How I Booked a $4,500 Trip for Two With Points

Credit card points could earn you a free dream vacation, but only if you know how to use them right.
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Last summer, my brother and I decided it was time for a vacation, and what better way to unwind than a visit to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai. Most people spend months, or even years, saving up the thousands of dollars it takes to fund a trip like this, but thanks to the magical wonders of credit card points, we were able to successfully book a four-day vacation for an out of pocket cost of around $100 per person with only a week's notice. Here's how we did it.

 

Flights

As with most trips, we started with the flight. Our plan was to fly directly from LAX to Kauai on American Airlines, which normally costs 45,000 miles roundtrip. However, we knew that if you book it through British Airways, the same flight is only 25,000 miles. Don’t ask me the logic behind that, it’s just the nature of the points world and a good reminder to check out all your options before booking.

Executive Club British Airways To book an AA flight on British Airways, you'll need an Avios account number and password, as well as a British Airways Executive Club account (which you can register for here for free; you don't need the credit card to sign up.) Once you’re logged into the British Airways site with your Avios account info, you will be taken to your Avios account page, where you can search for available flights using points or money. Be sure to choose the "Book with Avios "option. The flight we chose would have cost $805 per person, but we covered the cost with points and paid only $11 in airline taxes each.

Earning British Airways Avios Points

So then the big question is, how do you earn Avios points? Don't worry. We've got you covered. There are two good ways to earn British Airways Avios points to use toward your next trip.

First, you can get the British Airways credit card and spend at least $2,000 in the first three months. This will earn you 50,000 points (just be sure you're paying your balance every month to avoid racking up interest.)

Your other option is to transfer the points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, which, luckily, has a one-to-one transfer rate with Avios. If you don't have any Chase points, you can earn them by getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This popular card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards ®. You also get another 5,000 points when you add an authorized user who makes at least one purchase.

If you don't currently have either card, I wouldn't recommend getting both at once. It would be challenging for most folks to spend $6,000 in three months and still be able to pay off the balance each month. Therefore, if you want to take full advantage of both cards, apply for them at different times, allowing yourself three months per card to reach the spending threshold.

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Hotel

When it came to picking a hotel, I looked at my point balances to see which program would work best for our stay. The Chase Hyatt credit card seemed like the best deal, partially because this card offers two free nights at any Hyatt in the world after you spend $1,000 in three months. I ended up using one of the free nights, leaving one night free for this particular trip. The Grand Hyatt in Kauai is a category six hotel, which means it costs 25,000 Hyatt points per night. We booked the hotel for four nights, and it cost us 75,000 Hyatt points, plus the free night I had left on my account.

How to Earn Hyatt Gold Passport

If you decide to go with the Hyatt points program, you've got a couple of options for racking up points. Your first option is to get the Hyatt credit card, which, as mentioned above, offers two free nights at any Hyatt in the world. That’s worth up to 60,000 points, since a category seven hotel (the highest Hyatt category) is 30,000 points per night. Your other option is, again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which transfers to Hyatt at a rate of one-to-one.

Car Rental

While it's not as popular as using points for flights and hotels, you can actually book a car rental with points. Many credit card travel portals and airlines give you the option of using your miles on car rentals, though to be honest, it’s usually a terrible value.

That’s where the Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes into play. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus card allows you to use your points toward any travel-related expense, including car rentals. Once you pay for something travel related with your Arrival Plus card, you have 120 days to redeem your points for a statement credit toward the amount. For example, if a flight, hotel or car rental costs $230, you would need 23,000 points to pay it off. Barclaycard Arrival Plus has a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points if you spend $3,000 within 90 days (which is more than enough to pay for a car rental.) You earn 2x points on every purchase you make with the Barclaycard making it easy to accrue points. We booked a car with Hertz, used a 30% discount code, and charged it on the Arrival Plus card.

Redeeming Barclaycard Points

You can redeem Barclaycard points for a number of travel related expenses, including airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and more. With the card, you have 120 days after a travel purchase has posted to your account to redeem your points for a statement credit. So, theoretically, you could purchase a flight or hotel before the points from the sign up bonus have posted to your account, and then redeem the points for a statement credit once they post. After you redeem points, you immediately receive 5% of those points back as a bonus to use toward a future purchase. For example, if you redeem 20,000 points for a $200 travel expense, you will get 1,000 points back.

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Excursions

There is no possible way you could use your points to pay for excursions right? Wrong! Using the versatile Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, we booked our excursions (kayak to a waterfall, Napali Coast boat trip, and even a round of golf) all with points. The way we did this is by booking the excursions through the concierge at the Hyatt and charging it to our room. At the end of our trip, we paid for all of the room expenses with the Barclaycard, so even the meals we ate at the hotel were paid for with points.

How We Earned Our Points

So, how did we earn all these points? It's really just a matter of thinking strategically about which cards to apply for and making sure you meet the minimum spending requirements. My brother and I both signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. After we each met the spending requirements for both cards, we were left with 46,000 Barclays points each and 59,000 Chase points each (this includes the points from the money spent to reach the spending requirements.) I applied for the Chase Hyatt card and earned two free nights at any Hyatt after meeting the spending requirements. My brother had applied for the British Airways card earlier that year and earned 52,000 points. This left us with a combined 262,000 points to pool from for this trip.

book travel with points

This trip would’ve cost us a fortune to book without points, but we only spent $120 ($22 in airline taxes, plus the few meals we didn’t eat at the hotel). We also gained a lot by pooling our points together and sharing a hotel room.

So that's how it's done. Have you been taking advantage of any point-earning credit cards? If so, let us know in the comments! If not, I hope this inspires you to try it out and start earning points toward your next vacation!

 

Images via British Airways, Barclaycard.



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About the Author

Emanuel got his first credit card at 18, and by the age of 22 he had already accrued 1 million points. In addition to finding the best credit card bonuses and rewards programs, he loves to travel the world. Especially when he doesn't have to pay for it.

15 Comments

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#2
Was the restaurant at the Hyatt in Hawaii kosher?
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I just came back from Maui - 6 of us went around the 4th of July (peak season)....Airfare would have cost $745 each from LAX to Maui (roundtrip). The airfare alone for 6 of us would have $4400 if I paid for them in cash.

Instead, I used my Chase UR points at 25K per person x 6 = 150K points....and my only out of pocket was $11 x 6 = $66!!!! Yahoo!!!! I did the same route....transferred them to British Airways and flew on American. It was a no brainer!!!
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Last edited by mac4daddy July 8, 2016 at 05:00 PM.
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#4
I just booked my $6800 honeymoon to Tokyo/Singapore/Thailand for $2300 (could have saved a lot more, i.e. still paid about $1600 for flights, but didn't want any more cards). Used the Hyatt card, Fairmont card, and Amex points on the flight.

The Fairmont and Hyatt cards were by far the best value, though the Fairmont is far better because you can upgrade your entire stay to an $800+ suite for free.

Thanks for sharing, definitely going to keep this for reference later!
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#5
wow, those are great manuevers... congrats on saving $. howd you like AA the flight? the plane? the service though?

what other 'non- british air' lines can one book besides AA, using BA's Avios points?

I have, I think I have, 50K points from a boring HSBC card which I am thinking about converting them into Avios points. I could readily convert them to Asiamiles I think, for arlines such as Japan, Cathay... if I wanted Asia travel but I do not. I want Canada, Europe.
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#6
My wife and currently don't have credit cards, But are planning a 20k Kitchen renovation. If we spending this money anyways I figure we might as well get some credit card rewards.

How would you suggest we best maximize our rewards.
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#7
Quote from Yuriku
:
My wife and currently don't have credit cards, But are planning a 20k Kitchen renovation. If we spending this money anyways I figure we might as well get some credit card rewards.

How would you suggest we best maximize our rewards.
The best way to take advantage is to 1) plan out how you want to use the rewards and 2) search out sign up bonuses. For example, Chase is currently offering a 100,000 point sign up bonus for their new Sapphire card. It carries an annual fee of $450, which is steep, but you can get $600 back in travel credits. The 100,000 points are worth at least $1,500 if you use them correctly. They are worth even more if you're smart. Sign up bonuses are the way to really maximize your potential. All of the big cards do them so you just need to watch for when they are available.
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#8
Quote :
Quote from mac4daddy
:
I just came back from Maui - 6 of us went around the 4th of July (peak season)....Airfare would have cost $745 each from LAX to Maui (roundtrip). The airfare alone for 6 of us would have $4400 if I paid for them in cash.

Instead, I used my Chase UR points at 25K per person x 6 = 150K points....and my only out of pocket was $11 x 6 = $66!!!! Yahoo!!!! I did the same route....transferred them to British Airways and flew on American. It was a no brainer!!!
mac4daddyI just came back from Maui - 6 of us went around the 4th of July (peak season)....Airfare would have cost $745 each from LAX to Maui (roundtrip). The airfare alone for 6 of us would have $4400 if I paid for them in cash.

Instead, I used my Chase UR points at 25K per person x 6 = 150K points....and my only out of pocket was $11 x 6 = $66!!!! Yahoo!!!! I did the same route....transferred them to British Airways and flew on American. It was a no brainer!!!
How did you book the flight to HI via BA? I try to book from LAX to HNL or Kauai and they said "British Airways does not have traffic rights to operate directly between these two cities."
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#9
While the strategy outlined works, please be mindful of the life changing credit impact you are signing up for. Intro bonus points are a one time thing but the new credit account lasts for a long time. Too many hard credit checks and too many young accounts may prevent you from doing something truly important like buying a home.
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If you've got a really good credit score, the impact of opening a few cards is pretty minimal. And it is transient. I've tracked this and it does indeed go down a few points but in a few months it is back to where it was. Certainly doesn't affect it enough to prevent me from getting the best rates.
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#11
So are reward flights between LAX and anywhere in Hawaii rare? I found 1 one way available in March for LAX to Kauai and 1 one way in June for LAX to Maui.

This is booking through BA searching for partner flights (American)
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#12
Did you one better. Top this one.

When I thought US Air was going under, used 240,000 miles to book 2 tickets on Singapore Airlines, business class. It was a two class airline, so business was actually first class. Took the 19 hour nonstop flight from Newark to Singapore, then after 2 days in Singapore, on to Sydney for a week. Return was Sydney to Frankfurt to Kennedy. Award also covered travel from Dayton OH to connecting cities.

Lobster was the first meal served.
Even though the flight was 19 hours, you never wanted it to end. Stewardesses in Kimonos, incredible service. Fantastic airport in Singapore. Great lounge.

Week in Sydney was on Marriott points. Only had to pay for 2 nights in Singapore, at a fantastic rate on something called HotelClub.com out of Australia. Showed up on Kayak search.

Singapore ticket cost was listed ar $ 9000 per ticket, no discounts, and did not include travel to connecting cities.
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#13
Your kitchen Reno is a great excuse. From now on, whenever we have a major expenditure planned, we will get a high return credit card, knowing our expenditures will qualify.

We did each get the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The deal was so good, we got separate cards at a fee of $ 450 each, and an expenditure requirement of $ 4000 each in 90 days. Thought we would have to buy gift cards to meet it.

We wound up paying our propert tax for the entire year in advance. Paid car and house insurance in advance, a few modest renovations we were holding off on.
Then we took a 2% fee zero percent interest balance transfer to pay the Chase bill. That cost us $ 200 but we got 200,000 ultimate reward points worth a minimum of $ 2000 if we wanted a cash credit. Closer to $ 3000 in total value.

The $ 900 fee got us a $ 600 travel credit, two TSA five year prechecks, worth $ 170. That's $ 130 out of pocket. Then we booked our 50 th anniversary hotel stay at the Aria hotel, Las Vegas, through the Chase site, we are paying $ 26 per night over the mlife rate, but we are getting a food credit of $ 60 per day, plus a $ 100 stay credit. That reduces the daily hotel rate for our 4 night stay to $ 49 night, plus resort fees. It will be Thanksgiving week, and rates are very low that week. And of course, are paying the hotel bill with our $ 600 combined travel credit.

We are retired, not high income, not wealthy, but live well by knowing how to play the game.

Quote from Airliner
:
The best way to take advantage is to 1) plan out how you want to use the rewards and 2) search out sign up bonuses. For example, Chase is currently offering a 100,000 point sign up bonus for their new Sapphire card. It carries an annual fee of $450, which is steep, but you can get $600 back in travel credits. The 100,000 points are worth at least $1,500 if you use them correctly. They are worth even more if you're smart. Sign up bonuses are the way to really maximize your potential. All of the big cards do them so you just need to watch for when they are available.
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Last edited by sliderule44 March 5, 2017 at 04:08 AM.
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Quote from ip1009
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Was the restaurant at the Hyatt in Hawaii kosher?
It wasn't but they store kosher frozen meals from Oahu that guests can order in advance and you can eat at the restaurant.
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#15
My incredible points deal. 2005.

My FF tickets were $9000 each..

Using 240,000 US Air Points, booked business class on Singapore Airlines.
It was a 2 class airline so business class was essentially first class with sleeper seats. First meal served was lobster.
This was the original world's longest non stop flight, 19 hours.
So luxurious, sorry to see the flight end.


Going. Newark to Singapore for 2 days stopover, then Sydney for a week.
Return. Sydney to Singapore to Frankfurt to Kennedy.

Stayed at Marriott on points in Sydney.
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