My Flight to Egypt Was Free Because of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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Ryan Wangman, author, rides a camel in Cairo, Egypt

The author, Ryan Wangman, on a camel.

Ryan Wangman/Insider

  • For years, I steered clear of credit cards on my parent’s advice and never got how points worked.
  • My flight to Egypt was free with the sign-up bonus points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
  • The money I saved allowed me to splurge on a hot air balloon ride and a trip to an ornate temple.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best current credit card sign-up bonuses.

If you’re a recent college graduate like me, a bucket-list international trip with three of your closest buddies might seem way out of reach. Little did I know it was possible to hitch a ride on a camel and gobble down a grilled pigeon without breaking the bank, all thanks to credit card rewards points. 

When I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card last October, I had only a vague idea of what credit card points were — my parents taught me to generally avoid credit cards at all costs. I’d only opened my first credit card several months before and didn’t have much of a credit history, so I didn’t think I’d get approved for the card.

A helpful push from credit cards editor Jasmin Baron convinced me to apply anyway, and after meeting the minimum spending requirement, I found myself sitting on a huge stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

For those new to the points game, like I was several short months ago, it’s an easier concept to understand than you might think. You earn points by making purchases using your credit card and through sign-up and referral bonuses. Using points works similarly to the arcade when you were a kid — get enough tickets (points) and you can redeem them for cool prizes (rewards). 

Depending on the card, you earn more points for certain types of purchases. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, you earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining, select


purchases, and

online groceries

(excluding Walmart and Target). You also earn 5 points per dollar on travel booked through Chase, 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Here’s how I used my rewards to book a free flight to Egypt and what I was able to do with the money I saved.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred got me a free round-trip flight worth nearly $700

Regular APR

16.24% – 23.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Regular APR

16.24% – 23.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent

More Information

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.

I booked my flight to Egypt through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, where each point from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth 1.25 cents when used for travel. Otherwise, each point is worth 1 cent for most other redemptions, so this is a 25% bonus.

To get to Egypt from Chicago, I used 54,173 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for a $677.17 flight on Royal Jordanian with a brief layover in Amman.

I paid $990 for an eight-day tour taking me throughout Egypt to the cities of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, earning 1,981 points in the process. I decided to allow myself $800 for the rest of the expenses on the trip — think additional activities, some food not included, and Ubers. The money I saved on the flight covered the vast majority of these extra costs. 

Hot air balloons over the Valley of Kings in Luxor, Egypt

Several hot air balloons over the Valley of Kings in Luxor, Egypt.

Ryan Wangman/Insider

The free flight opened up room in my budget to pay for the hot air balloon ride pictured above, which cost roughly $110. It’s an experience I highly recommend to anyone without a crippling fear of heights, as the railing on the basket only goes up to your waist. Just make sure you don’t, uh, read this article until after your ride.  

Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt

One of the Abu Simbel temples in Aswan, Egypt.

Ryan Wangman/Insider

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also didn’t hit me with any foreign transaction fees while making purchases abroad, so I didn’t have to do any complex calculus over what the cost of an excursion really was. And, of course, I earned sweet, sweet points along the way. 

My trip to Abu Simbel, the temple pictured above, was about $100. It was a four-hour bus ride to get there and we left well before sunrise because it gets scorching hot in the desert quickly, so you don’t want to be there late in the morning or afternoon. The statues were massive and carved into the bedrock of the mountain (see the humans by the entrance for scale) and the temple was built over 3,000 years ago!

A trip to Egypt was always going to be special — seeing thousands of years of history with your own eyes never gets old — but the extra money I was able to spend allowed me to take part in experiences I may have felt were outside my budget had I had to purchase my flight as well. 

I know I’ll use points to fund my next flight across the world — taking suggestions on where I should go next!