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The Caribbean is filled with family-friendly hotels, and while there are tons of options where you could use your hard-earned hotel points, there also are plenty of pretty awesome resorts that aren’t affiliated with a major hotel chain’s loyalty program. You might be concerned that if you are staying at a nonchain hotel you would be blocked from benefiting from those points — but you would be wrong. While you probably won’t be able to cash in on your Hilton, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy or Wyndham points at these types of properties, there are still many other ways to use your points and miles to significantly reduce your hotel cost, and possibly even offset it entirely.
A useful way to cover travel costs without cashing in your traditional hotel and airline miles in the Caribbean — or anywhere else — is by accruing flexible reward points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankyYou® Rewards, Capital One points or Barclaycard Arrival miles. Although all of these programs work slightly differently, the one thing they have in common is that they allow you to redeem your points or miles to stay at almost any hotel you’d like.
For example, the Dominican Republic’s Paradisus properties in both Punta Cana and Palma Real are two top recommended, all-inclusive hotels for families. Not only that, the brand-new Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real Golf & Spa Resort just opened its doors and features an amazing waterpark and swim-up suites. The previously existing Reserve part of the property has been a hit among families, so the new Grand is also bound to be popular in 2019. This is the perfect example of a place where you can book the resort you want and use your flexible hotel points to pay for it.
Redeem Your Points Through a Travel Portal
Many credit cards have associated travel portals where you can redeem your points for free hotel nights. Although this might not be best bang for your buck when it comes to redeeming flexible points, it will allow your family to relax in luxury during your Caribbean vacation. Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards are two popular travel portals. While American Express also has its own portal where you can use your Membership Rewards points, you’ll redeem your points for about a third of what they’re worth for hotel stays, so it is definitely not a recommended way to use those points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to redeem a free night hotel stay. Through the portal, you can search for a property and see the number of points required to book a free stay. The site is powered by Expedia, so only properties that partner will Expedia will appear. If Expedia is having a sale on a particular hotel, you’ll see that sale price transferred over to the Chase travel portal.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points have a fixed value when they are redeemed through the travel portal, although the value is tied to the credit card you have:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Points are worth 1.5 cents per point
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Points are worth 1.25 cents per point
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Points are worth 1.25 cents per point
- Chase Freedom: Points are worth 1 cent per point
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Points are worth 1 cent per point
- Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card: Points are worth 1 cent per point
- Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Points are worth 1 cent per point
If you have accrued points from multiple credit cards, you’ll want to transfer your points into the highest redemption card before redeeming them. For example, if you have both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, first transfer all your points from the Chase Freedom Unlimited into the Chase Sapphire Reserve account, so you can then redeem your points at the higher 1.5 cent per point value. (Keep in mind, though, that TPG values Chase Ultimate Reward points at a slightly higher 2 cents per point valuation when transferring your points to partner travel programs.)
Citi ThankYou Rewards
Like Chase, Citi also has its own portal called the Citi ThankYou Travel Center where you can use your points toward a free hotel room. There are actually many different Citi credit cards that will earn ThankYou Rewards points where every point is worth 1 cent toward a hotel reservation:
- Citi Prestige Card
- Citi Premier Card
- Citi ThankYou Preferred Card (no longer available for sign-up)
- Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students (no longer available for sign-up)
- AT&T Access Card from Citi
If you have the Citi Prestige Card or Citi ThankYou Premier Card, you’ll find that you might be better off transferring your points to one of Citi’s travel partners instead to get a higher valuation. But if your end goal is to relax on the beach in the Caribbean, then free is free.
One of the best perks of the Citi Prestige Card is that you’ll receive your fourth night free on both paid and point reservations. When using your Citi ThankYou points, you’ll have to book through the portal, which will ultimately give your points a value of 1.33 cents per point. This means the sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months for this card is worth $665 when used to book a fourth night free stay. Being able to combine the fourth night free plus points for a family Caribbean vacation is a huge win in my book. (In September, the fourth night free benefit will be restricted to twice per calendar year, so plan accordingly.)
Wipe Away Your Travel Purchase
Another way to redeem your credit card points to stay for free in the Caribbean — or any place else you want to go — is to use points you’ve earned from Capital One or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. With both of these programs, you’ll first book your desired hotel and then use your points at a fixed rate to essentially wipe away the charge from your statement. This method allows you to take advantage of any discounts such as AAA or promotions advertised directly by the hotel. You could even use a third-party booking site or travel vacation site, such as Expedia, JetBlue Vacations or CheapCaribbean.com, to get the best deal possible. Then, once the charge posts, you can apply your existing points to “pay off” the purchase.
Three of the best credit cards that allow you to wipe away your travel-coded purchases are the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One Spark Miles for Business and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
Capital One Miles
Redeeming Capital One miles is extremely easy with its Purchase Eraser tool. All you have to do is book your hotel stay and in your Capital One account use the “redeem rewards” option, then review all eligible travel charges that have hit your account within the past 90 days. The best part about using these miles is that you can redeem for a partial credit (at least 2,500 miles needed). So even if you don’t have all the miles required to redeem for your entire hotel reservation, you can at least use the ones you do have to reduce the trip cost. Once you redeem your miles, you’ll see the equivalent amount awarded as a statement credit to your account within two to three business days. With both the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, you earn 2x miles per dollar spent and you redeem at a fixed rate where 1 mile equals a penny toward travel. This essentially means you are earning a flat 2% return toward travel on every purchase you make.
Best of all, if you have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn 10x miles by booking through Hotels.com/Venture and paying with your card. You can then maximize the points earned and still redeem your miles for your Hotels.com purchase. Let’s say you’re making a hotel reservation in the Caribbean that costs $1,000 through Hotels.com: Although it will require you to redeem 100,000 Capital One points to essentially erase the entire cost, you’ll earn an extra 10,000 bonus miles from the Capital One/Hotels.com partnership.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Miles
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard works similarly to the two Capital One cards mentioned above — you earn the same 2x miles per dollar spent and redeem your miles at the same 1 mile per cent rate. To redeem your miles to cover a relaxing hotel stay, all you have to do is use your card to book your hotel — then you then have 120 days to go into your account to actually redeem your miles to cover the reservation. Since you redeem your miles at a fixed redemption, the more expensive the hotel, the more miles it will require. For example, if a four-night stay costs $1,000, prepare to redeem 100,000 miles. But one thing to know with these miles is that — unlike with Capital One cards — you must have the full amount of miles to redeem for a particular charge. If you only have 75,000 miles in your account and you’re looking at a transaction that requires 100,000 miles, you will not be able to redeem your banked miles for that hotel reservation.
One benefit of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is that you’ll receive 5% of your redeemed miles back, so if you redeem 100,000 miles, it will give you 5,000 miles back into your account to use toward a future redemption. Once you take this rebate into account, it means you are earning about a 2.11% return toward travel on all of your purchases.
Staying at a nonchain hotel for free in the Caribbean is absolutely possible with points and miles — there is no need to redeem your traditional hotel points. And while the Caribbean is one of my family’s favorite places to vacation, you can actually use the options described above for any nonchain hotel around the world. This system gives you the flexibility to stay where you want without needing to worry about point availability. It can also allow your family to grab some good deals using third-party sites and discount codes. A good deal + using points = an 100% amazing vacation!
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