How To Reach Your Travel Goals With Credit Card Rewards

Traveling for free with credit card points and miles seems easy — until you try to do it yourself. Then, suddenly, you’re inundated with loyalty program rules, minimum spending requirements and limitations on how rewards can be redeemed. Miles and points go unused, and stashes of rewards aren’t enough to cover a big trip. How can you get it right this year?

The short answer: Make a plan. If you already have travel goals for 2018, that’s a solid starting point. Here are three steps that can help you get closer to covering that next vacation with points and miles: Focus, earn, redeem.

Homing in on a single goal is a good first step for booking a trip with points and miles. That goal — whether it’s traveling to a certain destination or earning more rewards in a particular loyalty program — can guide your decisions later about which cards to apply for and use.

"Do whatever you want to do,” says Deric Poldberg of Carter Lake, Iowa. He wrote about his credit card strategy last year on his blog, “Some people, they just want to fly to Florida for free. If you want to fly to Florida for free, by all means. Just do what makes you happy."

Poldberg and his girlfriend traveled to Abu Dhabi and Dubai recently, using Delta and American Airlines miles to cover business and first-class fares. In all, he estimates, it took him only about nine months to earn enough rewards to book that trip through a handful of credit card sign-up bonuses.