Imagine boarding a plane destined for your honeymoon and entering a private suite with a full-sized double bed and sipping a glass of Dom Pérignon while you wait to take off to your long-awaited exotic location. Now imagine paying the same amount of money for this experience as you’d pay for a night out at the cinema. It sounds unbelievable, too good to be true, etc., but it’s very possible to do with credit card rewards.
Planning and paying for a wedding can be the perfect time to capitalize on credit cards rewards that you can utilize to put together the ultimate honeymoon. But in order to do that, you’ll need to be able to put a plan into motion to make it all happen. Here’s some advice and tips for couples hoping to make their honeymoon dreams come true with the help of credit card rewards.
If you’re looking to use credit cards to take your honeymoon to the next level then try to give yourself as much time as possible to accumulate points and redeem them at your own convenience.
Giving yourself 6 to 12 months to earn your credit card bonuses and use your points on flights, hotels, and other travel expenses is recommended. Remember, you’ve got to earn your credit card points first and then find travel dates that work with your schedule and what’s available for awards.
You’ll usually find it easier to find open awards 6+ months out so it’s good to give yourself at least that much time. If you’re trying to put together a very complex itinerary, however, giving yourself closer to 12 months will be ideal.
Earning sign-up bonuses
Credit card sign-up bonuses are where most of the value of credit card rewards is at.
These bonuses typically require you to spend a certain amount in a specific time period, such as $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. This is known as your “minimum spend requirement.”
The time period in which you’re covering wedding expenses is often the most opportune time to sign up for credit cards because you’ll be able to hit so many of your minimum spend requirements so easily.
Try to inquire with all of your services to see if they’ll take credit cards (and which ones). If they only will take a check you can look into services like Plastiq to cover those expenses. Plastiq can help you pay rent, car payments, student loans, and even contractors making it easier than ever to hit your sign-up bonuses.
Also, many people like wedding photographers will be open to receive payments via PayPal, Venmo, or other methods that will allow you to make charges to your card. You’ll incur a small transaction fee with these methods but the sign-up bonuses you’ll earn will far outweigh any fees paid.
Tip: Many times there are multiple offers out for the same credit card with one offer being much more lucrative than the other.
Earning points via every day spending
Since you’ll have so much time before your wedding day, you’ll also be able to earn credit card points via your natural spend. Many times it makes sense to grab a card that earns you points based on your specific spending habits.
So for example, if you spend quite a bit on dining out you might want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve which offers 3X on dining and travel or if you spend a lot on groceries the Amex EveryDay Preferred could be a great choice since it earns 3X on groceries (along with a possible 50% bonus). Both of these cards will earn you points that you could utilize on valuable travel redemptions but you’ll be able to find all sorts of different cards that earn extra points on major categories, such as travel, dining, groceries, gas, mobile/online purchases, and entertainment.
Tip: You can often earn tons more miles and points by utilizing shopping portals when doing at type of online shopping.
One of the greatest things about getting into credit card rewards as a couple is that you can double-up on your rewards. This isn’t a huge advantage for flights since two tickets will be needed but it’s perfect for covering hotel stays.
If you have more than a year to plan out your travels think about getting a card like the IHG Rewards Credit Card. This card comes with a 60,000 points sign-up bonus and a low annual fee of $49 that’s waived the first year. The biggest perk is that after your first year anniversary you get a free night certificate that can be used at any hotel category.
A lot of cards restrict your free nights to lower categories but with the IHG you could use yours to redeem a night at a high-end InterContinental hotel that would normally cost as much as $700+ a night! And if you and your partner double up on this card, you’d get 120,000 points plus two free nights which could cover several nights at one of the top hotels in the world.
Other quality hotel cards are the Hyatt Visa Card, American Express Hilton Surpass, Marriott Rewards Credit Card, and American Express SPG Card.
Tip: Programs like Hilton and SPG will grant you a 5th night free if you book four consecutive award nights so that’s another great way to capitalize on savings.
Nothing is better than arriving to your hotel and getting upgraded to a suite and getting exclusive access to the hotel’s executive lounge where you can relax and unwind with complimentary meals, happy hour, etc.
The American Express Platinum Card is fantastic for achieving hotel status, as it offers automatic Hilton Honors Gold, SPG Gold (and thus Marriott Gold). These are mid-tier statuses which can still get you upgrades, free wifi, and free breakfasts in some cases. If you don’t want to pay the high annual fee of the Platinum Card, hotel credit cards will usually provide you with lower-tier status and allow you to bump up a tier by putting spend on the credit card.
If you’re on your honeymoon, you definitely want to mention that when making your reservations or arriving at the hotel, because it will often end up with an upgrade but if you’ve got elite status with that hotel, that upgrade might be even better.
Tip: If you want to take your status game to the next level, you can learn about status challenges, where it’s possible to achieve an even higher level of hotel status that comes with even better perks.
First class flights
Traveling in a spacious first class seat like the Etihad Apartment to an exotic location for a romantic honeymoon is the dream for many people. But to earn enough miles to make this dream a reality, it takes a little bit of legwork because you need to learn about:
- How to find the most valuable credit card sign-up bonuses for your goals
- Credit card application rules and restrictions
- Award charts and redemptions best for your location
- How take advantage of airline partners and alliances
- How to avoid high fees and surcharges
Because of all of those factors often differ from person to person based on their travel goals, it’s hard to recommend a single card that’s best for first class flights, but I recommend reading my free beginner’s guide to start learning about how to best utilize your points. In there, you’ll find everything from credit score basics to how to find the best sign-up bonuses.
The key is to have a loose plan of where you want to go and how you want to get there.
For example, if all you know is that you want to fly business class or first class to Japan but don’t know anything beyond that (dates, activities, etc.), you already know enough to get started. From there, you can start building a plan where you and your future spouse will target a couple of credit cards that will earn you the right type of miles and points to utilize for your trip.
If you can devise a plan before you start dropping wads of cash on all of your wedding expenses, then you’ll easily be able to earn the points needed and you’ll be off sipping champagne into the sunset before you know it.
Keeping it simple
If you’re not necessarily interested in taking an extravagant trip that will require extra work to achieve and you would prefer to keep the travel rewards process more on the simple side, then consider going for a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Reserve card will allow you to redeem points through a travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point (which is very high compared to others).
The best part about this is that you don’t have to worry about dealing with black out dates and transferring points to airlines and hotels. You simply find any available room or flight and book it.
Other cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card also offer simple redemption solutions where you simply opt for a statement credit to cover your travel purchases. These two cards often come with sign-up bonuses worth close to $500 in general travel expenses so they can easily help reduce your overall cost of your honeymoon.
Sometimes you don’t even need a credit card to take advantage of savings because you can utilize online travel agencies. When I book boutique hotels, I often book through websites like BonWi.com and earn fantastic savings (sometimes up to 40% back).
More credit cards than ever now offer airport lounge access where you can relax on swanky furniture in a comfortable and quiet setting, enjoying complimentary food, drinks, wifi and sometimes even showers and massages.
Accessing airport lounges can make your travel experience much smoother and also add a luxury element to your travels that’s perfect for setting off on a honeymoon. The American Express Platinum Card is one of my favorite cards for lounge access because it gives you Centurion Lounge access, which are some of the nicest domestic lounges found in select airports.
Other cards that offer Priority Pass airport lounge access can be great options too which include the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige. For those only looking to access a lounge on a single occasion, the United MileagePlus Explorer card offers two free annual passes to United lounges.
Southwest Companion Pass
If you think you’d like to keep your travels mostly in the US or Mexico/Caribbean, then you might want to consider getting the Southwest Companion Pass. With this pass, your partner can fly for free for up to two years and it’s often easily obtainable via Chase Southwest Credit Cards. This is a perfect way to stretch your points throughout a year or two and a perfect option for couples interested in weekend get-a-ways.
Splurge on your experiences
One of the best things about covering your flights and hotels with credit card points is that you can then splurge on experiences while on your honeymoon. For me and my partner, this has meant more exhilarating experiences like private helicopter tours and shark dives. Without the savings from credit card rewards, we would probably only have experienced a fraction of our most memorable travel experiences over the past few years.
With so many expenses and all of the stress that comes with putting together the perfect wedding day, you might as well reward yourself with the ultimate honeymoon. If you can put in a little bit of work to learn some of the basics and have some patience, you can use credit card rewards to have one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
Just remember that you want to pay off those credit card balances. Travel rewards cards come with high APRs so you definitely don’t want to treat them like loans and aim to pay off your balances entirely each month.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.