Smart Credit Card Strategies Are Taking These Couples Around The Globe
Brady and Mary Tengberg wanted to travel the world without exceeding their means. That’s why they started saving credit card rewards together.
“Our whole desire to get credit cards is based on: we both want to travel, but it wasn’t within our budget, so we had to find another way to travel,” says Brady, 24. The Tengbergs, now married for three years, have visited 10 countries together, mostly using credit card rewards to pay their way. They never have a balance, paying their bill in full each month.
For Tengbergs and other couples who travel a lot together, credit cards can offer a godsend in rewards. But maximizing team benefits across multiple maps requires constant communication, careful strategy, and in some cases, expert-level budgeting.
Here’s how these globetrotting couples manage their credit cards together.
Brady Tengberg, 24, and Mary Tengberg, 23
Married for three years, together for six years.
Number of credit cards: Brady is 18; Marie has 15.
The Tengbergs, who run the personal finance blog Children of credit, got married in college and, at the time of the interview, were about to move to Dallas. (They have since moved.) This is where Brady, who recently graduated, plans to start his full-time job as an associate consultant. Mary, who graduated last year, works as a special education teacher. They are expecting their first child, a daughter.
This summer they have traveled extensively, visiting Canada, Hawaii and Europe. Most recently, they flew business class to Europe, where they traveled for three weeks, visiting Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden. On all three trips, they paid for all of their flights and hotel stays with credit card rewards, Mary says.
“This is our last summer of freedom, so we tried to travel as much as we could,” she says.
Their credit card strategy
“We decided early on in our marriage that we wanted to have completely shared finances,” Brady says, noting that they keep a checking account, a savings account and a budget together. “We think it really helps us to be on the same page as a team. They each apply for credit cards independently to earn separate signup bonuses, but together they decide how to redeem their rewards.
The Tengbergs use Mint, the budgeting app, to track their budget and keep tabs on their 33 credit cards. Right now, they’re saving for a down payment on a house, which they plan to buy in four to five years.
“Every day we can both go up to Mint and see how much we have left [our budget for] shopping or traveling or something, ”says Mary.
Tip: Decide early on how you want to organize your money
“My best advice is to decide up front whether you want your finances to be combined or separated,” says Brady. For them, sharing bank accounts and a budget works well, he adds. “It’s not ‘me against you.’ Rather, it is “how can we achieve our goals together?” “”
The future married couple
Christian Montecillo, 38, and Annabelle Needles, 30
Together for two years; engaged to get married in October.
Number of credit cards: Christian has three; Annabelle has two.
Most used cards: the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the United Explorer Card℠.
Christian and Annabelle are currently on a year-long road trip, cruising the United States in a motorhome they’ve dubbed “Gulliver”. Originally based in Denver, they co-host a travel and lifestyle podcast called Swept together. Annabelle owns a video editing business and Christian is a project manager and works remotely. They plan to get married in Belize in October, mostly using rewards and credit card benefits to pay for their trips.
Last year, they made their first major credit card decision together: qualifying for the wanted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows the pass holder to take an accompanying person free of charge on South-West flights for more than a year. They fulfilled the conditions after Christian got two Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses. Since then, they’ve used the pass to fly to multiple destinations, effectively half-price, visiting California, Texas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois, Florida, Mexico, and Belize. .
Their credit card strategy
“We are not using credit as a means of expanding our purchasing power,” explains Christian. “It’s more for gaining points. “
Annabelle notes that they sync all of their accounts – common and separate – to the YNAB (You Need a Budget) app and regularly sit down to budget together. These days, they still pay off their credit card balance in full, says Annabelle.
“When we first started budgeting together, neither of us wanted to feel micromanaged,” says Annabelle. “As long as we stay within the agreed budget, we don’t necessarily verify with each other all the spending decisions we make. “
But when they first met, Christian had credit card debt from a previous marriage.
“When we had the discussion about money, I said to him, ‘Here is my credit card debt amount and my student debt amount. And it is a plan that I want to implement to reimburse that, ”says Christian. “I was able to do it with his help.”
Tip: Practice budgeting together
“Before we combined all of our finances, we budgeted the trips together,” says Annabelle. “It was sort of our practice of learning how the other works with money and what the other’s priorities were. Then we started slowly increasing the things we had budgeted together.
Gérard Bao, 34, and Kieu Bao, 34
Together for 13 years; married for three years.
Number of credit cards: Gérard has six; Kieu has five.
Most used cards: the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Freedom Hunt® and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.
The Baos, who live in San Jose, California, estimate that they have visited more than 50 countries together. Already this year, they have visited eight. Together, they run the travel blog GQ Trippin. (The “GQ” stands for Gérard and Kieu, pronounced “Q.”)
Their last trip abroad was their first as a family: a month-long trip through Europe with their baby girl, Dylan, born in April. They planned around a business trip that Gerard, who works in marketing, had already planned in Amsterdam. Kieu, who works in retail, was on maternity leave.
For travel to Europe, Gerard and Kieu used Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which they converted to United Airlines miles, to cover the flights. In addition to the Netherlands, they visited Belgium, France and Denmark.
“It’s a very different pace, and your days are kind of baby-centered because their schedules are so different,” Kieu says of traveling with a baby. “But other than that, it’s sort of the best age, they say, to take them.”
Their credit card strategy
The Baos use credit cards to earn rewards, not to get into debt.
“I try to be as frugal as possible,” says Gérard. “Most of our budget is spent on the baby right now, meals and travel. “
They often use the points and miles earned from credit card signup bonuses to cover their trips, and they consult with each other before applying for new cards, although they manage their accounts separately.
“The last few cards, we kind of took turns where we decide, ‘OK, I just got a card, so you should take this one,’ Kieu said. ‘So we decide who asks for the card and who will get the most out of it. ”
Tip: spend for what matters to you
“As far as travel is concerned, it is a matter of prioritizing”, says Gérard. That could mean spending less on other outings, like concerts or sporting events, he adds. “If you really want to travel there, you can make it.”
Top photo courtesy of Mary and Brady Tengberg. Middle photo by Alicia Lewin Photography, courtesy of Swept Together. Bottom photo courtesy of GQ Trippin.
Information relating to Chase Sapphire Reserve® was collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.