How about a new hobby that pays you with opportunities to see the world? Mindful spending leads to proactive collection of bonus miles and points yielding free trips and meaningful travel, a green new hobby.

INTENTIONAL ACTIONS MATTER You don’t have to spend extra money to receive bonuses that allow you to travel on a limited budget. You simply become more mindful about how you pay for everything you spend money on. This allows you to save money on travel, and create good karma in the universe. Best of all- nothing gets wasted, because you get back something: airlines miles, hotel points, or even dollars reimbursed, every time you pay for something. You just have to choose the right credit cards to pay for the cost of your living.

FREE TRIPS, FREE FLIGHTS, FREE HOTELS Visiting new places is meaningful. Vacations feel good. We relax, get away from our daily grind, see the world, meet new people, try different food, learn about ourselves and others, have fun, exercise. experience a variety of life’s perspectives on planet Earth; in short, we come to appreciate life more. Paying less for travel makes it all feel even better, and allows us to get away more often.

WELCOME to, a travel blog where you can find out a little about different places in the world, and learn how to save money on travel, for when you want to see more of it. Here you can find out tips and tricks and other interesting tidbits to get free airfare, free hotels, free rental cars. No efforts, energy, money or time is ever wasted.

This blog is written by me, Cheryl Tano, with input from the travelcutie team (which means mostly me!). The name might sound light or frivolous, but when it comes to learning about how to find budget travel options, how to book free flights and free hotels (or as close to it as you can get because you do still have to pay taxes and fees on the flights) using bonus miles and points from the best credit card promotions and credit card offers today, for family visits, business trips, dive vacations, adventure or cultural travel and more, is a serious cutie!

Mindful-travel-free-tickets-bonus-miles-points-credit-cardsMINDFUL SPENDING Collecting bonus miles and points is a beautiful, fun and easy way to acquire free flights; you simply become more selective about how you pay for what you spend money on. Intentional actions matter. Spend and pay intentionally!

A REWARDING HOBBY I’ve been getting free tickets for myself, my relatives, my friends and my colleagues (I’m a Lecturer in the most excellent Tufts University, the school with the NICEST students!), for years now. This hobby used to surprise some folks who hadn’t yet known that side of me, but now, they’ve come to expect it, and benefit from my knowledge. And we can thank my mom and my partner for the name of the blog.

AMATEURS CAN SUCCEED, TOO I am not a fancy hot-shot business traveler spending 200 nights a year in a hotel, or logging 300,000 miles plus every six months, but I sure know a lot of what they know,and I want to share it with you. I have visited over 70 countries so far, and enjoyed over $100,000 worth of airlines tickets for free for more flights than I could count, free hotel stays (in really nice places!) of multiple nights and many car rentals or leases, too. Not too shabby for a so-called amateur. Pretty good for a teacher… and to those nasty people who think or say, “those who can’t, teach”, well, I know what they’re full of, and I hope you do, too…more on that later.

INTENTIONAL ACTIONS MATTER Mindful collection of bonus miles and points is a very easy skill to acquire, and it leads to free trips very quickly if you play by the rules of the game of this so-called “travel hacking”:  (1.) Get approved for a credit card that offers an excellent bonus promotion when you first open the card if you… (2.) Meet the “minimum spend” on that card in a timely fashion. What is “minimum spend”? It’s the required minimum amount of money you must spend on that credit card (often $3,000) during a limited time period (usually 90 days), and (3.) Wait till your bonus miles or bonus points show up (for some cards as quickly as a few days after you’ve met your minimum spend, for others just a few weeks), then (4.) Take advantage of the free travel opportunities that are now waiting for you.

WANT TO LEARN how you can save money on travel? Make every dollar you spend come back to you in another form, with bonus points and bonus miles. Do you prefer a free flight, a free hotel, or free car rental? You can also check bags for free for yourself and your travel partners, get priority boarding, and enjoy many other perks, too.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT Free travel is green travel, nothing gets wasted- not your money, not your time, not your energy, not your efforts. Free travel is good travel. Free travel is an intentional action, and it is a meaningful action. With a little bit of guidance, you can definitely learn how to travel free, because if I can do it, you can, too.

BECOME A TRAVEL CUTIE in your circle of friends and family! They will be very grateful to you, as well as surprised and impressed that you can help them get free travel, too. Knowing how to collect bonus miles and points from the best airline and hotel credit card promotions and offers today is easy, entertaining, and rewarding. It maximizes efficiency and reduces waste in your budget. Why pay a lot for flights or hotels if you don’t have to?

SAVE BUCKS on transportation and/or lodging.  Those savings give us the chance to visit places that we might not be able to afford to see otherwise, allow us financial breathing space in other aspects of our lives, and let us have a little extra to spend on the rest of our travel needs and pleasures (like dining, sightseeing, cultural & recreational activities, shopping, local transportation, sports & more).

FREE SPA VISIT Often, if you book these activities through your hotel, and if your hotel codes the expense in a certain way, and you pay with a credit card that reimburses hotel costs, you can even get some of your sports and recreational activities for free, too. A soothing and stimulating massage by the beach? For free?! Mmmmm…. yes!

THOSE WHO CAN’T, TEACH? NOT TRUE… So sayeth those who cannot teach and are envious, because what a joy to see your students succeed…and we have time off!  If you happen to know any teachers, you’ve probably seen that while we tend to have more vacation time than many other professionals, we also have more limited salaries. Intentional acts matter. If we learn to be creative with the budget, and engage in smart travel planning and organized, intentional spending, we can travel like the hot shots . (Do you remember the days of collecting yogurt fruit cup covers to save money on airline tickets?! That happened in the 70s, and the seed was planted in me then.)

HAVE GOOD CREDIT  I do, and if you do, you can excel at this hobby of collecting bonus miles and points from targeted credit cards, and you, too can explore the planet without breaking the bank. And the opportunities are at your fingertips, literally.

70+ COUNTRIES I have visited so far and those that I like the most, I return to over and over and over again, usually booking airline tickets for free with miles.

Here I am in Paris, France, long my second home, one of the first times I visited. And hey, check out my two posts on Paris. Read about which museums and other sites you can visit for free in Paris, listed there!Travel-Cutie-visits-Paris-near-the-Pantheon-where-Victor-Hugo-Les-Miserables-is-buried

IT’s THE DOPAMINE, SILLY! In addition to the obvious financial benefits of getting free trips, scoring free airline tickets and free hotel nights also feels good because it’s a rush, and gives us a thrill. Without prescription drugs! We like rewards: it’s a dopamine thing!  Winning a game feels good, we’re wired that way. So don’t knock it till you’ve tried and enjoyed your first domestic or international flight for free.

Did you read that New York Times article recently, 20 Places to Travel in Your 20s – “a starter kit for young people who want to set out and see the world?” Well, good news, I’m no longer in my 20s (but I remember them fondly): 7 of those 20 places to travel in your 20s have been on since we (finally!) began this blogging journey at the end of the summer of 2016, because I visited them for free, and loved them, and in the past few years. You could do what I’ve done- and spend very little money visiting: Amsterdam (stay at the Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre for free- fly on United for free), Berlin (stay at the Hyatt for free), Montreal (stay at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth for free), Barcelona (stay at the Four Points Diagonal for free), the California Coast (stay at the Sheraton Ventura, or the Doubletree Suites in Fremont/Newark for free- fly on American, Delta, Jetblue or United for free,), Morocco (stay at Le Meridien Marrakech for free), a Greek island that’s not Mykonos, Ios, or Santorini (Rhodes, for example, and stay at the Sheraton Rhodes resort for free).

INTENTIONAL ACTS MATTER Make sure you pay for anything and everything that you can, with your newest credit card, and at the right time, so you, too, can earn your thousands of bonus miles or points, when you make your minimum spend by the deadline. And don’t worry if you have to pay a small fee for some charges to make your minimum spend.

For example, maybe you owe the IRS money (bummer) or maybe you have to pay real estate taxes (way to go! you own property!).  Well, paying your Federal taxes or Real Estate taxes by credit card can incur a fee of 1.875% of the sum (to 3.2% or higher, depending on where you own property). This is not necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.

Let’s say my relative X has to pay $7,200 to the IRS.  I convince X to let me open a credit card in X’s name, because I know that right now, for example, hotel chain ABC has a co-branded credit card bank with Bank XYZ, offering a bonus promotion of 35,000 hotel points for a minimum spend of $7,000. And I also know that with 42,000 points (the bonus of 35,000 plus the 7,200 charged to the card), I can stay 3 nights in a fancy hotel in Venice, Italy, (a random example of many possible), for “free” (cost per night = 14,000 points, x 3=42,000).

Now I put the word “free” in quotes, because if I use that credit card to pay the taxes online, I will have to pay a fee of $135.  Okay, so you may think, “but Cheryl, I mean “travelcutie””, $135 is a lot of money for a fee. And I reply, not so fast, my friend, let’s do the math: For the grand sum of $135 I can stay in a hotel, for 3 nights, in a room that would otherwise cost $500 per night. So I get $1,500 of value from my $135 fee. Essentially I’m paying $45 per night instead of $500 per night. Totally worth it!

You may wonder, would I pay a fee like that if I were not getting a big  bonus offer of promotional points. And now my answer, is no, not in most cases, for it would not be worth it (unless I needed a “top-off”).

Bottom line is the bottom line, and you have to do the math, and if you don’t like math, or can’t do it in your head, your cellphone probably has a calculator feature. Make good use of it.

Also, you need to have relatives who don’t travel much and don’t mind your opening credit cards in their name. Luckily I do, and I hope you do, too.

Once you start accumulating your miles and points,  it’s very easy to put a free flight together with a free hotel, and get your free trip(*plus modest taxes or fees on the flight) With a little bit of planning and flexibility, it’s not difficult at all. I understand that for some of you, looking for the best deal on flights or hotels feels like a chore. That’s why I’d like to help guide you through the process. Please write to me with any questions you may have. Check out the CONTACT section on the menu.

Travel Cutie-at-beautiful-Borobudur-Java-during-free-trip-Indonesia-free-flight-Delta-Asia-free-hotel-Sheraton-Jogjakarta-JavaHere I am in beautiful Borobodur in Java, Indonesia:

What you find here on are posts that help you learn how to find cheap or free tickets and hotels with facts about my free trips that I’ve taken over the past five years or so. I have been seeing the world for free for much longer than that, but f I were to include more, I’d never get anything else done besides travel blogging (and there is much more to my life than just that 😉), and you’d be even more tired of reading, assuming you read beyond the first paragraph…🙃 No worries, though, even with the self-imposed five or six year limit, there are still plenty of really cool trips to awesome locales that I discuss.

Most of my free flights and free hotels I acquired thanks to the bonus miles and points offered by a variety of credit card bonus offers and credit card promotions. SEE THE LINKS BELOW- best credit card offers today, in alphabetical order by airlines, then hotel chains, and finally, miscellaneous cards good for travel rewards or reimbursements excellent for flexibility. 

Some advice: Always be carefully selective about which credit cards you apply for, and don’t fear applying for more than one. Choose the card(s) with the best sign-up bonuses for your needs. Ask yourself: where do you want to go, which airline flies there, do you have a favorite hotel chain, etc.? Apply for the card(s) that will give you a huge chunk of promotional miles or points on an airline or hotel brand that you can and will use, and before they expire.

Most cards I suggest to you provide a variety of other very valuable travel benefits as well- 1.) A statement credit of $50-$300 on your first booking on certain airlines when you use your new co-branded card with them, 2.) Checked bags for FREE for up to eight people traveling on the same itinerary (a savings of up to $400 for a family or group of friends traveling round-trip if each person checks one bag), 3.) Priority or Group 1 boarding, 4.) Upgraded status or seating, 5.) Lounge access- free or discounted, and more. Details vary, according to the airline, the hotel brand, and the card of the moment. Identify your priorities and think about your options. A little bit of cross-referencing of the current offers with your goals- based on preferences or needs, will help you determine which credit card(s) to commit to, and in what order.

A-hot-sunny-day-at-Miami-BeachEnjoying hot Miami Beach’s bright sunshine, soft sand, salsa music, Cuban coffee, Lario’s ambiente, and key lime pie.

Now I know that there are some naysayers out there, who are reluctant to apply for credit cards to earn bonus miles from today’s best promotions and offers to take free trips for two reasons: (1.) they worry, “How does applying for new or multiple credit cards affect my credit score? and (2.) they often say, ” Isn’t it better to get cash back?”

Here are the answers. If you are new to this hobby of enthusiastically collecting the most miles and points possible to help you save money on travel (known in some circles as “travel hacking”), rest assured that in the long term, having multiple credit cards open at the same time, does not hurt your credit, provided that you pay your bills on time, and in full.

In the short term, each time you apply for a new card, your credit score does drop by a few points, but it increases by even more points after you have had your account open for a few months, and shown a history of being a responsible consumer (using your card regularly and paying for your purchases in full and on time).

In the longer term, it actually helps your credit score increase when you use your card even more regularly but still living within your means, pay your balance in full, and do so punctually. However, if you plan on applying for a mortgage soon, and you want your credit score as high as possible so that you get the best (lowest) interest rate for your mortgage, wait until you have secured your home loan before applying for multiple credit cards.

(2.) Well, I like cash back, too, BUT ONLY IF it’s advantageous, and usually, it’s not. Here’s the thing, and it’s simple math. Please follow along: Let’s say in a period of 3 months, I put $1,000 of spending on my credit card. If I get cash back at 2%, then I get back $20.

But let’s say I just opened a Delta Gold American Express card, or a Citi AAdvantage Platinum select card, and I charged the same $1,000 worth of expenses to the Delta Gold Amex card. On that card (no annual fee the first year) I get 30,000 Skymiles – good for a free round trip ticket in the U.S., for example, or with the Citi AA Platinum (annual fee also waived the first year, but minimum spend is $2,500), I get 50,000 AAdvantage miles, good for one free round-trip ticket to many countries of Latin America, or two r/t tickets in the US.

Now, instead of getting $20 (or $50 on $2,500) cash back, I am saving about $400 to $1,200, a much bigger sum of money! So, no, I don’t think the cash back cards are worth it (unless you don’t travel at all). Easy peasy, as some say (but I think it’s a cheesy expression….)

Here are some links.  The Delta American Express 30k BONUS with $1,000 minimum spend and/or Link to Citi AA card 50k bonus

When you apply for the best credit card today to earn a bonus of miles, points or perks and rewards, know that you must meet the minimum spending requirements (generally ranging from $1,000 to $5,000) within the required time limit (typically 90 days, sometimes 120). Then use the card(s) for everything you pay for: big, small or in-between expenses. Make every purchase count.  Let paying for your spending give back to you!

Do you have good credit? If so, then you’re off to a great start. Maximize the benefits of your spending habits with meaningful travel rewards!

If your credit needs improvement, start out small– some new cards have a minimum spend of only $1,000 in 90 days. $1,000 is only $333 per month! For example, with the IHG Rewards Club Select credit card, and the Jetblue Mastercard or the Gold Delta American Express card, (see links below) you can earn 40,000 hotel points and 40,000 True Blue or up to 30,000 SkyMiles. Put these together and you have a free trip, for example, you could go to Miami for 3 nights and 4 days! Build up your credit and improve your score, by using your cards within your means, and paying the bills in full and on time. 

Let’s begin:  Decide where you want to go to help you choose your first bonus credit card or two. Read my many posts here for inspiration, or access the menu to check out my other pages- like So Far Away and Way Over Yonder (can you tell I’m a Carole King fan? Tapestry- what an album! And, by the way, can I make a soundtrack? Anyone help with that? I like to listen to music when I’m searching for travel deals and I always have lyrics on my mind and in my heart). Okay, so, get ready, because you can travel for free, too, and sooner and more effortlessly than you probably expect.

If you find that you like this hobby of easily collecting bonus miles and points to fly free and stay free, remember that Chase limits you to 5 cards in 24 months. So, figure out your priorities. Apply for more than that limit, and Chase will probably turn you down. Other banks don’t necessarily have the same limits.

at-pyramid-chichen-itza-travel-cutie-free-trip-cancunVisiting the great pyramid at Chichen Itza near Cancun during a free trip to Mexico

If you have a favorite travel partner, even if it’s your spouse, both of you apply separately for the same credit cards (as long as you can both make the “minimum spend” on time). Then the two of you will have miles and points for two free flights together, and double the hotel points for free nights, as well. After you reserve your flights or stays online, call the airline or hotel to link the two reservations. Free trips do feel good. Do you want to learn more?  Read on.


American Airlines: Aadvantage MasterCard by Citibank, 60,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days after account opening. No annual fee the first year. Additional benefit: first checked bag for free on domestic flight. With only 25,000 miles, you can get a free ticket in the continental US. With 50,000 you could go to Hawaii, Mexico, northern South America or the Caribbean, with 60K you can go to Europe, Argentina, and so forth.  Wow! The link: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 50k Bonus

Gold Delta Skymiles American Express 30,000 miles if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days after account opening, a $50 statement credit towards a flight on Delta purchase with the card within 3 months of card opening, no annual fee the first year. That LINK

in-bordeaux-travel-cutie-in-franceStrolling in a park near the boulevard in Bordeaux

JetBlue MasterCard by Barclays Bank. 40,000 bonus miles for a minimum spend $1,000 within the first 90 days after account opening.  JetBlue flies to lots of fantastic locations in the Caribbean, for as little as 15,000 points roundtrip. $99 annual fee (totally worth it because you can easily get a free ticket worth up to $1,000). 40K Bonus Jetblue Mastercard by Barclays

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card by Chase Have your own business?  You could be a part-time freelance author (like me), sell things on ebay (also like me), or have a more traditional business, and you can get a “business” credit card (and this could be in addition to personal ones for the same bank or airline!  Now, you can get 40,000 bonus points after spending only $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months after account is open, available to you if you don’t have this card already, and haven’t received a new card member bonus for it in the past 24 months. $69 annual fee.  And remember– if you apply for and are approved for multiple Southwest Credit cards, and/or with some travel get your points up to 100,000, you can get their famous Companion Pass, which allows your designated companion to fly free with you for a year or more.Here’s the link to get you startedSouthwest 40 K bonus credit card link


United Airlines Chase Mileage Explorer Signature Visa. Bonus 50,000 miles, $2,000 minimum spend within 90 days, free first checked bag on domestic flight, no annual fee the first year. You can also receive an additional 5,000 bonus miles after you add your first authorized user and make a first purchase in the first 90 days from the account’s opening. Note: if you’ve had this card in the past 24 months you are not eligible for the bonus miles. Here’s the link: United Airlines (by Chase) 40K miles bonus credit card offer 

Travel-Cutie-on-the-half-shell-while-channeling-Frida-Kahlo-in-San-Miguel-de-Allende-Mexico            Travel Cutie on the half shell while channeling Frida Kahlo in San Miguel de Allende 


Hilton If you want to learn more about how many points you need for one free night at a particular Hilton property worldwide, or if you want to join (for free) Hiltonhhonors, first visit this link: Become a member of Hiltonhhonors

Hilton If you know you can make the $3,000 minimum spend within the first 3 months after account opening, then you can get 75,000 Hiltonhhonors points (which would give you, for example, two weeks of free hotel nights for your scuba diving in the Red Sea in Egypt) by being approved for the Hilton Hhonors Surpass card by American Express. $75 annual feeHilton Credit Card 75k Bonus by American Express

Hyatt Get the bonus of 40,000 points at Hyatt worldwide for spending $2,000 on and approved card within the first 3 months of account opening. $75 annual fee. Hyatt Credit Card 40K points by Chase  Note: the 2 free weekend nights promotion is no longer available.  😦

IHG– InterContinental Hotel Group’s brands also include Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Even, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel IndigoInterContinental and Staybridge Suites. You can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending only $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, bonus available to you if you don’t have the card already and haven’t received a new card member bonus for this card in the past 24 months.   New and improved updated link coming soon.

Marriott Rewards Signature Visa by Chase Earn 80,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days after account opening, $85 annual fee.  New and improved updated link coming soon.

Starwood Preferred Guest Brands include Aloft, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, W, Westin. Earn 25,000 points for spending of $3,000 in the first 3 months. No annual fee first year.  Here is the link: SPG American Express 25K Bonus Credit Card

Wyndham Rewards Signature Visa by Barclays Hotel brands included, among others, Wyndham, Ramada, Hawthorn Suites. Two options available at the same link: bonus points for points for one free night, or for two, either with no annual fee or a $69 annual fee, and upon first purchase with new card, or after completing minimum $1,000 spend in first 3 months. Click here for details: Wyndham Bonus Options Credit Card by Barclays


BankAmericard With this card you have a modest minimum spend of only $1,000 in 90 days, and your 20,000 bonus points will give you up to a $200 credit for reimbursement of travel purchases (for example, you could stay at your favorite, independently owned small inn some weekend, and get the cost reimbursed.  There’s your free stay! What a deal. Here’s the link:  Travel Rewards Credit Card

Barclays Card Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard I really like this one because with the bigger minimum spend of $3,000 in 90 days, you can get up to $500 of travel charges reimbursed. My honey used that one to treat me to a beautiful weekend in Quebec at the Auberge Saint Antoine. J’adore! And I used mine to book us tickets to fly from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. ¡Fabuloso!  Arrival Plus World Mastercard

Capital One  Details coming soon but you can find out more by clicking right there -> -> -> Spark Miles 

Chase Sapphire Reserve For a minimum spend of $4,000 within your first 3 months, with an annual fee of $450, this card is no longer the great deal it used to be (when you got bigger benefits- almost double the size)! Now you get a $300 statement credit towards a flight you book with the card – which does help offset that hefty annual fee, and 50,000 points, good for $750 in travel reimbursement, as well as a $100 credit towards your global entry application fee. Learn more by clicking on the link.

US Bank This card is not my favorite, perhaps it has its fans, I am not one. I don’t find it user-friendly in the least, and soon I will have a new post explaining the details of why, and I will offer up an Air Canada complaint, too.  But here’s the link just in case… Travel Rewards Visa Signature


Travel Cutie, at your service…

(And no need for a disclaimer; no monies or commissions are being earned. This is all an act of charity, like in the best way, most teaching is.   Commentary here is my assessment of the facts, and/or personal opinion based on extensive experience in the world of travel and that of credit cards, too. Just ask me, I will tell you, happy to share what I know, and what I’ve learned.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s