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How I'm saving $4,600 with points and certificates this Memorial Day

April 30, 2021
12 min read
Santa Monica California
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Memorial Day is coming up fast, so my girlfriend and I spent last weekend scrambling to come up with an itinerary and I. We tossed around a handful of destinations and settled on Los Angeles and Houston. LA for vacation, Houston to visit friends on the way home to New York City.

As you'd expect, however, LA isn't cheap Memorial Day weekend or the week after. So, we turned to our growing points balances for help in reducing the overall cost of the trip. This ended up saving us over $4,600 after redeeming points, miles free night certificates and other credit earned with credit cards.

Here, I'll show you how we booked our trip from New York to LA and Houston with points and miles. Use this article as inspiration for booking your own points-fueled domestic trip this year.

Let's get started!

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Flights: $2,912 saved

American Airlines Business Class on Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

This is my girlfriend's first major vacation since the start of the pandemic, so I wanted to make it special. My requirements are flying a premium cabin from New York to LA. Economy class is OK for the other flights and we're not opposed to using low-cost carriers for short flights if there's a need. Here's a look at what we booked.

New York-JFK to Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX): $2,574 saved

New York City to Los Angeles is one of the longest and most competitive routes in the U.S. Because of this, airlines have upped their game and fly either specially or internationally-configured aircraft on these routes. You'll find American flying its three-cabin A321T, United flying a new 787-10 and select Delta routes with true Delta One business class. Plus, JetBlue's Mint business class is on nearly all transcontinental routes from NYC.

All four of these products are great, so I started pricing out each option. Unfortunately, dynamic pricing made Delta and JetBlue incredibly expensive at over 50,000 miles one-way per person in business class. To make matters worse, American and United didn't have award space, so I had to get creative.

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While not the ideal situation by any means, we ended up booking a business class flight from Miami (MIA) to Los Angeles (LAX). Flights on this route are operated by an American Boeing 777-300ER equipped with lie-flat seats, so it's hard to complain about comfort. This Web Special award cost just 21,000 AAdvantage miles per person one-way.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

I wasn't super stoked on the idea of a short layover, however, so we booked a cheap Frontier Airlines flight down to Miami the night before. This gives us a Friday night in Miami before continuing to Los Angeles the following afternoon. We couldn't build the New York to Miami flight into our LA to Miami award because there was no award space.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Sure, we could've burned more miles or paid cash to fly directly from New York to LA, but this option is actually pretty fun after some consideration. My girlfriend has never been to Miami before, and — after months of being cooped up at home — exploring another city for a day isn't a bad thing by any means. Consider doing the same if your travel plans are flexible and you can't find award space on a hard-to-book route.

The Miami to LA flight cost $1,287 per person in business class, so we saved a total of $2,574. This gave us 6.13 cents per point in value for our redemption. Not too bad if you ask me.

Want to stock up on American miles? Consider applying for one of these credit cards:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases. ($450 annual fee)
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: For a limited time earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,500 on purchases in the first four months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant, and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x mile elsewhere. ($99 annual fee, waived the first year)
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months)

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

Los Angeles to Houston (IAH): $338 saved

Delta's A220 aircraft arriving for service. (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Los Angeles to Houston was super easy to book. There's no shortage of flights on this route, and we opted to use 12,500 Delta SkyMiles per person to book an evening flight in Main Cabin economy. The cash flight cost $169 per person, so the redemption yielded 1.30 cents per point in value after taxes. I'd say this is a solid redemption for SkyMiles — especially since Delta award tickets earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars, Miles and Segments through the end of the year.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

It's not the most luxurious flight, but it is operated by Delta's A220 aircraft. This is one of my favorite planes in the sky, and I'm excited to fly it again.

You can earn Delta SkyMiles with these credit cards:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.

Related: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Houston to New York City: cash

Delta first class on its A220-300 aircraft. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, there was no great award space available from Houston to New York, so we used Delta flight credits from a canceled flight to book paid tickets. We booked paid first-class tickets, which cost just $125 more than Main Cabin per person, and it helped us both use the entirety of our flight credit.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Related: How I leveraged credit card perks to save almost $800 on a trip to Chicago and Boston

Hotels: $1,693 saved

Long Beach, California. (Photo by Christian Tjernagel /

Another huge part of this trip is hotels. We have one night in Miami to account for, two hotels in LA and one in Houston. We're planning to spend three nights visiting friends in Long Beach and another three nights in Santa Monica when in LA. Then, we'll spend two nights in Houston.

Here's how we booked our hotels.

Hotel in Miami: $313 saved

We'll have roughly 24 hours in Miami, so I looked for a place near the airport but not at the airport. I wanted a place where we could be in the city but close to the airport when we fly to LA the following afternoon. Thankfully, Miami airport isn't far from downtown, so this was an easy feat.

I booked us a night at the AC Hotel Miami Midtown using a 35,000-point Marriott free night certificate. It's nearby the Wynwood neighborhood — my favorite in Miami — and an easy trek to/from the airport. Further, the cash rate was $313 after taxes and fees, so it was an excellent use of the certificate. I earned this certificate with the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, so the stay more than offsets its annual fee.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

Here are a few great credit cards you can use to earn Marriott points:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months of account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 125,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Hotels in Long Beach, California: $708 saved

Long Beach is our first stop in California. We'll stay there for three nights when visiting friends in the area. We ended up booking the Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach for 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night. My girlfriend transferred 36,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt points to cover the booking.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt)

The same booking would have cost $708.13 after-tax, so we're getting just under 2 cents per point in value. This isn't the world's best redemption but still saves a huge out-of-pocket expense. Plus, the property's location is great and puts us near where our friends live.

You can earn Hyatt points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. You'll earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, you can earn up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.

Related: How to redeem points with the World of Hyatt program

Hotels in Santa Monica, California: $300 saved

We're also spending three nights in the Santa Monica area before heading to Houston. Santa Monica and Venice Beach are my favorite places in Southern California. At the same time, hotels are expensive in Santa Monica from both a points and cash perspective, so I had to get creative.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott)

Another great part of LA — Marina Del Rey — is located just down the coast from Santa Monica. Plus, prices there are a lot more reasonable. I booked three nights at the Marriott Marina Del Rey for $688 after taxes with the AAA Hot Deals rate. .

Related: Promotions that will make your next hotel stay more rewarding

Hotels in Houston, Texas: $372 saved

Houston, Texas (Sean Pavone /

We're visiting Houston to see friends who are also visiting the city over Memorial Day. They're staying downtown, so we tried to pick a property nearby.

In the end, we decided to book the Hyatt Regency Houston for two nights by transferring Chase points to World of Hyatt. This property costs just 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night. The same two-night stay cost $372.06 after-tax, so we got a huge 4.6 cents per point in value. This is an excellent redemption value for both Hyatt and Chase point.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt)

Related: What is World of Hyatt elite status worth in 2021?

Bottom line

In the end, we saved $4,605 by redeeming 119,000 points and miles, one hotel certificate and $300 in hotel credits from a credit card. This made an otherwise impossible trip feasible and let us travel in style. This reminds me just how powerful points and miles are for domestic travel and makes me even more excited for international travel to resume soon.

Safe travels!

Feature photo of Santa Monica by Natalia Macheda /

Featured image by (Photo by Natalia Macheda /
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.