Charged Up! podcast: Mastering your credit card rewards

Episode 35 with points pro Tessa Juliette on the best strategies to earn free travel

Charged Up! with Jenny Hoff

 



Travel guru and credit card points pro Tessa Juliette shares some of her favorite tips on using your cards wisely to score awesome trips around the world for free. What started out as a one-time gig, when she and her husband strategized to take a honeymoon around the world for almost two months on points, has now become a full-time job as she shares her favorite tips, travel recommendations and card strategies on her Where to Next? website.

So, if you’ve wondered how to start making your cards pay you more than the rewards you’re currently getting, sit back and get Charged Up! about mastering the credit card rewards game.

Transcript: 

Jenny Hoff: Tessa, thank you so much for joining me today. 

Tessa Juliette: Yeah, of course. 

Hoff: So first, let’s talk about your story of getting into the rewards game and getting into travel because your website is interesting where you say that you weren’t exactly drowning in money and so you didn’t have all of these resources available but you really wanted to travel. Tell me a little bit about how you started learning how to unravel travel secrets you can make happen as soon as possible? 

Juliette: Yeah. So I was in a good situation financially. I had a good job, but I wasn’t really saving much for travel. I didn’t really know anything about credit cards at the time. I knew that you had to be careful with them but I didn’t know how to use them for gain and all the rewards that you can get out of them. I started just going online and looking at travel resources like CreditCards.com, The Points Guy, NerdWallet, all that kind of stuff, and I just spent a couple of nights educating myself and just reading. It’s so hard sometimes when you read these things and they’re kind of hard to decipher because they’re talking about valuations and this percentage and that percentage. So it takes some time to read through and try to absorb it and understand. Next, I had to sit down with my husband because he was totally against credit cards, and I had to convince him that we were going to do this and it was going to be OK. We were going to use credit cards in a beneficial way and we weren’t going to go into debt. And so we started with really small credit cards to grow our credit. For me, it was difficult and for him it was like a walk at the park, just a bank credit card just to simply grow our credit. We used it every day and we paid it off completely at the end of every month. We tried to always use our credit card for everything instead of using cash here and there to really, really grow our credit. Then once we had decent credit, we started looking at true rewards card. So we started looking online at American Express and Chase, all those different cards. We noticed that American Express had a gift card that was half off their normal point value. This was great for us because we had a monthlong road trip plan, six months from then that we were saving for. So we saved up all of our points and again used our card for everything even if it was just $2 for a soda, we would use our credit card. We bought all of these gift cards for gas and we actually used those cards on the trip and didn’t spend a single cent on gas the entire trip. And then along with that, we also ate out of supermarkets instead of restaurants. So on that monthlong trip, we spent almost no money the entire time except for of course hotel. 

Hoff: So you started getting in the game when you started saying, “OK. Now I can see how this can work for me. I can use these cards to get discounts on gas cards or category bonuses or whatever it is.” 

Juliette: Exactly. 

Hoff: You started to understand a little bit more about how to use credit cards. So now that you’re in the game and you’ve got a couple of cards to your name and you are hooked on the rewards benefits and the big payoff that you can get on signing on and having good credit and how that can really give you a lot of opportunities, how did you start to collect points strategically to plan for more major trips? 

Juliette: Strategically, we looked at cards with huge sign-up bonuses. We always try to stagger our bonus cards and so Matt will file for one, my husband Matt, and I will apply for one some months later once we’ve hit that bonus. So usually, it’s X amount of dollars and X amount of money. Together as a couple, since we’re normally spending that anyway, it’s easy for us to hit those bonuses. And then another thing we had to do was start to rewire our brains to stop looking at annual fees as a huge expense. So for example, I really wanted the Chase Sapphire card and it’s a $450 annual fee. Matt was completely against it. He thought that was crazy and that that was way too big of a fee. So when you actually break down all of the rewards that come with it, it’s completely 100 percent worth it. For the Chase Sapphire, for example, there’s $300 immediate travel credit. That brings it down to $150. Then there’s an immediate $100 global entry credit which I was in the process of signing up for already. So that brings it down to $50 per year. Then with the sign-up bonus, you get all that money and extra credits using their portal and so you’re already now on the plus side of gaining money from the card instead of just looking at the fee. 

Hoff: Yeah. I think that’s for a lot of people a very important point, the annual fees. Obviously, card companies aren’t stupid. The better rewards you’ll get will be the ones the higher fees, right? 

Juliette: Exactly. 

Hoff: And that’s usually where you can get those big ones. I think you were talking about the Chase Sapphire Reserve where it was 100,000-point sign-on bonus during a certain period of time. And then of course if you use it through the portal and stuff, you get even a bigger valuation out of those points. So now that you started to sign up for these, two things you did to make it work. One is you guys staggered signing up for cards so that you can meet those minimum spends without having to over your budget. So if it’s $2,000 in two months, you’re going to do that first then you can sign up for another card. You started staggering them and you started looking for cards that maybe had an annual fee but they came with such great rewards that it was totally worth the annual fee. So then, you mentioned using the portals. Can you go into a little bit more depth now about how you started strategizing to make the most out of every point you were getting? 

Juliette: Right. Once you sign up for a couple of cards, there’s one card that has 5 percent rotating bonuses. There’s one card that’s 3 percent on travel or restaurant. We’re always really cognizant of when we’re out before we make any purchase of what card we’re going to use, which sounds really overwhelming but it becomes second nature. When we’re out and we’re about to make a purchase, we look at each other and we’re like, “Barclays.” It’s so funny. We just look at each other and we know exactly which one we need to use. But it becomes second nature because you want every single dollar you spend to get the maximum reward back. Buying all those travel credits when you’re on a trip, you can use one card for this thing and another card to pay for this thing. So then what happens is your actual whole trip becomes free. We actually started looking at that and looking at what cards to use when. The portal was what was really important. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the great card because their portal not only is what they show you you can get credit for, but if you call them if there’s a certain flight like Frontier or Spirit, all of these airlines that are really, really cheap and you don’t tend to see them on portals, if you call them, they’ll honor the price and they’ll give it to you in the points equivalent. I didn’t even know that the first three months we had it until one day Matt was like, “I’m just going to call and see if they’ll honor this.” It was a Frontier $40 flight to Ashville. He called and they’re like, “Of course. Any flight you find online, if we can find it online as well, we’ll honor it through our portal.” So we started booking things that we’re even cheaper and even more crazy, ridiculous flights. It just amazes me how cheap flights are, especially when you go to Europe all the Ryanair flights and easyJet. So we started booking those with Chase portal. That is something really valuable because now our points are going so far.

Hoff: I know some people have other Chase cards. Let’s talk about the Chase Sapphire Reserve again because they give you, I think, a point-and-a-half per dollar spent if you’re booking it through the portal. If you have other Chase cards where you’re getting points, I’ve heard of people who then transfer that up to that same Chase Sapphire Reserve so they can now increase the value of each one of their points they get on their other cards as well. Is that something that you guys have done? 

Juliette: Yes. It’s funny, two weeks ago, Matt opened a Chase Freedom which has 5 percent rotating categories and that is exactly what we planned to do. We opened up that card. We’re starting to use and now the 5 percent category, which I believe is restaurants at the moment, we’re actually getting 6.5 percent back on it because once you transfer them to Chase, you get even more of an incentive to use it. So, yes, exactly. 

Hoff: Do you exclusively book through the portal because that’s where you get the maximum value for your points?

Juliette: Now that we found that by calling we can use the portal for anything, yes, we mostly book through there but there are times when simply I’m just using cash back rewards on some other cards to reimburse me. Travel is a lot of things. It’s not just your airline and your hotel. It’s also your food while you’re there and your experience while you’re there. So that’s why having a card that gives great back cash back which is used to discover a lot for, we use those then to reimburse ourselves for anything. So if an excursion with $50 but we have $50 in cash back, that excursion is free. 

Hoff: So your goal with each trip is to make it as free as possible?

Juliette: Yeah. We try to make everything we booked be able to be used as points. 

Hoff: I want to hear about you guys’ world tour that you did and how you made that happen and also talk about the potential of combining points when you’re married. I know some cards in some loyalty programs will allow you guys to combine accounts which obviously gives you a lot more flexibility because now you have a much bigger pool to choose from. Can you talk a little bit about that? 

Juliette: Yeah. Matt and I got married last year. We knew for our honeymoon, we wanted to take a really long trip around the world before both of our jobs got to full swing. And so we settled on this 52-day trip that we had dreamed about. We went from Alaska to Thailand to India to Russia and then back to the U.S.. So we practically went around the world. We knew going into this, we were going to have to save a lot and we were also going to have to use points for this. We started looking for cards with few sign-up bonuses because we knew that we had so many cards to use for this trip. After making across the Chase Sapphire card which at the time had the 100,000 points on it. And so we signed up for that card. We got the savings, the X amount of dollars in three months. Once we got the huge bonus, we used that as a huge chunk to book our tickets there and book our tickets around the world. Then at that point, it becomes a little part luck and a little part persistence. We would set alerts for hotel deals in different cities. Once we got an alert, we would call the portal and see if they would honor the price. So our biggest -- was when in New Delhi, we got this beautiful palace for $90. It was basically 50 percent or 75 percent off. It’s an insanely beautiful palace. I didn’t even realize when we booked it how amazing it was until we walked in that night. We had a five days completely free because we used our points along with our alerts for hotel deals. 

Hoff: What sites did you go to to set alerts for hotel deals? And so then you never booked it actually through those sites? You just waited to see the deal that popped up and then you’d immediately go to the portal or call Chase and they agreed to honor whatever online price is going on at the time. Which sites did you go to? 

Juliette: Exactly. I use hotels.com for most of mine and then we use Trivago. It has a website extension to actually get alerts to our email. 

Hoff: That’s great. So you’re basically making it automatic where you go to the sites where you know that they’re going to have these flash deals. As soon as you get the alert, then you go to the Chase portal and you either book it through the portal or you call them and they’ll honor that deal and you can transfer your points to that, correct? 

Juliette: Exactly. No one can have a full-time job just looking for a deal for travel. So you need to use technology to your advantage, to be able to sign up for things where you’re immediately getting either push notification or an email that tells you, “Hey, look, the city that you’re going to has this amazing deal. You should take advantage of it.” 

Hoff: I think that’s great insight because a lot of people may think, “I’ll set alerts at these sites and when there’s a great deal, I’ll snatch it up.” But Chase and probably other credit cards, their travel portals have similar rules where if you find a great deal online, they’ll honor that so you can still use your points for it. You don’t actually have to pay cash even if it’s super cheap. 

Juliette: Right. Our biggest philosophy is always call and ask. You never know if they’re going to honor something because you never know if a deal through the actual site that you’re on, whether it’s hotels.com or Orbitz or if it’s through the hotel. So if you call and ask, you never know. They might say yes. Most of the time, we found, they do.

Hoff: Fantastic. So talk about also combining your points as a husband and wife. I don’t know if you’ve done this yet but I know from some people, for instance, when they were at an SPG hotel, a Starwood preferred guest hotel and they were getting married, they called and they got their marriage certificate early even to combine their points so they could have a much bigger pool. Have you guys done that and what strategies have you found to be able to do that? 

Juliette: So we actually stay away from – I have heard of it, for hotels and airlines. We stay away from branded credit cards. Our philosophy is that you’re going to get more of a point bonus if you can use travel. For example, $120 flight from somewhere to somewhere might be more expensive on American versus a cheaper airline where it’s only $40. We tend to stay away from things that combine points because that’s just not offered in what we have. 

Hoff: You’re trying to simplify the process as much as possible. So some people, if they want to have 10 or 15 cards to their name and they are basically using it for this and this and this, that’s fine but you’re trying to say, I want a general rewards travel card where I can book any flight and any hotel using my points and not have to worry about taking just the American Airlines flight or staying at just the Hilton branded hotel, correct? 

Juliette: Exactly. We try and stay away from the brands in this and we try and just stick to rewards, reimbursements, cash back, stuff like that.

Hoff: So you guys don’t use any program where it allows you to combine your points as husband and wife? 

Juliette: No. Not often. We have used our portals to combine our Chase cards but that’s about it.

Hoff: So you can combine the points from your Chase cards on the portal? 

Juliette: Right. Whichever card we have at the time, we can transfer them to whichever portal we want to use.

Hoff: Great. So you do use it at least strategically to the point where you can create a bigger pool points in order to get a trip somewhere. 

Juliette: Exactly.

Hoff: So you’re right not just about using credit cards. We’ve talked a little about that and we’ll go into that more. But also just about budget travel in general, what do you think the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to overpaying for travel? 

Juliette: I think that travelers are really good about sticking to a budget when planning but then when they get to a location, the budget tends to go out the window. Before I go anywhere, I tend to research a couple of really nice restaurants I want to try for excursions I want to do and then I pick two or three big budget items. The rest of the trip, I try to keep really cheap and find free things to do in the city. The funny thing is those are usually the best days, eating street food and wandering alleyways, those tend to be really full days because you go to a country to experience new culture. I can remember when I was in Thailand, actually, we spent the entire day out for $10 total eating street food and just taking tuk-tuks everywhere. I guess my biggest tip is don’t overbook yourself and keep a day completely open to whatever happens.

Hoff: So you also use your travel portal to book excursions because I know you can put it in certain cities that you’re visiting and they’ll give you excursion ideas and you can actually use your points for that too. Have you done that yet? 

Juliette: I tend to not use that because I usually use smaller companies and those tend to be bigger companies and they’re not as prevalent in Asia or Europe, so I use cash back card to get money back for my excursions. 

Hoff: So you want to make sure that you’re accumulating points for big ticket items and then you can get cash back on smaller things that you are paying for. 

Juliette: Exactly. 

Hoff: So you use a combination of cards then. What would you say the combination of cards you generally use are when it comes to traveling, from booking flights to booking hotels to just paying for everyday activities? 

Juliette: Per flight, I tend to use my Chase in the Chase portal. I’m a huge budget nerd so I have a spreadsheet of all my budget and I have saved almost $6,000 just in travel alone this year. Just for airlines, I have saved $2,000 just by using my Chase card for basically everything. But traveling is also my job so I tend to travel a lot. For hotels, I either use Chase or Barclays for reimbursements. And then for excursions, I tend to use the others. 

Hoff: So use get the maximum cash back that you can with your Discover card. Do you find with Barclays that you can call up and also they’ll honor hotel deals that you find online? 

Juliette: No. That’s just for Chase and that their portal is the best for that. Barclays is a reimbursement, so they have travel credits that anything that that deem travel, you get to use your points for that. When you use your points, you get 10% back. So say you use 10,000 points to book one thing or to reimburse yourself for one thing, then you get 1,000 points back. 

Hoff: Perfect. Good to know. So if someone were listening to this and wanting to plan a trip around the world like you did, where would you suggest they start? What credit card deals should they be looking for if they don’t really have a big accumulation of points at the moment and they need to get that sign-on bonus? And then where should they start in the whole planning process? 

Juliette: First, you need to start building your good credit. You need to start looking at credit cards that are just going to work in your situation to get your credit score up. Because the better the card and the more amazing the travel bonuses are with the card, usually you’re going to need better credit for that. So you want to qualify for a card that has amazing reward. So then second, I would sign up for alerts on a travel credit card website like CreditCards.com, The Points Guy, and of those, and follow them on social media so then you can take a back seat and just use the rewards or sign up for the rewards when you get the emails or see it on social media. Third, once you have a card, don’t ever use cash. Use your card for everything because every dollar, even if it’s just $1, that’s 10 cents going into your account. 

Hoff: So then, what would you say needs to be the sign-up bonus minimum in order to sign up for one of the more higher-end credit cards, especially ones that require excellent credit score?

Juliette: I tend to stay away from anything that’s less than 50,000. I have a really high threshold. I usually wait for 100,000 or 75,000 but it just depends on what the annual fee is because that’s obviously change the calculation unless it’s worth it. 

Hoff: So how should somebody calculate for themselves whether an annual fee is worth it? Because for some people, maybe they’re not going to be taking advantage of some of those perks as much. What do you think they need to consider to decide whether or not a $500 annual fee is worth it? 

Juliette: Well, you just have to look at what the perks are. I know that there are some rewards that includes Uber. So if you’re taking Uber a lot, just use that in your calculation. If you’re using it for airlines and travel a lot, think about getting free check or getting global entry. That’s going to be added into your calculations of if that annual fee is worth it. It’s everyone’s own for some situations and you just have to look at all the rewards and think about the size of each reward. And even the small things, especially with a reward card that gives you access to lounges, there are tons of airports now that you’re going to be in that you don’t have to pay for food. That’s a huge reward that I didn’t see coming. When I could go to an airport and literally just hop into a lounge, grab some food, grab a bottle of water and then get on a flight. Usually, you spend $10-$15 when you’re in an airport. If you’re in an airport a lot, that’s $10 or $15 you’re not spending every single time.

Hoff: So it’s definitely utilizing the benefits that come there with that card and not just having access to lounges but not really bothering to go there but utilizing it and saving money at every single turn so that you are definitely getting back what you’re putting into the card.

Juliette: Exactly. You have to be honest with yourself. Are you actually going to use the reward and are you actually going to use all of the travel credits that come with it? Even if you take one trip a year, especially for cards that have the $300 travel credit, I know there’s a couple out there right now, that’s one roundtrip flight that a travel credit immediately that takes that annual fee down.

Hoff: Have you ever closed a card after you used the big sign-on bonus even to avoid the annual fee for the next year? 

Juliette: Yeah, of course. I’ve set an alert and then I know what my annual fee date is and I set it on my phone for a month before to take a look at that credit card to see if I’m actually using it and to assess if I should close it or not. Sometimes if you just threaten to close, the card will keep it open for another year without an annual fee, which is a great bonus but sometimes if they don’t offer anything, I just close the card. 

Hoff: A lot of people I know are scared of dinging their credit by closing a credit card. What have you found when it comes to closing your card and how it affects your credit?

Juliette: Well, I check my credit meticulously, of course. I find that when it comes to closing a card, if you’re not closing one of your oldest cards because that affects obviously your credit, I tend to be OK. Obviously a small thing will happen but it usually goes right back up the next month. You don’t want to close three credit cards in one month just like you don’t want to open three credit cards in one month. As long as you’re staggering, you should also be staggering as you’re closing because that will naturally occur, so you should be fine.

Hoff: Have you run into any problems where you’ve closed a card because you used the great sign-on bonus, you didn’t want to pay the annual fee, you closed the card and then you’ve wanted to sign up again when they have another great bonus down the road and have hit a roadblock or two? 

Juliette: I can’t say that I have. I’ve heard of actually friends that happened to but I meticulously think about everything I do months before I do it. So usually if I’m closing a card is because I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of months and I know for sure that I want to close it. I have been subscribed to all these websites and I know there’s not going to be a new card in that category that I need. If you do your research, you can be OK on that part. 

Hoff: How many credit cards do you have? 

Juliette: Right now I have five and Matt has four. We’re not in the crazy zone but we use them to our advantage, for sure. 

Hoff: How do you use them to your advantage? You say that you know when the category bonuses are coming up. Do you have it plugged into a mobile wallet so that they’ll alert you or are you using an app so that you get alerted if there is a new category bonus coming up? 

Juliette: All of my credit cards will send me an email once a new category starts with that three-month period. And then it just becomes second nature of knowing, OK, I’m at a restaurant. Well, this card is the best for restaurants. I’m buying something from Amazon, well, this card gives me the best cash back for Amazon. I use spreadsheets for everything. That’s how I keep myself organized but I have friends who use just simple note in their phone. So if they’re out and they’re not really sure and they have too many credit cards to keep up, they can just pull it up and be like, “Oh, it’s October. That’s right. This is 5 percent cash back. I should use this card.”

Hoff: Absolutely. So you definitely make sure you’re maximizing the category bonuses. If you are planning for a trip, do you then focus on just that travel rewards card to get as many points as possible so that you can have enough for a flight? How long out do you start planning for a big trip? 

Juliette: For a huge trip, I start planning about six months out. I start looking at flights and seeing how many points I’m going to make for each flight, how many points I’m going to need for certain excursions, and then I just start looking at what card I’m going to have to use to get those point values. So if I know that I need a lot points for excursion, then I use that cash back generally. Then I’m going to be the first one when I’m at a group dinner to offer you my card and then have everyone Venmo me back. So I’m getting points in that instance for money that I’m not really spending. It’s just planning. It’s a lot of planning. 

Hoff: I want to talk about some of these little strategies. For instance, the one that you just talked about. If you’re going out to dinner with friends, you’ll offer to put it on your card especially if you know that there is a big category bonus for restaurants and then everyone just Venmos you the money? 

Juliette: Yes. My friends know I am a credit card fiend. My friends automatically know that I’m paying when I’m going out for dinner, that’s the funny thing now. But yes, when I’m out for dinner, especially in New York, you can only use one card anyway. That’s the great thing about it here. I immediately throw down my card and I just divide everything up. There’s a great app that I use that divides checkouts and everyone Venmos me. And then that ends up being a 5 to 6 percent dinner, that’s a good $200 of money I didn’t even spend that I’m getting points on.

Hoff: Fantastic. Are there any other things that you do like that to get as many points as possible without having to spend tons of money? 

Juliette: Well, ours is a personal situation but for work, of course, both Matt and I get to use our card and then get reimbursed by the company. So of course, looking into that, if you’re out there booking travel for work, you should be asking if you can use your own card and then get reimbursed because most larger companies will allow that. That’s pretty much it for us. 

Hoff: Yeah. That’s a good tip. I think a lot of people think, “Oh, I want to get that corporate card so I don’t ever have to take the risk of putting it on my own card.” But as you point out, with the corporate card, you’re probably not going to get the points for that unless some companies do have that as a perk but I know other companies, they don’t. Instead, you just book it all on your own card and the company will reimburse you anyway. You may have to wait a little bit of time to get that money but you’re getting the points instead. 

Juliette: Exactly. Of course that’s being organized. Matt’s in a great situation where he gets to use his card a lot for work so we get reimbursed a lot. But on my end, since I’m high maintenance and I must have a spreadsheet, I have to make sure that we get reimbursed for everything. It is scary to look at a number and think, “Wow. They owe us this amount of money and we don’t have that yet and our credit card bill is due.” But if you work for a reputable company, it’s easy just to go in and say, “I’ve used this credit card to pay for this for the company. I need to pay it by this date and I need a reimbursement check by this date.” Usually the company is fine with, “OK. We got it. We’ll send it to you right now.” 

Hoff: Wonderful. For a long trip like the one you did around the world, do you suggest a certain type of ticket, like a multistop ticket in order to get the best deal or did you guys just hunt around for one way flights on the cheapest airlines available? 

Juliette: We did the latter. We hunted around for one-way flights, cheapest airlines we could find. We don’t like the multiflight ticket that you can use to go around the world just because it limits you. We don’t like to be limited. We had no idea if we would want to stay in Thailand for 10 days or three weeks or if we wanted to stay in India for three days or 10 days. So last minute ticket deals, those definitely happen and just being able to use a really cheap flight like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, all of those really cheap airlines in Asia. It’s invaluable to have that freedom. 

Hoff: And then you just booked it through your portal or called Chase and booked the flights through that way. 

Juliette: Exactly. We always would call and ask. 

Hoff: So there are a lot of sites for discount hotels and cheap lodging. Do you suggest people spend points on accommodations or to save for flights exclusively? And if they do spend on accommodations, what hotel chains offer the best deals for your points? 

Juliette: I tend to stick to using my points for flight. I use hotels.com the most, I would say, for rewards. They have a great deal where after 10 nights of staying somewhere, you get one night free and then they just take the average rate of those 10 nights and have a discount on any hotel in their network. That’s a really great deal that I love because then once they apply that deal, I can then go back and use a cash back credit card and then just reimburse myself for whatever the discounted price was. That’s how I tend to travel. But there’s tons of deals online for amazing hotels with points and I don’t mind staying in very low budget accommodations, so that’s where I tend to go more for flights. So people who want to go to a nice accommodation and spend three days relaxing on the beach using points on your card to book that is definitely the way to go. 

Hoff: What about places like Airbnb and HomeAway, are you able to use points to book some of those places or do you just use your cash back cards? 

Juliette: I’ll use a cash back or reimbursement card. Barclays is great for that or Discover. I will use that card to them reimburse myself for what I just booked. 

Hoff: So you can’t do that through the Chase portal then? 

Juliette: No, that’s not available through the Chase portal but there are some portal options for buying gift card for Airbnb or for a hotel website or rewards and you can then buy gift cards with your points to then use for your travel.

Hoff: Fantastic. What would you say are three things somebody could do right now to get started on planning a major trip within the next year and have it paid for mainly through rewards?

Juliette: If you want to start planning a major trip, your first thing you want to look at is where you want to go. The biggest thing about budget travel is going somewhere that once you get there, it’s cheap. You can go to Switzerland and have an amazing time but once you’re there, everything is expensive. Or you can go to Thailand or China or the Caribbean and once you get there, food is cheap, excursions are cheap, hotels, even name brand hotels are much cheaper than what you would find in a different country. So first, booking at where you want to go and what your goals are and how long you want to be there is going to be a big difference between Switzerland and Asia. Then second, signing up for alerts for hotel deals, signing up alerts for credit card. You want everything to be done for you and you just get the notification when you can go and book it. And then third is just using your card whenever you can once you have a plan with a card, use your card for everything. Don’t use cash. Immediately put the cash in the bank and use your credit card. 

Hoff: All right. Fantastic. Our show is called Charged Up. What charges you up about being able to travel the world basically for free?

Juliette: Just being somewhere and knowing that I’m using this just with points, you can’t get any better than that. It makes it that much sweeter when you’re on a beach drinking a pina colada, just looking around being like, “I didn’t pay for this.”

Hoff: Absolutely. Tessa, thanks. A lot of great information. I think people that want to get more into the rewards game could take heed to a lot of your advice and especially calling those portals to see if they’ll honor online deals so that you can find even better deals than they’re offering you if you just look online. Thank you so much for taking some time to chat with us today.

Juliette: Thank you so much for having me. Love chatting.

See related: Charged Up! podcast: How to be a suitcase entrepreneur


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Updated: 11-20-2017