I’m Going On Vacation! For Free!
In a few months I’m heading to Las Vegas for a girlfriend’s bachelorette party! I’m stoked!
I’m also only paying $165 total for my flight and four nights at my hotel. That’s basically free! It’s amazing!!!
Want to find out how I’m doing it?
It’s actually pretty simple when I type it all out – but I know that when you talk about maximizing rewards points and airline miles and hotel loyalty points it can get complicated pretty quick.
Think of this as a baby primer for anyone interested in dipping their toes into the world of credit card reward systems.
If you want to jump into the deep end, though, you can skip “Go” and head straight to The Points Guy. That website is FULL of everything you ever wanted to know about credit cards rewards points.
Here’s a little background about how I got interested in getting the most out of my travel rewards.
Every year my husband and I attend a large gaming convention. It’s our main vacation every year and we like to stay at a particular, luxury hotel when we attend the con. We’ve actually been attending for about 13 years and we, of course, signed up for the hotel’s loyalty program many years ago. Most of these loyalty programs are free, so they’re smart to sign up for if you think you might become a frequent visitor of these hotels.
Really, though, we only traveled about once a year so we weren’t racking up large amounts of points or anything. That is, until, I started traveling for work! I travel for work about once a month and as long as the hotel I choose is not too expensive I can stay at any chain I like.
I decided to start staying at Starwoods properties whenever I could in order to get more points. This lead to my husband and I doing a quick google to figure out how we could earn more Starwoods Points every year in order to get free nights (one of the perks that these loyalty programs offer).
Enter the SPG AmEx. The Starwoods Preferred Guest American Express is a great card. It earns you Starpoints on all your daily purchases and then if you use the card to stay at a Starwoods Property you get tons of bonus points. Plus, having the card gives you a head start to Gold member status as well as other perks like free internet during your stay.
The biggest thing though, is that you trade in Starpoints for FREE nights at a Starwood Property.
A few years ago between the AmEx earning us points and my work travel (which I also paid for using my AmEx to double dip points) we started earning enough Starpoints consistently that we do not have to pay for the hotel at the convention we go to anymore! Nice!
But wait, it gets better. Sometimes when I travel I wasn’t able to stay at a Starwoods property just because of location. I started staying at Marriotts as my back up and then low and behold Marriott and Starwood hotels MERGED to make one mega hotel chain. All those Marriott points I had stocked up were now able to be transferred over to my Starwoods account.
I AM UNSTOPPABLE!
There’s more though! My work prefers that its employees fly United Airlines. I know United is kind of garbage when it comes to customer service but work makes me fly it so there’s not too much I can do about that. As a result of my needing to fly United I picked up a United MileagePlus Explorer Card. This card helps me earn extra United Miles on my travel.
There are actually lots of ways to earn United Miles that are really easy and unobtrusive. Here’s a quick overview:
- You can link up your Explorer card (or any credit card) to their Dining Program and earn points when you go out to eat.
- You can shop through their Shopping Portal which is just a click through – so if you want to buy something from Kohls instead of going straight to Kohls.com you’d go to the United Shopping Portal and then click the Kohls link and earn extra miles that way. It’s super easy!
- Or you can download their App for when you’re shopping at brick and mortar stores and earn extra points for the shopping you’re already doing. It’s pretty legit.
Many domestic flights (trips to Las Vegas for instance) do not cost a lot of miles to book. So if you’re pretty diligent about maxing out your miles you can fly for free quite often.
Even if you don’t have the benefit of traveling a lot for work, you can still use the tips and tricks I’ve highlighted above to earn miles for your vacation travel. A free flight every year is still pretty cool.
But how did I get such a good rate for my trip to Las Vegas? Well, first things first – I booked my flight to Vegas using United Miles. Easy peasy. That’s a zero dollar flight right there.
The next thing I did was check out the comps available to me through my various Las Vegas club cards.
If you’re like me when you head to Vegas then you love to gamble. If you plan on gambling while you’re there you should definitely sign up for the loyalty cards for the casinos you’re gambling at.
The two main loyalty programs on the strip are M-Life and Total Rewards. Each of these programs consists of a different set of casinos, but just pop the right card into the slot machine while you’re playing and you’ll earn points just for doing you!
Now, after a trip or two you’ll start racking up levels on your loyalty cards and that’s when you start getting comps. For instance, I’ve been to Vegas a handful of times in the last few years so I’m doing pretty well when it comes to comps. I regularly get offers for two, three or four free nights at great hotels on the strip.
By comparing the comp nights I was offered with dates that we could potentially hold the bachelorette party, I managed to secure four free nights at a Las Vegas hotel right on the strip! The only thing I have to pay is the “resort fee” which is a garbage fee that hotels started initiating so they can pretend their nightly rates are lower (beware those Priceline rates! They don’t include the resorts fees!).
So for $165 I am flying for free and staying four nights in Vegas right on the strip! Say what?
You know what that means! More money for gambling!
Got any questions for me? Want me to dive deeper into one of these tips or tricks? Drop me a line in the comments or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org