Use Credit Card Rewards to Explore Europe

Do you daydream about medieval castles?

Does your heart ache to see the canals of Venice?

Will your life feel incomplete until you’ve pondered the Swiss Alps?

If so, you are a fellow Wanderluster, and if you’ll stick around for a few paragraphs, we’ll show you how you can make Europe your playground by signing up for two credit cards (and maybe a third if you’d like to bring someone else along).

The first credit card I ever signed up for offered a white Visa T-shirt as a bonus.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled, but I wasn’t disappointed, either.  My how I shortchanged myself.  In today’s day of customer-thirsty banking, credit card sign-up bonuses are as good as they’ve ever been.  In fact, I’m still marveling at the fact that this is even possible.

The Citi Platinum Select Visa card will give you 50k AA points after spending $3000 in the first three months.  If you book a trip to Europe with points between Oct 15 and May 15, and avoid flying on British Airways as a partner, you’ll pay only 40k points and a miniscule amount in taxes.

If you thought that was good, this one’s even better: The offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is great. Here comes the shocker – those points will get you eight nights at various European hotels to complete an epic journey through Northern Italy, Bavarian Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Prepare to be awestruck as you see how this plays out.

We’ll use Venice, Italy as our launching point because it’s sort of a popular place. Depending on where you’re at, plane tickets would normally run somewhere between $600 and $1200… yet you don’t have to buy them because you are a frequent flier mile pro, and you’re paying nothing more than the taxes on your flight thanks to the miles or points you’ve earned as credit card reward bonuses.

Now for the fun part… from Venice, your adventure begins: 

You’ll very likely arrive at the Venice airport early in the day.  Be sure you’ve adjusted your biological clock because you’ll be off and running right from the start.  First you’ll pick up your rental car.  Having your own transportation will give you ultimate freedom and allow you to customize your trip to do exactly what you’d like.  I just did a search on Expedia.com and for the dates I chose we’re looking at about $345.

Day 1: Venice

We won’t attempt to capture the highlights of Venice in a single, measly paragraph.  But suffice it to say that you will not lack for entertainment in the floating city.

Tonight you’ll stay in Padova, Italy, outside the city an on your way to more adventure. Padova Sheraton 3-4,000 Starwood points

Day 2: Verona and Trient

Today’s journey will take you through a city made famous by its star-crossed lovers: Verona.  You may want to recreate a scene at Juliet’s Balcony, see the Roman Arena, or skip straight to Trient where you can visit the 13th century Buonconsiglio Castle.

Overnighting in Bolzano, Italy at the Four Points by Sheraton Bolzano. 3,000 Starwood points

Day 3: Innsbruck and Lenggries

Crossing through the alps, you’ll make a stop in Innsbruck, Austria, where you can opt for the Nordketten cable-car ride to the top of a mountain, or one of many scenic nature trails that will awe and inspire your.

From there, it’s off to Lenggries, Germany, where you’ll stay in the uniquely Bavarian Four Points by Sheraton Brauneck. 3,000 Starwood points

Day 4: Neuschwanstein Castle

Straight from a fairy-tale, Newschwanstein Castle just happens to be on your route today.  Marvel at what is easily the most idyllic of all the castles on earth.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve yet to take my wife there.

When you’ve had all you can handle, head to the Dornbirn, Austria Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn. 3,000 Starwood points

Day 5: Zurich, Switzerland

A loop through Switzerland to Zurich will occupy your time.  You may want to see the Zurich Opera House, the Swiss National Museum, or indulge in more than your fair share of Swiss chocolate.

Maybe you’d like to stop in and see Rhine Falls -the largest in Europe before your return to the Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn. 3,000 Starwood points

Day 6: By Milan to Genoa

Back into Italy, you’ll spend a little time driving today, but not so much that you won’t be able to enjoy a portside pesto pasta by candlelight.  The history buff can also see what is purported to be the home in which Christopher Colombus was born.

Genoa, Italy – Genova Sheraton 3,000 Starwood points

Day 7: Along the coast through Pisa

Say it isn’t so, there’s no way this epic journey could also include the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa? Oh yes, yes it can.  Can you envision a better way to enjoy an afternoon than scaling the 293 step spiral staircase of this white marble tower?

As if that weren’t enough, you’ll spend the night in the “cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence, Italy, at the Firenze Sheraton. 7,000 Starwood points

Day 8: Florence

Even the most amateur art afficionado can appreciate the works of the Italian masters, to include Michelangelo.  If you’re that or anything more, you’ll have more than you can handle with the museums, galleries, and public places.

When you’ve had your fill, you’ll head to Bologna, Italy where you stay at the Bologna Sheraton. 4,000 Starwood points

Day 9: Relax

Sleep in.  You’ve made some memories.  You’ve seen four countries, and a small corner of the wonders of Europe.  Wherever home is, it will never be enough again.  You’re hooked.  You’ve got the wanderlust.  When you tell the stories and show the pictures, you won’t be able to recapture the awe that you felt when you were there.  Start daydreaming of where you’ll go next.

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19 Responses to Use Credit Card Rewards to Explore Europe

  1. Amy Christensen says:

    So cool…our hotel cc should be here anyday and almost done getting our miles with the AA card. THANKS!!!!

  2. Amy Christensen says:

    My 1st cc gave me points to earn an alarm clock that Aaron still uses. EXCITING!

  3. Ed says:

    Excellent post. I was looking at doing something like this with the family in the spring. I think we’ll probably end up spending our time in a couple of places, as opposed to doing a greatest hits tour of a corner of Europe, but the post makes the whirlwind tour approach seem pretty appealing as well. Either way, you can’t really lose . . . Anyway, keep up the good work!

    • bradleyjai says:

      Thanks, Ed. Yeah, this is a whirlwind itinerary… I could easily spend a week in any of these locations. There are some great deals on cruises out of VCE.

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  14. Clarissa says:

    I’m so excited about this! I’m working towards earning those points for my honeymoon trip. With all the wedding expenses, I should make the spending limit!
    Thank you for the fantastic info!

    • bradleyjai says:

      Clarissa- We love to hear it! This has been one of the signature opportunities and I’m so glad you’re taking advantage of it. Best of luck with the wedding and your honeymoon plans. If we can help in any way, please let us know.

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