Helping Kachi Get to Rome, Credit Card Points and 5 Ways to Visit Paris Without Taking Out a Second Mortgage
Last week we wrote about how we use credit card points to travel for free. It's worked out great for us but it can be overwhelming for someone just starting out. Almost everyone has earned some type of reward points or miles but they may not know how best to use them. Our friend Kachi was in that position. He had a nice chunk of points but was a little nervous about how to get the best value.
Kachi has built up almost 200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. Ultimate Rewards are our favorite points currency because they are easy to earn and the Chase travel portal can offer some decent deals. The real savings though comes from transferring Chase points to other travel companies. In Kachi's case, transferring points saved him a ton.
Kachi wants to go to Rome. Since he has Chase points, he was planning to book through the Chase portal. In this instance that would have been very expensive. A United flight with Chase points would have cost him 132,707 points! That's way too much!
Thankfully, Chase points are transferable. After our sticker shock with Chase, we started looking at prices with some of their travel partners. By transferring his Chase points to United miles, He was able to save over 70,000 miles for pretty much the same flight. It definitely pays off to understand how much your points are actually worth and what you can do with them. Kachi could have flown to Rome twice, through United, with what Chase wanted to charge.
Why the price discrepancy for the same flight? Mostly because not all points or miles have the same value, all the time. Different companies also use different redemption charts to value those points. It can be confusing and convoluted. The credit card companies like it that way. With a little research though, your points can be stretched to give you a great value.
5 Ways to Visit Paris Without Taking Out a Second Mortgage
Paris is a place that almost everyone would love to visit. It's also expensive. We found several ways to make it more accessible. Here are 5 things we did to make Paris more affordable.
1. Use Points and Miles
This is the biggest way to save money, not just in Paris but everywhere. Using a combination of American Airlines miles and Chase/Citi points, we went to Paris for 13 days. The flight was free and the hotel was free. Using sign up bonuses like this one helped us save several thousand dollars. If you're not earning quality credit card points, you should definitely start.
2. Eat Like You're at Home...Sort of
After travel and hotel costs, food is easily the largest expense. How did we cut that down? Most people don't eat out three times a day when they're at home. We definitely don't. We adopted that same attitude while we were in Paris. We ate out but we didn't feel the need to always sit down and have a long drawn out meal. Not only did this save us money but since eating out in Paris is very time consuming, we also saved a lot of time to see the city.
Our hotel had breakfast included with our room. It was awesome! There were fresh pastries, cheeses, eggs and a barista making fresh espresso. It wasn't an American style continental breakfast at all. This easily saved us 15-25 Euros a day. It was also very convenient to just walk down, eat and then head out for the day. Not all hotels include breakfast and some definitely aren't worth eating at though. So you're mileage may vary on that.
For lunch we usually ate at a bakery or outdoor market. This was cheaper than eating at a sit down cafe and some of our favorite meals were street vendors. We ate falafel, couscous and of course bread and cheese from the bakeries for most lunches. We were able to save money during the day so that we could do nicer dinners at night.
As far as food goes, Paris is definitely a city where you should budget a good bit for food. It's so good! However, some of our absolute favorite meals in Paris turned out to be the cheapest. It's possible to eat great in Paris without spending a ton.
3. Drink Wine Instead of Liquor and Soda
Good wine in Paris can be had cheaply. It's cheaper than liquor and definitely cheaper than soda at a restaurant. You probably didn't need any prodding to drink French wine but the fact that it's so inexpensive is a plus.
4. Pre-purchase Museum Tickets
We purchased the Paris Museum Pass before we left the states and had it shipped to our hotel. We bought the 6 day pass for about 90 dollars per person. The museum pass gives you unlimited access to most of the popular museums and sites in Paris. It includes Versailles, The Louvre, Musee de Orsay and many others. In addition to the savings you also get to cut most of the lines and get inside faster.
5. Buy Metro Tickets in Bulk
The Metro is faster, cheaper and more efficient than Uber or cabs in Paris. The Metro is well laid out and easy to get the hang of after a few days. A single metro ticket cost 1.90 euros. If you buy a "carnet" or pack of ten the price is 14.90 euros. This saves you about 5 euros. It's not a lot but if you use the metro as much as we did this can easily save you 20-30 euros.
Traveling can be expensive but it doesn't have to be. Our entire 13 day trip to Paris only cost us about 1800 dollars. The bulk of that saving came from using credit card points in a smart way. Next week we're going to lay out how to get started with points and miles so that you can travel for free too.