How My Wife and I Are Using Credit Card Points to Buy a Multi-Family Investment Property

We weren't sure this was even possible
9 minute read | 12/21/18Dec. 21, 2018

A few years ago, I would have never imagined that 2.8 million credit card points could help my wife and I buy an investment property, and yet, here we are.

This is something I never thought we would do, especially since we rely heavily on points to travel the world for six months out of the year, every year.

But now that it’s done, it feels like a great accomplishment. One that I had to share.

There were times during the process when we weren’t sure we had made the right decision but continued to stick with the plan.

Here’s how we did it, from start to finish.

How This All Started

A few years back, my wife and I committed to making smarter financial decisions with a goal of achieving FI/RE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) as soon as possible. Our goal wasn’t necessarily to retire, although early retirement certainly has its benefits, but to have the freedom to make decisions that weren’t forced because of a financial need.

Since we have always been pretty good with money, our credit, and budgeting, we had already been 100% debt free for a few years. And, thanks to blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and the Mad Fienist, we have been able to make some key changes quickly and easily.

One thing we knew was we would likely never be big earners, so we focused on cutting costs and using our resources wisely. We also knew we wanted to generate multiple revenue streams and as much passive income as possible, so we could continue to travel 180 days a year. All of the planning and research eventually led us to conclude that we needed to move from the hyper-expensive West Coast to a more affordable city in a different part of the country.

Researching Properties to Buy

When we started looking for houses we could invest in, we noticed many cities had multi-family homes on the market that weren’t priced much higher than single family homes. Since we already own a rental property, we knew this was something we could take a shot at, but coming up with a large down payment wasn’t going to be easy.

After crunching the numbers and realizing the challenge of how much we would need, we started thinking outside the box. We consider ourselves a creatively resourceful couple and had a lightbulb moment looking into an unlikely source: credit cards. Except, our goal wasn’t to use our credit lines on a bunch of cards to make the down payment – no, we were going to earn and use the rewards from our cards to cover the down payment.

Let’s cut to the chase – Yes, we cashed out our points! But wait, wait, wait...there’s so much more.

Aren’t Points Worth More When Used For Travel?

Now, it’s pretty common knowledge in communities I hang out in like FBZ Elite Travel & Points that you get minimal value from your points and miles if you cash them out versus redeeming them for travel. At times, cashing them out can return less than a quarter of the value you could get if you transferred your points to a travel partner for an amazing vacation.

How Our Situation Is Different

We were able to earn over $27,000 worth of points and miles by using our cards to pay for business expenses over a three year period. In full transparency, we also moved some of our personal points over as well, but the vast majority of our rewards were earned from running our small businesses.

For anyone who knows me and is concerned, don’t worry. We still have plenty of personal points to cover our travel since we’re okay with flying economy and staying at smaller hotels or even hostels. In fact, we have been doing it for years and know we don’t need to fly first class and stay in a Ritz-Carlton Hotel to have a great trip.

Rules We Live By

Earning credit card rewards is one of our favorite hobbies since we love to travel so much but there are certain guidelines or “rules” to live by to make it sustainable. The last thing you’d want to do is fall into debt to earn rewards. For us, we:

  • Never pay a cent of interest
  • Never buy anything extra just to earn points
  • Never make a late payment

Our Plan (How We Did It)

I’ll start by saying, I know this approach isn’t right for everyone and there will probably be a lot of debate over this, but our plan laid out below (or something similar) is completely possible for many of you reading this.

My goal here is to help you see another perspective on points and miles, and how versatile they can be. With that, let’s hop into the step by step approach.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Arguably one of the best travel credit cards available, we were both lucky enough to earn the 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward (UR) point sign-up bonuses when the Chase Sapphire Reserve first launched. Although the current bonus is 50,000 points, it’s still a highly valued card.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 100,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($4,000) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • Once earned, we netted just over 210,000 UR points

Total cash value: $2,100

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Until recently, you were allowed to hold both Sapphire cards and receive the sign-up bonus as well. We each signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and received 50,000 Chase UR points after meeting the $4,000 minimum spend. I was also able to refer my wife, earning an additional 10,000 UR points.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 50,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($4,000) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • 1 referral bonus earned for 10,000 points
  • Once earned, we netted just over 119,000 UR points

Total Cash Value: $1,190

Chase Ink Business Preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred has one of the best sign-up bonus to annual fee ratios on the market today. Plus, you can hold multiple Ink Preferred cards if you have multiple EINs/business licenses, which is a huge benefit for us.

The Math:

  • 5 Ink Business Preferred cards between the two of us, earning 80,000 points each
  • 5 minimum spends to meet ($5,000) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • 4 referral bonuses to each other, earning 20,000 points each time
  • Once earned, we netted just over 510,000 UR points

Total Cash Value: $5,100

Chase Ink Business Cash

The Chase Ink Business Cash offers a very lucrative 50,000 points sign-up bonus for spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, there’s no annual fee. Both of us love this card and use it at office supply stores often to earn 5x points! I don’t think it will ever leave my wallet, that’s how much I value it.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 50,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($3,000) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • Once earned, we netted 111,000 UR points

Total Cash value: $1,110

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Like the Ink Business Cash, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited offers the same lucrative 50,000 points sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Also, just like the other card, there’s no annual fee and we get a lot of use out of it. This card earns 1.5x on everything purchase, no matter what, and there’s no cap on the amount you can earn. Another no-brainer card to keep in rotation.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 50,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($3,000) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • Once earned, we netted 110,000 points

Total Cash value: $1,100

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Often overlooked in many travel circles since they have smaller sign-up bonuses, the Chase Freedom Unlimited cards were the next ones we applied for since our entire strategy centered around earning UR points. We both use this card regularly to take advantage of earning 1.5x on all purchases.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 15,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($500) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • 1 referral bonus earned for 10,000 points
  • Once earned, we netted 41,500 points

Total Cash Value: $415

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom is another card that gets passed on sometimes because there are more lucrative bonuses in the travel category, but I love this card! The rotating 5x categories offer massive value and can really add up over time. It’s definitely worth it, in my opinion.

The Math:

  • 2 sign-up bonuses, earning 15,000 points each
  • 2 minimum spends to meet ($500) to earn the sign-up bonuses
  • 1 referral bonus earning 10,000 points
  • Once earned, we netted 41,000 points

Total Cash Value: $410

What’s the Deal With Referral Bonuses?

Between my wife and I, we have been able to refer friends, family, and colleagues to multiple Chase cards. Each card that offers a referral is limited to five referrals per year. But since we have multiple cards and there are two of us, it can really add up.

Between the two of us over the past three years, we have referred:

  • 40 people to Ink Business Preferred cards, earning 20,000 points each time
  • 19 people to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, earning 10,000 points each time (Note: this referral is no longer available)
  • 15 people to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, earning 10,000 points each time
  • 14 people to the Chase Freedom, earning 10,000 points each time
  • 15 people to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, earning 10,000 points each time
  • Once earned, we netted exactly 1,430,000 points over three years

Total Cash Value: $14,300

Our “Regular” Spending

On top of everything mentioned above, we also used the cards to do our regular spending. Although this was much less of a focus since we were often working on a minimum spend, we still managed to rack up over 300,000 UR points.

300,000 points earned with regular spending = $3,000 total cash value

Adding Up the Points

  • 1,142,500 points earned with credit card sign-up bonuses
  • 1,430,000 points earned with referral bonuses
  • 300,000 points earned with regular spending

After three years of maximizing sign-up bonuses, spending, referring people, running our small businesses and banking our points, we were able to net a total of 2,872,500 Chase UR points.

At $.01 per point, that’s $28,725.

To some, this is a staggering amount of points, and to others, this is chump change. But to us, this is a big deal and has allowed us to move forward with accomplishing a huge goal of ours – buying an investment property.

We combined all of our earned points by moving my wife's points over to my account.

Then, we redeem our points for checks from Chase periodically. It's quick and easy and never takes more than a few minutes. 

Cashing out our points from Chase has been a simple process

All the checks have been sitting in a high-yield savings account and will be liquid and ready to go when we need it!

Translating This Into An Investment Property

We have made a few ~$100,000 offers on multi-family homes in different cities around the country but haven’t closed a deal yet. We’re being very selective and doing our best to find a deal with a good cap rate, meets the 1.5% rule, and has good cash on cash and capital expenditure numbers.

We plan to put $20,000 down (20%) to avoid PMI insurance, and will leave the extra ~$7,000 for closing costs, inspection, and any needed repairs or expenses. We also have a large emergency fund in case something comes up.

After doing tons of research on sites like Bigger Pockets, we’ve settled our sights on owning a duplex that produces ~$1,600 per month from rental income based on comps in the areas we have been looking, if not more. A tri-plex would be even better, for instance.

After PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) and other fixed costs, we should cashflow right around $1,000 a month. We’ll run this property for a few months and then leverage our money into another property with the goal of eventually producing $10,000 a month in rental income. Far more than we need to “FAT” FI/RE, in our opinion.

Some Final Thoughts

All in all, not a bad way to generate passive income and build wealth, all thanks for points and miles.

Sure, the $28,725 could have been used for upwards of $100,000 in travel if had we maxed it out, but since we never fly premium cabins or stay at fancy hotels, the real value we would have gotten out of these points if we had redeemed them for travel would be closer to $41,580. Still a great value, but wasn’t our goal in this case.

With our property producing over $1,000 a month, we’ll easily make that money back in less than two years and continue to have an investment that increases in value. We’ll also have one more revenue stream that gets us that much closer to a better “FAT” FI/RE, something we wouldn’t have thought to be achievable a few years ago.

Just to reiterate one more time, I’m not saying my way is the best way or even a typical way – it’s just a way. It works for us, but it may not work for you, and that’s okay. That’s what I hope everyone reading this can understand; you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

Who cares if there are people getting 20 cents per point if it’s spent on a trip that doesn’t make sense for you? If you’re redeeming your points to get you and your kids to Disneyland but are “only” getting 1.25 cents per point, does it really matter if it’s saving you $5,000?

My point is, don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing is wrong; you can use your points and miles however you want, when you want, and where you want. My wife and I certainly have and are excited for what the future holds as we lean into owning investment properties. 


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