Credit Card Makeover: Lorraine’s Big Trip

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Do you want your credit card rewards to take you further than Disney World? I'll show you how.

I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. My goal is simply to help you use credit cards to build and protect your money and credit. Check out more on our credit card page.

Lorraine is a psychologist who lives in Long Island. But her credit cards are driving her crazy. Every year, she and her husband and college-aged son take a vacation to a new place in the United States, sometimes with the help of credit card rewards. But now she wants more.

Where Lorraine is…

“I want the family to travel to Israel this summer. I currently use a Chase Disney Visa. All the points we earn will pay for much of our upcoming trip to DisneyWorld. For a while, they offered bonus points for certain types of purchases like gas and groceries. I would switch cards based on which one was offering a bonus. But I’m leery of a lot of cards – because of all of the fine print that goes with them. I always pay the balance each month, because if I pay any interest, then it’s defeating the purpose of getting the Disney points! I want my next card to help me cover the cost for a summer trip to Israel, without a lot of exclusions and without any headaches. Can you help?”

Where Lorraine needs to go…

By using a combination of the Disney Rewards and Premier Rewards cards from Chase, Lorraine is only earning 1 percent toward Disney purchases like her upcoming trip. (The Premier Rewards features 2 percent back at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants.)

Thankfully, she’s always paying her balance in full, which is key. But her current cards won’t help her big trip overseas. Going forward, she has two options to earn big rewards to get her some or all of the way to Israel…

1.  Start earning fixed-value rewards: Lorraine could get a fixed-value rewards card like the Capital One Venture Rewards card. Capital One offers “double miles” for each dollar spent, which she can redeem for statement credits of 1 cent each toward any travel expense such airfare, car rentals, or hotels. This is the equivalent of 2 percent cash back per dollar – double the rate returned on most purchases with her Disney card. Or she can check out these other Top 5 Cash-Back Credit Cards. A trip from New York to Tel Aviv in coach often sells for as little as $1,000, so she could earn a reward like that pretty quickly.

2. Earn flexible points. It sounds like Lorraine speaks from experience when she expresses her caution about the fine print of rewards programs. Flexible-point systems like these allow you to earn points now and decide later which airline has the best deals on awards. That’s why I love cards that earn flexible points – like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. The points she earns could be transferred to many airline programs.

What Lorraine needs to do…

Apply for either Starwood card and receive 25,000 Starpoints – 10,000 after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 when you spend $5,000 in six months.

Once she reachs 40,000 points, she can redeem them for 50,000 miles with Air France/KLM Flying Blue! (There’s a 5,000-point bonus for each 20,000 redeemed.)

She’ll get to Israel by flying through Europe, but she can schedule a few days in Amsterdam or Paris with this type of award. Since this is a family project and they have excellent credit, Lorraine could apply for the personal card and/or the business version to earn more sign-up bonus points.

By carefully choosing credit cards, travelers like Lorraine can go further with fewer miles than they ever thought possible. For more, check out Airline Credit Cards Offer Friendlier Flying.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Stacy Johnson

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