive those extra free nights on your first anniversary, your family could book 7 free nights. How amazing is that?!
Alternatively, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve 1:1 to the World of Hyatt program. Both cards have a 50,000 point sign-up bonus but the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a much lower annual fee, and the fee is waived for the first year.
Marriott also partners with Chase for their Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. This card gives you a large 75,000 point signup bonus but Marriott reward nights also typically require more points. The JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa is a category 8 hotel for 2018, so you will need 35-40,000 points per night. Like the Hyatt card, this one gets you a free night each year after your first cardmember anniversary. So with two adults earning points, you could rack up anywhere from 3-6 free nights at the JW Marriott Guanacaste.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can also be transferred to Marriott Rewards 1:1, although Marriott Rewards points are worth less per point than other Chase partners.
Free Car Rental Using Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Driving a rental car in Costa Rica is insanely easy, and it gives you loads of freedom to explore. There are a few things you have to know about renting a car here, however. Often rewards points flat out won’t be accepted, even at major brands like Hertz. And many rental car agencies (yup, even the big guys) will lure you in with an ultra-cheap quote on their US website that doesn’t include Costa Rica’s mandatory third-party insurance and airport tax.
So how can you rent a car for free here if you can’t use points from a program like Chase Ultimate Rewards? Luckily there’s an easy solution!
The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is one of the most flexible reward cards you can sign up for. It is a great trick to keep in your back pocket for when you just can’t find another way to get a travel expense for free.
You’ll get 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first three months. And because every dollar you spend earns unlimited 2x miles, that initial spending requirement will get you an extra 6,000 miles.
But here’s the best part – you get to put your miles to use as a statement credit on any travel related expense. So you could charge your car rental at any agency to the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, and then use their online Purchase Eraser feature to put your miles toward the rental car cost (just make sure you do it within 90 days of making the charge or you’ll be out of luck!).
And if you want all the details on our car rental experience in Costa Rica (spoiler alert – it was awesome!), check out my full Costa Rica trip rundown in this blog post.
And remember – always (and I mean always!) follow the basic rules of earning miles and points:
- Use your regular spending to meet initial spending requirements. Going over your budget just to meet the requirement is not saving you money.
- Make sure you will be able to meet the spending requirement in time so you don’t miss out on the bonus. For example, if you usually budget $1000 per month for groceries, commit to using the JetBlue Plus card every time you hit the grocery store.
- Play the long game. Taking 12-18 months or longer to earn the points you need for a free vacation is totally fine. Remember, it is still a bonus vacation you wouldn’t otherwise take! You don’t have to open several new cards at the same time or try to earn bonuses simultaneously. Plan a goal trip and gradually earn the points as your budget allows.
Have you ever travel hacked a free trip for your family? I would love to hear more about it!
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