How I’m saving $4,600 with points and certificates this Memorial Day
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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
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.
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.
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.
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 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x mile elsewhere. ($450 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three 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 Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, 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.
Los Angeles to Houston (IAH): $338 saved
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.
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 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on and up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within your first 3 months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
Houston to New York City: cash
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.
Hotels: $1,693 saved
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.
Here are a few great credit cards you can use to earn Marriott points:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Terms apply.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 50,000 Marriott points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
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.
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.
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.
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. Plus, I’ll pay with my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and use the up to $300 annual Marriott statement to offset the cost (and cover most of the annual fee in the process).
Hotels in Houston, Texas: $372 saved
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.
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.
Feature photo of Santa Monica by Natalia Macheda / Shutterstock.com
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