Multnomah Falls

How I Paid $22 on Two Round-trip Flights to Portland

As long as credit cards keep offering up valuable points and benefits, I’m convinced that I’ll never have to pay full price for another flight in my life. The first time I took advantage of valuable credit card points was when I paid $90 on a $950 flight from Minneapolis to Ireland by using the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.

The second time I took advantage of valuable credit card points was when I used the Southwest Rapids Rewards credit card to purchase two round-trip flights from Minneapolis to Portland for $22.

Before I go any further, there are a couple very important rules when considering travel rewards credit cards:

  1. When applying for a credit card, you should always take advantage of the sign-up bonus. At the time I applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, they offered up 50,000 bonus points as long as I spent $2,000 within the first 3 months of using the credit card. 50,000 Rapid Reward points are worth around $650. (sign-up bonuses change often for each credit card, as well as point value per credit card)
  2. Make sure to pay off your credit card balance in full, every month. If you don’t, the interest rates will more than cancel out the value of what you earn in points.

Here are a few reasons I applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card:

  1. There is no fee for changing or canceling your Rapid Rewards flight.
  2. There are no blackout dates.
  3. Bags fly free! (the first 2 checked bags)

I should note that I don’t intend to apply for too many credits cards that are airline specific, such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. The reason for this is that airline specific credit cards only allow you to book flights through their airline, while other credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi ThankYou Premier give you multiple airlines to choose from.


After receiving the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, my main goal was to take advantage of the sign-up bonus, which was 50,000 points as long as I spent $2,000 in the first 3 months of use. As mentioned above, you must take advantage of these sign-up bonuses. Depending on your personal routine spending, it could easily take a couple years to accumulate 50,000 points.

  • 1st step: Setup automatic payments for any bill that allowed me to use this credit card. In my case, this was the internet, cable, and phone bill. This allowed me to take a chunk out of that $2,000 minimum spend.
  • 2nd step: Used the credit card for any and all purchases.
  • 3rd step: Tracked my spending to ensure I reached the $2,000 mark during the first 3 months of use.

When shopping around for a credit card, I always take into consideration the sign-up bonus. There are typically 2 variables to any credit card sign-up bonus. These 2 variables are the amount of bonus points being offered, and the amount of money you’ll need to spend in a certain amount of months to receive the said bonus points.

If I’m stuck between a couple credit card options, I will use the higher bonus point offering as the deciding factor, as long as I’m confident in reaching the minimum spending amount.

In my opinion, a very good bonus offer is something along the lines of 40k-50k bonus points by spending 2k-3k in the first 3 months.

After the first three months, I logged into my account on Southwest.com. The 50,000 bonus points were in my account, along with an additional 2,477 points, which were accumulated through my normal spending within those first three months. I was now ready to book my flights to Portland.

The round-trip flight I wanted to book was worth 17,894 points, but I needed to book two round-trip tickets, bringing the total points needed to 35,788. If I was not going to use any points, these flights would’ve cost me $560. (The below image gives you an example of using points to book a flight on Southwest.com)

Southwest Booking

I used my points to easily cover the 35,788 points needed to book the two round-trip tickets.

In essence, my two round-trip tickets were free, plus I still had 15,000+ points leftover. The reason why I ended up spending $22 on the tickets was because award travel is subject to a “government imposed September 11th security fee” of $5.60 per one-way trip (as seen in the above image). In the end, my four one-way tickets only cost me $22.40.

The process was simple. I used this credit card on every routine purchase I could for three months, and Southwest gave me 52,477 points (worth around $650) to use towards my two roundtrip flights to Portland.

Want to read about my 5 day trip to Portland? Click here.

The skeptic’s comments & questions:

Q: Will applying for credit cards hurt my credit score?
A: Short answer: No. Having multiple credit cards will actually improve your credit score in the long run. The details are explained perfectly in this article.

C: But this credit card charges $99 per year.
A: Routine purchases using this credit card will benefit you with hundreds of dollars in points each year. As you can see, I saved $560 on my two round-trip tickets, which more than covers the $99 fee. (Once again, this is only applicable if you pay your bills in full every month!)

C: The process of applying for a credit card and using it to book cheap flights seems too complicated.
A: The complicated part is trying to maximize the value of your points, but if you’re not interested in saving a few extra bucks, then you can follow the basic steps that I mentioned above.

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