My husband and I are making our dream trip to Argentina a reality by using credit card sign-up bonuses to book our round-trip flights

We can't wait to explore Buenos Aires.

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We can’t wait to explore Buenos Aires.
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celta4/Getty Images

For two years, my husband and I have dreamed of traveling to Argentina. In our fantasy, we’re hiking through Patagonia, sipping wine in Mendoza, and eating medium-rare steak.

I was sure we could scrape together enough money for an eight-day excursion to Argentina this coming April, as long as we opted for the “budget travel” approach. We were already using a rewards credit card to earn points toward travel. We had enough points to cover the cost of a one-way ticket for one person, and if we used the card strategically for the next few months, we might be able to purchase a round-trip ticket with points rather than just a one-way ticket.

My husband, Daniel, had a different idea. Why not wait until September 2020 to visit Argentina? Both spring and fall are shoulder seasons in Argentina, when costs are typically lower and attractions are less crowded.

Giving ourselves a few more months to save money means we won’t have to scrimp. Even more importantly, if we wait until next autumn, we will have time to use credit card travel points to our full advantage. You won’t hear me say this often, but it looks like my husband was right.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

How credit cards are helping us travel to Argentina

The goal is for both of us to fly round-trip between Nashville and Buenos Aires, using only our travel points and miles from credit cards. Spending less money on flights should give us more money to spend on things like hotels, excursions, and of course, lots and lots of steak.

If we’d developed this plan from square one – with no existing credit cards, trying to decide which ones would help us meet our travel goals – we may have gone about things differently. However, we already had one travel rewards card, so we tailored our decisions to our situation. Unfortunately, this means we won’t be flying on the same airline, but we’re happy to make that sacrifice if it means we can fly for free.

Here are the steps we’ve taken over the years that will lead us to Argentina in 2020.

The three steps we’ve taken to get to Argentina

My husband got a Gold Delta credit card

In 2016, Daniel signed up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express was running a welcome bonus of 50,000 SkyMiles. (The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.) He also earned 1 mile for each dollar spent and 2 miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases.

He’s saved a lot of the accumulated miles since signing up a few years ago, but we’ve also cashed in some points to book a couple of small trips. For example, I used points to visit my family, then to join Daniel on a long work assignment in Washington D.C. However, we’ve still saved a noteworthy number of miles.

He switched to the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card

Earlier this year, Daniel received an email stating that he could earn 25,000 bonus miles if he upgraded from our Gold Delta card to a Platinum Delta SkyMiles card. The main difference would be that the annual fee would increase from $95 to $195 (and in 2020, the Platinum Delta card’s annual fee will increase to $250). After discussing the matter at length, Daniel and I decided that we’d like to upgrade.

Daniel called American Express to officially request an upgrade. He asked numerous questions to make sure we understood what we were getting into with an upgrade. During this conversation, he learned that if he applied for a brand new Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, instead of upgrading, he would earn 75,000 SkyMiles rather than 25,000. Plus, he could transfer his existing SkyMiles from the Gold Delta Amex to his new card. (The Platinum Delta Amex is currently offering a lower welcome bonus: 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.)

Those who are trying to decide between upgrading and applying for a new card should know that opting for a new card did have one negative consequence. Had Daniel upgraded, that line of credit would have continued aging. Because he got a new card, though, the age for this line of credit started all over.

Having a short credit age can have a negative impact on your credit score. However, my husband’s other lines of credit had been in place for a long time, so the new card decision didn’t hurt him much.

Daniel transferred his miles to the new card. We were able to charge and pay off the required amount to obtain the 75,000 bonus miles. Now, we have well over 100,000 points on the Platinum Delta Amex.

Using SkyMiles to book a flight with Delta, a round-trip flight from Nashville to Buenos Aires costs more than 100,000 miles. The exact number will depend on when we book the trip and the date of our flights. After doing a little research, we’ve determined that if we keep using our Platinum SkyMiles card Delta regularly for everyday purchases like groceries and gas, we will be able to cover the cost of one round-trip flight with SkyMiles.

I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card

Chase recently increased its sign-up bonus for the Sapphire Preferred card from 50,000 to 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, if you use the card to charge and pay off $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. This works perfectly for us, because we recently moved to a new apartment complex that doesn’t let us pay rent with American Express. However, it does accept Visa cards like the Sapphire Preferred.

By paying rent for two months, we’ll have almost enough to snag that sign-up bonus. (Yes, we live in a very expensive city. Two months is all it will take.) We budget carefully to make sure we have the cash in our checking account to pay rent, so I should be able to immediately pay off the card each month.

60,000 travel points is all we need to buy the second round-trip ticket to and from Buenos Aires. Through Chase, we can transfer points to Singapore Airlines. This airline charges a flat rate of 60,000 miles to fly round-trip from North America to or from anywhere in South America.

Taking these steps should enable us to purchase two round-trip tickets to Argentina – one through Delta and the other through Singapore Airlines. We won’t be able to fly together, but as long as we arrive at roughly the same time, we’re willing to make that sacrifice.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred