Whether you’re looking to save money on a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon, to travel the world or to just book a weekend getaway, investing time with your partner to learn about travel programs and credit cards can pay dividends.
Here are seven tips to help you maximize your travel rewards journey as a duo.
1. Set specific goals and create a plan
Before you and your partner dive headfirst into the miles and points hobby, outline your goals and create a road map to achieve them. Let’s say your objective is to earn miles to fly first class internationally. This goal should shape your strategy for applying for credit cards. You can look for cards whose points work best on your preferred airline or whose hotels have the best offerings in your destination city. And you can calculate how many points your credit cards will get you and how many more you’ll need for your trip.
Without a travel goal in mind, you could end up accumulating rewards that aren’t as valuable to you, like airline miles on a carrier that doesn’t offer nonstops to your destination, or hotel free night certificates at places you don’t want to stay.
Start by looking at both of your credit profiles, and be realistic about the cards you plan to apply for. A premium rewards credit card will be harder to get if your credit history is too short or you have blemishes in your file. For the most part, travel rewards credit cards are available only to customers with excellent credit scores (720 and up). If your score or your partner’s is significantly below 720, you can take steps to build your credit.
» Learn more: Best travel credit cards
2. Apply for cards separately vs. adding an authorized user
What’s better than earning one big pile of points as a credit card welcome bonus? Earning two. When you and your partner apply for the same card, you will both have the opportunity to earn the card’s bonus. This is known as the “two-player model” among travel rewards enthusiasts.
This doesn’t mean couples have to apply for the same card. But if you find a lucrative offer that can help you achieve your travel goals, it could be worthwhile. Most cards require you to meet a minimum spending level to earn the welcome bonus. Depending on your spending habits, you and your partner may want to spread out the time between your applications so it’s easier to meet two thresholds. Certain card offers are around only for a limited time, so if you see a short-term offer, do some math to decide whether you can both meet the minimum spend at the same time while still paying off your balances in full every month.
3. Earn transferable points
Transferable points are the most flexible type of travel rewards currency. Examples include American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Citi ThankYou points. You’ll have multiple ways to use these rewards, including the option to redeem for travel directly through the rewards program, to redeem for cash back (which you can use for travel) or to transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs.
For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to 13 airline and hotel programs including United, Southwest, Air France, Hyatt and Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. This means you can accumulate points with an eligible Chase card, then when you’re ready to start shopping for flights and hotels, you can transfer them to your desired travel program. Or, if you find a better deal on flights or hotels in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel booking portal, you can redeem your points there instead. Either way, you’ll have more flexibility than you would with points from a hotel- or airline-specific loyalty program.
4. Earn a companion perk
Imagine purchasing an airline ticket for yourself and being able to bring your partner with you for next to nothing. That’s essentially how the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass works. It allows you to designate one person to fly with you as your travel companion without paying any airline charges aside from taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 one way.
Normally, to earn the Companion Pass you need to fly Southwest a lot. But you can also accumulate points needed to earn the pass with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.
Alaska Airlines also has a companion fare offer, albeit less lucrative than Southwest’s. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card can get you a fare of just $99 plus taxes and fees for a companion who travels with you round-trip anywhere Alaska flies, including Hawaii.
5. Stay organized and track your progress
Track your travel rewards balances across your card accounts and frequent travel programs, and monitor your spending and payments, too. This will help you pay your balance in full every month to avoid interest charges. Late fees and interest can offset the value of the rewards you’re earning.
6. Resist the temptation to spend more
Once you and your partner begin earning valuable credit card welcome bonuses, it’s tempting to keep signing up for new cards. Instead, take it slow. Because most cards require you to meet a minimum spending threshold to earn a sign-up bonus, every new card creates an incentive to increase your everyday spending. Don’t change your spending habits just to earn a bonus.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple credit cards. But spreading out applications over a longer time period will make it less likely that you’ll overspend just to meet a minimum spending requirement.
7. Refer family and friends
Many card issuers will give you bonus points if you get a friend or family member to sign up for their credit card. In most cases, you sign in to your account at the card issuer’s website, then follow the instructions for referring a friend, where you’ll be given a link to send. Your friend applies for the card starting at your link and, once they’re approved for the card, you earn a lump sum of points. Couples have twice as many family, friends and co-workers as individuals, meaning twice as many opportunities to earn referral bonuses.
The bottom line
As a couple, you can earn award travel even faster when you work together. But you have to be strategic. Set goals and create a credit card application strategy tailored to your own spending, and the two of you can be on your way to a dream vacation in no time.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card