Family travels to 22 countries on credit card points and miles

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Want to travel the world for next-to-nothing? Play your (credit) cards right.

Florida entrepreneur Darren Keast is a card shark of the highest degree. He and his wife have 45 open credit cards, and between the two of them, they’ve racked up almost 15 million points and airline miles.

They’ve put those to good use, traveling across the US and to 22 other countries — trips that would totaled cost some $600,000 without their points savvy.

“With four children, our budget would not have allowed us to travel to virtually any of these places, even in economy seats and budget hotels,” Keast, who runs a vacation-property business with his family in Florida, tells the Points Guy. “But with points and miles, we have been able to show our children the world and, frankly, spoil them with business-class flights and luxury hotels!”

Keast says owning a small business has been helpful in amassing points and miles. He says the cards he finds especially helpful for travel are ones that earn flexible points, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, The Platinum Card from American Express and AmEx EveryDay Preferred Credit Card.

Points and miles have taken Keast, his wife, and their four kids to Montreal; Istanbul; London; Egypt; Greece; Munich; Hong Kong; Macao; Shanghai; Costa Rica; Iceland; Ireland; Sorrento, Pompeii, Naples and Venice, Italy; Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria, and many more, using Award Mapper to find hotels and TripAdvisor to find the best-reviewed properties and adventures.

For Christmas 2017, Keast gave his wife and two oldest children tickets to see “Hamilton” in Chicago (“Better than seeing ‘Chicago’ in Hamilton,” he quips), and in the fall of last year, he and his wife took a couples trip to Dubai; Singapore; Siem Reap, Cambodia; and Da Nang, Vietnam; taking advantage of Cathay Pacific’s ultra-low fare of $1,600 for two first-class tickets from Da Nang to Vancouver.

For planning’s sake — a trip the family took a few years ago, spanning 16 cities, six countries and four continents, took 1,409,800 miles and points — about six to nine months’ of credit card rewards.

Keast’s advice for aspiring points pros? Open a card whenever there’s a good deal.

“We have always obtained as many welcome bonuses as we could when the offers seemed particularly lucrative without knowing where we might use the points or miles,” Keast says. “This method to our madness has served us well.”