My Credit Card Rewards Got Me These Amazing Experiences

I’ve been earning and redeeming travel rewards for incredible flights and hotels for over a decade. Many readers see articles about earning airline miles and hotel points but don’t know what those rewards can do for them. I’ve collected a few of my favorite redemptions to illustrate the amazing experiences that I’ve been able to get using my credit card rewards.

[Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards.]

A $500-per-night Hotel for Free

I flew my daughter to Madrid over Thanksgiving break to attend a soccer camp with one of the best soccer teams in Europe. While she camped out in the dorms with her teammates, I booked a stay at the newly opened Thompson Madrid. It normally costs over $500 a night to stay at this property when paying cash. However, I booked it for free using the annual free night certificates that I get from my World of Hyatt Credit Card because it’s currently only 15,000 points per night at a Category 4 property.

Thanks to my Hyatt Globalist elite status, I received a complimentary upgrade to a room with a massive terrace that overlooks the city and the park below. During my stay, I enjoyed complimentary breakfast each morning as a Hyatt Globalist member. The rooftop pool was closed for the winter, but it looked like it would be a wonderful way to spend the afternoon during the summer. I also visited the gym and was pleasantly surprised to see a personal trainer there waiting to offer tips on how to use the equipment and provide workout instruction to guests.

Takeaway: Traveling internationally helps your free night certificates go further since many high-end properties are in low enough categories to qualify for redemption.

[Read: Best Hotel Credit Cards.]

A Romantic All-Inclusive Getaway

My wife has a demanding job, so she doesn’t get to travel with the kids and me very often. On rare occasions, we get to travel without the kids while Grandma watches them. With winter temperatures getting low, I booked a romantic vacation for us at the adults-only Hyatt Zilara all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico.

This hotel normally goes for over $600 a night if you’re paying cash. However, I was able to book it for a nightly rate of just 21,000 points. You can earn Hyatt points from its personal or business credit card. Another option is transferring points on a 1:1 basis from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months. With the points earned from the welcome bonus (plus 3,000 additional points to bridge the gap), you can book three nights at this all-inclusive resort that are worth almost $2,000.

We enjoyed a view of the ocean from our suite, which included a complimentary minibar and 24-hour room service. We ate and drank to our hearts’ content at the resort’s six restaurants and five bars and lounges. While there were entertainment options and a variety of classes to attend, we just relaxed and soaked up the sun at the pool and on our private terrace.

Takeaway: All-inclusive properties offer tremendous value for rewards travelers since they eliminate one of the biggest remaining travel expenses after miles and points take care of flight and hotel costs.

A Family Vacation in St. Kitts for Just 15,000 Miles Each Way

The Caribbean has numerous islands to explore, and we love taking advantage of the American Airlines award chart to book inexpensive family vacations. From anywhere in the continental U.S. or Canada, you can book economy-class MileSAAver flights to the Caribbean for 15,000 miles in each direction. If you travel during off-peak dates, the price is even lower at just 12,500 miles each way.

For our summer vacation, we booked round-trip flights to St. Kitts and Nevis for just 30,000 miles per person. This was a huge savings for our family since cash flights were over $900 per person. American Airlines offers fare specials regularly, so you may be able to book flights for even less on certain dates. For example, I found a round-trip flight from Nashville, Tennessee, to St. Kitts in June 2023 for just 20,000 miles.

Travelers can earn AAdvantage miles from American Airlines credit cards like the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card. Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a ratio of 3:1 to American Airlines. Bonvoy members receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points they transfer. With many ways to earn AAdvantage miles, it is easy to accumulate enough miles to book your flight.

Takeaway: Sweet spots in airline redemption charts offer incredible value on international flights that may be even cheaper than booking a domestic flight.

[Read: Best Airline Credit Cards.]

The 4th Night Free at a Luxury Resort

For New Year’s Eve, we booked a family vacation at the InterContinental Presidente resort in Cozumel, Mexico. This luxury resort features a private beach, pool, spa and multiple restaurants. Guests can rent snorkeling gear, water scooters, paddleboards and more. Families can also take advantage of the on-site kids’ program to get some alone time, hit the gym or book a massage.

Our four-night stay would have been $2,457, or 304,000 points, which is a redemption value of 0.8 cent per point. Thanks to my IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, I get the fourth night free when booking rooms with my points. That dropped the total price down to 228,000 points, for a value of 1.08 cents per point. The current welcome bonus for the Premier Card is 140,000 points after spending $3,000 within three months. Pairing those points with the same welcome bonus offer for the IHG Rewards Premier Business Credit Card will net you 280,000 points, which is more than enough for a four-night stay for your family.

Takeaway: Credit card benefits go deeper than a welcome bonus and earnings rate. Pay attention to your card’s other benefits, like free hotel nights, to unlock all of its value.

A Business-Class Flight to Europe

I’m good with flying economy on short flights, but when I take a red-eye, I like to fly business class so I’m well-rested when I arrive. When my daughter and I went to Madrid for her soccer camp, we flew business class so we could sleep during the overnight flight. This allowed us to enjoy our first day in the city before her camp started instead of being jet-lagged and sleeping all day once we arrived.

While there are occasional deals available, business-class flights can be very expensive. However, I booked our one-way business-class flights on Air Europa for just 83,250 Flying Blue miles per person. Many American travelers are unfamiliar with Air France and KLM Flying Blue, but it is one of the best airline loyalty programs around. Plus, it is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, so you can combine rewards from multiple programs into one airline to accumulate enough miles for a flight quickly.

Takeaway: While booking business-class flights may seem like a splurge, they can help you minimize jet lag and avoid spending the first couple of days of your vacation in a brain fog.

The Bottom Line

I am grateful that I started learning about the power of credit card rewards more than a decade ago. Our family has created amazing memories exploring the world for a fraction of the price that others pay. We focus on earning miles and points to reduce the cost of flights and hotels so we can splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. If you’re looking to travel more, using credit card rewards can reduce the cost of your vacation by covering flights, hotels and other travel expenses.

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My Credit Card Rewards Got Me These Amazing Experiences originally appeared on usnews.com

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