I booked a $ 12,000 vacation using credit card rewards and free nights

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  • Going on vacation is a great way to maximize your credit card points and hotel certificates.
  • I redeemed two Hilton Free Night Certificates and 125,000 Hyatt Points for a week in Cabo San Lucas.
  • Those seven nights would have cost $ 12,240.90 if I had paid in cash.
  • Read the Insider Guide to the Best Credit Cards with Travel Rewards.

Prior to 2020, I had been to Mexico on vacation using points and miles for the past few years. Because it’s considered high season, spot prices are always high, making this a great time to make the most of my hotel points, airline miles, and free night certificates.

Sadly, in 2020 I had to content myself with turning up the heat in my apartment, putting a beach towel on my sofa bed, streaming the sounds of the ocean on YouTube, and making margaritas at home. . So as soon as I got vaccinated against COVID-19, I embarked on developing my annual itinerary for the end of December.

Read more: Haven’t stayed in a hotel for over a year – here’s how I use all the credit card points and free night certificates I’ve saved

Using Hilton Credit Card Free Night Certificates and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points I saved during the pandemic, I booked seven nights in Cabo San Lucas which in cash would have cost $ 12,240.90. Here is how I did it.

2 nights at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

Regular APR

15.74% to 24.74% variable APR on purchases

Featured Reward

150,000 points after spending at least $ 4,000 during your first 3 months of opening an account

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  • Advantages and disadvantages

  • Details


  • Advantages
    • Free Top Hilton Elite Status
    • Get a weekend night reward every year after renewing your card
    • High welcome bonus
    • A valuable annual statement credit for qualifying Hilton purchases
    The inconvenients
    • The information relating to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer.
    • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $ 4,000 on card purchases in the first 3 months of card membership
    • 14X the Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every $ 1 in qualifying purchases billed to your card directly at a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio
    • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every $ 1 in qualifying purchases on your card on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, and on car rentals booked directly with select rental car companies
    • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every $ 1 in qualifying purchases on your card at U.S. restaurants
    • 3X the Hilton Honors bonus points for all other qualifying purchases on your card

    Read our review
    Read our review A long arrow, pointing to the right

    I have the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card

    , which issues a free weekend night certificate each year shortly after I have paid my annual membership fee (see review). While you typically only have a year to use the certificates, due to the pandemic, Hilton has extended their expiration dates and also opened them for use any night of the week.

    Learn more: How to earn, redeem and maximize Hilton Honors Points

    As a result of these moves, I was able to use the certificates I collected in 2020 and 2021 to book a two-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal – one of the more expensive properties in Hilton’s portfolio, which you were using money or points. . At the time I booked, a two night stay beyond my dates would have cost me 240,000 Honors Points or $ 5,145.60 including taxes and fees.

    The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card will also continue to save me money when I arrive at the property. It comes with a $ 250 resort credit each year that reimburses you for expenses you incur at qualifying hotels, including on-site food and beverages. The card also grants top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status, meaning my fiance and I will both get a free breakfast each morning.

    Read more: Was reluctant to pay the $ 450 annual fee for the Hilton Aspire card, but got $ 3,700 worth of travel for the first year

    5 nights at Cape, a Thompson hotel

    Regular APR

    15.99% -22.99% Variable

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  • Advantages and disadvantages

  • Details


  • Advantages
    • A high sign-up bonus allows you to start with a lot of points
    • Strong travel coverage
    The inconvenients
    • Does not offer credit for Global Entry / TSA PreCheck registration fees
    • Our best offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $ 4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening the account. That’s $ 1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
    • Enjoy new perks like $ 50 annual Ultimate Rewards Resort Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on meals and 2X points on all other travel purchases, and more .
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airline tickets, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $ 1,250 for a trip.
    • With Pay Yourself Back (SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits for existing purchases in certain rotating categories.
    • Get unlimited deliveries with a $ 0 delivery charge and reduced service charge on qualifying orders over $ 12 for at least one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate before 12/31/21.
    • Count on Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance, Rental Car Collision Insurance, Lost Baggage Insurance and more.
    • Get up to $ 60 off an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access subscription until 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take lessons using a phone, tablet or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

    Read our review
    Read our review A long arrow, pointing to the right

    Due to the high reward rates (and low availability) at the Waldorf, I turned to The Cape, a Thompson hotel to book the remainder of my stay in Cabo. The Thompson hotel lineup is under the Hyatt umbrella, which means you can use World of Hyatt points to book award stays there. The Cape is a Category 6 property, which means you can book a standard room for just 25,000 points per night.

    Read more: The best ways to earn, redeem, and maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points

    At the time I booked I did not have enough Hyatt points in my account to cover my planned five night stay, so I converted my reserve of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are transferred to Hyatt at a ratio of 1: 1. This reserve increased dramatically during the pandemic thanks to cards including the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which I used to earn 3x points per dollar on takeout and delivery, so I could easily top up my Hyatt account with the remainder of the 125,000 points required to complete the reservation.

    In cash, the stay would have amounted to $ 7,095.30 including taxes and fees – out of my budget, to say the least!

    Read more: Haven’t paid for a hotel room in 10 years – here’s how I stay free

    Later, a few friends decided to think about joining us for this part of the trip, and in order to accumulate the required points, one of them opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which currently offers 100,000 points after having spent $ 4000. on purchases during the first three months after opening the account.

    Featured credit cards from our partners

    Featured Reward

    3 free nights (worth up to 50,000 points each) after spending $ 3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10x the total points per $ 1 spent for a maximum of $ 2,500 of combined purchases in certain categories in your first 6 months

    Featured Reward

    $ 200 after spending $ 500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account


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