How To Maximize Credit Cards For Cheaper Accommodation This Holiday Season

Inflation has a significant impact on the way we spend our money. And it’s not just about the bare necessities — like grocery shopping or gas purchases — it’s also putting a strain on our travel plans. A September 2022 Bankrate survey found that rising prices are causing 79 percent of leisure travelers to change their plans.

One of the most popular saving strategies is choosing cheaper travel destinations and accommodations, as reported by 1 in 4 leisure travelers this year. It’s pretty easy to find more affordable destinations, e.g. B. Choose Mexico City instead of San Francisco for a winter vacation. But no matter where you travel (some people are already committed to specific destinations to visit friends or family, especially on vacation), finding affordable accommodation can significantly ease the financial burden.

Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, says housing numbers are up just 1 percent year-over-year, which isn’t too bad. But with airfares up 28 percent from last year, cutting accommodation costs means you might be able to afford that more expensive flight. If you have a few travel rewards credit cards in your wallet, you should maximize the perks, benefits, and points that come with them to take advantage of cheaper accommodations. That’s how it’s done.

Maximize your points

There’s no point in sitting on a pile of points just waiting for the right time to spend them. Now it is time! In fact, points are most valuable when cash prizes are high, which is usually the case on peak travel dates. And many travel and hotel co-branded cards have whopping point bonuses that can net you a few (or even more, if you play your cards right) free hotel nights. How to use your credit card points for cheaper accommodation.

Flexible point currencies

Flexible point currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Capital One Rewards are some of the most useful point currencies as they offer different options for transferring to hotel programs or booking travel through credit card travel portals.

Transfer credit card points to hotel programs

Flexibility makes these points the most valuable. For example, Chase has three hotel partners: Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt. If you have Chase points but Marriott hotel point prices are sky high and there are no IHG hotels in your chosen destination, you can still transfer them to Hyatt for redemption. Make sure you find your chosen redemption before transferring your points as you cannot move them back. Here’s a cheat sheet for transferring flexible award currencies to hotel points.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: IHG One Rewards (1:1), Marriott Bonvoy (1:1), and World of Hyatt (1:1)
  • Amex Membership Rewards: Marriott Bonvoy (1:1), Choice Privileges (1:1), and Hilton Honors (1:2)
  • Citi Reward Points: Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards (ratios vary depending on which Citi card you hold)
  • Capital One Rewards: Choice Privileges (1:1) and Wyndham Rewards (1:1)

The quotas indicate how many credit card points make up one hotel loyalty point if you transfer them. For example, the 1:2 ratio associated with transferring Amex points to Hilton Honors means that 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points would equal 100,000 Hilton Honors points.

Note that offers and promotions sometimes change the points ratio by offering bonus points on transfer.

Using points to book travel on travel sites

You can also book hotels with points through each bank’s travel portal. While this option doesn’t always provide the best value for your points, you can use it to book non-loyalty hotels, boutique hotels, B&Bs, hostels, apartments for rent and more. This creates a lot of flexibility for travelers who need a vacation rental for a large family or group, or are visiting a destination that may not have big brand hotels like Hilton or Marriott.

Co-branded hotel credit card points (and perks)

Those who hold co-branded credits at major hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and others can use those points towards free or discounted hotel stays. (Some programs offer a “pay with points and cash” option if you don’t have enough points for your entire stay.)

Note that programs like Marriott, Hilton, and IHG offer free nights when you book with points. Each program has its own rules and restrictions.

The Hilton program offers elite members who book stays with points for a stay of up to 20 nights, the fifth free night at the average nightly rate. IHG offers every fourth night free, however, this benefit requires you to own a special co-branded card: the IHG Rewards Premier credit card, the IHG Rewards Traveler credit card, or the IHG Rewards Premier business credit card. Marriott offers free points stays up to the fifth night, but compensates for the cheapest night.

Take advantage of the hotel’s elite status benefits

Many credit cards offer cardholders elite status – both co-branded hotel cards and flexible travel rewards cards. Some of the most popular are the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which offers Bonvoy Platinum status, and the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which offers IHG Platinum status. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire credit card offers Hilton Diamond status and the American Express Platinum Card® offers both Bonvoy Gold and Hilton Gold status.

Although elite benefits vary by program and status level, some of the benefits are listed below. Be sure to check the specific programs for exact details.

  • Complimentary breakfast or dining credit
  • Early check in / late check out
  • room upgrades
  • Earn extra points
  • lounge access
  • Free wifi

While elite status doesn’t necessarily get you a free stay, you can definitely take advantage of money-saving benefits like dining coupons and room upgrades.

Know your card advantages

There are numerous unique credit card benefits that can make accommodation more affordable. Here are some money-saving benefits to look out for:

Annual travel credits and free night vouchers

Many tickets offer annual discounts or free stays. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a $300 travel credit, so if you spend $300 on a hotel, vacation rental (or flight, or anything else related to travel), it will be returned as a credit on your statement. The Amex Platinum has a $200 hotel credit for hotels in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and the Hotel Collection. Many co-branded hotel credit cards offer a free night certificate each year, like the newly rebranded Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, which offers a free night below 85,000 points each year after your card renewal month.

promotional offers

Keep an eye on your email inbox and rewards portal for limited time promotions your issuer may be offering. Many American Express cards have Amex offers that offer perks like bank statements when you spend a certain amount at certain hotels and other retailers. Other cards, like the Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card, also have promotional offers, like a five percent credit on VRBO rentals.

The list goes on, but there’s no need to memorize them. If you have a travel credit card — especially one that pays an annual fee for it — be sure to log into your account and see what benefits are available to you. A few minutes of research can save you hundreds.

The final result

It is true that many of the credit cards mentioned above have annual fees. But if you work towards getting the full value from each card’s perks and benefits, you can really put yourself ahead of the pack when it comes to savings on lodging, especially during an expensive holiday travel season.

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