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How We Got Our First Time Cruise Trip For Free

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We were able to land a 5 night cruise to Mexico for free. This was actually my first time going on a cruise  and the best part was that we got a $963 cruise trip for free! How did we do this? We had the banks pay us to use their cards!

We were never great with credit cards.

As a matter of fact, 10 months ago we were paying minimums on 8 credit cards and owed $31,511 worth of credit debt. Not to mention we started off with $127,229 worth of debt but you can read more about that later.

Related: How To Get Out of Debt With These 5 Tips

Do you have debt and would like to get rid of it. Grab your free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp.

How To Get Credit Cards To Pay For Your Next Cruise

Credit cards. You can either love them or hate em.

At one point, I hated having so many credit cards because of all the overwhelming debt I was in.

Over the course of our debt paying process we learned how to get credit cards to be on your side. It’s all about the credit card points!

Some credit card companies offer 50,000 to 70,000 of bonus points for using their cards. In dollar equivalency, it usually amounts to $500-$700 more or less.

Instead of swimming in credit card debt, we turned it around and used credit cards the smart way, reaping all the benefits and perks. I’ll share with you exactly how.

Clear Credit Card Debt

How We Got Our First Time Cruise Trip For Free - Myfinancialhill

So remember when I mentioned we had $31,511 of credit card debt? I never thought we’d get out of it.

We kept digging ourselves into a hole and didn’t know what to do.

I was just one in many millions of Americans swimming in credit card debt. It turns out 70% of Americans carry at least one card and as a whole we are in 830 billion dollars of credit card debt alone.

It was hard to imagine a life without the use of credit. It’s just so convenient isn’t it?

Get whatever you want and need NOW and don’t worry, just pay a minimum each month.

Over time, the debt keeps piling up and the hole keeps getting larger and larger.

Next thing you know, you’ll be up to your head swimming in mounting debt which you can’t seem to get out of.

Yup, I’ve been there.

The worst thing that can happen is to fall victim of debt and to stay a victim.

Credit card debt is truly a dangerous thing. The interest on these credit cards are crazy!

I had some cards with interest rates as high as 28%.

For example, as mentioned above I had 8 credit cards totaling $31,511.

If I paid the minimum payments on all cards and only paid $1,200 a month at a 28% interest rate, it would take 42 months to pay with an additional interest of $17,752.

So it went from what I owed of $31,511 to $49,263 over 42 months. That’s a ridiculous amount of money to be paying to banks.

That’s how banks make money, they feed off the interest from consumers like you and me.

One day, my husband Chris and I said enough’s enough…

We were tired of paying only minimums and felt like we were getting nowhere with our debt. That’s when we decided to take control of our money and in turn we were able to get control of our lives.

Once we started knocking out card after card, debt after debt, I started to realize that credit cards can actually be beneficial. As our credit cards were disappearing, our credit scores kept rising, and we applied for great travel cards which have amazing bonus point offers.

The first thing we did before considering to even apply for travel rewards cards was to pay off all our credit cards. We were able to knock out all $31,511 of it within months.

The easiest way we got rid of all 8 credit cards within months was by using the Snowball Method. It’s a method where you list all your debts from smallest to largest, targeting the smallest balances and going down the list. Here’s a more in depth post about the Snowball Method you can check out to learn more about it.

Related: Snowball Method Including a Free Printable

By getting rid of all credit cards, our credit scores shot way up to the 800’s. After clearing the credit card debt, we use only 1 card at a time. We use the 1 card to pay for all our expenses and pay it off in full each month now.

We never carry over a balance anymore. This also helps to boost credit score like crazy.

Learn more about the steps we took to get our credit scores to the 800’s.

Related: How to Get a 800 Credit Score

With higher credit scores, we naturally qualified for the best travel rewards cards. So far, we accumulated over 500,000 of credit card points which we use for free travel and excursions. We actually got our cruise with Carnival totally paid for using points. We also went to Vegas and had our flights and excursions paid for with points too!

Related: Las Vegas Trip On A Budget Free Flight Included

Credit Card Points

How We Got Our First Time Cruise Trip For Free - Myfinancialhill

If you qualify for some of the best travel cards then you can get hefty bonus points which allows you to use them either for travel or cash back.

There are tons of credit cards out there that offer significant amount of bonus points when you sign up with them. Some credit card companies offer 50,000-70,000 bonus miles. That is an equivalent to $500-$700 of bonus money when you use their card.

We’ve gotten great offers with some of the most well known credit cards out there.

Credit Card Points Received 

  • Baryclays Arrival 129,966
  • Capital One Venture (His) 102,009
  • Capital One Venture (Mine) 57,534
  • Chase Sapphire (Mine) 87,836
  • Chase Sapphire (His) 68,909
  • Delta Skymiles 62,167
  • Total 508,421

For our first 5 night cruise trip to Mexico with Carnival, we used the points from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. It is an awesome credit card that offers tons of free bonus miles.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

  • Offers a whopping 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in 90 days
  • 2 points/miles for every $1 spent
  • $0 annual fee for the first year then $95 annual fee after
  • Unfortunately, it looks like Barclays discontinued the credit card offer. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other travel rewards cards out there
  • Total points accumulated 129,966 = $1,299

With the extra bonus miles on hand, we booked our first time cruise trip with Carnival Cruise Line (5 night cruise for two going to Mexico). The total for the trip came out to be $963.04. We had 129,966 points so in dollar amount that is about $1,299. We fully covered the full cruise price with the rewards points.

Capital One Venture

  • Offered 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles per $1
  • $0 annual fee for first year then $95 after
  • $100 credit for a Global Pass (makes traveling via air a lot smoother process for verified persons)
  • Total points accumulated 159,543 = $1,595

With this card we flew to Vegas for free, got two separate hotel bookings for 1 night each, flew my husband’s parents in from New York, and received the $100 for the global pass application. Overall, we used 102,009 points =  $1,020 worth of points from this card within 1 year and we have 57,534 = $575 left.

Chase Sapphire

  • Offered 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles per $1
  • $95 annual fee in the first year
  • 25% additional discount when booking through Chase site
  • Total points accumulated 156,745 = $1,567

With this card, we booked 2 separate two night stays at hotels, a Las Vegas show, and day trip for two to the Grand Canyon all within one year. We used about 87,836 = $878 so far and have 68,909 = $689 worth of bonus points left to use.

Delta Skymiles Gold

  • Offered 35,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles per $1
  • $0 annual fee first year then $99
  • Total points accumulated 62,167 = $621

We haven’t booked any trips so far with the Delta Skymiles Gold card so we are free to use 62,167 = $621.

Checking Accounts That Offer Cash

There are numerous banks out there now that want your business. Therefore, they are offering cash incentives for opening up checking’s account. Why not take advantage of that? It is free money!!

Currently we have opened up a Wells Fargo checking account, they are offering $400!

Wells Fargo Checking Offer 

  • $400 bonus offer
  • $3,000 in direct deposit for each month for 3 months

TD Bank

  • $300 bonus offer
  • $2,500 in direct deposit within 60 days

Chase Bank

  • $200-$300 bonus offer
  • Direct deposit within 90 days of opening account

Things To Keep In Mind When Using Credit Cards for Points 

So, of course nothing comes free. Especially when you’re dealing with banks.

Sure, some credit cards are offering 50,000-70,000 bonus points, but at what cost?

Well, they implement spending requirements to get approved for those points. They can range anywhere from spending $1,000-$4,000 within 3 months.

You don’t want to get into the trap of applying for a card and not being able to fulfill the requirement. This can leave you with even more credit card debt and no reward.

Tip 1 – Use Only 1 Travel Rewards Card For All Your Expenses

Expenses you can put on credit cards:

  • Food/Groceries
  • Home/Lawn Maintenance
  • Car Gas
  • Electric Bill
  • Cable/Netflix/Hulu
  • Home Security

You can practically put almost anything on credit cards now a days. Just be careful not to over spend on things that are not necessary in your life just to meet the requirements.

Tip 2 – Pay The Card Off In Full

This is the most important part of being in control of your money.

We had to learn the hard way. We never used to pay off our cards in full, that’s how we ended up with over $30,000 worth of credit card debt.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Use only one card for all your expenses and pay it off in full each month.

This will also help boost your credit score too!

Tip 3 – Boost Your Credit Score

Most of these good travel card offers gear towards those with good to excellent credit.

There’s a lot of ways to boost your credit score. For us, paying off all our credit card debt naturally helped bring our scores up to the 800’s.

Tip 4 – Get Rid Of All Your Credit Card Debt

Credit reward points are great and all but it’s not worth spreading yourself thin over.

The worst thing you want to do is put yourself in even more debt. This can happen if you have too many credit cards all over the place.

It would be a great idea to get rid of all credit card debt before signing up for travel cards.

That way, it can get you to focus just on one card at a time. This has helped us get over 500,000 in bonus points with 6 different travel cards.

We knocked out all our existing credit card debt and used one travel card only for all our expenses. Then after we accrued the bonus points, we moved on to the next travel card.

Focusing on just one thing is better than trying to handle multiple things at once.

You can find out how to knock out your debt fast with these 5 tips.

Tip 5 – Take Turns Signing Up For Travel Cards

This can work if you’re a couple. One of you can sign up for the first travel card. After you receive the bonus points, the other person signs up for a different card.

For example, Chris and I signed up for the Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire cards at different times. That way, we were both able to get the bonus points.

This can work if both people have good-excellent credit scores.

By knocking out all our debt our credit scores rose from the upper 600’s to mid 800’s.

Key Takeaways

Instead of paying credit cards hundreds to thousands to use their cards, having them pay you instead can be awesome.

Who doesn’t like free money?

The bonus points can be used for free travel from cruises, hotel stays, vacations, trips, and even cash back.

However, it’s important to not fall into the trap of chasing bonus points when you’re up to your neck in credit card debt.

Reap the benefits that these credit companies are offering by doing it safely.

Focus on one travel card at a time, pay off the balance in full each month, and use those points for travel.

Using travel cards to use towards trips can be awesome. We chose to do this while we’re paying down our debt. Having to sacrifice fun just to be debt free doesn’t need to happen. You can have your cake and eat it too! That’s what we’ve learned.

Getting travel points can help to free up your money to do other things in life like pay down debt, invest, or save.

I hope these tips can be helpful for you to pursue your own travels without needing to break the bank to do it.

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  1. Yes! We also cruise for free like this! We’ve been on 10 cruises and half of them were free. This is an excellent travel hack that we enjoy. We use the Capital One Venture card and also pay it off every month in full. I’m glad you enjoyed your cruise. Carnival Cruise Line is our favorite! I sure hope your ship had Guy’s Burger Joint. 🙂
    Excellent article!
    All the best,

    1. Wow Lindsey! 5 free cruises? That’s so awesome! I love these travel reward cards because they essentially pay us to use their services ? Like you mentioned, it’s also so important to pay it off in full every month. Carnival Cruise was so much fun! I loved the shows on board, those singers and entertainers were amazing. The audience participation shows were hilarious! ? I sure did try Guy’s Burger Joint, it was delicious! We also liked the Scarlet restaurant for brunches. I want to go back now talking about it. I hope COVID goes away soon so we can travel again. Thanks for stopping by!

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