How to Make the Most of Credit Card Rewards While Planning Your Wedding

You can earn serious cash back, discounts, and freebies by charging your card wisely.
Last updated Jun 6, 2021 | By Robin Kavanagh
A bride and groom holding hands outside

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Modern weddings take a lot of time and money to plan. According to The Knot, the average wedding in the U.S. costs nearly $30,000, excluding honeymoon expenses. Though there certainly are weddings that either cost much less or much more, chances are you’ll be making some substantial nuptial purchases over the next year or two.

In a time when credit card rewards programs are fiercely competing for your business, you can use these offers to your advantage and not only save money on purchases but even end up with major freebies. Even if you’re just racking up points along the way, those dollars can translate into benefits for you and your significant other later on.

Here’s a look at how you can make the most of credit card points, miles, and rewards programs to save money while you plan — or pad your rewards options for future use.

5 best credit cards for weddings

Card Welcome bonus Rewards rate Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022), 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases $95
Citi Premier Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases $95
American Express® Gold Card Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases $250 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
Capital One Venture Rewards Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months (or earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months) 2X miles on every purchase, every day $95
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Earn 65,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months 2X points for Southwest purchases and 1X points on all other purchases $69

The ring

The first step toward walking down the aisle begins with choosing an engagement ring. Americans spend an average of $6,324 on this staple of our wedding tradition, according to Business Insider. With a purchase this size, you could be earning significant points or miles toward a trip or two, which could come in handy when you’re planning your honeymoon.

For example, the Citi Premier’s welcome offer lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, which can easily be fulfilled with your ring purchase. These points are redeemable for $750 in airfare through ThankYou.com. That’s enough to cover most, if not all, of one ticket for your honeymoon (depending on where you’re going).

You’ll also get 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another good option to consider, with comparable benefits.

Even if you plan to pay cash for the ring, charging the purchase on a rewards card can make that money go even farther. Think about the best rewards credit cards with large welcome offers; you can get 40,000 or 60,000 points (or more) right off the bat, but most of these offers require you to make a few thousand dollars in purchases within the first three months.

Charging the ring on a new rewards card would likely fulfill this requirement, so you could get the points and then pay off the balance with the cash you’ve set aside.

Another way to go is to charge the ring on a card with a 0% introductory APR (annual percentage rate). Many credit cards charge no interest for purchases made within 12 to 18 months of opening the account, with interest applying after that period is over.

The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card offers lengthy introductory periods, at 18 months for purchases and 18 months for balance transfers. Other cards, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, offer both a 0% interest period and cashback rewards. You’ll only have 15 months interest-free with this card, but you’ll also earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Plus, new cardholders can earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months.

The wedding

The wedding itself may well be the biggest party you throw in your life. There are many credit cards out there that offer increased rewards for spending on food, events, and other services that fall in the entertainment category. Some also have portals through which you can make essential purchases, such as flowers and invitations, at a discount or for an increased amount of rewards.

Here are some ideas to start with:

Catering and entertainment

You have lots of choices when shopping around for food, drinks, and entertainment for your wedding. Something to keep in mind while you’re looking for the right fit is that you could be earning some major rewards if you have a credit card that offers more points for dining and entertainment purchases.

For example, the American Express Gold Card offers four points for every dollar you spend at restaurants worldwide. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is also a good choice, since you can earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022), 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

If you’re looking to have an intimate reception with friends and close family at a local restaurant or maybe rent out the whole thing for your wedding, you could earn some major rewards. Both cards also have significant travel perks that you can put those rewards toward.

Even a catering company or party venue may be considered a dining or entertainment expense, depending on the category in which they fall into with your card issuer. It’s a good idea to talk with the credit card company and the venue to make sure you’re making a choice that pays the rewards you’re looking for.

Flowers

Outside of using a rewards card to pay for your flowers and collecting the resulting points, see what options are available through special shopping portals, which many credit card issuers offer. These are considered a perk for customers and can offer not only deep discounts on lots of products but also more points per dollar than you can earn with everyday purchases.

CashbackMonitor.com is a great resource. It lists out rates for credit card reward points and discounts across tons of websites and shopping portals so you can easily compare where the best opportunities to save and earn are.

A quick search for “flowers” turns up five businesses that participate with points and rewards programs. The highest rewards are offered by Flowers by Florists.com (at the time this article was written), some of which include:

  • 20% cash back through Citi Bonus Cash Center
  • 20 miles per dollar through American AAdvantage
  • 20 points per dollar through BarclayCard Rewards Boost
  • 15 to 20 points per dollar through Chase Ultimate Rewards, depending on the credit card you use

Invitations and party favors

Using the same shopping portal strategy is a smart choice when looking for invitations and party favors. There may be some limited options when searching through card-specific shopping portals, so it may be more practical to look at stacking rewards with discount and cashback sites.

Adding the Rakuten (formerly Ebates) plugin to your browser is a good first step. This will identify if the website you’re shopping on offers any cash back through Rakuten; activating the offer is as simple as making one click.

Groupon is also a good place to look for specials and deals — and it participates with Rakuten. When you pay for products through these sites with your rewards card, you get the discount on top of cash back, and points are added to your rewards stash. That’s smart stacking!

The honeymoon

Now that you’ve earned and saved up a stockpile of rewards, it’s time to redeem them for the honeymoon. Before you start planning your trip, take an inventory of how much you’ve earned in points and rewards.

Also take note of what additional benefits your cards may offer outside of the rewards programs. Do you have a travel credit from any of your cards? How about free checked baggage options or upgrades? Do any of your cards offer vacation packages or provide discounts or bonuses when you book through their portals?

For example, if you book and pay with a Capital One Venture Rewards card, you’ll earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. If you use a service other than Hotels.com, you’re missing out on a valuable points opportunity.

If you have a rewards card affiliated with an airline, you may be able to pay for one or more of your fares using points. Some cards even offer free fares, such as the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass — which is one of the best deals you can find.

If you earn 125,000 points, either through flying or using one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards, you get a free companion pass that’s good for unlimited tickets during the year you earn the points and for a full year after.

And if you sign up for a new Southwest credit card, you stand to earn a welcome offer of 40,000 to 80,000 points on consumer and business cards, respectively — meaning you could realistically net the coveted Companion Pass within months.

Some rewards and airline cards also offer free or discounted access to exclusive airport lounges and reimbursement for expedited security passes, which could be a big perk if you’re going to be spending a decent amount of time going from one airport to another.

Once you know the options that can lower your costs or upgrade your experience, start shopping around for where you want to go and where you want to stay. Pay special attention to hotels that are partners with the rewards cards you have, as there may be discounted rates available or bonuses for using them.

It might make sense to consider opening a hotel credit card, such as the Hilton Honors Surpass card. You can use this card throughout your wedding planning journey to earn points that you can apply to your honeymoon. The Hilton Honors Surpass offers 12X points when spending directly with an eligible Hilton hotel or resort; 6X points on purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.

When to start applying for cards

You’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to earn rewards with any new card you open. Welcome offers are usually good for the first 90 days of charges, so be mindful of that time period for making the required purchases to get your welcome bonus. Most rewards are added within days or weeks of qualifying purchases.

Overall, we recommend applying for cards as soon as is practical after you get engaged. This will give you plenty of time to plan, earn points on wedding-related purchases, and gain any other advantages you can by using the cards for work and day-to-day expenses.

There are so many opportunities to save and earn rewards throughout the wedding planning process. The key is to be smart and strategic about which cards you use and when you use them. Every card has its own rules for being able to reap rewards. Make sure you fully understand the benefits of each card and how the rewards process works.

It’s also a good idea to have a plan for how you’re going to pay off all the new charges you’re making. The last thing you want is to start your new married life with a large amount of debt and a high rate of credit card use on your record. Remember, the goal is to spend smart and use the rewards you earn to their best advantage.

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Benefits

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  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Author Details

Robin Kavanagh Robin is a freelance writer who lives on the South Carolina beach. She has spent the last 20 years writing about all kinds of topics for publications such as The New York Times, Yes! Magazine, Next Tribe, Parenting, and various trade magazines. On FinanceBuzz.com, you’ll find her mostly writing about smart ways to use credit cards, navigating personal loans, how to save when traveling, and ways to improve your financial health.