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- I decided to plan a last-minute vacation, and to make it affordable, I’m using credit card rewards points.
- It was cheaper to book hotels through third-party sites, but I’m using points to get cash back.
- While it’s a little more work to use points for things like meals, gift cards are making it easier.
A few weeks ago, I decided to plan a last-minute vacation. I’ve been strict with my finances lately and have focused more on sticking to a budget than having fun. I wanted to plan a week-long, multi-city getaway for my partner and me in California. But after chatting through the details, we realized that between the flights, rental cars, and hotel stays, this trip would cost us over $3,000. Paying for the trip in cash would strain our finances, so instead, we decided to sit down and figure out unique ways to redeem our credit card points to pay for this vacation.
I had over 300,000 points on my credit card, so we decided to see how to best use those points first. In addition to first using credit card points to pay for our flights, here are the three ways we figured out how to afford this trip without spending more than a few hundred dollars.
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1. Cover travel purchases that I couldn’t redeem points for
Some travel reward credit cards have their own portal where you can book hotel stays using your credit card points. When I browsed the portal for my credit card, I noticed that I was able to get better hotel deals using third-party booking sites like Hotels.com or Booking.com. Since I wanted to use points instead of cash, I found that after I booked the hotel stays using my credit card, I was able to cover purchases using my credit card points.
For example, one hotel I booked was $418. I was able to use a little over 40,000 points to cover that stay and get my cash back as a statement credit. I also saw that I would be able to do the same for any ride shares booked during the trip, which could save us hundreds of dollars along the way.
2. Redeem for in-person experiences
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to take a vacation was to get out of my comfort zone and do interesting things. However, when I started to scope out different events, I realized that sporting events, concerts, and festivals were all going to cost hundreds of dollars for just two tickets.
When I was browsing my credit card’s reward portal I noticed there was a section where you could redeem points for experiences.
I could get two tickets for an LA Dodgers game for 16,000 points and two tickets for a concert for 17,750. Redeeming points for these experiences would save us over $300.
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3. Use points for gift cards for our other travel expenses
The final part of the vacation I was eager to find a way to cover was all the pop-up expenses along the way, from meals at restaurants to the cost of gas when we rent a car.
That’s when I realized that I could redeem points for gift cards to use on the trip. For example, I could use points for an ExxonMobil gas gift card, a Dunkin’ gift card, and a gift card at The Cheesecake Factory, which is always a fun place to eat on vacation.
However, one thing I learned was that most of these gift cards are sent in the mail. It is important to plan ahead and grab these at least three to four weeks before heading out on vacation to ensure they arrive on time.
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