With Christmas coming up, it’s time to start thinking about using your miles to get home for the holidays. So this week our travel challenge will help you be with your loved ones for the most wonderful time of the year for as little money as possible.
Here’s the challenge: Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are in Miami performing in a touring Broadway show, but they want to get up to Vermont to visit their sweethearts, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and experience a White Christmas. Bing has a credit score of 715 and Danny’s only got a 710. Neither of them have a business and neither want one. They each have $1,000 per month of spend. They’ve got to get up to Vermont and each get a hotel room.
As Christmas is pretty soon, they’ll have to act quick with this! We’re assuming Bing and Danny are loyal Frugal Travel Guy readers and got the Starwood Preferred Guest card awhile back and are just looking for an opportunity to use their points – and this Christmas holiday is a great time to use them. So this trip is all about getting miles and points fast so they can get to Vermont in time!
We get Bing and Danny home for the holidays for only $317 each.
BING’S APS: Two cards – Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express
DANNY’S APS: One card – Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express
ITINERARY OVERVIEW: On Christmas Eve, Bing and Danny take Southwest from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Albany, N.Y., where they rent a car from Enterprise and drive up to Manchester, Vt. That night they each get a room at the Equinox Golf Resort and Spa. They stay there through December 26, when they move into the Hampton Inn in Bennington, Vt. On the 28th, they drive back down to Albany and fly south.
TOTAL TRIP VALUE: $2,983.15
HERE’S HOW THEY DO IT:
December 24, 2012 – Round-Trip: Ft. Lauderdale to Albany
Cost: $660 ($330 per ticket)
Method: Rapid Rewards
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card– 52,000 Rapid Rewards points
- Bing receives 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 within three months. He’ll put all of his $1,000 monthly card spend through this card and have Danny put his $1,000 through too to ensure they get their points before Christmas.
- Bing receives another 2,000 for the the $2,000 spend.
Explanation: Time is running out until Christmas, so Bing and Danny work fast to cram their spending in within the first month. Once they get their 52,000 Rapid Rewards points they can book the $660 in Southwest Wanna Get Away fares. These fares go for 60 points per dollar, totaling to 39,600 points. Bing will still have 10,400 points left over.
Out of Pocket Cost: $99 annual card fee
December 24-28, 2012 – Enterprise Car Rental
Method: Out of pocket
Out of Pocket Cost: $186.75
December 24-26, 2012 – The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa
Cost: $1,580.40 ($395.10 per room per night)
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card– 60,000 Starpoints
- Bing received 10,000 Starpoints after his first spend.
- Bing received another 15,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within six months.
- Bing received 5,000 Starpoints for spending $5,000 at one point per dollar.
- Danny received 10,000 Starpoints after his first spend.
- Danny received another 15,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within six months.
- Danny received 5,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 at one point per dollar.
Explanation: Being regular Frugal Travel Guy readers, Bing and Danny each already have their SPG Amex cards and were just waiting for the right time to use them. That time is now! The Equinox in Manchester, Vt., is a Category 5 resort costing 12,000 Starpoints per night. They can each get their own room here for a total of 48,000 points. It should be a beautiful place to spend Christmas morning!
Out of Pocket Cost: $0
December 26-28, 2012 – Hampton Inn Bennington
Method: Hilton HHonors
- Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express– 80,000 HHonors points
- Bing receives 40,000 HHonors points after first spend.
- Danny receives 40,000 HHonors points after first spend.
Explanation: The Amex Hilton Surpass card gives 40,000 points on first use, so Bing and Danny will have 80,000 HHonors points ready to put to good use over their Christmas holiday. There is a snag though: there’s only one Hilton property close by: the Hampton Inn Bennington, a Category 4 hotel with a cost of 30,000 points per room per night. Bing and Danny are 40,000 short, and though there are a couple of Citi Hilton cards they could pick up, they won’t have time to meet the spend. Instead, Bing and Danny can spend 15,000 points per room per night plus $50 per room per night. So for $200 and 60,000 points, they’ve got their rooms. This doesn’t look like a great financial option when you figure in that they each have a $75 annual fee to cover, however they’re paying $350 for something that costs $556. And they’ve each got 10,000 points left, which at a value of 0.6 cents each is worth a combined value of $120. And as they got this bonus without a minimum spend requirement, they’re way ahead in this deal.
Out of Pocket Cost: $350
Vermont happens to have very few chain hotels, so Bing and Danny’s options are limited only to the Equinox and the Hampton Inn. If you’re looking to a couple of free nights, you should also check out the Priority Club Visa which gives 60,000 points after first use.
Watch out for next week’s challenge when we’ll make our way to Aruba!
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49