The 5 Coolest Things I’ve Done With Credit Card Rewards

PHOTO: Have rewards on your credit card? Here are some ways to use them.
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It is no secret that I love credit card rewards. I carry an extensive portfolio of cards, and I know every trick in the book when it comes to earning the most rewards points and miles possible.

At the same time, I am not one of the young, single, travel bloggers you see gallivanting around the world, appearing at a different exotic destination each week. With a wife and two daughters keeping me busy at home, we need to carefully use our precious vacation time, which puts even more pressure on us to make the most of our credit card rewards. So ultimately, I might have do some even crazier things to use my credit card rewards than some of my fellow travel enthusiasts with too much time on their hands.

Here are the five most amazing things that my family and I have done with credit card rewards.

1.
My Family's First Trip in Business Class

Before we discovered credit card rewards, we were suffering in economy class just like everyone else. That's why our memories of our first trip in business class are so special. My wife and I boarded Lufthansa's non-stop flight from Denver to Frankfurt with our 7-month-old daughter, and we were absolutely giddy. We did the research and expected a big seat and a nice meal, but we were surprised at how the flight attendants treated us.

We were used to airline staff that just issued orders to stow our luggage, put away our electronics and raise our seat backs, but the flight attendants in business class addressed us like guests in a fine restaurant. We were offered second helpings of drinks, appetizers, and desserts before no fewer than three people came to hang a bassinet on the bulkhead and outfit it with fresh linen for our baby. As we enjoyed the service, we realized that we were probably the only passengers in business class that took the bus to the airport!

2.
Flying International First Class With My 6-Year-Old

On our most recent trip overseas, I was able to change our plans at the last minute so that my now-6-year-old daughter and I could fly across the Atlantic in Lufthansa's international first class, which is a notch above business class. We stayed overnight in Frankfurt so we could wake up early and visit their famous first-class terminal. This is not a lounge, but a separate building at the airport dedicated to checking in first-class passengers and pampering them.

After enjoying all the free food and drinks there, we were escorted to a waiting Mercedes-Benz that drove us past the regular passenger terminal and directly to our aircraft. If business class was like dining in a fine restaurant, then flying in international first class was like being a celebrity. On board, my daughter, myself, and one other passenger were alone in the first class cabin that seats eight. Two flight attendants and a chef were dedicated to serving us during the flight, with no shortage of caviar and champagne for me. I received an amenity kit including slippers and pajamas, while my daughter received toys and games in a box shaped like a pilot's flight bag. It was a truly memorable experience for both of us.

PHOTO: Have rewards on your credit card? Here are some ways to use them.
Getty Images
3.
Adventures in Uganda

My father, who is also an avid collector of frequent flier miles, once invited me to join him on a trip to Uganda. We used up a considerable amount of our credit card rewards to fly there in business class via Europe, and it was a 24-hour journey each way. Our purpose was to donate bicycles and to drill a clean water well in order to help some villagers he had met on his last trip there, in conjunction with the Wheels and Wells for Africa nonprofit that he started.

As we arrived at the village where we were having a well drilled, we were informed that we were the first people from outside of Africa to ever visit, and a special ceremony had been planned in our honor. For three hours, villagers sang, danced and offered us gifts. Later in the trip, we hiked up the foothills of the Virunga Mountains to see Africa's famous mountain gorillas.

4.
A Stay at the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

When our daughters were 5 years old and 5 months old, we flew to Salta, Argentina, to spend time with my cousins who had moved there, using credit card rewards for the flights. On the way home, we decided to spend a few nights in Buenos Aires, and booked a standard suite at the Park Hyatt Duhau using Hyatt Gold Passport points we had earned with our credit cards. It is a spectacular property in the heart of the city, and the staff there is truly dedicated to the comfort of their guests. When we were asked repeatedly how we were enjoying our stay, we finally hesitated to mention some strange plumbing noises that we had heard during the night. The staff appeared deeply concerned, and after a few moments, we were handed the keys to a new room on a different floor. It turned out to be their presidential suite, equipped with multiple bedrooms, fireplaces, and surrounded by 4-inch-thick bullet-proof glass!

5.
A Day in Austin

Family travel is fun, but parents also need some time for themselves as a couple. That is why my wife and I recently redeemed plenty of points and miles to jet off to Austin, Texas, for just one night without our children. We went to see a concert, enjoy some barbecue and stay at the historic Driskill Hotel in the heart of downtown. But really, we went just because we could.

If you're interested in adding a rewards credit card to your wallet to help you earn some of these amazing things, it's important to check your credit scores before you apply so you can get a good idea of whether you'll qualify for approval. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

This article originally appeared in Credit.com.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

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