TPG beginner’s guide to planning a honeymoon of a lifetime
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One of the most common questions we get here at TPG is, “What credit card should I use for my honeymoon?”
And for good reason. We know we aren’t the first to tell you this, but honeymoons — to say nothing of the actual weddings themselves — can be expensive. Your honeymoon is likely one of the biggest (as in, most memorable and important) trips you’ll ever go on, regardless of total cost or duration.
Consider the fact that the average wedding in the U.S. cost $28,000 in 2019, according to The Knot. And no, that doesn’t include the cost of a honeymoon. The reception venue alone averages around $10,500. Add in another $2,400 for the photographer and $3,700 for the band. A wedding dress costs on average $1,600 — though easily much more — and the cake can set you back $500. Then add in the cost of invitations, flowers, hair or makeup services, wedding favors and more … and it’s easy to see how it all adds up before you even talk about budgeting for the honeymoon.
But epic honeymoons don’t have to be wildly expensive or super stressful to plan. At least, not if you follow TPG’s guide to planning a perfect honeymoon.
Here, we’ll outline everything the two of you need to know, from the best credit cards to have in your wallet to our favorite destinations to make sure you have an unforgettable honeymoon later this year (or in 2022).
How to earn points and miles
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to put an end to your relationship with your debit card.
By using a debit card, you’re essentially throwing money out the window. Instead of earning valuable points and miles you could be squirreling away for your honeymoon, you’re getting … nothing. Credit cards can help you maximize purchases, save money on travel, upgrade your travel experiences and keep you covered in case of an emergency. That’s right: You can get all that just by switching the payment method for your wedding expenses. With all the money you’re going to drop on the venue, catering and floral arrangements, you could be halfway to the Maldives. More on that later, though.
The key thing you really have to remember — and take seriously — is that you still need to pay all of your bills on time and in full every single month. Don’t just get a credit card, rack up a ton of debt on a four-piece live band and custom invitations and then make minimum payments. Make sure you can actually afford what you’re purchasing because interest sucks away the overall return of your rewards.
There are a few ways to earn points and miles — which I go into more detail with our general Beginner’s Guide — but the major ones are:
- Sign-up bonuses/welcome offers
- Shopping portals
- Purchasing and traveling (flying and staying)
Most wedding expenses are likely to fall outside of common spending categories and shopping portal bonuses. But let’s dig into how you can use sign-up bonuses and some bonus categories to rack up enough points to fund at least a portion of your honeymoon.
Sign-up bonuses or welcome offers will be a key part of your strategy while planning your honeymoon. When you apply for a new credit card, issuers will oftentimes offer a certain amount of points or miles if you hit a spending threshold within a specific time period. These offers can be worth more than $1,000 when you play your cards right (pun most certainly intended)!
Think about it this way: A live wedding band costs $3,700 on average, as we talked about earlier. Let’s say you apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express card and put the cost of the band, as well as $2,000 for the florist on it all within the first six months. Mazel tov! You’ve hit the minimum spend requirement ($5,000 in the first six months) to earn the 75,000-point welcome offer — worth $1,500 according to TPG’s most recent valuations. Those points can be redeemed by transferring to an amazing lineup of partners so you can save money on your honeymoon flights and hotel bookings.
So, you and your partner could apply for two (or more, depending on how long your engagement is) credit cards and feasibly use wedding expenses to rack up enough points and miles across different credit cards to save a lot of money on your honeymoon expenses.
For example, you could use the welcome bonus on Amex Platinum to transfer to an airline to cover your flights. If your fiancé applied for a Hilton credit card, you can use the welcome bonus earned on that card to book at least part of your hotel stay. That alone could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your honeymoon — all while giving you access to perks like elite status and more, depending on the cardholder benefits.
Bonus category spending
Depending on where you’re having your wedding, you may even be able to get bonus points on the whole shebang. How, you may ask? Well, if your wedding is at a hotel, you’re in luck. The entire purchase might code as travel on your statement, meaning you’ll want to put the spend on a credit card that earns you bonus points on travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x). Depending on the brand, you might also get rewarded with bonus points from the hotel for your sizable purchase.
Similarly, if you’re hosting your wedding at a catering hall, you’ll want to pay for it all with a card that earns you bonus points on dining. We’d recommend the American Express® Gold Card (4x) or the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x).
And that live band we keep mentioning? We have some tricks up our sleeve here, too. We recommend the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, since you earn 2x miles on all purchases. Or, if you want to bank cash back to use on the non-travel expenses of your honeymoon, try the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns 4% back on dining and entertainment. For more on this, check out our guide for the best cards for entertainment spending. Of course, this all comes down to how your purchase codes with your credit card, so if there’s a way to do a smaller test charge (say, a down payment), before deciding which card to use for the main bill, that’s ideal. The information for the Capital One Savor 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.
And keep in mind for all wedding spending that credit cards issue points and miles based on when the expenses post. So if your wedding purchases won’t go through until your actual wedding date, you may not have the points and miles ahead of time to book a honeymoon that leaves the day or week after your actual wedding day. If your wedding spending includes down payment purchases or up-front spending, however, those expenses will likely post early enough for you to use those points and miles to book your trip.
Best credit cards for your honeymoon
Now, let’s talk a bit about the cards you should be using to plan the honeymoon of a lifetime, no matter where in the world you want to go.
There are three main types of travel credit cards we’ll talk about today: transferable points cards, cobranded airline cards and cobranded hotel cards. Cards that earn transferable points (think: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) will earn rewards across a wide range of purchases that can then be transferred to partners. Generally, the best cards that earn transferable points also have a way for you to redeem for a fixed-value as well, but transferring can help you get the most out of your points. Cobranded airline and hotel cards will earn rewards for a specific brand’s loyalty program (think: Marriott Bonvoy Points or Delta SkyMiles)
But, not all cards are created equal. You’ll want to choose the right card for you, which means thinking about the categories you’ll be spending the most on and how you want to redeem those rewards. The good news is that since there are two of you, you can apply for at least two credit cards. Whether you’re both earning points or miles for the same program or focusing on different goals, you can split the wedding expenses and (probably without too much fuss) meet both minimum spending requirements. The result? Two welcome bonuses.
The key here is to decide where you want to go first, and then apply for credit cards with points you’ll be able to use to get there. Here are a few cards we highly recommend, along with links to our guides that can help you research further.
If you want to earn easy-to-use rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Why it’s a great choice: The Capital One Venture is one of our all-time favorite credit cards to use on weddings and honeymoons because of its flexibility. You’ll earn 2x on every purchase no matter the category, meaning you could “double-dip” and use spending to earn the welcome bonus while also earning 2x on all of those purchases. You can then use those miles at a 1 cent value to offset travel expenses as statement credits for up to 90 days after each purchase (perfect if you need to purchase your flights or hotel stays before your rewards technically post to your account), or you can transfer them to partners.
If you want flexible rewards you can use for both hotels and airfare: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card membership — worth $750 when you book for travel through the Chase portal or up to $1,200 when you use transfer partners according to TPG valuations
Why it’s a great choice: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has one of the best sign-up bonuses for any card that only charges a $95 annual fee. And Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the best rewards currencies you can earn — both as a beginner and expert in the world of points and miles. You’ll earn across a wide range of travel and dining purchases, and those rewards can be redeemed through the Chase portal at 1.25 cents each, or by transferring to a number of hotel and airline partners (including United and Hyatt).
If you want luxury perks for your travels: The Platinum Card® From American Express
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first six months of card membership
Why it’s a great choice: Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards are some of the most valuable transferable currencies you can earn. You’ll be able to transfer those points to an impressive list of transfer partners, including Hilton, Marriott and Delta. But the real standout for this card is the extensive array of travel perks that come with the card: elite status with Marriott and Hilton, unrivaled lounge access, a number of annual statement credits and much more. This card can help you rack up the points you need for your honeymoon while also giving you access to benefits that can really help you upgrade your overall experience.
If you want rewards for a specific hotel or airline: Cobranded credit cards
Now let’s talk a little about airlines and hotels, which requires another layer of strategy. Having a specific trip or destination in mind can help you accumulate the points and miles you need to get there. That’s exactly why the best card (or cards) for every person depends entirely on your personal travel goals — and common spending categories.
If there’s a certain hotel you want to stay at or a flight you’ve been dreaming of experiencing (Singapore Suites! Qsuite! St. Regis Maldives!) you’ll want to get a card that will either earn you points with the airline or hotel brand, or can be transferred to the right loyalty program or alliance.
Let’s say, for example, you want to fly in Delta One Suites to Tokyo (HND) and stay at the Conrad. You’d likely want to get either a Delta cobranded credit card, where you’ll earn bonus miles on Delta flights, in addition to bonus SkyMiles for signing up, or an American Express Membership Rewards credit card, since you can transfer the points you earn on it to Delta.
You’d also likely want to get a Hilton credit card, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, so you can redeem Hilton Honors points for a stay at the Conrad. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
Welcome bonuses alone can add up quickly. For example, the Hilton Surpass Card is currently offering 150,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after your first purchase within your first three months of account opening. Those 150,000 points — not to mention whatever you spent to earn them — would put you close to two free award nights at the Conrad in Tokyo.
Where to go on your honeymoon
The best destinations for your honeymoon will depend on what time of the year you’re planning on traveling. I mean, you don’t want to end up in Thailand during the rainy season, do you? No matter which destination(s) you’re eyeing, be sure to do some research first.
On that note, you might want to consider doing a minimoon before you go on your actual honeymoon, too. This is a good option especially if the month you want your wedding isn’t the best month to go on your honeymoon. Plus, it gives you another chance to rack up more valuable points and miles.
We rounded up some of our all-time favorite honeymoon destinations, plus how to get there and stay there on points and miles, just to get you started.
We know: You and everyone else wants to go to the Maldives. With views like these, we can’t say we blame you.
Because of its remote location and clutch of ultra-luxurious overwater bungalows and villas, the Maldives are often considered a once-in-a-lifetime trip. This, my virtual friends, is where points and miles come in. With resorts such as The St. Regis, Park Hyatt and Conrad Maldives, your luxury points redemption choices here are some of the best you’ll find. Just keep in mind that hotel and resort transfer fees from Male International Airport (MLE) can add up pretty quickly, so plan accordingly. It’s a journey and a half to get here, but once you arrive, we have a feeling you’ll never want to leave.
There is a monsoon season in the Maldives, so again, research the best times of the year to visit the Maldives, or be ready for lots of cozy days indoors while rain falls on your overwater villa.
Ask anyone who’s been to Japan before and they’ll tell you how much they absolutely love it there (yours truly included). From the cuisine to the culture, your experience in Japan will be pretty much unparalleled. It’s also a solid strategy to fly to a city like Tokyo first, and then make your way to more remote cities and countries in Asia: Here’s how to do it right.
You don’t need to fly all the way to arguably one of the most remote places on Earth to have an epic honeymoon — and you don’t have to take the easy way out by going to the Caribbean, either (although you can’t go wrong with that!).
French Polynesia is a great middle-ground between the two, and the tropical archipelago comprises some of the most sought-after destinations: Tahiti, Bora Bora and Mo’orea. No matter which island you have your sights set on, you’ll have to fly into Faa’a International Airport (PPT). We rounded up the best ways to get to Tahiti on points and miles here.
And, if you’re deciding between the two latter islands, we call that a good problem to have (and put together a handy guide to choosing between Bora Bora and Mo’orea explaining how to do just that).
No matter where you end up in Hawaii, you’re in for a treat. It’s pretty much the quintessential honeymoon destination. And, just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Hawaii is always worth it. Consider some (brief) sightseeing in Honolulu before heading to the North Shore of Oahu, or flying directly to the lush beaches of Maui or rugged cliffs of Kauai. There’s something for every honeymooning couple here.
If you’ve been (smartly) racking up those points, consider a stay at the Andaz Maui or Grand Wailea. And as for your flights? We’re glad you asked. These are the best ways to get to Hawaii on points and miles.
With so many islands in the Caribbean to choose from, you might be wondering how to narrow it all down.
The good news is, you might not even have to (read: island hopping). Some of our personal favorite points-friendly properties for couples are the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman and the previously mentioned Park Hyatt St. Kitts — but with options like these, you can’t really go wrong.
We know so many of you have Bali on your honeymoon list, and for good reason. While it’s a hop, skip and a jump to get there, we promise it’s so worthwhile. And there are also strategies you can employ to minimize your travel time to get there (in style, of course). If Bali isn’t your cup of tea but your heart’s set on Indonesia, these 27 beautiful islands should do the trick.
We won’t lie to you and say planning your honeymoon will be a piece of (wedding) cake — but with these tricks up your sleeves, it’s sure to be easier than planning your guest list. And as for the rest of your impending nuptials? You’re on your own for that.
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.
Featured image by wundervisuals/Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
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