In 2018, Andrew and I traveled more than ever before. A few years ago, I never would have believed I could take a luxurious trip to Maui and still be able to take multiple long weekend trips in one year. However, figuring out how to travel with credit card points has really been life changing for us.
The majority of the money saved in this post is thanks to earning points via credit card spend. Andrew and I got our first travel credit card in February of 2015 and have been hooked ever since! I’ll detail which credit cards we used to earn points for each trip below.
Before I start, the number one thing to remember when earning credit cards points is to NEVER carry a balance. A lot of cards will try and get you with high minimum spends for sign-on bonuses and low introductory interest rates. We always make sure we can hit a spend with planned spending. It’s ideal to get a card before a big purchase like a wedding, home renovations or the holidays.
Also contrary to popular belief, opening credit cards will not hurt your credit score and has actually improved ours! I will have a post out soon regarding the basics of credit card points, but wanted to clear this up now.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this blog are affiliate links, meaning that by signing-up for credit cards through partner links on our site, I earn from qualifying purchases and sign-ups, at no additional cost to you.
January – St. Augustine, Amount Saved : $0
Our first trip of the year started with a wedding weekend in St. Augustine. We did not use points for this trip because we found a very cheap deal to stay at the Courtyard Mariott there. However we did earn 1,444 Marriott points that we used later in the year.
February – Boca Raton, Amount Saved : $350
Our second trip was another wedding weekend, this time in Boca Raton. It was the first weekend in February, which can be an expensive time for Florida travel. Almost every hotel in the area was over $250/night! We were relieved when we found the Hyatt Place Boca Raton because we could use Chase Points to stay here.
We have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, 2 Chase Freedoms and 2 Chase Freedom Unlimited which all gain points that can be transferred to numerous partners. Hyatt offers the best redemption rates so we try and stick to using our points for their hotels.
This was an example of a pretty great redemption rate because the hotel room was going for $350 per night. We were able to pay only 12,000 points per night instead. That’s a redemption of almost 3 cents per point. A tip is to try and keep the redemption over 1 cent per point to know if it’s a good deal.
This was a very low points rate for such a stylish hotel right in the heart of the city. We were conveniently close by to the wedding and then were able to walk around Mizner Park the next day. Earning and using points can be a big help if you have lots of weddings to go to like we did this year.
March – Santa Barbara, Amount Saved: $50
In March, I got to fly to Santa Barbara for a work trip, so technically I saved a lot more since I didn’t have to pay for anything! The best part was that my Mom was able to join me and only had to pay for her flight. We shared a room at the Hotel Indigo which was right in the heart of State Street.
My work paid for the flight, hotel room, rental car and my luggage while I got to earn the points. I earned 8,800 IHG points and 4,434 United points. I had just got the United Explorer Card when we went on this trip and it has the perk of free checked luggage. Because of this, I was able to check my Mom’s luggage for free, which is the $50 I’m counting.
This trip ended up being such a fun mother-daughter bonding experience! My Mom did sightseeing during the day, and then we both went out to some delicious restaurants at night. We took a red eye back on the last day so we could explore the city a bit more. Work trips are the perfect opportunity to earn valuable travel points and see new places. Always try and take advantage of them if you can!
April – Disneyland and Hawaii, Amount Saved: $6,130
April was when we took our big, one year anniversary trip to Disneyland and Maui! We just planned on going to Hawaii, but found out we could have a free stopover if we used points. To get the most out of this, we stopped in LA and visited Disneyland for the first time together.
We were able to get flights from Orlando to LAX then LAX to Maui then Maui to Orlando for only 25,000 points each! This is the equivalent of $250 but the flight would have cost us a total of $1,693! It ended up being one of our best redemptions of the year with a rate of 3.4 cents per point.
I detailed in this post how we managed to book these flights through booking a delta flight with Korean Air rewards. Unfortunately, a few weeks after the post went live, Korean Air ended their partnership with Chase Sapphire and this deal is no longer available. You can still do a similar deal through Singapore Krisflyer, so check out the strategy outlined here, since I haven’t had a chance to update my post.
We also saved a ton of money on hotels during this trip. We stayed at the Hyatt House Anaheim for 12,000 points a night which was a quick walk away from Disneyland. This hotel costs $360 per night so we saved over $1000 with this three night stay alone. In Maui, we stayed at the Andaz Maui for 25,000 points a night for six nights, which would have cost about $500 per night plus the $45 resort fee which is waved when you use points.
We had to save up 186,000 Hyatt points to accomplish this. We used some of our Chase points as they transfer 1:1 to Hyatt. However, we each also got the Hyatt credit card. You can currently get up to a 60,000 point sign-on bonus, so with both of signed up for it, we were two-third’s of the way there.
It was the trip of a lifetime and only made possible because of all the points we had. This one took a year to save up for, but was so worth it!
July – St. Petersburg, Amount Saved: $420
After our anniversary trip, we took a break from traveling. However, upon realizing we had a five days off for Fourth of July, we decided to travel for the long weekend. I noticed the new Hyatt Place in Downtown St. Petersburg was only 5,000 points per night, which was extremely cheap. We booked two nights there and had a fun weekend checking out the beaches and craft breweries!
This was an amazing deal as the rooms were going for $210 per night. Of course, this deal also ended less than a month after I blogged about it. I am really starting to worry that I am giving away the secrets and ruining these points deals!! Now this hotel is 12,000 points a night which is still a better deal than paying $350/night during spring break. I am still sad, but it’s a lesson as to why you should grab deals when you can with points travel!
August – Gainesville, Amount Saved: $300
In August we took another weekend trip to Gainesville where we spent a day tubing at Ginnie Springs. Our friends live there and kindly let us stay in their guest room. I am considering this a savings since we got to explore somewhere new without paying for a hotel! Staying with friends or family is a great way to travel more if you happen to know people in a fun area.
October – San Diego, Amount Saved: $1,500
We knew we wanted to take a fall trip this year and debated for a while on what kind. In the end, I went to California for a third time so that Andrew and I could experience San Diego together. As two people who love the outdoors and breweries, we really couldn’t go wrong with San Diego.
We booked our hotel and flight with points for this trip. We ended up flying from Orlando to LAX and then driving to San Diego because it was less time than having a stopover. The flights cost a total of 52,000 Delta points and it would have been $580 for the two of us.
Andrew signed up for the Gold Delta Skymiles card this year when the sign on bonus was 60,000 points. We got it right before our Hawaii trip as well and it allowed us to get our bags checked for free and priority boarding even though we booked that flight through Korean Air! Sometimes the baggage fee savings can add up so if you are loyal to an airline, consider getting their credit card.
Then we used 70,000 Marriott points to stay at the Four Points Sheraton for five nights. This hotel was in the perfect part of downtown and in walking distance to so many things to do. We both had gotten the SPG preferred guest card in 2016 in anticipation for Starwood and Marriott merging. We made sure to book our hotel for this before the merger in August in case the points rate went up.
It actually ended up going down for this location, so we cancelled the reservation, got refunded the points converted to Marriott and then rebooked. Another great thing about points booking with hotels is you can almost always cancel it without penalty until a few days before.
This is one of the Marriott hotels part of the stay four nights with points, get the fifth free. I highly recommend doing this if you can travel for that many days. Mariott points aren’t a great redemption rate, so this is one way to add value to those points!
November – Disney World, Amount Saved: $930
Another big milestone for us this year was running our first half marathon! Andrew, my Dad and I all completed the Disney Wine and Dine half and had an amazing time. This race not only includes a fun race course through the parks, but also an after party at Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival.
The schedule ends up being pretty crazy though. You need to be at the half marathon starting area by 3:30 in the morning. The race doesn’t start until after 5 AM but they want everyone there early to avoid delays. Then the after party is at 8 PM until 1 AM that night!
We only live an hour and a half away from Disney but there was no way we could drive there at 2 AM and then drive home at 1 AM that night! We decided to make the most of it and got a hotel for two nights so we could get as much sleep as possible the night before and take a nap after the race.
With the after party being at Epcot, the Swan and Dolphin hotel was the perfect place to stay since it is in walking distance of the park! This is the only on property hotel owned by Marriott instead of Disney. Because of this, we could use points for our Starwood Preferred Guest Card to stay there!
This one was ideal to book before the merger. It used to be 12,000 Starwood points per night, but it is now 50,000 Marriott points per night. You can transfer points from Chase or you can get a Marriott or Starwood credit card with a 75,000 point sign on bonus, but that won’t even get you two nights. If you just want a weekend trip, you and your partner could each get it and stay for three nights with the bonus.
I now recommend paying out of pocket for this one as it is still cheaper than the rest of the deluxe Disney World resorts. It is usually under $250 night, so using points is a pretty pathetic half a cent per point. Just make sure to earn points while you are staying here for another trip!
December – Miami, Amount Saved: $1,430
We decided to finish out the year with one more getaway! To celebrate New Years Eve in a big way, we are going to Miami Beach. For only 15,000 points a night, we are staying at a $700 per night hotel room! This is a redemption of 4.6 cents per point, so you can see how it’s a great value.
The resort we are staying at is the Confidante Miami Beach, which is a Hyatt resort. After staying at four Hyatt resorts this year, we are hooked on the quality and the redemption value. I’ll be back after the break with a complete review of our New Years Eve trip and of course lots of pictures!
Total Savings from Travel with Credit Card Points: $11,110
It is crazy for me to look back and see all the money we saved traveling this year. If we had had to pay that $6,000 in airfare and hotel for our Maui trip, the rest of the travel this year never would have happened! We have only been saving points for a little over two years, so it really can make a big impact quickly once you figure out the system.
Here’s a list of credit cards we used to travel with points. I highly recommend getting the Chase Sapphire if you haven’t yet! However, I’ve had great success with all these cards and I think any of them would be a good choice.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 points after $4,000 spend in 3 months
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – 15,000 points after $500 spend in 3 months
- Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 points after $5,000 spend in 3 months
- United Explorer – 40,000 points after $2,000 spend in 3 months
- World of Hyatt – 40,000 points after $3,000 spend in 3 months
- Gold Delta SkyMiles – 30,000 miles after $1,000 spend in 3 months
- Starwood Preferred Guest – 75,000 points after $3,000 spend in 3 months
I’ll be back in the New Year with a guide to getting into points, but for now, feel free to email me if you have any questions. Traveling can get expensive, so that’s why I always try to save on hotels and airfare. If your goal is to travel more in 2019, this is the best way to do it!
Let me know if you have gotten into credit card points travel in the comments!