There are several rewards credit cards that can help make your dreams of Italy come true. Here are my top five.
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One of my family’s favorite places to travel is Italy.
We’ve been blessed to visit Tuscany, Florence, Bologna, the Amalfi Coast and Rome. Not only is the scenery fantastic, but oh, the food. I would love to go to Italy at least once a year just to eat pizza and pasta and sip wine. Mangia!
But that would drain a wallet pretty fast, even though the cost of wine in some parts of Italy is less than a soda. Thank goodness travel credit cards can help you get there without draining your savings or spending more than you should.
For our first trip to Italy in 2017, we took advantage of Aer Lingus award pricing of 26,000 miles round-trip from major cities in the U.S. to Dublin available during their off-peak season. You can fly from cities like New York, Hartford, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Chicago during the airline’s off-peak season, which runs two-thirds of the year. Peak season is roughly mid-April, mid-June to early September and over the holidays.
From Dublin, it’s easy to catch a flight to Italy either using miles or flying a discount airline like Ryanair.
There are several credit cards that can help make your dreams of Italy come true. Here are my top five.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve
These are hands-down my favorite travel credit cards because of their flexibility and because they easily transfer to two of my favorite airline loyalty programs: Southwest Rapid Rewards and Aer Lingus Avios.
For our first trip to Europe, my husband applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve when it had an initial 100,000-point bonus offer after signing up and meeting a $4,000 minimum spend in the first three months (this offer is now 50,000 points for the same minimum spend). Because we earned 1 point per dollar to reach the minimum spend requirement, we netted a total of 104,000 points, which is exactly what we needed to fly four people for 26,000 points each to Europe.
In addition to the current sign-up offers for these cards, you can also earn 2 points per $1 on travel and dining using the Preferred card and 3 points per $1 on travel and dining using the Reserve card. We try to use these cards for our travel and dining expenses, and as much as we travel, it adds up quickly and grants us a bank of points to use for our next trip to Italy.
British Airways Visa Signature Card
Aer Lingus Avios is partners with British Airways and Iberia, all of whom use Avios as their loyalty programs’ miles. That means you can earn Avios with any of these programs and easily transfer between each program.
The British Airways Visa Signature Card’s current welcome offer for new applicants allows you to earn 4 Avios per $1 on all purchases up to $30,000 in the first year. That’s more than enough to get a family of four to Europe on Aer Lingus with a few extra to spare to use for intra-Europe flights.
When you reach this threshold, you’ll also get a credit for one rewards seat good for two years and the ability to bring a companion with you free aside from taxes, fees and carrier charges.
After you reach the $30,000 spend, cardholders may then earn 3 Avios per $1 on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per $1 for everything else. The card does come with a $95 annual fee.
See related: Best credit cards for a Disney trip
Aer Lingus Visa Signature
The Aer Lingus card has the same offer as British Airways, except after you reach the $30,000 spending limit, you’ll be able to earn 3 points per $1 on not just British Airways purchases, but Aer Lingus and Iberia, as well.
When you complete the $30,000 spend on this card, you get a companion ticket that allows you to bring one person with you free (aside from security fees, taxes and carrier charges) in economy seating. The ticket is good for 12 months. Another perk you’ll receive as a cardholder is priority boarding on flights between the U.S. and Ireland. The card has a $95 annual fee.
Iberia Visa Signature
The Iberia Visa Signature card has the same offer of 4 Avios per $1 on the first $30,000 in purchases your first year, but it has an added bonus of a $1,000 voucher to use toward two Iberia tickets within the first year if you meet that $30,000-spend threshold. Plus, you get a 10 percent discount when you use your card to book an Iberia flight using the link Iberia.com/Chase10.
You’ll also be able to earn 3 Avios per $1 on all purchases with Iberia, British Airways and Aer Lingus. This card also has a $95 annual fee.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
With the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, you can turn your Marriott Rewards points into miles and earn a bonus when you transfer a set amount. We used this great perk for additional Avios to fly Aer Lingus between cities in Europe. It’s roughly 8,000 to 17,000 Avios per way depending on the distance between the two cities you’re flying in Europe on Aer Lingus.
Marriott Rewards points transfer at a ratio of 3 points to 1 mile to 40 different airlines, including British Airways and Iberia. From there, you can transfer to Aer Lingus if needed. You also get a bonus 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Rewards points you transfer to an airline – free! Keep in mind it can take up to seven business days (and did take that long for ours) to transfer, so leave plenty of time to move your points over.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is currently offering 100,000 points after a $5,000 minimum spend in the first three months. That translates into approximately 40,000 more Avios once you make the 3:1 transfer and earn the 5,000 bonus miles.
So go ahead … start dreaming of Italy. Get out your copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and picture yourself over Italy’s sunny coast, rolling hills and ancient cities. With a little planning, a credit card or two in hand and some knowledge of miles, you’ll be on your way before you know it.