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5-star luxury, 1 best friend: How I used credit card travel perks for the ultimate reunion

Sept. 07, 2021
9 min read
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Travel goes beyond first-class flights and luxurious hotel suites.

With family and friends forcefully separated, the pandemic has put a spotlight on what travel truly means. So when a long-overdue reunion with a childhood friend was in order, I was ecstatic at even the possibility of traveling together.

However, I also wanted to make sure our getaway was done in style. After all, why not have our cake and eat it, too?

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While our budgets didn't allow for hotel rooms that retailed for thousands per night, credit card perks and points made that entirely possible. And that's exactly what we did last month while in Bodrum, in the heart of the Turkish Riviera.

Here's how elite status and three different credit cards helped us have a luxurious week away in Turkey, all on a relative budget.

A view of the pool at the Susona Bodrum, bookable using Hilton points. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Choosing the Turkish Riveria

We decided on the Bodrum region in Turkey for several reasons.

First, we wanted to soak in the stunning Aegean Sea, where there would be fewer American tourists than in Greece and Italy. Flights between Istanbul and Bodrum are also both frequent and affordable, with the one-hour journey less than $100 round-trip, even for last-minute bookings.

The Bodrum EDITION hotel pool, bookable using Marriott points. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

As fully vaccinated travelers, there are also relatively straightforward COVID-19 entry requirements for Turkey. Vaccinated travelers simply must fill out a health form and show proof of vaccination.

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Finally, but also most importantly, we chose Bodrum for the abundance of gorgeous seaside hotels that were available on points.

Related: How to get to Istanbul on points and miles

The cards that helped us do it

In total, we spent six nights in Bodrum, at three different properties between three different brands: Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott. Switching properties was a strategic move so as to not burn all my points with one specific hotel program.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Dinner at the Susona Bodrum, bookable using Hilton points. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

In Bodrum, we stayed at the five-star Susona Bodrum, an LXR hotel in the Hilton portfolio. While technically not on a beach, it is right on the water.

Cash rates retail for over $1,000 per night but I didn't pay a single cent for either the room or breakfast. (Spending at the spa was another story.)

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

How we did it

Thanks to hotel cards such as the Aspire, you can enjoy some of the same awesome perks that even the most loyal guests experience. First, the Hilton Aspire card comes with Hilton Honors Diamond status which TPG values at up to $3,000.

Since I am not a frequent Hilton guest, I don’t estimate my status to be worth quite as much, but between free breakfasts and occasional suite upgrades — such as our time in Bodrum — it's well worth it in my book.

The breakfast spread at Susona Bodrumem dash — and it was all free thanks to my Hilton Aspire. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Even better, the card comes with an annual weekend night reward for each cardmember year (with more flexibility to use the credit on weekdays through 2021). You can use this award at even the most expensive Hilton properties (think: Conrads, Waldorfs and LXR's), as long as there is standard award space available.

I redeemed my free night here and used another 95,000 Hilton points to book a second night.

Thanks to Diamond status from the Aspire card, we were upgraded to a junior suite for the first night and a one-bedroom suite for the second night — with our very own plunge pool. (A first for me, and as you can see below, I took full advantage.)

 

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World of Hyatt Credit Card

In 2020, I went all-in on Hyatt. Not only did I apply for the World of Hyatt card, but I also hit top-tier Globalist status thanks to a combination of stays, card spending and generous promotions.

The Marmara is perched atop the city of Bodrum (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

There is only one Hyatt-affiliated property in Bodrum, and it's a Small Luxury Hotel (SLH) called the Marmara, perched on a hill atop the city of Bodrum. (Note: Bodrum is both a town and is also the name of the peninsula.)

How we did it

The Marmara Bodrum is a Category 4 hotel, meaning you can use a major Hyatt cardholder benefit: an annual free night certificate for every account anniversary. You can also earn a second free Category 1-4 night award after spending $15,000 in a year.

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

I used a combination of points (15,000) and a free night certificate for this two-night stay.

And as a top-tier Hyatt member, we also were upgraded to an oceanview room that retailed for about $400 per night. At SLH properties, all World of Hyatt guests are treated to free breakfast, regardless of status.

Related: Best uses of Hyatt free night certificates

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Ever since TPG published a review of the Bodrum Edition hotel in 2019, I've been itching about the possibility of staying there. And it finally happened.

How we did it

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Transferable points are a powerful tool. If you don’t have enough points with a specific program, you can easily shift points over from another program. That's exactly what I did, thanks to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

It costs a whopping 70,000 Bonvoy points to stay a night at the Edition, but as mentioned, this has been a bucket list hotel. I didn't have enough Bonvoy points in my account but I was able to top up my balance thanks to Ultimate Rewards points.

In August, I took advantage of a 50% transfer bonus of Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points. While this bonus has since expired, those with Amex Membership Rewards points can transfer to Marriott with a 30% bonus through Sept. 30, 2021.

The Edition was absolutely stunning, and easily one of the best hotel stays I've ever experienced.

Related: Best hotel credit cards of 2021

Bottom line

After a week away, we got to check several things off our lists. A hotel suite with its own pool. A Turkish breakfast spread larger than either of us could handle. And the white-glove service and hospitality that Turkey is renowned for.

But most of all, I got to spend a week with a best friend, exploring a new city (and country!) and as cliche as it sounds, making memories to last a lifetime. And that was all through the power of credit cards and points.

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Featured image by (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees