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- For years I avoided credit cards on the advice of my parents and never understood how points worked.
- My flight to Egypt was free with the sign-up bonus points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.
- The money I saved allowed me to splurge on a hot air balloon ride and a trip to an ornate temple.
- Read Insider’s guide to today’s best credit card sign-up bonuses.
If you’re a recent college graduate like me, an international trip with three of your closest friends might seem out of reach. Little did I know it was possible to hitchhike a camel and swallow a grilled pigeon without breaking the bank, all thanks to credit card rewards points.
When I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card last October, I had only a vague idea of credit card points – my parents taught me to avoid credit cards at all price. I had only opened my first credit card several months before and didn’t have a lot of credit history, so I didn’t think I would get the card approved.
A helpful push from credit card publisher Jasmin Baron convinced me to apply anyway, and after meeting the minimum spend requirement, I found myself sitting on a huge stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
For those new to the dot game, like me a few months ago, it’s an easier concept to grasp than you might think. You earn points by making purchases with your credit card and through sign-up and referral bonuses. Using points works the same way as the arcade when you were a kid – get enough tickets (points) and you can exchange them for cool prizes (rewards).
Depending on the card, you earn more points for certain types of purchases. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, for example, you earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining, select
(excluding Walmart and Target). You also earn 5 points per dollar on travel booked through Chase, 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Here’s how I used my rewards to book a free flight to Egypt and what I was able to do with the money I saved.
We focus here on the rewards and benefits that come with each card. These cards aren’t worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay off your balance in full each month, make your payments on time, and only spend what you can afford.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gave me a free return flight worth almost $700
16.24% – 23.24% variable
Recommended credit score
good to excellent
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. It’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy perks like a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards resort credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, and more.
- Earn 25% more value when you redeem airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 for one trip.
- With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select rotating categories
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Baggage Insurance and more.
I booked my flight to Egypt through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, where each Chase Sapphire Preferred® card point is worth 1.25 cents when used for travel. Otherwise, each point is worth 1 cent for most other redemptions, so it’s a 25% bonus.
To fly to Egypt from Chicago, I used 54,173 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for a $677.17 flight on Royal Jordanian with a brief layover in Amman.
I paid $990 for an eight-day tour taking me through Egypt to the cities of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, earning 1,981 points in the process. I decided to allow myself $800 for the rest of the trip expenses – think extra activities, food not included, and Ubers. The money I saved on the flight covered the vast majority of those additional costs.
The free flight opened up room in my budget to pay for the hot air balloon ride pictured above, which costs around $110. This is an experience I highly recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid of heights, as the basket railing only goes up to your height. Just make sure you don’t, uh, read this article before after your journey.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card also didn’t hit me with any foreign transaction fees when shopping overseas, so I didn’t have to do any complex math on the cost of an excursion. . really been. And, of course, I’ve earned some really good points along the way.
My trip to Abu Simbel, the temple pictured above, was around $100. It was a four hour bus ride to get there and we left well before sunrise as it quickly gets scorching hot in the desert so you don’t want to be there late morning or late afternoon. The statues were massive and carved into the bedrock of the mountain (see the humans at the entrance for the scale) and the temple was built over 3,000 years ago!
A trip to Egypt was always going to be special – seeing thousands of years of history with your own eyes never gets old – but the extra money I was able to spend allowed me to participate in experiences I would have Maybe felt like out of my budget had I had to buy my flight too.
I know I will use points to fund my next flight around the world – taking suggestions on where I should go next!