Using one simple secret, two Houstonians went on a $52,000 trip for $400

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Couple uses credit card bonus points to fund lavish vacations
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Couple uses credit card bonus points to fund lavish vacations, Tracy Clemons reports.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A Houston couple took the trip of a lifetime last month. They went around the world and back. And they only spent a few hundred dollars to do it.

They did it by taking advantage of credit card rewards. Daniel Gillaspia and Bradley Darnell piled up sign-up bonuses and credit card rewards for about six months.

Their original goal was to get enough to fly to Europe. They met that goal and much more by using some travel hacking strategies that anyone can try.

"We got about 15 sign up bonuses, and we racked up about a million miles in points," Daniel says.

"That's what's great about doing it as a couple is that you're able to get basically the same bonus twice," adds Bradley.

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Two Houston travelers saw the world and paid almost nothing.
Bradley Darnell/Daniel Gillaspia

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Daniel Gillaspia and Bradley Darnell used those credit cards to pay their monthly bills, and they paid them off every month. Daniel says their miles racked up, they found better cards, and the trip just grew.

"Before we knew it, we were doing a full around the world trip to four or five different countries," Daniel tells us.

For three weeks, they traveled like royalty. Tokyo, Singapore, South Africa, Dubai, and New York. Every flight was first class. Every hotel was five stars.

"If we had paid cash for all those flights, all those hotels, it would be about $52,000," Daniel says.

"To do the lavish trip we did, I never expected it whatsoever," jokes Bradley.

They booked everything with credit cards. They only paid cash for fees and surcharges. That total out of pocket was just over $400.

Daniel says the key to building up points for your own lavish vacation is getting the right cards at the right time, and taking advantage of the best redemptions.

"One of the cards that did the best for us was the AMEX Platinum. It offered us a 100,000 sign-up bonus which we were able to convert into about $10,000 worth of first-class air fare. And it also offered us lounge access."

And the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offered them 50,000 miles. He says anyone can do what they did. It just takes a lot of work.

"Start researching as much as you can, learning all the basics, and commit time to it. It's just like any other hobby. If you wanna be good at it, it's gonna take a lot of time."

They tell Eyewitness News they've had friends and family wonder how this kind of credit usage affects their credit. Daniel says their scores were dinged short-term because of the hard inquiries for opening new accounts. However, they say their credit is as strong today as it's ever been.

Just a disclaimer: this travel hacking may not be for everyone.

"People should start with getting a thorough understanding of their credit score, credit report, and how those things can be affected," Daniel says.

He put travel hacking tips on his blog.