Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses – June 2017

best credit card bonuses this monthSign up bonuses are one of my favorite ways to earn credit card rewards. Below you’ll find the best credit card sign up bonus offers I could find.

There are currently some great credit card sign up bonus offers available. Some offers are over $1,000 or more. I personally have used many of these offers myself.

Basically you sign up for a credit card with a bonus offer. Then you meet the various requirements within a time limit to earn the bonus.

Sign up bonuses are normally awarded in some form of credit card reward points. You can usually use the points for statement credits, travel, gift cards or other rewards depending on each program.

Each program values points differently so it is important to know your options before you cash out your sign up bonus.

This can greatly alter the value of the credit card sign up bonus reward points so make sure you know what you’ll use your points for before you sign up for a particular sign up bonus credit card to get the best deal.

Travel Credit Cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardMy wife and I recently used two of these credit cards to completely pay for a 7 day Carnival Cruise! Essentially, you’ll earn 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

You can then use the 40,000 bonus miles plus 6,000 earned miles on purchases to redeem your miles against $460 of travel purchases charged on your Venture credit card.

You’ll earn two miles for every dollar in purchases you make no matter what category you make your purchases in, which essentially is 2% cash back when you redeem your miles for travel purchases. Your miles will never expire and there is no limit to how many reward miles you can earn with the card.

Just to clarify, Capital One considers the following as travel purchases: airlines, hotels, railroad tickets, cruise lines, taxi cabs, car rentals, limo services, bus lines, travel agents and time shares.

As an added benefit, you won’t have to pay foreign transaction fees and Capital One will provide you with your credit score monthly.

There is no annual fee for the first year, but you’ll pay a $59 annual fee for each year after the first.

Apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card today.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

barclay arrival plusYou can earn 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of having an account. When you redeem your miles for travel you’ll earn a bonus of 5% of the miles you redeemed.

This card offers an awesome 2 miles per dollar on all purchases you make, which will equate to 2.1% value if you redeem your rewards for travel after the 5% miles redemption bonus.

Bonus miles can be redeemed for a statement credit on travel purchases at $0.01 per mile and redeemed for a regular statement credit at a value of $0.005 per mile. Barclaycard considers the following as travel categories as defined by their merchant category codes:

  • Airlines
  • Travel Agencies & Discount Travel Sites
  • Hotels, Motels & Resorts
  • Timeshares
  • Campgrounds
  • Cruise Lines
  • Trains, Buses, Limos, Ferries and
  • Car Rental Agencies

After meeting the minimum spend amount, you’ll essentially have earned $588 in travel credits. That’s pretty sweet! This card also has a EMV chip for overseas travel!

Keep in mind that while this card waives the $89 annual fee for the first year, you will have to pay it in the following years.

Apply for the Barlcaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard today!

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

ventureone sign up bonusThe Capital One VentureOne rewards credit card is a great option for those looking for a great sign up bonus and rewards card with no annual fee.

This credit card will reward you with 20,000 miles, redeemable for $200 in travel credits, for spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.

You’ll earn 1.25 miles for each dollar in purchases so you’ll actually have 21,250 points after completing the minimum spend required for the bonus on this card and your points don’t expire.

This Capital One credit card has no foreign transaction fees, so it is a great card to take when you’re travelling abroad.

As I mentioned above, there is no annual free for this credit card. For that reason, it is great for people just getting started with credit card rewards.

If you’re looking for a great no annual fee sign up bonus credit card, this is it.

Click here to apply for the Capital One VentureOne rewards credit card today!

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Bank AmeriCard Travel Rewards Credit Card

bankamericard-travel-rewards-credit-card-tiltedThe Bank AmeriCard Travel Rewards credit card is a great basic rewards credit card with no annual fee.

Simply spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of card membership and you’ll earn 20,000 points worth $200 in travel credits.

You’ll also earn 1.5 points per dollar in purchases. That means you’ll have 21,500 points after you complete your sign up bonus spending.

You can use your points for the following travel purchase categories: airfare, car rentals, hotels, airline baggage fees, campgrounds, cruise lines, tourist attractions, zoos, amusement parks and exhibits.

You won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees on this card and the points that you earn never expire.

If you have a Bank of America checking or savings account, you’ll even get a bonus 10% extra points. If you’re a preferred rewards customer, you could earn a points bonus of 25% to 75%.

Points must be redeemed in 2,500 point increments for a $25 statement credit against travel costs.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Hotel Credit Cards

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

starwood preferred guest credit card from american express

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is often cited as one of the best hotel credit cards you can get. Currently, the card offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

You’ll have over 1,200 hotels and resorts to choose from when you’re booking your stay. Nights start at just 2,000 points for a category 1 weekend stay all the way up to 35,000 points for their swankiest hotels. There are some great values available and there are no blackout dates.

You can earn up to 5 Starpoints for each dollar of purchases at qualifying SPG hotels depending on your SPG status. Additionally, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees on this card.

As a cardholder, you will get free in-room, premium internet access.

If you want to transfer points, there is a very long list of airlines you can transfer your points to. These transfers are mostly at a 1 Starpoint to 1 airline point ratio.

Unfortunately, some hotels may have mandatory service or resort charges. Sadly, that’s the case with almost all brands these days for their higher end or big city hotels.

The annual fee is waived the first year and will be $95 in subsequent years.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

marriott rewards premier credit cardThe Marriott Rewards Premier credit card currently offers 80,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of opening your account.

If you want even more points, you can earn 7,500 bonus points for adding an authorized user. That user must make a purchase on that card in the first three months of opening your account.

Additionally, each year on your card account anniversary, you’ll earn 1 free night stay at a Category 1 through Category 5 hotel.

You can earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points with no maximum limits. You’ll earn 5 points for every dollar you spend at Marriott locations, which also include any stays at The Ritz-Carlton hotels.

You earn 2 points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, at car rental agencies and at restaurants. For every other purchase, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar.

As long as you make a purchase on your credit card once every 2 years, your points will never expire, which is pretty sweet.

There is an $85 annual fee for this credit card.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card

citi-hilton-hhonors-reserve-credit-card-sign-up-bonusIf you like fancy hotels then the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card might be worth checking out. You can earn two weekend night certificates, each good for one weekend night in a standard room with double occupancy at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio.

To qualify, you must spend $2,500 in eligible purchases within the first four months of card membership.

In addition to the sign up bonus, you will earn 10 bonus points for every dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton HHonors portfolio, 5 bonus points for every dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases and 3 bonus points for every dollar spent on all other purchases. These are in addition to the HHonors base points you may earn for your stays.

You can earn an anniversary bonus of one weekend night at select hotels and resorts if you spend $10,000 or more on eligible purchases in each card membership year.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve credit card features no foreign transaction fees and a Citi chip to assist in making global travel easier.

Finally, you will be rewarded complimentary HHonors gold status as long as you’re a Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve cardmember and can earn an upgrade to HHonors Diamond status by making $40,000 or more in eligible purchases during each calendar year.

Like many of these stellar sign up bonus cards, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card has a $95 annual fee.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Business Credit Cards

Many people think they don’t qualify for business credit cards. However, if you run any type of business, such as selling things on eBay, rent out a property or freelance write on the internet, you can try to apply for a business credit card.

If you don’t have a business structured, chances are you would be classified as a sole proprietorship. In that case, you would use your social security number in place of an employer or taxpayer identification number.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Credit Card

capital one spark cash for business credit cardThe Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card offers a hefty $500 sign up bonus after spending $4,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.

This card also offers a great 2% cash back on every purchase you make.

Your rewards will never expire. There are no category limits and your cash back is unlimited. This card is really simple and offers great rewards for a business credit card.

Additionally, this card has no foreign transaction fees. You can even get free employee cards if you wish!

There is no annual fee the first year. That said, an annual fee of $59 per year kicks in after the first year.

Apply for the Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card today.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Capital One Spark Miles for Business Rewards Credit Card

spark miles for business sign up bonusThe Capital One Spark Miles or Business credit card offers 50,000 bonus miles, worth $500 in travel credits, if you spend $4,500 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.

This card is very similar to the Spark Cash card except it awards miles instead of points. Miles can be redeemed for travel purchases at a penny per point.

You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases regardless of what spending category they would fall in.

There are no foreign transactions fees on this card. Your points never expire. You can also get free employee cards which are all super convenient benefits for business owners.

The annual fee of $59 is waived the first year, but you’ll have to pay it each year after that.

Apply for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business rewards credit card today.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offers one of the largest sign up bonuses I’m aware of at 80,000 sign up bonus points but it comes with a large spending requirement of $5,000 in the first 3 months from opening your account.

You can use those 80,000 points for $1,000 in travel rewards when redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

This credit card offers 3 points per dollar spent on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, telecommunications purchases (internet, cable and phone), and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

It also offers no foreign transaction fees. There is an annual fee of $95.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Airline Credit Cards

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Premier Credit Cards from Chase

If you fly on Southwest these cards offer some tremendous sign up bonus values! Both credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Premier, are currently offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of opening an account, but you have to do some good Google searching to find these offers.

Those 60,000 points can be redeemed for over $800 in Wanna Get Away?® fares which can be redeemed for a round trip flight.

In addition to the sign up bonus you earn 2 points for every dollar spent on Southwest Airlines® when you book directly with the airlines and 2 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.

Both versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card have anniversary bonuses. The Plus credit card has a 3,000 point anniversary bonus and the Premier credit card has a 6,000 point anniversary bonus.

The Premier version boasts no foreign transaction fees which can save you a ton of money if you commonly use credit cards in foreign countries.

Unfortunately, both credit cards have annual fees. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus annual fee is $69 and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier annual fee is $99.

If you use all of your points each year, the extra $30 for 3,000 extra anniversary bonus points is actually worth $40+ in Wanna Get Away?® fares so it might be worth it to splurge for the Premier card.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

General Rewards Credit Cards

Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®

The Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® offers a $200 cash rewards bonus when you spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

You’ll earn 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases. Your cash rewards can be used to direct deposit funds into your bank account, as a statement credit or for gift cards. However, redemption start at $50 per redemption.

Additionally, each time you redeem your cash rewards, you’ll get a 5% cash rewards bonus to use toward your next redemption. You rewards will never expire as long as your account is open, in good standing and active.

This card is even better because it has no annual fee. It also gives you access to a free FICO credit score.

Apply for the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®today.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

sapphire reserve sign up bonusThe Chase Sapphire Reserve is currently offering 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Those points can be redeemed for $750 in travel credit through Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

In addition to the sign up bonus, you get $300 in travel credit for purchases such as hotels and airfare each account year you own the card.

You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Additionally, there are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Unfortunately, with all of these great benefits there is a massive annual fee of $450 per year. You’ll definitely earn that back with all of the benefits this card offers in the first year, though.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

chase_sapphire_preferred_credit_card_sign_up_bonusThe Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has a 50,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $4,000 within 3 months of opening your card.

You can also earn 5,000 points by adding your first authorized user. They do have to make a purchase within the first 3 months to qualify, though.

The 50,000 points can be applied as a statement credit. Alternatively, they can be direct deposited into your bank account for $500 with each point being worth a penny.

If you use the rewards through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program you can get $625 worth of value. However, there are some even better ways to use your 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Advanced card users will likely transfer their points to another rewards program at a 1 point to 1 point value to some of these amazing rewards programs: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®,  Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer,  Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.

You earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

A couple of the other great benefits include no foreign transaction fees and the card has a chip for when you’re traveling internationally.

They even have a customer service number answered directly by real humans.

Chase will waive the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred card for the first year. You’ll have to pay the fee each year after that.

As with any card, please read all of the fine print and details on the application before you sign up. You need to completely understand the details to ensure you get your rewards!

Keep These Thoughts In Mind When Considering A Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

Credit cards can be great tools. They can make you a ton of money, if, and only if you play the game correctly. I ALWAYS pay my credit card off in full every month and you should too. If you can’t do this I would suggest against getting credit cards.

If you have a problem with debt and/or credit cards I would suggest you not sign up for new cards. The cash back benefits do not outweigh the interest charges you will pay.

Credit card interest rates are normally higher than most other loans. The interest can add up fast. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

What sign up bonus credit cards have you used in the past? Are there any other offers I should be aware of or add to my list? I’d love to hear your input below in the comments!

The information in the article is accurate to the best of my knowledge as of June 1st, 2017. It will be periodically updated as offers change. As with any offer, make sure to read all of the details on the application site. Those are the terms and conditions that will govern any credit card you sign up for. What you have read here is simply a summary and does not contain all terms and conditions.

Picture by: 401kcalculator.org Text added by: Lance Cothern

How Our Family Took A Free 5 Day Carnival Fantasy Cruise

When my wife found out she was pregnant last year, we were super happy. We were going to be parents!

Unfortunately, that meant we would have to take a break from our favorite vacation, cruising.

You can’t cruise after 20 weeks pregnant and our new son couldn’t cruise until he was at least six months old.

That meant we had to take a longer break than we would have liked.

Typically, we like to take two cruises per year. This time we took an 18 month break between cruises.

Thankfully, our cruising vacation drought came to an end recently as we embarked on a 5 day family cruise on the Carnival Fantasy.

As always, I like to detail our vacation costs here on the blog.

I like to share how we save money cruising as well as to share how affordable cruising can be, even for families. For those that aren’t familiar with the benefits of cruises, I’ll share why we enjoy them so much, too.

To make things even better, we were able to offset all of these costs and essentially take a free Carnival cruise.

Here’s exactly how much our 5 day Carnival Fantasy cruise cost and how we got it for free.

Our Cruise

For our first cruise with our son, we decided to take a shorter cruise out of Mobile, Alabama because it was close to home. We figured this would be a great test to see if our son would enjoy cruising without causing any major stress.

The only option out of Mobile, Alabama was the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival’s oldest ship. We didn’t let that deter us, though. We still had a blast. In fact, the ship has been kept up very well and has even received recent upgrades.

The five day cruise included stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Costa Maya, Mexico.

We don’t really do much in port other than look around the shops because we have amazing beaches just a couple miles from home. For that reason, we didn’t really care where the cruise went. We were just ready to cruise again.

The Cost of Our Cruise

Our cruise was not during peak season so we didn’t have to pay peak cruise prices. On the other hand, this was the first time paying for a third person so our costs were higher than usual.

Yes, cruise lines charge the same price for a 6 month old as they would charge for a 21 year old. The only difference is Carnival does not require gratuities for children under the age of two.

Cruise Fare

The cruise fare for my wife and I was $344 each. Our son added an additional $129. Our total cruise fare was $817.

Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses

Each person who sails has to pay these fees. They’re the same per person no matter how many people you have in your room. For this trip, we each paid $80.30 in taxes, fees and port expenses for a total of $240.90.

Suggested Gratuities

Cruise lines says gratuities, a fancy word for tips, are optional. That said, they automatically charge the tips to your account when you’re onboard if you don’t prepay them before you leave for the cruise.

Gratuities are a part of the cruise workers’ compensation, so we definitely leave this alone and pay the $12.95 per person per day.

Gratuities aren’t required for guests under the age of two, so we only paid for my wife and I. This cost was $129.50.

Parking

We always drive to the cruise ports, so we have to find a place to leave our car while we cruise. Usually, we shop around and find parking that is cheaper than what the cruise terminal offers.

Sadly, Mobile only has one cruise ship that visits the port and the port is downtown. That meant there were no parking alternatives. We ended up paying $18 per day for a total of $90.

Voluntary Tips

When you arrive at a cruise port, you drop your bags off with a porter. The porter takes the luggage and puts it in the proper area to get loaded on the ship.

While these employees are paid an hourly rate, it is customary to tip them $1 per bag according to Carnival. We tipped $2 for our two bags.

Onboard Spending

Onboard spending can add up quickly if you like to drink. However, this cruise we didn’t drink hardly at all. My wife had a margarita and we both had a free drink we earned from the loyalty program for a total of $12.87 including tips.

We took advantage of the multiple photo opportunities to get a couple of professional family photos. We bought two photos and a CD with one of the images for $53.97.

As far as souvenirs go, my wife purchased two shirts for $20 and we bought a Christmas ornament for $12.95.

Finally, because we weren’t drinking as much, I purchased two fancy deserts for $2.59 each or $5.18 total.

We also had received onboard credit of $8.49 per person or $25.47. This brought our total onboard spending down to $79.50.

Spending In The Ports

We usually avoid buying many of the touristy items vendors sell in the ports. This time we decided to get our son a small souvenir to represent his first cruise. We found a small maraca he could use as a rattle for $1. That’s all we bought in Mexico.

Travel To And From The Port

Travelling to Mobile only cost us $27.74 in fuel costs. On the way there, we didn’t have to stop for a meal. On the return trip, we got off the cruise ship a bit later than anticipated and stopped for lunch, which cost us $11.78.

The total cost of traveling to and from Mobile was $39.52.

Items For The Cruise

Finally, we did purchase some supplies to take on the cruise. In total, we spent $25 for things like Dramamine, bottled water, soda and other items we brought with us on the cruise.

Total Cost

Adding up all of the above costs bring us to a total of $1,424.42 for our family 5 day Carnival Fantasy cruise. In the end, we didn’t end up having to spend a penny of our own money to go on this wonderful vacation. Here’s how we offset the cost of our cruise.

How We Got Our Cruise For Free

Every time we shop at Walmart we use Walmart Savings Catcher to find us savings. Basically, if Walmart finds a lower price, we get the difference in a gift card. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, I wrote a whole post about it here.

We used $25 of our rewards to offset the items we bought for our cruise. We still needed $1,399.42 to pay for the rest of our cruise.

Credit Card Rewards

Credit card rewards are one of our main source of travel funds. My wife and I used regular credit card rewards and sign up bonuses to pay for our 5 day Carnival Fantasy cruise. Here’s exactly what we used.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

For this cruise, my wife and I both signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. We each earned a $500 value sign up bonus for spending $3,000 on our cards within the first three months of having the cards.

In addition, we each earned $60 in regular rewards for spending the $3,000 and $23 in travel rebates for redeeming our rewards. We each earned $583 for using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card for a total of $1,166.

After using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus sign up bonuses, we still had to figure out how to pay for the last $233.42 of our cruise. It was much easier than you’d think.

Citi Double Cash

When we aren’t working toward sign up bonuses, we use our Citi Double Cash credit card to essentially earn 2% cash back on all of our purchases. Over time, we had earned hundreds of dollars in rewards.

We redeemed $233.42 to pay off the remaining cruise costs and still had some Double Cash rewards left over.

The Credit Card We Don’t Use

If you’ve ever sailed Carnival before, you might be surprised to hear I don’t use the Carnival FunPoints World Mastercard.

While the Carnival credit card does offer $100 toward Carnival travel after the first purchase, it only offers 2 points per dollar on Carnival purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. I’d rather sign up for cards that offer better sign up bonuses and rewards.

However, on this cruise I quickly learned many people don’t know about the great credit card offers available.

A representative sat in a highly trafficked area of the cruise ship offering a cheap Carnival backpack bag and a lanyard to hold your cruise key card for signing up for the card. The applications rolled in fast and furious.

If you’re going to sign up for a card, make sure you’re getting a better bonus than a cheap lanyard and backpack bag.

If you’re interested in finding credit cards to help you cruise for free, check out my curated list of the best sign up bonus credit cards, which I update monthly. I use many of these cards to help pay for our vacations.

Why We Enjoy Cruising

Now that you know how much our cruise cost and how we essentially got the cruise for free, I’d like to share why we think cruising is such a great deal.

Cruising Is Relaxing

When it comes to vacations, we like to relax. Cruises are perfect for relaxing.

Once you get on the cruise ship, you don’t have to make any major plans or decisions. You wake up in the morning, look at the activity schedule and pick what you do or don’t want to do.

We always cruise in the Caribbean, so we’re usually surrounded by beautiful water and scenery. There is something about being out on the water with nothing else in sight that is very relaxing.

As far as meals go, you have a few venues to choose from and many of them are included in your cruise fare. You don’t have to plan dinners or do dishes.

You can spend extra money and dine at a specialty restaurant or stick to the main dining room which serves great food, at least as good as the major restaurant chains.

When you get to port, you can take a pre-planned excursion or you can go explore the area on your own. Alternatively, you can stay on the ship and enjoy a very empty cruise ship.

One of our favorite things about cruising is the opportunity to disconnect.

While you can pay to get internet access onboard, we usually opt not to buy them. Instead, we enjoy the company of our family and relax without the constant smartphone notifications every few minutes.

Cruising Is Very Affordable

Our cruise cost us $1424.42 or $284.88 per day. For that price, we get a hotel, dining, entertainment and travel to foreign countries. I don’t know many other vacations that offer the same benefits cruising does at a similar cost.

As I mentioned earlier, cruising is made even more affordable by the fact that we use credit card rewards to pay our vacation bills.

If you’re interested in learning how to do the same, or would like my help using rewards to pay for a cruise, feel free to contact me. Do you like cruising or earning free vacations? Tell me your stories in the comments.

Use Credit Card Rewards to Pay for Christmas!

The holidays can be a very expensive time of year.

How much you spend greatly depends on your gift giving tendencies and how much you and your family celebrate the holiday festivities.

Luckily, I’m going to share a unique way to pay for your Christmas this year that is a bit out of the box.

Use Credit Card Rewards

Using credit card rewards to pay for Christmas isn’t something that many people consider but it can be a very effective.

I personally earn cash back rewards all year long and only cash them out when I see a big cash back balance sitting on my credit card statement.

Depending on your cash back balance, you can use those rewards to get some great stocking stuffers or an expensive once-in-a-lifetime present.

Even if you haven’t consciously saved your credit card rewards, your rewards balances could definitely help out if your budget is tight around the holidays.

You can usually use your cash back or rewards points as a direct statement credit to offset some of your Christmas spending.

For rewards programs that don’t allow statement credits, you may be to exchange your rewards or points for gift cards. Some credit cards will actually give you a discount and let you exchange $20 of cash back points for a $25 gift card.

This is a great way to maximize your points if you were going to spend money at a particular retailer or if you want to give a gift card as a present.

How to Prepare for Next Year’s Holiday Season

If you don’t have any rewards or cash back points to spend this year don’t worry. You can always start preparing for next year.

The first and most important thing to do if you want to use credit card rewards to pay for next year’s holiday season is to save up all of your points for the holiday season!

If you’re constantly cashing out small amounts you won’t have enough to cover your holiday spending.

The next thing to do is to make sure you have the best cash back or rewards credit cards for your spending situation.

My favorite easy cash back credit card is the Citi Double Cash card. You can earn 1% cash back on all of your purchases and then an additional 1% cash back on your payments.

If you don’t mind putting in some effort, some credit cards have rotating categories for the highest reward percentages. The Chase Freedom card does this with its 5% quarterly cash back categories.

Whenever you make a purchase make sure you are putting it on the credit card with the highest payout percentage in order to maximize your future holiday dollars.

This Method is Not For Everyone

If you have credit card debt or just plain know that you can’t handle having credit cards I do not suggest you use this method.

In order to actually make money using credit card rewards, you must pay your credit card balance off in full every month and never incur a late fee.

If you do not follow these rules for using your rewards credit cards, they may end up costing you more than the rewards you earned.

Have you ever used credit card rewards to pay for Christmas? Any memorable purchases? Let us know in the comments.

I’m a Victim of Credit Card Fraud… What Do I Do?

what to do if you are a victim of credit card fraudCredit card fraud is one of those things you hear about but never expect to happen to you.

I felt the same exact way and now realize that I was wrong.

I never should have felt I was above credit card fraud to begin with.

While I am careful with where I use my credit cards, there are so many different ways people can steal your credit card information.

It seems it is no longer a question of if you’ll ever be hit with credit card fraud but when you will be hit with credit card fraud.

Related: Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses Available This Month

How To Recognize Credit Card Fraud

Recognizing that you’ve been hit with credit card fraud is the first step. If you don’t realize someone else is using your credit card how can you report the fraud?

This is exactly why I monitor my credit card transactions at least monthly and reconcile my receipts to my credit card statement. Sometimes there are honest mistakes but most of the time if something seems out of the ordinary it is fraud.

Just recently I was looking at my transactions through my bank’s online access and saw a charge for what looked like Proactiv Solution… you know… the acne product you see on TV all of the time.

The thing is, I don’t have acne problems and have never once ordered any Proactiv product.

What To Do When You Are a Victim of Credit Card Fraud

Before you go screaming fraud, first make sure the transaction in questions isn’t simply something you forgot. Make sure an authorized user didn’t charge something and simply forget to tell you about it.

Next, if you’re still pretty sure the transactions are fraudulent then you need to take action immediately.

I called my credit card company to make sure that the transaction was what it appeared to be and they were able to give me a phone number for the company that was attached to the transaction. I called the company and, sure enough, it was Proactiv.

It was at that point I knew I was hit with credit card fraud.

I immediately called my credit card company back and told them I had been hit with a fraudulent transaction. They cancelled my current card and overnighted me a new card.

I asked what would happen to the person who committed the fraud and my credit card company told me it goes to their fraud department where they decide whether it is worth looking into or not.

In addition to getting a new credit card issued, you can also file a police report. The main reasons why I didn’t was because it was only one small transaction AND it was an online purchase.

If there were many local fraudulent transactions or a large fraudulent transaction I definitely would have filed a police report. This wasn’t worth my time or effort for a $20 online purchase as the local police wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

What Will Happen to The Scammer?

Since this transaction was only $20 I doubt anyone would look into it because it would cost more than simply refunding my account $20 for the charge.

This is a real bummer because it means people can continue to get away with this petty theft while increasing costs for people who use credit cards, whether it be merchants (transaction fees) or consumers (interest rates).

Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? What happened and what did you do after finding out about it?

P.S. – Things got interesting… it sounds like things have gone from credit card fraud to full blown identity theft. Here are the details of what happened next.

Photo by: Images of Money Text added by: Lance Cothern

How To Get A Totally Free 7 Day Cruise Using Credit Cards

Want totally free vacations? Believe it or not, it's possible to get a cruise completely for free using credit cards. In fact, we've gotten two cruises basically for free! Check out our idea about exactly how to get a free vacation. This is one free vacation tip you don't want to miss out on.Last month my wife and I took a 7 day cruise completely for free.

We even spent two nights in the home port, Galveston, Texas, and visited the Pleasure Pier for free, too.

How did we do all of this?

The amazing power of credit card rewards.

How Much Our Cruise Cost Before Applying Credit Card Rewards

We got a great deal on this cruise before you even factor in credit cards.

Our 7 day Carnival Magic cruise came to a total of $1009.40 for the cruise fare, port fees, taxes and prepaid gratuities.

As part of the sale when we bought our cruise, we received $50 back in on-board credit to spend on the ship.

Of course, the cruise fare isn’t the only thing you pay for on a cruise. In addition to the fare, we spent:

  • $65 on parking,
  • $50 on miscellaneous supplies,
  • $175 on gas and dining out (not on the ship),
  • $58.43 for two all day passes to Galveston’s Pleasure Pier,
  • $3 on souvenirs in Mexico,
  • $2 in tips to the people who took our luggage,
  • $95 each ($190 total) on a behind the scenes tour of the cruise ship,
  • $78.88 in other on-board spending which came to $28.88 after our $50 on-board credit and
  • $350 estimated value of 2 nights in a hotel (free with points).

If you add all of that up, this vacation would have cost us a total of $1,931.71. Here’s how we got all of that for absolutely free.

Paying For Our Carnival Cruise Line Spending

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardWe both applied for and were approved for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.

After spending $3,000 on each card within three months of approval of the card, we both earned 40,000 bonus points each and 6,000 points for our purchases.

When redeemed for travel, such as a Carnival cruise purchase, these points are worth $0.01 each. This card reduced our bill by $920 and left us with $1,011.71 to go.

citi thankyou premierNext, my wife signed up for the Citi Thank You Premier credit card. Currently, you can earn 50,000 ThankYou points for spending $3,000 in the first three months after approval.

We used 30,000 points to get $300 in Carnival gift cards which covered all but $8.28 of our cruise ship spending.

We also have 20,000 ThankYou points left over which can get us another $200 in gift cards to places like WalMart, Home Depot, Lowe’s or more Carnival gift cards for a future cruise.

In total, we still had $711.71 of spending to cover with other credit card rewards.

Paying For Our Hotel

Next, we used 14,000 points to pay for our two night stay at the Sheraton Four Points on Galveston Island.

This hotel was in a prime location, right across from the seawall on the Gulf of Mexico. We could see both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pleasure Pier from our room which was pretty sweet.

SPG_Card_ArtFor this, we signed up for the Starwood Guest Preferred card by American Express. Currently, this credit card offers 25,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 within the first 3 months after approval.

After the spending, you’ll have at least 28,000 points which would have paid for our room twice over.

The estimated cost to book the room for the weekend would have been about $350, so now we only have $361.71 left to pay for with credit card rewards.

Paying For Miscellaneous Costs

chase_sapphire_preferred_credit_card_sign_up_bonusFinally, my wife signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card to pay for our miscellaneous expenses that we couldn’t get gift cards for or didn’t qualify as travel spending.

Currently, you can earn 40,000 Ultimate Reward points by spending $4,000 in the first three months after approval. Ultimate Reward points can be cashed out at $0.01 a piece which more than covered our remaining $361.71 in expenses.

We could have used these rewards in a more optimal way, but we didn’t have any other plans so we just cashed them out.

A Summary Of The Credit Cards We Signed Up For

In total, we signed up for 5 credit cards over about a year to pay for our free cruise.

Based on the credit card sign up bonus offers as they stand today, we would have had to spend $16,000 on these credit cards to earn enough rewards.

Honestly, that’s not too difficult for us over the period of a year when you consider everyday spending (car insurance, cable bills, and groceries among others) along with any projects you may have done over the last year.

Additionally, we could have used our cruise spending to go toward some of these spending requirements for our bonuses, or toward our next bonuses.

A Summary Of Our Credit Card Rewards We Earned

These credit cards covered every penny of our $1,931.71 vacation and we had the following rewards left over:

  • 14,000 Starwood points (redeemable for multiple free hotel nights),
  • 20,000 ThankYou points worth at least $200 in free gift cards and
  • 7,829 Ultimate Rewards points worth at least $78.29 in cash.

You Could Spend More On Your Cruise

Your cruise may very well cost more than ours did, but luckily there are plenty of other credit card sign up bonuses you could earn to offset those costs.

We got a steal of a deal on the cruise fare itself. We only paid for an inside cabin, so if you want an ocean view, balcony or suite room, you’ll have to pay more.

We didn’t spend a ton of money on excursions in our ports and mainly just hung out around the ship, because we have an amazing beach at home. We didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on $10 drinks and we ate in the free dining rooms which are great by our standards.

Finally, we didn’t gamble more than $20 during the whole cruise in the casino. So, if you want to spend more on your cruise, you can do the following to earn even more credit card rewards.

Other Credit Card Rewards You Can Use For Cruises

Other cards can help you pay for a cruise. Here are a couple other my other favorites.

barclay arrival plusThe Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard sign up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in 90 days after approval can be redeemed for $500 in travel expenses, including cruises.

When you count the points earned from $3,000 in spending, you’ll have $560 in travel credit. If your spouses or significant other hasn’t signed up for the card yet, either, you can add another $920 toward your cruise.

bankamericard-travel-rewards-credit-card-tiltedAn easier card to earn points for is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card. You can earn a bonus of 20,000 points worth $200 in travel for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after approval.

This can be doubled to $400 with two applicants. Plus there is no annual fee with this card so you never have to cancel it.

Overall, there are a ton of different ways you can earn a free cruise using credit card sign up bonuses. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just cruises. Many of these credit cards can be used for other vacations, too.

Will you be using your credit card rewards for a free cruise in the future? What about another type of vacation? If you are already earning rewards, what’s the best free vacation you’ve taken so far? Let me know in the comments below.

Disclaimers: Don’t use credit cards for rewards unless you’re really on top of your game. You’ll need to make sure you never charge more than you can afford to pay off, you never make late payments and you never pay a penny in interest to make these credit cards worth it.

Additionally, many of these cards carry an annual fee that is waived the first year. Make sure you reevaluate every card to make sure they provide enough value to pay for the annual fee past the first year of the card.

Photo by: Kabacchi Text added by: Lance Cothern