Credit Card Rewards: My 2013-2014 Plans

Ahhhhhh……2013.  It’s been a lucrative year in the Club Thrifty household.  Aside from the fact that my husband was unemployed for a few months this summer, we made a pretty decent amount of money.  We saved a lot and we’re ready to put a pretty big down payment on our new house next month.  We also traveled a lot, including trips to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Florida (twice).  Fortunately, a ton of our extracurricular activities were funded via credit card rewards.  Here’s how:

Barclay Arrival World Mastercard

I know, I know.  You’re tired of hearing about it.  But, seriously.  The Barclay Arrival World MasterCard is seriously THE CARD for travel in 2013. ( If you want to sign up, here is my affiliate link.) Why?  Because you could book the travel anywhere and just request a statement credit after-the-fact.  I personally like this method because it doesn’t tie me down to booking through anywhere in particular.  You can literally book your travel wherever you want - directly through an airline, on, on, whatever, and request a credit.  Winning!  And since the annual fee is waived for the first year, it’s literally free money as long as you cancel the card in time.

We both signed up for the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard for this sweet deal: spend $1,000 in three months and get 40,000 bonus travel miles.  And since you also get 1 point/$1 spent, this travel reward ends up being $410 per person.  So basically we got $820 in travel rewards to spend.  So, what did we do with it?

  • - We paid for a frugal weekend getaway with the kids
  • - We are paying for a hotel room for our anniversary next week
  • - We used the rest toward our upcoming all-inclusive trip to Jamaica

Boom.  That’s how you do it. 

Chase Ink Bold Business Card

Even though my business expenses are only a few hundred dollars a month,  I sign up for business credit cards for rewards.  Is that legal?  Dear Chase, bite me.  Anyhoo, I signed up for the Chase Ink Bold Business card for this deal: Spend $5,000 in three months and earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Bonus points.  Yes, please!  Since we were moving and had some larger upcoming expenses, I signed up for this deal.  (We usually wouldn’t spend $5,000 in three months but we did some long-term maintenance on one of our rental properties = $$$$$)

So, what did I do with it?

I booked two round-trip flights to Jamaica for this upcoming February.  I didn’t have quite enough rewards to cover the whole thing, so I had to pay the difference.  It ended up being only $96, or $48 per ticket.  Not bad, huh?

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

We churned this card earlier this year.  Basically, the deal was this: Spend $5,000 in six months and earn 25,000 starpoints.  And although it took a long time to spend $10,000, we managed easily by putting our monthly grocery spending ($500), monthly gas and miscellaneous ($200) and two vacations on the card.  The fact that our spending is relatively low is part of the reason that we didn’t churn as many cards this year.

Anyway, we’ve decided to spend the points next fall when we travel to the U.K, and this is where we’re going:

Park Lane Hotel in London  This bitch is smack dab across the street from Buckingham Palace.  It’s down the street from Hyde Park and near the theatre district that I sooooooooo want to check out.  In fact, it’s within walking distance of Queen’s Theatre where you can see the stage version of Les Miserables.  It also has a vegan menu in the hotel’s restaurant.  It’s like a dream come true!!!

Next year I’ll start planning our trips for 2015 as well.  Where do you think we should go?  I’d really love to lay on the beach in Messini, Greece, or see the Great Wall of China.  I also really want to get back to Mexico and New Orleans.  We’ll see!

Right now our churning plans are on hold until after we close on our new home.  After that, it’s on.

So, to all you churners out there, what cards should I churn in 2014?  What are your favorites?  Also, where do you plan to travel next year?

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About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.


  1. You guys really know how to make some good, good use out of those rewards points! Going to Jamaica or the DR sounds really good right about now with all this cold weather!
    MMD recently posted..Getting Serious About Building Up My Multiple Streams of Income in 2014My Profile

  2. I haven’t churned a lot of cards. I have a relatively simple “strategy” but several friends love churning… I may look into it, especially if we can score free travel. And since we just bought a house I’m not as concerned with having hard inquiries on my credit report…
    Nick @Step Away from the Mall recently posted..Does the Kindle make you spend more money?My Profile

    • Yeah, I hear ya. I’m waiting to sign up for the next card until after we close on our house. It doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference (Greg’s credit score was still 758 when he applied!) but still. I don’t want any drama.

  3. I’ve been eyeing the Barclaycard Arrival World MC and thinking we may have to apply for that one and make it our primary card. The rewards sound pretty sweet.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..8 Ways to Save Money in the ShowerMy Profile

  4. Awesome job – I am not a churned, but I can live vicariously through you! Good luck with some more great free trips.
    Alicia @ Financial Diffraction recently posted..Christmas on a Budget.My Profile

  5. You’ll enjoy the UK trip. My wife and I did that before we had kids, staying in London and using the tube and trains to get around. We saw Les Mis in Queen’s Theater, too! 3rd row!

    And Hyde Park is beautiful, that will be nice staying in the Park Lane.
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..Would You Become Self Employed For Less Money?My Profile

  6. We are going to Las Vegas in February but that’s all we have planned so far. If you ever decide to go to Greece and need pointers let me know! My hubby is from Greece and we vacationed there last spring! Was an amazing trip!
    Liz recently posted..Saving Money on PresentsMy Profile

  7. I am happy to have $80 in grocery rewards when I do my big holiday shop next week.

    While I have grossed a record $51,000 this year it is still not enough to qualify for a high rewards card. The good cards require a minimum income $62,000 in Canada so I do not qualify even though I have excellent credit.
    jane savers @ solving the money puzzle recently posted..The Money Coming In For 2014My Profile

  8. Wow you guys are definitely awesome with churning cards. I wish I would have churned more (I have a post where I talk a little bit about that going live tomorrow). However, I was able to get enough in points for roundtrip airfare for me and 5 of my friends!
    Michelle recently posted..Our Truck Sold and Weekly UpdateMy Profile

  9. Nice work! I’ve been waiting to get the Barclay card because we were churning a smaller rewards card, but now that that’s out of the way, I might as well start!
    Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted..Are We Getting Healthier? Or Just Spending More Money?My Profile

  10. As you know, I just signed up for the Barclaycard so I will be churning that in 2014. As far as where I’m travelling to? That’s still TBD.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..How I am getting a free $400 for travel in the New YearMy Profile

  11. One day we’re going to go full force into this churning gig, I think. Lots planned for 2014 already for us, but we’re working on planning a vaca to visit our BFFs, who are moving out of state. We’ll be able to use one of their cars, and stay at their house, so it’s only airfare and a small amount of spending cash we’ll need to go. Yay!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..How to Get out of Debt: Beware of the Self-Justified Pity PartyMy Profile

  12. The Starwood card used to have much easier and better rewards. It’s still great solely for the benefits we get at hotels. I have flashed the Starwood before and gotten some upgrades.

    I have worked my way through credit card rewards but not doing too much these days until we get control of our debt and emergency fund. Don’t need to “accidentally” spend too much for a reward purpose and remain in debt.

    Greece is in the top 3 for me too. Def going to need to work on that one first once I get back to credit card rewards.

    The Warrior
    The Warrior recently posted..Reducing the Bill Count to Reach Financial PeaceMy Profile

  13. Nice work! I am not much of a churner, but I think I am going to get the Barclaycard and use that. I don’t have a travel rewards card, so that might be my one.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Why I Hate Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

  14. Wow, Jamaica sounds awesome! My parents went there for their honeymoon way back in the day and loved it. I’m hoping a picture with you in dreds will be in the works!
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Know When You Need Life InsuranceMy Profile

  15. Love rewards! We are going to Kauai this summer and staying at the Grand Hyatt thanks to Chase. Hopefully Europe in 2015. That one will take some planning, so I’m anxious to see how your trip planning goes.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..One Year After Paying Off Credit Card DebtMy Profile

  16. I haven’t signed up for credit cards in a while since I’m looking at buying a place. Did it affect your credit score significantly since I know you guys had to get a mortgage too? The Chase Sapphire was a pretty good card…and I think I read somewhere that it went back up to 50,000 points.
    Amdrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Do You Judge Someone’s Financial Worth By The “Cover”?My Profile

  17. Wow, over $800 back is a great deal! Thanks for sharing! I personally don’t use credit cards but this is tempting :)
    MonicaOnMoney recently posted..How My PT Cruiser Saved Me $27,600My Profile

  18. I’ll probably continue to use Barclay and my SouthWest credit card for domestic flights. I’m going to Iceland next year but really want to go to Croatia, but I don’t think I’ll be doing any international travel besides Iceland this year because I need to save money for a car and more towards retirement. I think any of those trips sounds amazing.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..BATB TV: 12 Days of BudgetsMy Profile

  19. Nice work Holly! I think the Ink Bold will be our next one. We’re going to Vegas next month (only 34 days!!) for my birthday and it’s all on rewards points. We’re wanting to take the kids to Disney next December so we have to get busy churning some other ones. My wife also wants to go to Europe in 2015, so we’ve started to look at the Lufthansa card as you can earn a free ticket, plus a companion. We’ll see on that one.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..6 Fun and Frugal Christmas Traditions to Start This YearMy Profile

  20. $10K in spending would be a pretty big hurdle for us, too. Good luck closing on the house and I’m sure you’ll be picking some new cards to churn in no time!
    Mrs PoP recently posted..Pimp The PoP’s Garage – Part 4 – Get Rich By Enduring ChaosMy Profile

    • Yeah, it would be normally. It’s nice when we anticipate big expenses because we can sign up for a card with a bigger-than-average requirement.

  21. I love credit card rewards! I love my Amex blue cash card because it makes me money every month for just paying the bill. Doesn’t get much better than that.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..Gif Parade Time: Holiday Nuttiness EditionMy Profile

  22. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa (or get the business one it has a smaller annual fee). After meeting the very easy min spend of $2500 you will have 97500 points. Their top tier hotels are only 50,000 so you have almost enough for two nights at a top tier hotel. HOWEVER! If you use points for a reward stay you get the last night free. So it becomes a BOGO for two night stays. You also get 40K points a year on your card anniversary so that pretty much offsets the annual fee.

    Using London as an example, you can stay at the incredible May Fair Hotel in London (50K points a night) for two nights. Retail would be 710 GBP which would be roughly $1150 would of hotel rooms. You would still have 47500 points left and could use those somewhere else. There is also a great chance you would get a room upgrade since you get Gold Status with the card too.

    I haven’t looked at what we are going to churn next year yet, but I think I might have my old lady pick up the Barclay’s card since it is a world MasterCard and will cover car insurance in places like Ireland, Jamaica, and Israel where no one else will.

    • Hey Brian! That is one of the top cards on my list! I checked out the hotel list and its pretty swank. We may find a way to incorporate that into our plans.

  23. I was just in London this past March. Thankfully, a friend invited me on her business trip and it was pretty cheap for me to go. You’ll love it. I’ve really been considering churning credit cards next year to fund our travel. Thanks for the tips!
    Practical Cents recently posted..Pride of Home OwnershipMy Profile

  24. Hi Holly,

    We churned two Amex Starwood cards (through your link, of course) earlier this year and plan on spending the rewards for hotels in Europe, Asia, or Africa next year. Still TBD, but with 60,000 pts I figure we can put them to good use.

    Done by Forty recently posted..One Case of HomelessnessMy Profile

  25. Baller! Glad you’ve gotten use out of the Starwood card, I love that thing. Have 3 of them myself!

    We’re rocking Hawaii next year with 7 peeps on rewards, and who knows what else. With a new baby and a toddler, might just do the one trip and start stocking up for our trip to NYC in 2015. I’m talking Park Hyatt (still being built), fancy dinners, town cars, the works. Going to work on getting the entire week free, something that would have cost $10,000 +. I’ll let you know how it goes ;)

    Travel Hacking FTW!
    Jacob recently posted..Travel Hacking A Free Trip To Hawaii For 7 PeopleMy Profile

  26. I love reward points, although I really haven’t done any credit card churning. Maybe I should. :) We’re going to China in 2015 through Disney. They did such a great job with our cruise last summer and we trust we’ll have a similar experience with China. The trip to London sounds fabulous. Are you taking the girls too?
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Giving and Gratitude Make Christmas Truly MagicalMy Profile

  27. Is there a penalty for canceling credit cards? The BF is going to europe for six months starting in January and I’m gonna need an affordable way to get out there and visit.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..How I Earn a “Living”.My Profile

    • It makes a small hit on your credit (maybe 5 points?) but nothing big. We churn cards all year wrong and still have scores in the high 700′s.

  28. I oftentimes use my rewards credit card as a debit card. Most purchases over $40, I use my credit card for. I figured if I’m going to spend money, then I should be rewarded for it. All but two or so of my credit cards are rewards cards. I don’t even sign up for any that aren’t anymore. I’ve yet to use any of the rewards, I guess I’m saving them for a rainy day or maybe a really sunny on in the Bahamas.
    Tenns @ New Mama Diaries recently posted..True ColorsMy Profile

  29. That’s awesome. I did Chase Ink this year too, and I think I got the 60,000 points bonus offer (from June??).

    Currently burning up the spend on some Amex Starwood cards.

    Next? Barclays arrival possibly?
    Justin @ RootofGood recently posted..Three Months of Early RetirementMy Profile

  30. We’re in the final stages of planning our free trip to Bermuda for next year. Using British Airways Avios (really the best points to use in the US), we’re going from NYC to Bermuda for only 15,000 Avios round-trip for each ticket. I already have 250k Avios, so this is barely a dent for tickets that would cost $1,000 combined.

    We’ll stay at the Fairmont Southampton which normally runs at least $600 per night and we’ll get 4 free nights plus free breakfast for two just by each opening a Fairmont Visa.

    This is on top of the free family trip to Disney we’re taking in November.

    Then it’s on to our 2015 plans!
    Brad @ recently posted..Travel Rewards: Two Free Boston to Dublin Round-Trip Flights with One Credit Card SignupMy Profile

  31. Oooh, I so want to churn cards but I’m holding off until we figure out if we’re moving or not. Your London trip sounds awesome!
    H @ Minding My Cents recently posted..Homeschooling Through a Charter SchoolMy Profile

  32. Great job using cards to travel, and a really good example of how we can often accomplish more than meets the eye by being persistent and resourceful. Right now, considering it’s about 10 degrees where I’m at, a vacation to a warm weather locale sounds great!
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..100 Ways to Make Extra Money on the SideMy Profile

  33. I’d get in on the US Airways card if you still can [....] which will be merged with AA.

    We are planning to go to India and Beijing next year. We went to SE asia in 2013 and 2012. Israel as well in 2013.

    Have Fun! I’ve been hacking travel for 2 years and love it. I can help with any questions you may have.
    Elroy recently posted..Saving OutMy Profile

    • Nice! The U.S. Airways card has a fee, right? I think that’s why I haven’t considered it so far. What do you think makes the fee worth it?

      • 1st year fee is waived.
        Elroy recently posted..Saving OutMy Profile

      • With US Airways and AA merging, this makes British Airways Avios points the single most valuable points currency in the US.

        You’ll be able to use Avios on all the US Airways and AA flights and take advantage of their distance-based system. The max in the continental US seems to be 25,000 Avios RT but yet you can find amazing deals like DC to Chicago for 9,000. Most I priced out are well less than 25,000.

        I would personally start stockpiling the Avios points (I already have 250k) and the great thing is they are a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, not to mention you can get them from the BA Visa.
        Brad @ recently posted..Travel Rewards: Two Free Boston to Dublin Round-Trip Flights with One Credit Card SignupMy Profile

        • If I combined all my resources, I could probably put over 600k avios in my account right now. But I don’t. And the question is, what does a guy who can have over 600k avios doing that they don’t want them?

          1) distance based is great if you are flying direct. We fly SLC-DEN a lot and an avios ticket would hop us through LAX of DFW and cost about 24k pts RT. United charges 20k and I get a non stop.

          2) Fees and redemption amount. Last year I redeemed AA miles for a trip from KUL (kuala lumpur) thru HKG to LAX in first class. This cost me 67,500 pts and roughly $63 per ticket. Same ticket using Avios just from HKG to LAX is 105,000 avios and about $175 in fees.

          Avios has it’s place, but it certainly isn’t a good recommendation to stockpile for everyone.
          Elroy recently posted..Saving OutMy Profile

  34. I love the Starwood Card. The points I earned from signing up & spending the 5k on it completely covered my hotel for the 4 day trip I took to Chicago earlier this year!
    The First Million is the Hardest recently posted..Early Upgrade Plans – What Your Wireless Company Doesn’t Want You To KnowMy Profile

  35. We did the Chase Ink Rewards thing this year to book Michelle and I’s trip to Vegas.
    This year I think we may give Barclay a try to see if we can spin up a free trip to Carribbean. I do miss the beach.
    jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..How to Avoid Shopping For Yourself During the HolidaysMy Profile

  36. After reading about how you were able to make $800+ churning credit cards I am so tempted to try this especially since we are trying to plan a trip to Maine within the next year.

  37. What do you have to have to prove you have a business? Just curious as I would like to sign up for that Chase Ink Bold Business card but I don’t have a Tax ID or anything like that for my website.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..Paying off debt blowsMy Profile

  38. What is the best credit card to get for cash back rewards? I’m not looking for travel, flight, or hotel points, just cash given to me for buying things like groceries and gas. I have one credit card now attached to a credit union with no rewards at all and a $0 balance.

  39. If you run out of barclays miles, you can always top your account up without doing any additional credit card spend. Just join the travel community ( and post travel stories.

    You get 500 miles for sign up and then 200 miles per travel story you post. Not bad.

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  1. […] spent.  Pretty good deal, huh? I think so.  A few weeks before that, I also wrote about the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard and its sweet 40,000 sign-up bonus.  Here’s the basic rundown of how that deal works: you simply […]

  2. […] if it is only for a short time. Recently, we saved even more money by using credit card rewards to vacation for free! […]

  3. […] consider a cash back card. The bonus offers aren’t as generous with travel credit cards, but you’re getting real savings on your purchases. But the big warning is to make sure you pay […]

  4. […] year, I thought I’d at least check it out.  Here’s the other blogger’s original post, if you’re […]

  5. […] for credit card churning and making the most of travel rewards. She recently wrote a post about the success she had and what she plans to do with her rewards this […]

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