I Don’t Get Travel Points, But I Did Just Save 90% On An All-Inclusive

  • Club Level Hot Tub King Room at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

I’m splurging for my birthday, using travel points and just a little bit of cash. Two words: ocean front. Four more words: hot tub on balcony. One more word: cheap.

I’ll Level With You: I Love My Credit Card

Aside from my mortgage I put basically everything on my credit card, and pay it off every month. I’ve never paid interest on a credit card, and the only time I’ve gotten a fee was when my husband and I both thought the other scheduled the payment (we called Chase, who nicely waived it for us). 

For a long time used the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but recently upgraded to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It comes with a higher annual fee of $450, but we decided it was worth it for a few reasons.

I may have a few in my wallet, but I’m only ever going to use one credit card with regularity. Now, there is a huge contingent of people who are fanatical maximizers of airline miles and travel points. Judging by the posts I’ve read, they’ve got a whole wallet full of cards. There’s complicated mathematics and transferring points back and forth and truly, the whole thing seems a bit like alchemy. I have no interest in figuring it out. But I do like getting rewarded for doing things I already do. By shifting all of our purchases to a credit card, we basically get rewarded for spending money.

Why Chase Sapphire Reserve Is Right For Me
  • No foreign transaction fees. It costs me nothing to use a credit card abroad.
  • 3x points on travel and dining. These two categories make up the biggest chunk of where we spend our non-mortgage budget, and triple points add up fast. It includes flights, hotels, and restaurants, and even the travel agent we paid our Antarctica deposit to (cha-ching).
  • $300 annual travel credit. When you spend $300 in a travel category, your statement is automatically credited–you don’t even have to remember to use the benefit!
  • If you use travel points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you get an extra 50% bonus. For example, if you have $100 in rewards it’s worth $150 towards a flight or hotel when reserved through Chase.

There’s a bunch of other miscellaneous rewards (trip insurance, airport lounge access, credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck) but those were the deciding factors in upgrading from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for us.

We got the card in February. To date, we’ve earned 84,327 points, including the 50,000 point sign up bonus. That translates to a $843.27 statement credit, or $1,264.90 in travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Add in the $300 annual travel credit, and we’ve basically gotten over $1500 towards travel for doing nothing but use our credit card. The $450 doesn’t look too bad now, does it?

Choosing the Destination

Which loops me back to the title of this post: I don’t understand travel points, but I did just book a four night stay at an all-inclusive resort for a great price.

I wanted to do something special for my 30th birthday at the end of June. Originally, I thought it’d be fun to go to Vegas and check some of my Atlas Obscura destinations off of my list. But for whatever reason, the prices on hotels (usually dirt cheap in the summer) weren’t great for that weekend. Instead, I went looking for a nice beach I could reasonably get to for four nights, but that wasn’t cheap either.

I asked my husband what he felt a reasonable budget for a five day/four night birthday trip would be. Including everything–airfare, hotel, food, etc., we both settled on $1,000. For what it’s worth, that wasn’t going to happen in Vegas (mostly hotel/food, and only a little because I like to play slots). Looking online at vacation packages for flight + all inclusive resort, $1,000 wasn’t going to cut it there either. Then it occurred to me–travel points!

Using My Travel Points For A Birthday Trip

I had originally planned on hoarding all of our points to use on our airfare to Antarctica in January 2019. Given the choice between being moderately sensible (blowing points on a trip now vs. very sensible (saving points for then), moderate sensibility won out. Enter the Hyatt Ziva All-Inclusive Puerto Vallarta.

For the lowest-price room I could have spent all of my points and spent maybe $30-50 out of pocket for the four night booking. But for a little more, I was able to upgrade to a heavily discounted Club-Level Ocean Front Hot Tub King room.

The lowest available rate on Hyatt’s website for that room is $413/night. The standard rate for those dates is $917/night. The rate through Chase Ultimate Rewards was around $333/night, but since points come with a 50% bonus, my ~70,000 points translated to about $1050 towards the booking. For less than $300 out of pocket total, I got a room that would have cost me at least $1650 otherwise and it has an ocean-front balcony with a hot tub on it. Once we booked airfare, we’re right around the $1000.

Yes, I know there’s cheaper things I could have done. Maybe you’d have chosen to spend your points elsewhere. But from my perspective, I’m spending my 30th birthday in a bananas hotel room I’d never shell out for otherwise. Plus, it’s all inclusive, so once I get there I don’t have to spend a minute thinking about money for drinks, food, or room service! And, um…did I mention the hot tub on the balcony? // 7×35

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  1. […] you may not want to hang out inside. Conversely, if you’re headed to a resort (which is the state of mind I’m in, at the moment), lots of “me time” and relaxation is probably just what […]

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