Living with credit, Rewards, Travel

How to turn a home renovation into a free vacation

Stephanie Zito

If your refrigerator is old, your bathtub leaky, or you’ve still got 1970s orange shag carpet in your living room, it might be time to consider a few home repairs. If charging the cost of the home project will earn you enough points for free travel, what are you waiting for?

We all probably have something that needs fixing up around the house, but often we put these things off because home maintenance can cost a lot of money. Sometimes we keep the shag carpet because we want to take a summer vacation more than we want those reclaimed hardwood floors we saw on the fixer-upper TV show.

There is a better way. You don’t have to choose between a dive trip to Asia or a bathroom remodel. You can have them both.

By wisely investing in your home repairs and renovation dreams with a smart credit card rewards strategy in place, your purchases you could earn you enough points to pay for that getaway.

New kitchen and card rewards cover family trip
In my book, “
Upgrade Unlocked,” my friend Nathan Barry from Boise, Idaho, wanted a new kitchen and to take his family on a trip for spring break.

Through smart planning and stacking different types of credit card rewards and points-earning bonuses, Barry earned 75,000 reward points from a $10,000 remodel. These points covered the cost of airfare for his family vacation.

Here’s how he did it:

To start, Barry’s strategy was to always use a points-earning credit card for all of his remodel expenses. Rather than paying a contractor to buy his supplies, he bought those himself from his local Lowe’s and Home Depot stores.

To maximize his rewards-earning on every expense, Barry researched the stores where he could purchase Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards that earned the highest category bonuses.

The best deal? Barry used his Chase Ink Plus credit card to buy the gift cards at his local office supply store, where he received 5x points, netting him 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points for every $500 he invested in remodeling supplies.

(Note: The Chase Ink Plus business credit card is no longer available to new applicants, but many rewards cards offer 2x or 3x bonuses at supermarkets and gas stations that sell home improvement gift cards.)

“Once I had the gift cards, I used them to make purchases using the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal to reach,” Barry said. “From this transaction, I earned another 5x bonus points from the portal.

By stacking these two rewards-earning methods, Barry earned 10 points per dollar spent on his renovation.

Barry also saved a little money by adding coupon codes into the mix.

“Because I was shopping online, I was able to use 10 percent off coupons from a Google search to get a small discount only available online,” he said.

“Overall, the cost of my home renovation was about $10,000, and because I used the trick of buying gift cards, I wound up earning a total of 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for expenses I was going to have anyway.

Had Barry hired a contractor and written him a check, there would have been 0 rewards points and no free vacation. The only prize would have been that nice new sink and fancy fixtures.

Yet, a little ingenuity landed him 75,000 points – $875 in travel value when redeemed through directly through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, or 75,000 points transferred to any of Chase’s 13 travel partners.

You can rake in points on a home project with nearly any credit card you have, and you can earn bonus points for online orders from nearly any airline or hotel shopping portal. You just have to do a little research to figure out how to maximize points-earning with your cards on the expenses related to your renovation or improvement. Of course, be sure to pay off your rewards card balance right away to avoid any interest charges.

Holiday shopping bonuses boost rewards for home repairs
And fun news – this works for avid home renovators and contractors, too. Lisa Macan, a Pennsylvania points collector and house-flipping side hustler with LJMRenovations, shows how she scores a haul of points on home repairs and renovations.

“I use my flexible rewards-earning card to purchase everything I can – from big items such as new appliances, countertops, flooring and landscaping, to the smallest items, such as doorknobs, outlet covers, screws and light bulbs,” Macan says.

“I buy everything online when I can, sometimes saving money through e-bates, seasonal online shopping sales, and using to track which of my loyalty programs has the best payout for the items that I need.”

“I scored big during the holidays when shopping portals were offering 5-7x points for purchases from This was perfect timing since all the appliances in the house I was working on needed to be replaced,” Macan says.

“And don’t forget you can also stack these bonuses with a loyalty card like the free MyLowes program to get extra discounts, or the Home Depot Pro account if you’re a contractor or working on a big job.”

Macan estimates that her work on her most recent house has netted her an extra 150,000 rewards points so far this year – a balance she says she’ll most likely use for a family trip to the Caribbean.

What needs some fixing up in your house? It might be time for you to plan a renovation that pays for your next vacation.

See related: 3 ways cards can save you money on home improvements, Beware charging big-ticket items just for the rewards

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