At FinanceBuzz, we love hearing success stories about people in our community being able to accomplish their travel goals by using points and miles. We hear these stories regularly in our FBZ Elite - Travel and Points Facebook group, and we want to highlight a few of these amazing adventures so you, too, can see what’s possible in the world of travel — without having to break the bank.
Jamie Haas, one of our Facebook group moderators, was able to travel with his wife on a luxury vacation to St. Kitts, an island in the Carribean, for a long weekend last year. Jamie paid for nearly the whole trip with points and miles. And while the trip was an overall success, Jamie did come away with some tips that you will find useful if you decide to go to St. Kitts as well.
If you are interested in exploring points and miles, or possibly looking to take a luxury trip like Jamie, keep reading to learn how Jamie saved over $3,000 without sacrificing an ounce of enjoyment.
Since Jamie and his wife earn their travel rewards through the two-player mode system (meaning they both are active in the travel rewards hobby and hold travel rewards credit cards), they have amassed an incredible amount of points and miles. So, affording the flights to St. Kitts did not present an issue.
They were able to fly direct from Atlanta to the St. Kitts Airport for 17,500 Delta SkyMiles each, and then returned to Atlanta using 12,500 American Airlines each. While the flights were nearly free, as they only had to pay the associated taxes, Jamie did come away having learned a key lesson.
With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you receive your first checked bag free when flying American Airlines for yourself and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation. However, this only applies to domestic flights that originate within the United States. So, unfortunately, Jamie and his wife did have to pay for their checked bags on American Airlines on the way home to Atlanta.
Nonetheless, they still saved over $1,300 by using points and miles earned from some of the best travel credit cards and their frequent flyer programs.
|Round-trip flights||Regular price||What Jamie paid|
|Delta Airlines (ATL-SKB) and American Airlines (SKB-ATL)||~$700/person||Less than $100 per person in taxes and checked bag fees|
St. Kitts is known for its beautiful beaches and gorgeous sunsets. However, as Jamie explained to me, he chose to travel to St. Kitts for one main reason — the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour. When he had taken this trip in May of 2018, the property had just opened to the public. When he saw pictures of the beautiful new resort online, he knew he wanted to someday see it firsthand. And due to the Globalist status Jamie had achieved through spending on his World of Hyatt credit card, he also knew he would have a great shot at an upgraded room.
When he made his reservation, Jamie selected a basic room for 30,000 Hyatt points per night. If he would have paid cash, the basic room would have been roughly $400/night. Even better — at check-in, he was upgraded to a private suite. Doesn’t this room look spectacular?
The upgraded suite would have cost around $600 per night (not including resort fees and taxes), but for Jamie it was completely free because he used 30,000 World of Hyatt points for one night and then two free-night certificates he earned from his World of Hyatt card. So, in total, he paid $0 out-of-pocket for the room for the whole long weekend.
|Hotel||Regular price, inclusive of resort fees and taxes||What Jamie paid|
|Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour||$2,000 for 3 nights*||$0|
*Hotel cost estimated based off of Jamie’s itinerary and receipts.
While the flight and hotel situation was a large success, the rental car became a sore spot for Jamie on this trip. Since it was only Jamie and his wife traveling, they figured they could get an economy car and it would suffice. Unfortunately, Jamie reported it was “the crappiest rental car I’ve ever had.” He said the car struggled to make it to the hotel from the airport as there was a bit of a hill to reach the property. To add salt to the wound, the rental car was expensive at roughly $60 per day.
If there was something positive that came from the rental car experience, it was that Jamie did use his Chase Sapphire Reserve® to pay for the car (along with their other expenses while in St. Kitts). Jamie always uses his Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for his rental cars as using points to book a car is typically not the greatest redemption option. By using the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Jamie was able to earn 3X points per dollar spent on the rental car.
The final cost of the rental car including taxes was roughly $200. By paying with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, he was able to earn 600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Other special deals
It can be easy to sometimes ignore the smaller costs of travel that can unfortunately add up. Things like on-property meals and resort fees can add to your bottom line quickly. However, since Jamie has Hyatt Globalist status, he was able to avoid resort fees and he and his wife were both able to enjoy a free breakfast buffet every morning of their trip.
|Expense category||Regular price||What Jamie paid|
|Resort fees||$30/night per room||$0|
The travel credit cards Jamie used
If you want to travel like Jamie and take advantage of the same offers he did, here are the cards he utilized on this luxury trip to St. Kitts.
|Card name||Welcome bonus||Earnings rate||Annual fee||Why this card?|
|The World of Hyatt Credit Card||Earn up to 60,000 points: 30,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, plus an additional 30,000 points by earning 2 bonus points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 bonus point, up to $15,000 spent in the first 6 months||9X points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels; 2X points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining, and health purchases; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else||$95||Automatic Explorist status and annual free night
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®||Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months||2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases||$99 (waived first year)||Earned enough points to fly home from St. Kitts|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months (and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))||3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and at hotels; 2X miles per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets; and 1X miles for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases||$250 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)||Free checked bags and preferred boarding|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else||$550||Great reward rate per dollar on rental car and eating out|
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
The The World of Hyatt Credit Card was a key part of Jamie and his wife affording their luxury trip to St. Kitts, and it’s widely known as one of the best hotel credit cards. With the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you can earn Earn up to 60,000 points: 30,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, plus an additional 30,000 points by earning 2 bonus points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 bonus point, up to $15,000 spent in the first 6 months. With a long list of benefits, including automatic status, a free night for each cardholder anniversary, and high earnings on Hyatt purchases, you can’t go wrong with this card.
In addition, the Hyatt loyalty program is valuable as you can use your Hyatt points for a variety of things outside of booking hotel rooms. You can also use Hyatt points to book flights with American Airlines and rental cars with Avis.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® was a great way for Jamie to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly both himself and his wife home for nearly free. They only needed to pay the taxes and the unfortunate checked-bag fees.
With the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, you can earn a healthy signup bonus of American Airlines miles, along with free checked bags for you and four companions while traveling domestically, preferred boarding, and 25% savings on in-flight purchases.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card was a great starting point for Jamie and his wife to begin earning their Delta SkyMiles. The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Credit Card has a lucrative welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months (and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)).
Also, this card is great for travelers who fly with a companion as with it you receive a Companion Certificate that is good for one domestic round-trip ticket. If you get this card, you will receive this companion certificate after your first cardholder anniversary.
Along with these perks, you will also have no foreign transaction fees and your first checked bag will be free.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of Jamie’s favorite cards to use while traveling, and for good reason. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, he was able to earn up to 10X points per dollar on his purchases. Also, Jamie was able to protect his vacation and rental car with the trip cancellation/interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is known as one of the best travel credit cards out there because of its long list of benefits. You will earn earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Along with the sign-up bonus, there are several benefits to this card including a $300 travel credit, a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit, access to airport lounges, and more. While the card does come with a hefty annual fee, the perks of the card make it well worth it.
The bottom line on Jamie’s trip to St. Kitts
|Expense category||Regular price||What Jamie paid|
|Flights||~$1,400 round trip for two people||Less than $100 per person|
|Hotels||~$2,000 for three nights||$0|
|Breakfast and resort fees||$130/day (x 4 days=$520)||$0|
If you want a luxurious trip like this but you don’t want to pay a luxurious price, points and miles are the avenue to do exactly that.
If the points and miles world is brand new to you, it is important for you to know that anyone can get started at any time. The first steps are very simple: have an idea in your mind of where you would like to go, select the best travel credit card for your spending and lifestyle, and start using it to earn away. Or, you can start by giving our travel rewards beginner's guide a read.
Before you know it, you will be on your way to your bucket list destination for way less than you expected!