Credit Cards I Use For International Travel Perks + Miles

Updated: Oct 30


Besides getting asked about various itineraries and recommendations in specific cities, the "what credit card do you use for miles" question comes up way too often. With all the information out there, the process of selecting a travel credit card can be daunting. My experience with travel credit cards started at a young age (my parents LOVED that), and today I will be taking you through my experience with my specific credit cards. Let's dive in!


Important Note: I am not an expert of any kind on these benefits, but the Points Guys 100% are! I recommend checking out their site on the cards below for a more in-depth analysis. I have read their site for years!


Chase Sapphire Preferred (first Credit Card)

When my best friend Brigitte and I embarked on our 6-week trek around Europe almost five years ago now, we realized quickly it was time to invest in a credit card that incurred miles. Mostly because I was 24 and poor, I scoured the internet for the best credit card out there with the most value.


Time and time again, Chase Sapphire continued to come up as the go-to card. My honest review here is that the bonus points attracted me to this card, although there are several other benefits. Here were some of the initial benefits I received upon opening the credit card & what this means:

  • 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. (Chase has increased their bonus points & spend cost since 2016!)

  • What does this mean: Upon opening the card, you have 3 months (from initially opening the account) to spend $4,000 on the card. Once you do, the award is 80,000 miles or "points" to spend on flights (or gift cards for restaurants & other perks). **It can take time (sometimes a month) to be awarded the points, so plan carefully if you can use the miles for an upcoming trip!

  • What does this ACTUALLY mean: Paying a credit card bill of $4,000. My suggestions? If your parents are making a large purchase, like furniture, etc. it may be advantageous to ask them to make it on your card. That way, you aren't necessarily spending $4k to get the miles. However, if you need furniture or make a big purchase, this is a perfect time.

  • Annual Credit Card Fee: Usually, yearly fees are part of the "fine print" in all credit card promotions and easily missed. This card's annual fee is $95, which means you are charged $95 annually for using the card. Some offers can include waiving the first year of the annual fee, so pay attention to special promotions or even call Chase and ask!

Other Benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees: which means you won't be charged extra for using your card outside of the U.S. (Can be a sneaky expense headache!)

  • 1:1 point transfer: which is discretionary to the credit card you use. For Chase, 80,000 points is worth $1,000. So think about how much you spend on a flight to London roundtrip, and apply that logic here.

  • 2x Points on Travel & Dining: This means you get 2x the points for every $1 you spend when you purchase meal delivery services, takeout and dining out, or travel-related expenses like Lyft rides, etc. *I also read you get a complimentary DashPass as a member!

  • Customer Service: Flawless. I have never had a long wait time, always connect with a person, & they act quickly.

Pros: Lots of value for benefits

Cons: No access to any airport lounges

Verdict: I loved this as my first credit card and have since upgraded to the Reserve (next section!). When you are starting out with a travel perk credit card, this is the best and has the most value. Plus, the annual fee is not breaking the bank!


Chase Sapphire Reserve (Current Credit Card)

After a few years of utilizing the Preferred credit card, I decided to upgrade to the Reserve credit card. I will be taking through the benefits of opening this credit card for the first time; however, I did not receive the bonus points when switching over. I will talk more about this in my overall take on each credit card, but it is essential to note you will not get the same benefits if you start with the preferred card. Here were some of the initial benefits received upon opening the credit card & what this means:

  • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.


  • What does this mean: Upon opening the card, you have 3 months (from initially opening the account) to spend $4,000 on the card. Once you do, the award is 50,000 miles or points.


  • What does this ACTUALLY mean: With this credit card, you would get fewer bonus points or miles, but more travel benefits that I address below.


  • Annual Credit Card Fee: This card's annual fee is $550 or $75 per authorized user, which means you are charged $550 annually for using the card. The Reserve is 100% steeper than the preferred!


Other Benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees: which means you won't be charged extra for using your card outside of the U.S. (Can be a sneaky expense headache!)

  • $300 annual travel credit: Automatically credits your account $300 when you use it to make valid purchases. This, in turn, makes the steep $550 annual fee more like $250 for the credit return.

  • 3x Points on Travel & Dining: This means you get 3x the points for every $1 you spend when you purchase meal delivery services, takeout and dining out, or travel-related expenses like Lyft rides, etc. ***With Chase's recent partnership with Lyft and Doordash, you get access to Doordash's DashPass & Lyft premium options just by signing up!

  • No Blackout Dates or Travel Restrictions: HUGE if you are utilizing holidays for your travel needs.

  • Application Fee Credit for TSA Pre & Global Entry: I'm pretty annoying about my TSA Pre membership that I have had for almost four years now, but seriously makes a world of difference for domestic travel. With this card, you get paid back on your application fee ($85 for TSA Pre, $100 for global entry). ***If I could do it again, I would get global entry, as this includes TSA precheck.

  • Complimentary Airport Lounge Access: If you love to travel internationally, the Reserve gives you access to 1,000+ airport lounges. If you were clueless about this like I was, watch this video by Kara and Nate (two of my favs on YouTube!) to see the majesty that is airport lounges. Free food, drinks, virtual golf courses, & spas are just a few things to lust over with access to these lounges!

  • Customer Service: Flawless. I have never had a long wait time, always connect with a person, & they act quickly. The reserve card gives you 24-7 access to customer service as well!

Pros: More travel & dining perks, airport lounge access, & credits

Cons: Expensive annual fee


Verdict: This card suits me more into my late 20s as ease of travel becomes more important to me. While in my early 20s, I didn't care for airport lounge access or waiting in long security lines, which suited the Preferred card. However, I love the flexibility this card gives me to earn more on the luxurious parts of travel I have grown to love.


How do I book my flight with Chase miles?

I am addressing this as I have heard SO many people tell me that they received their credit card but have no idea how to book with their miles or points. Here is a step by step guide using my personal portal:


Step 1: Log into your Chase Account

Log into your account from the homepage.


Step 2: Access the Ultimate Rewards Page

Click on the arrow in the Ultimate Rewards box on the far right-hand side of your screen in the portal. This box should have your total points or miles calculated.


Step 3: Access the Chase Travel Page

On the top left part of your screen, you will see the Earn/Use Button that reflects your total points or miles. Click the down arrow and scroll to the far right, and click the "travel" icon.


Step 4: Book your Travel

Congrats! You made it to the travel portal. As you would with any airline portal, search for the flight you're interested in taking, and Chase will help you discern the points it will take to get there. I included a little video below on how this process typically looks! (sorry my page took forever to load the available flights!)


As always, let me know if the comments or via email if this was helpful or if you have more questions! Happy to talk about my experiences and assist you with yours!


Cheers,


Kathryn

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