My "Almost FREE" Disney Vacation - Part Two: Airfare

So, if you have read Part One of "My Almost-Free Disney Vacation" posts, you may have the idea of using credit card bonuses to pay for vacations. Now, before you say, "But getting credit cards hurts your credit score, Erin!"  Yes, it can IF you don't know what you are doing!  I will say that I have always had "Excellent" credit my whole life, even today.  Excellent credit is the only way you can get most of these cards. Almost one year later, my score is just 3 measly points lower than when I began after one year and after opening up 8, YES 8, new credit cards in 6 months.  And that is because one of my cards just closed last month due to inactivity of one year. I can't spell it out here, but most of  the stuff I heard about credit cards was just not true! Yes, your score will rollercoaster week to week and after you apply for new cards. But, there are many ways to find out how you can change credit scores and boost them! I suggest learning about that FIRST just to be clear, don't just start applying for cards!  This post is simply about how I got to Disney for "Almost Free"...with an excellent credit score still! :)

So, just to recap part one:

The Main Idea: Many banks will get you to sign up for their credit cards by designing an "offer". You may see different "offers" for credit cards on TV or on the web, or in the mail.  Many (the kind we are interested in) will have wording such as "you get X amount of bonus points when you spend $X amount in X months."  These "bonus points" are generally in ADDITION to the points you would earn on the card for spending "X" amount.  Then, you "trade-in" those points for airline tickets, gift cards, hotels, etc. Great deals are to be had!

Our Goal: Get the bonus points by meeting the spending requirement and using the bonus points to pay for the vacation.  We also want to meet the spending requirement by actually spending as little as possible if we are not able to meet those requirements by paying the bills we already have using this credit card.

  • Example: Let's say you have $1000 a month that you spend already on groceries, cell phone, cable, internet, insurance, etc.  Then, let's say your credit card bonus requires you to spend $4000 in 3 months to get the bonus.  You would be short $1000 to meet the requirement, right? Well, there are many ways that you can "spend" that $1000 without "spending" it. (I will direct you to Travel Is Free to research those ways!)  But I will mention one way...Amazon payments. If you are familiar with them, you already know that Amazon payments lets you pay someone for a service or product through their site (like pay pal does). Their limit is $1000 a month for free (otherwise, they charge a fee...but we don't like fees!).  Yes, you can use a credit card to do so, but you CAN'T send it to someone and have them send it back to you through the site. However, if you have a babysitter to pay, or you want to pay your mom for being such a great mom and helping you clean your house or watch the kids, you could send up to $1000 to their bank account through Amazon. What that person does with the money after it is in their bank account  is up to the person you send it to. SO, if they feel like giving you $1000 for being a great kid and helping them shovel, do the laundry, etc., then there is no rule that they can't give you a $1000 check out of that same bank account.  So, we have met that requirement of $4000 in 3 months, right? :)  *Side note: please don't abuse this, many accounts have been shut down!
OK, back to the airline part. As I mentioned before, I have been planning a trip to Disney for 11 of us since March 2013. (It was 10 and then we got a call to adopt our new baby girl in November! Woohoo!) In my "Part One" post, I talked about a card that was giving out 50,000 points when you spent $2000 in 3 months. EASY for us!

Here's the Disney scoop:

I got 2 Southwest cards, one personal and one business. (I own an ice cream shop, but you don't have to own a storefront business to get a biz card...ask Drew about that!) So, I got 100,000 bonus points. Now, because I was spending $2000 on each card (or $4,000 total) to get those bonus points, I also earned 1 point per $ spent for my regular points that you earn with just having the card. So, I received a total of 104,000 points total after my points posted.

Now, Southwest also has a program where you will earn a companion pass when you get 110,000 points to post within the same calendar year. I was only 6,000 points away!

**Companion pass - If you earn your pass, it allows one person to fly FREE with you on ANY flight for the rest of that year that you have earned the pass, PLUS for the whole following year as well! I earned mine in 2013 and flew with my daughter as my we

get all of 2014 for free as well! You can change the companion up to 3 times during the life of your pass!

OK, so I went for the pass really easily and didn't have to spend anything out of the ordinary to get it because of the business. Both cards applied points to my account and added up together. **This system may change, but as of the day this was written, Southwest counted these bonus points toward the companion pass**  In no time, I had a companion I thought, "Let's get one for my hubby, too, so my son can fly free!"

So, my hubby did the same thing. We were a little behind the times with getting his before our flights to North Carolina, California and then Florida. He was about $1000 short after Amazon, so we bought $1000 in pre-paid Master Cards from Gift Card Mall...they cost us about $15 in, we spent $15 to get those last points. BUT, it was worth it to have my son AND daughter fly free on them all! :) I also got cash back from buying them online!

   **Read my "How To Save Money Shopping Online" post for more!

After it was all said and done, our flights round-trip from NY to NC (the first of our 3 trips in a row using Southwest) were about 9,000 points per person. So, we had a total of 220,000+ points and used just 18,000 because my son and daughter flew FREE with us! Yippeeeeee!!!! Got the idea?

Now, these cards did come with annual fees. My business card was $99 and our 3 other personals were $69 each: a total of $306. So, we "bought" 220,000 points for $306. Now, since Southwest points are valued at 60 per dollar, we are essentially getting $3667 in travel for that $306. BUT!!!!!  Since 2 of us fly free when my hubby and I fly, then we are actually DOUBLING that $3667 value into $7333 worth of travel as long as we use it before our companion passes run out at the end of 2014!  So, we virtually got a discount of 96% on our airline tickets since $306 is 4% of $7333!!!! Yippee!!! :)

 I also must say that there is a mandatory 9/11 fee of $5 per one-way ticket that can't be paid with points. So, a round-trip would be $10 each person. Not free, but there is no way around that!

So here's the Disney recap:

My immediate family had 4 cards, my parents had one and my sister's family had one.  Each card came with 50,000 bonus points. Our trip to Disney cost just under 15,000 points per person. So, we had enough for all of us to fly for FREE (+ the $5 fee each way)!!! We had 2 kids under 2, so 9 of us needed a ticket. (Under 2 fly free on Southwest when you put them on your lap - no 9/11 fee, either!)  We flew for a total of $90! Can you beat that? I say it was "free" because I would have spent more just in gas for my car if we had stayed home for that week!!!

Also, Southwest does NOT have a luggage fee like the others! We each brought TWO check-ins and were allowed a carry-on and a personal item EACH! FREE! I LUV Southwest!

Family of 11 (8 seats on the plane) - total of $90!

Wanna read more about our Almost-Free Disney Vacation? Part three is on the way!
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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I had a great teacher. AND there is no way that we were all going to be able to go if we had to pay full price! :)