How to Use Credit Card Rewards for the Ultimate Honeymoon
Imagine boarding a plane destined for your honeymoon and entering a private suite with a full-sized double bed and sipping a glass of Dom Pérignon while you wait to take off to your long-awaited, exotic location. Now imagine paying the same amount of money for this experience as you'd pay for a night out at the cinema. It sounds unbelievable, too good to be true, etc., but it's very possible to do with credit card rewards.
Planning and paying for a wedding can be the perfect time to capitalize on credit card rewards that you can use to put together the ultimate honeymoon. But in order to do that, you'll need to be able to put a plan into motion to make it all happen. Here's some advice and tips for couples hoping to make their honeymoon dreams come true with the help of credit card rewards.
If you're looking to use credit cards to take your honeymoon to the next level - try to give yourself as much time as possible. Giving yourself at least 6 to 12 months to earn your credit card bonuses and using your points on flights, hotels and other travel expenses is recommended. Remember, you've got to earn your credit card points FIRST and THEN find award travel dates that work with your schedule. You'll usually find it easier to come across open awards 6+ months out so it's best to give yourself at least that much time.
Earning Sign-up Bonuses
Most of the value of credit card rewards are found in credit card sign-up bonuses. These bonuses typically require you to spend a certain amount in a specific time period, such as $3,000 in the first 90 days of opening the account. This is known as your "minimum spend requirement." The period in which you're paying for a majority of your wedding expenses is often the perfect time to sign-up for credit cards because you'll be able to easily hit many of your minimum spend requirements (we all know weddings ain't cheap!)
Ask all of your wedding-related services and vendors if they accept credit cards (and which specific cards they accept). If they only accept checks, you can use services like Plastiq to pay any bill using your credit card. Plastiq can help you pay rent, car payments, student loans and even wedding vendors, making it easier than ever to hit your sign-up bonuses.
Keep in mind that many wedding vendors like photographers and hair stylists are also open to receiving payments via PayPal, Venmo or other online payment methods that will allow you to put those charges on your credit card. You might incur a small transaction fee with these methods but the sign-up bonuses you'll earn by using your credit card will far outweigh any fees paid.
Insider Tip: Many times there are multiple sign-up bonuses available for the same credit card with one offer being much more lucrative than the other. I regularly discuss how to find the best offers on UponArriving.com, and I even offer points consultation services for personalized advice.
Earning Points via Every Day Spending
If you have lots of time before your wedding day, you'll also be able to earn credit card points via your ever day spending. I recommend grabbing a credit card that earns you points based on your specific spending habits.
For example, if you spend quite a bit on dining out, you might want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve which offers 3X the points on dining and travel charges; if you spend a lot on groceries, the Amex EveryDay Preferred might be the best choice as it earns 3X the points on grocery purchases (along with a possible 50% bonus).
There are a lot of credit cards out there with different purchase incentives that earn extra points on major categories such as travel, dining, groceries, gas, mobile/online purchases, entertainment and more. Take the time to figure out your spending habits so that you can choose the right cards to get the most points on your spending.
One of the greatest perks about getting into credit card rewards as a couple is that you can double-up on your rewards! This obviously isn't an advantage for flights since you’ll need to purchase TWO plane tickets but it's perfect for covering hotel stays during your honeymoon.
If you have longer than a year to plan your honeymoon, consider getting a card like the IHG Rewards Credit Card. This card comes with a 60,000 points sign-up bonus (sometimes more depending on what deal they may be running) and a low annual fee of $49 that's waived the first year. The biggest and best perk (especially for traveling honeymooners) is that after your first-year anniversary you get a free night certificate that can be used at ANY of their 4,900+ hotels around the world (even the most luxurious InterContinental and Crowne Plaza properties). Kimpton properties should soon be included in this free night redemption coming in 2018.
Many credit cards restrict your free nights to lower category hotels but not IHG! Dreaming of heading to Tahiti on your honeymoon? You could redeem your free night at the high-end InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea or any other high-end IHG property that could normally cost as much as $700+ a night! And if you AND your partner double up on this card, you'd earn 120,000 points plus TWO free nights which could cover several hotels nights while on your honeymoon.
Other quality hotel cards with similar perks are the Hyatt Visa Card, American Express Ascend (formerly American Express Hilton Surpass), Marriott Rewards Credit Card and American Express SPG Card.
Insider Tip: Programs like Hilton and SPG will grant you a 5th night free if you book four consecutive award nights so that's another great way to capitalize on savings - especially during your honeymoon which typically spans longer than four nights.
Nothing is better than arriving at your hotel, getting upgraded to a suite and enjoying exclusive access to the hotel's executive lounge where you can relax and unwind with complimentary meals, happy hours, etc. These upgrades definitely make you feel special!
The American Express Platinum Card is fantastic for achieving hotel status, as it offers automatic Hilton Honors Gold and SPG Gold (and thus Marriott Gold). These are mid-tier statuses which can still get you complimentary upgrades, free wifi and free breakfasts in some cases. If you don't want to pay the high annual fee of the Platinum Card, hotel credit cards will usually provide you with lower-tier status and allow you to bump up a tier by spending more on the credit card
Being newlyweds definitely has its perks – especially when it comes to traveling on your honeymoon. Make sure to always mention that this is your honeymoon when making your reservations or arriving at the hotel because it will often end up with an upgrade or complimentary champagne. If you've got elite status with that specific hotel, the upgrade might be even better.
First class flights
Traveling in a spacious first class seat, like the Etihad Apartment, to an exotic destination to celebrate your honeymoon is what couples dream of! Using credit card rewards to redeem this luxurious upgrade makes it even sweeter. But to earn enough miles to make this dream a reality, it takes a little bit of legwork. Start researching the following:
How to find the most valuable credit card sign-up bonuses for your goals
Credit card application rules and restrictions
Award charts and redemptions best for your destinations
How to take advantage of airline partners and alliances
How to avoid high fees and surcharges
Because all of these factors often differ from person to person based on their travel plans, it's hard to recommend a single card that's best for redeeming first class flights. I recommend reading my free beginner's guide first to learn how to best utilize your points. In there, you'll find everything from credit score basics to how to find the best sign-up bonuses.
How to Get Started
The first step is to have a loose plan of where you want to go on your honeymoon and how you want to get there (economy, business class, first class, etc.). Then you can start building a plan of which credit cards you and your partner will use to earn the right type of miles and points to put towards on your honeymoon.
If you can devise a plan before you start dropping loads of cash on all those wedding expenses, you'll easily be able to earn the points needed for those upgrades. You'll be sipping champagne in first-class before you know it!
Keeping It Simple
If you're not necessarily on-board with all the planning and strategy involved with getting the most travel perks (I mean you will also be elbow-deep in wedding planning!), we totally understand. To keep the travel rewards process on the simpler side, consider going for a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Reserve card will allow you to redeem points through a travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point (which is very high compared to others). The best part about this is that you don't have to worry about dealing with black-out dates and transferring points to airlines and hotels. You simply find any available room or flight and book it.
Other cards like the Capital One Venture card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus offer easy redemption solutions where you simply opt for a statement credit to cover your travel purchases. These two cards often come with sign-up bonuses worth $400 to $500 in general travel expenses so they can easily help reduce the overall cost of your honeymoon.
You can also find incredible travel savings by booking with online travel agencies and not necessarily relaying on credit card rewards. When I book boutique hotels, I often book through websites like Bonwi.com and earn fantastic savings (sometimes up to 40% back!)
Today, more credit cards than ever offer airport lounge access where you can unwind while traveling. Lounge on swanky furniture in a comfortable and quiet setting, enjoy complimentary food, drinks, free wifi, and some even have showers and offer massages (perfect after long flights).
Access to airport lounges can make traveling much smoother and adds a relaxing, luxurious element, setting the perfect tone for a blissful honeymoon. The American Express Platinum Card is one of my favorite cards for lounge access because it gives you Centurion Lounge access, which are some of the nicest domestic lounges found in select US airports. Other cards that offer Priority Pass airport lounge access include the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige. For those only looking to access a lounge on a single occasion, the United MileagePlus Explorer card offers two free annual passes to United lounges.
Southwest Airlines' Companion Pass
If you are planning on traveling throughout the US or Mexico/the Caribbean on your honeymoon, I’d seriously recommend trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. With this pass, your partner can fly for FREE on Southwest for up to two years and it's easily obtainable via Chase Southwest Credit Cards. This is a perfect way to stretch your points throughout a year (or even up to two years depending on when you earn your Companion Pass status). Use the Companion Pass for your joint bachelor/bachelorette getaway. Celebrate your first year of marriage with frequent long weekend getaways – save half the airfare with the Companion Pass. Maybe you’ll be planning a “babymoon” during your first year of marriage – the Companion Pass will come in handy! In fact, right now both Southwest credit cards are offering 50,000 points sign-up bonuses which means it’s a perfect time to jump on the Companion Pass!
Splurge on Your Experiences
It's your HONEYMOON - you'll want to make the most of your trip! One of the best things about covering your flights and hotels with credit card points is that you can then splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will make your honeymoon truly spectacular. For my partner and I, this has meant more exhilarating experiences like private helicopter tours and shark dives. Without the savings from credit card rewards, we could have only afforded to enjoy a fraction of our most memorable travel experiences over the past few years.
We know all about the hefty expenses and stress that comes with planning your perfect wedding day. You deserve to reward yourself with the ultimate honeymoon – and enjoy all the luxuries along the way! If you put in a little bit of work to learn some of the basics, be patient and start planning early, you can easily use credit card rewards to upgrade your honeymoon for a fraction of the cost.
Daniel Gillaspia is an attorney turned miles and points pro who travels the world at a fraction of the cost. For more helpful tips and valuable travel rewards insight, visit Upon Arriving. You can follow his journeys on Instagram: @uponarriving