Fund Your Adventure Travel with Credit Card Points: A Complete Guide

If you love exploring new spots and thrilling destinations like I chronicle on this blog, then this post is for you. Let’s dive into the world of credit card rewards and learn how to make the most of them for your next adventure!

Before we get into the credit card point strategies, let’s breakdown how much points I’ve used on recent  trips (2023) and planned trips for 2024.

Adventure Trip Cost  % of points used Value of points used How points were used 
Amazon Aug 23 $8,00060%$4,800Air, hotel and gear 
Canada July 23 $5,00050%$2,500Air and hotel 
MI Upper Peninsula  Oct 23$3,00060%$1,600Air, car and Airbnb 
Amazon Jan 24 $6,00080%$4,800Air and gear 
Norway Aug 24 
$8,000100%$8,000Air only 
Totals $30,00072%$21,700

As you can see, total travel expenditures for 2023 and 2024 trips are $30,000 with 72% being covered by points, saving me $21,700. So if you want travel mostly for free using points and cash back strategies, continue reading (or watch the following video)

Understanding Credit Card Point

AMEX platinum

AMEX Platinum is my main card.  Yes it costs $650 / year, but the actual cash benefits from cash back on digital subscriptions for streaming services to UBER cash and airline and hotel credits is more in actual cash than the annual fee. — so it’s free for me.

Points – AMEX has amazing member benefits  for earning 5x points on their travel site as well as bonus points for purchases that can pay 5,000 to 20,000 points.

AMEX Gold Business

Similar to Platinum  but I use it for all business purchases so I earn points and get tax benefits  on biz expenses and 4x on meals and online advertising.


This card I use on and at Whole Foods where it’s 5% cash back on all purchases.  Additionally gas and drug stores are 2-3% 

Apple Card 

Cash back between 1% and 3% on all purchases 

  • 3% on all apple and app purchases 
  • 2% on all apple pay 
  • 1% on all else 

Bass Pro Shops 

  • This card provides 1%-3% bass pro shop cash back back on purchases. 

American Airlines 

  • This card gives American airlines points for purchases 

Strategies for Earning and Redeeming Points

Now that we’ve covered the basics and chosen the right card, it’s time to learn some strategies for earning and redeeming points.  It’s important to understand the dynamics behind each card and how to maximize points or cash back on each card. 

Big purchases 

Before making big purchases I analyze which cards give the best rewards, points or cash back. Examples: 

  • Travel is AMEX platinum for the 5x rewards – better than American Airlines
    • Ex. Cruise next year in Norway earned us 30,000 points 
  • Private health insurance is on a cash back card
    • Earns over $1,200 cash back annually 
  • Gas cash back only 
  • Restaurants: AMEX 4x points – they add up quickly  
  • Apple products  — zero interest plus 3% cash back on my apple card for all my apple products 

Redeeming Points Strategies 

Air travel for points 

  • For air travel I use AMEX points or AA miles  when I fly American and I only fly first class or business class  and have not paid for a ticket in years for any of my adventures. 

Hotel stays for points 

  • Depending on the hotel I either use AMEX points for stays or IHG points earned from previous stays at Holiday Inn express when staying there, which I do frequently when traveling solo 
  • Typically I will offset less than half the stay using points and the rest on a card earning points. 

Car rentals 

  • Typical I rent a truck when going on adventures and will use any rental agency that I can use AMEX or AA points on to either pay in full or subsidize my ride. 
  • I don’t really play the car rental points game as I’m not loyal to any car rental company. 

Gear for points 

  • Fishing and other gear is real expensive and subsidize my gear purchases with Bass Pro shop points on their  website  or 
  • Cashing in AMEX points for REI gift cards which then earn me  using REI dividends to further offset future purchases.
  • I pay for most of my gear using points, saving thousands each year. 
  • Basically all my Alaska and Amazon fishing gear was paid for using points and cash back.

Cash back 

  • Cash is king and I use cash back as cash for offsetting the cost of trips where points are not enough to cover all expenses.

Real-Life Examples and Success Stories

So year to date (Jan to August   2023) 

I have earned 250,000 AMEX points and have used 220,000 points for travel 

AMEX points covered 100% of first class tickets to Toronto and two trips to Brazil as well las last yers trip to Alaska — all first class!  

And covered hotels in Manaus, Santa Fe and Toronto 

I have earned more than $2,500 cash back that was  used to offset travel costs 

As an American Airlines Platinum member I earn extra miles for flights .. even those paid for using AMEX points. 

Since 2022  I have cashed in more than 300,000 AA points for free first class travel 

And that’s it, adventurers!

With the right credit card and some smart strategies, you can use points to fund your next expedition or adventures.

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