Have you ever considered quitting your job so that you can travel across the globe? Are you also the type of person who loves a good hack — i.e., if something is good, how can you make it even better?
If this appeals to you, allow us to introduce you to Hannah and Chad Janis. They’re a 20-something married couple who quit their jobs on Wall Street, cracked the credit card rewards code and booked flights to 40 countries. And they’re doing it all for free.
Hannah and Chad began mulling over their travel goals during their first year working at a hedge fund and an investment bank, respectively. They decided to sell almost all of their possessions and “live intentionally,” according to Chad. Now, as they travel the world, their possessions fit into two suitcases and two backpacks, and they document their travels on Instagram.
» Learn more: How I flew for free: Round trip NYC to India using Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Janis duo are using 2 million credit card points to travel to their 40 countries, all gained from opening a whopping 42 credit cards. The duo clearly know a thing or two about the best travel credit cards. Here are some details about their favorites, and how they booked their fantastic adventures.
Start with the welcome bonus
One of Hannah and Chad’s biggest tips for traveling for free is to seek out hefty welcome bonuses, and then maximize their impact by spending as little as possible. “We only opened cards that we knew would get us the points we needed toward certain redemption options,” Chad says.
“There were two criteria we evaluated with each card we opened: One, does the card earn points toward an airline or program that we need and two, is the current sign-up bonus trending higher than normal,” Chad explains. “We began this journey with a pretty good understanding of how many points we would need with different airlines and opened the cards that would help us accumulate those points.”
Hail the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express
“These are the only two cards we have brought with us,” Chad says. “The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns three points for [every dollar spent on] dining and ‘travel,’ which is pretty loosely defined. So we primarily use the Chase Sapphire Reserve® as most of our expenses fall under these two categories. However, we do use The Platinum Card® from American Express for hotel accommodations, and the taxes and fees associated with booking ‘free’ flights, because this card earns us five points on these purchases.”
Think first, then sign up
One of Hannah and Chad’s mantras is to not spend more than they normally would. That requires a lot of forethought.
It should come as no surprise that using points to travel the globe requires meticulous planning.
“Before ever opening a card, we would sit down and map out the purchases we knew we were going to have over the next three months,” Chad explains.
» Learn more: How to set a trip budget when traveling with friends
“Depending on our expected expenses, we would then go open one to three cards that required us to hit a combined minimum spend requirement that was less than our projected expenses.”
Beware of returns
You can’t pull this feat off without being smart about almost every tiny detail. Yet even they encountered some obstacles.
Specifically, how cards deal with returns. “Hannah had returned an item on one of the cards she opened, putting her back under the minimum spend requirement for that card,” Chad says.
“We had about four days left to re-meet the minimum spend requirement on the card. It wasn’t a lot of money (maybe $50), but responsibly keeping track of so many credit cards to reap the serious rewards took organization and commitment. We were able to successfully re-meet this card’s minimum spend requirement within the three-month window.”
Photos courtesy of Hannah and Chad Janis.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Travel rewards bucket list: Showering on a plane
How to snag credit card rewards flights in peak season
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards