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- Taking a holiday trip is a great way to maximize your credit card points and hotel certificates.
- I redeemed two Hilton free night certificates and 125,000 Hyatt points for a week in Cabo San Lucas.
- Those seven nights would have cost $12,240.90 had I paid cash.
- Read Insider’s guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.
Before 2020, I’d gone to Mexico over the holidays using points and miles for the last several years. Because it’s considered high season, cash prices are always through the roof, making it the perfect time to squeeze maximum value out of my hotel points, airline miles, and free night certificates.
Unfortunately, in 2020, I had to settle for turning up the heat in my apartment, putting a beach towel down on my pull-out couch, bringing up ocean sounds on YouTube, and making margaritas at home. So as soon as I got vaccinated against COVID-19, I dove into putting together my annual itinerary for the end of December.
Using Hilton credit card free night certificates and Chase Ultimate Rewards points I’d saved up during the pandemic, I booked seven nights in Cabo San Lucas that in cash would have cost $12,240.90. Here’s how I did it.
2 nights at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal
15.74% to 24.74% variable APR on purchases
150,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening
I have the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
, which delivers a free weekend night certificate each year shortly after I pay my annual fee (See Review). While you usually only have a year to put the certificates to use, because of the pandemic, Hilton extended their expiration dates and also opened them up for use any night of the week.
Because of those moves, I was able to use the certificates I collected in 2020 and 2021 to book a two-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal — one of the most expensive properties in Hilton’s portfolio whether you’re using cash or points. At the time I booked, a two-night stay over my dates would have set me back 240,000 Honors points or a whopping $5,145.60 including taxes and fees.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card will continue to save me money when I arrive at the property, too. It comes with a $250 resort credit each year that reimburses you for charges you make at eligible resorts, including food and drinks on property. The card also confers top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status, meaning my fiancé and I will both get free breakfast each morning.
5 nights at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel
Because of the high award rates (and low availability) at the Waldorf, I turned to The Cape, a Thompson Hotel to book the rest of my stay in Cabo. The Thompson Hotels lineup sits under the Hyatt umbrella, meaning you can use World of Hyatt points to book award stays there. The Cape is a Category 6 property, meaning you can book a standard room for just 25,000 points per night.
At the time I booked, I didn’t have enough Hyatt points in my account to cover my intended five-night stay, so I turned my stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. That stash grew considerably during the pandemic thanks to cards including the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which I used to earn 3x points per dollar on takeout and delivery, so I could easily top off my Hyatt account with the remainder of the 125,000 points required to complete the booking.
In cash, the stay would have come to $7,095.30 including taxes and fees — out of my budget, to say the least!
Later on, a couple of friends decided to think about joining us for this part of the trip, and in order to accrue the requisite points, one of them opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which is currently offering 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
3 Free Nights (valued up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10x total points per $1 spent on up to $2,500 in combined purchases in select categories within your first 6 months
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening