Trip planning with points, continued: hotel points

posted in: Credit card points | 0

*Yesterday I talked about our experience with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be used for flights, hotels, rental cars, cash back, etc. Today, I want to move on to the hotel cards we’re currently carrying!

As you already know from this post, in general Chris and I prefer to stay in AirBnBs for a variety of reasons. However, I’m already looking ahead to next year’s travel plans (a post on that later) and I think it is likely that on a few trips we’ll be in various cities for shorter amounts of time compared to five days in a single place. In those cases, I think it may be more convenient to just pick a hotel in a popular area rather than settling into an apartment like we did in Paris. There is also one particular hotel that I’m angling for with one of my cards, as you’ll see below.

I haven’t yet done any redemptions with these points — though in the past Chris and I have used his Marriott points to go to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore when I was pregnant with Owen! — so a full review will have to come later.

Hilton Honors Surpass from American Express

So, all the time I’ve seen the advice that you should get credit cards with a specific goal in mind. This is uhhh the first time I’ve actually done that. In this case, my goal is the Hilton Malta! Malta is only a 40 minute flight from Catania, and practically everyone I know here raves about it. As you guys know, we aren’t usually fancy hotel people but we thought it would be a nice change of pace to give it a try. The public offer on this one is at 75,000 points after a $3k minimum spend in three months, but there are referrals out there for 100,000 points after you hit the minimum spend. I got one of those referrals from one of my travel hacking groups and that’s I used. (I also now have five of these referrals available if anyone wants one).

This card earns 3 points per dollar for most spending, 6 points per dollar at US restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets and 12 points per dollars at Hilton hotels. That middle category would have been super useful at home, but obviously less so here. At any rate, basic rooms at the Malta resort are 37,000 per night and as one of the perks of this card is Gold status with Hilton — which includes fifth night free on award stays and free upgrades where available — I’m feeling like we should be able to get a good trip out of these points, combined wih the 15,000 or so I already have. I probably won’t hang onto this one long-term because it does have a foreign transaction fee — meaning I won’t use it much except in the base commissary and US websites to meet the minimum spend — but it might be useful for people back home who spend a lot at gas stations, supermarkets, etc. And as it does come with a free weekend night certificate after the first anniversary ($75 annual fee) I can see the argument for keeping it after all since any hotel stay in Europe is going to be worth more than that. We’ll see!

If you are interested in this card, pleeease consider using my referral link when you do! This is one of the 100,000-point offers (available only on referral, not publically) and I have five available. If you are interested, comment and I will email you one!

Disclaimer: I obviously think that using credit cards to earn points/miles is a great option. However, I hope it goes without saying that this makes sense only when you are using cards to pay for things you already planned to buy. Don’t rack up a ton of debt in hopes of getting miles/points.

Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express

I’ve always heard rave reviews about Starwood, and in particular how their points are the most valuable. This past spring I decided to give it a shot, though without a specific redemption plan in mind. (Though I considered either of the two SPG resorts in Malta before deciding to go to with the Hilton if I can). I’m thinking these might come in handy on a trip to the Netherlands/Belgium next year that we are hoping to take. Since SPG is merging with Marriott, these two points can be transferred between each other pretty easily (1 SPG point = 3 Marriot points) so that gives us a little more flexibility as well. There are no foreign transaction fees on this card, so no worries there. There are several other perks with this card, such as free wifi at Boing hotspots and SPG properties, return protection and a few different kinds of travel-related insurance coverage, which you can read about here if you are interested.

The offer for this one is 25,000 SPG points ater $3,000 minimum  spend in 3 months. Rooms start for a couple thousand points a night at Category 1 to something like 20,000 a night for a super swanky place. In my preliminary searches, I’ve found some surprisingly nice places for not too many points — a resort I was considering in Malta, for instance, is only 7,000 points/night. However, at most properties my family will need a bigger room since European hotels are very strict on the number of people who can be in a room at one time, so we probably will have to use a few more points. Points can also be transferred to certain frequent flier programs, and if you transfer 20,000 at a time you get a 5,000 point bonus, which is something we may consider as well.

This card has no fee the first year, then $95/year after that. I’m not sure yet whether I will keep mine past the first year because the Chase Sapphire cards are our primary ones, but we’ll see!

If you are interested in getting this card — 25,000 SPG points (this equals 75,000 Marriott) after $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months — please consider using my referral link:

Apply for The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved! http://refer.amex.us/KASEYHG3dK?xl=cp01-158

Well, that about does it for my travel-related cards at the moment. Credit churning friends: any suggestions for a next move?

Note: I initially worried that applying for more credit cards would hurt my credit, but I’ve found it to be the opposite — my credit has actually gotten a bump overall. When I am not interested in keeping a card, I always see if I can downgrade it to a no-fee card rather than canceling (such as I did with the Chase Sapphire Preferred). 

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