5 Nights in Cancun on Points

I am by no means a travel hacking professional, but I am trying to learn more and move past being an amateur. I’ve probably opened a new credit card once every six to twelve months or so for the past few years, but haven’t been that strategic about it.

I have a friend (let’s call him Mike) who I would classify as a semi-professional travel hacker / credit card churner and he’s been egging me on to get more serious about it like him. I have obliged somewhat, but when I start mentioning FIRE to him, he doesn’t return the favor.

Mike went to the brand new Hyatt Ziva Cancun all-inclusive resort right when it opened at the beginning of 2016. He was only there two nights but couldn’t stop raving about it. He told me “YOU HAVE TO GO!” I brushed him off for a while, but then started getting the vacation itch. The girlfriend and I were trying to think of what we wanted to do next for vacation. Europe was high on the list and we talked about it for a couple of months. We discussed the different destinations and possibility of visiting some friends over there. But in the end schedules didn’t work out and we decided to put this off until second half of 2017 most likely.

Then I started putting my travel hacking hat on. I started inquiring with Mike and reading some travel blogs. It seemed that Hyatt was offering a smoking deal for it’s Chase credit card. If you signed up for the card you received a $50 statement credit along with two free nights at ANY Hyatt property once you spent $1,000 in the first three months. The annual fee is waved for the first year, and then $75 per year after that. On every anniversary of receiving the card, you also receive a free stay (some restrictions) which will easily offset the $75 fee. This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I discussed with my girlfriend and she agreed, so then we both applied for the card.

Once we received the cards and both spent the $1,000 (we just did this with our normal spend), we were armed with a total of four free award nights. After doing some more research and talking to Mike, we were super pumped about booking the Hyatt Ziva in Cancun. I thought “if we’re flying down to Mexico, let’s try to stay another night.” So with a little more research I found out booking a 5th night was only 25,000 Hyatt points. I had 11,000 from work travel, my girlfriend had 5,000, so I only needed to come up with 9,000 more. Luckily Hyatt is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Sapphire card is my everyday card so transferring over 9,000 for an extra night was nothing!

I was a little nervous how much of a pain booking it would be since we were using my two nights, my girlfriend’s two nights, and 25,000 in points. I called with both of our Hyatt Passport numbers and booking it was easy peasy. It took less than 10 minutes. At the end of booking the reservation the Hyatt representative said “you know… if you booked this with cash it would have cost about $3,200!” I also have Hyatt status so she said there was a good possibility we would be upgraded. As a reminder this place looks like the bee’s knees and is all-inclusive.

Flights were pretty simple as well. We’re traveling in January which is pretty far away so I wanted to book flights that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to change or cancel. When you book with Southwest using points, you can change or cancel your flights with full redemption of points and fees. So we booked two round-trip tickets to Cancun on Southwest for 47,000 Southwest points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards) and $157 on fees. The Points Guy values Southwest points at 1.5 cents each so our flight “cost” us 47,000 x 0.015 + 157 = $862. Since there is no repercussion for canceling these flights, I’m going to be keeping an eye on flights using cash and if we can get a good deal, I’ll save the points for another day.

As you can tell we’re extremely excited for this trip but it’s still far away. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying the summer and having a winter trip to look forward to.

Am I still a travel hacking amateur? Have you used points for a recent vacation? If so, share your story.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of these brands and the blog is not monetized. This story was just too good that I had to share.

43 thoughts on “5 Nights in Cancun on Points

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    That’s a sounds like a great trip and even better first travel hack. We book our summer trip to CA using Southwest point and saved over $2100 on our tickets from NY to CA. We are staying with family so have our lodging covered. Nothing better than travel on the cheap. Enjoy the trip!
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Building a Better NetworkMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      One thing I miss about not being in NYC anymore is the selection of flights! Much more expensive to travel for pleasure now. Sounds like a great trip to CA!

      Reply
  2. The Green Swan

    Nice work! We are amateurs as well but have circulated through about 5 cards. We are going toy stay picking up the pace a bit though. We fly a fair amount back home throughout the year so we’ve gotten done great use out of it in the past. I’ll have to look into the Hyatt card, sounds like a good deal! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Matt @ The Resume Gap

    Very nice! That’s about as affordable as vacation travel gets. We still have those two free Hyatt nights burning a hole in our pocket. They work across all categories (pretty rare), so I’m hoping to save them for something ridiculous like a Park Hyatt in Paris or Tokyo. We just have to get to one of those places before April! Think they’ll mind when we bring in our bag of food and beer from the grocery store? 😉
    Matt @ The Resume Gap recently posted…When Did My Friends Get So Expensive?My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I thought about the Park Hyatt in Paris as well, but then we decided to push Europe to next year. Let me know which one you choose!

      Reply
  4. Leigh

    This is an amazingly simple story! I love it! I sadly can’t convince my boyfriend to do much travel hacking. He was only sold on the Sapphire card a while back because it was metal and amazing, but then I had to convince him he needed to cancel it, which was not the easiest… lol! His credit score isn’t over 760 yet, so I’d rather hold off on him opening any more cards for a bit in case he ends up needing a mortgage in the next couple of years.
    Leigh recently posted…Being financially stable doesn’t make you betterMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Love the Sapphire card. That’s my everyday card. That plus the Freedom are a nice combo to have. As long as my credit score stays above 800 I’ll keep at it.

      Reply
  5. Jeff @ The Lifestyle Accountant

    Sounds like a fun trip you have planned! That’s cool you’re able to get your gf into the credit card action as well. I just got my gf to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and she’s getting more excited about credit cards. Oh and how sweet is savings thousands of dollars on top of that?! I think that means you are officially no longer a travel hacking amateur! haha. And that Hyatt card is a good one to keep around since the anniversary free night is worth the $75 annual fee. Have fun in Cancun!

    Reply
  6. TheMoneyMine

    If you’re an amateur, I don’t know what that makes of me!
    This is great that you’ve been able to make use of those points for a getaway. I have started using the chase Sapphire to collect points and then Amex kept sending me cards with 50,000 points sign-up bonuses until I did sign-up. Looking forward to making use of them.
    Cancun’s always a nice destination!
    TheMoneyMine recently posted…5 Articles that made me smarter this monthMy Profile

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  7. Isaac

    I also got into travel hacking this year and have been pretty excited by the results. I’ve booked flights to and from Punta Cana for 88,000 Chase UR points which would have easily been over $1000 out of pocket. Additionally, our stay at a hotel down there will be free as well, since I’ll be using the Barclays Card’s $400 travel miles back plus other miles I got from the Citi double cash back card before I really got into Travel Hacking and was just putting all my CC purchases on there.

    Also have gotten two different hotel stays this year for free when the out of pocket cost would have been over $500.

    Funny, I also consider myself an amateur who is just getting started with this “hobby”.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You don’t sound like much of an amateur Isaac. Glad you’re getting great use out of your new hobby.

      Reply
  8. Our Next Life

    Nice job! Your trip sounds pretty amazing. 🙂 I’m totally still in points hoarder mode. Got close to a million with United, and just a little less than that with Marriott. Our take is that we can afford to travel now, so should use our cash, and save the points for when we can’t afford to travel otherwise. I know a big devaluation could and likely will happen on both sets of points, but we see these accounts as another investment account that we’ll live off of in early retirement.
    Our Next Life recently posted…Fessing Up to Our Most Cheapskate HabitsMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Holy shmokes! You have a lot of points! You’re like the George Clooney character in the Up in the Air movie 🙂

      Reply
  9. Tawcan

    I’m a Marriott member and through work I’ve accumulated quite a bit of points. Last year we redeemed 4 nights worth of points for 5 night stay at the Marriott hotel in Osaka (they give you one free night when you redeem 4 nights). Because we booked the room during the silver week, for some reason the room was over $600 per night. Even during regular time, the room was over $250 per night. Totally scored there. I think I a Hyatt member, having stayed there a few times but focus mostly on Marriott when I travel for work. Sounds like this Hyatt credit card might be worth looking into, assuming Canadians like me can apply.

    I’m trying to get into travel hacking more… at least try to accumulate some points for later use.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Sounds like a cool trip to Japan! I have some Marriott points from work travel to use as well. Maybe next year!

      Reply
  10. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I wish I had started travel hacking earlier…it’s a little tougher traveling when you got kids =) I’m a big fan of Chase Sapphire or Ink because it gives you flexibility to transfer points. I often find Hyatt to have the best value compared to the points they require. I had a friend go to that Hyatt in Cancun and he raved about it so enjoy!

    Reply
  11. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    Sounds like an awesome trip! We vacationed in Playa del Carmen (a little south of Cancun) right before having kids and we look back on that trip fondly. I think we travel hacked for free flights but paid for the lodging, if I remember correctly. Now that are our kids aren’t babies we are trying to get back to travel hacking for family vacations.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Flights are expensive and then if you add in the little ones – oh baby. I don’t blame you for wanting to get back into travel hacking.

      Reply
  12. Mrs. PIE

    That’s beyond amateur travel hacking, what a trip! Congrats! It’s still astounding to me how generous these free nights are. Mr. PIE and I hit up the Chase Fairmont card for a similar deal. 2 free nights each at any fairmont world wide, a free suite upgrade and $50 each for spa / dinner. The Fairmont folks were just as gracious as Hyatt were for you. We even booked before we had earned the nights, then called back to apply them. It was all so easy even though the free nights were on two different accounts. We’re off to Chateau Frontenac in Quebec with the kids this Christmas. We snuck in for the only 4 nights between Christmas and New Year that weren’t blackout dates!
    Mrs. PIE recently posted…Portfolio Update for Q2 – Our Summer is Sizzling!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Sounds like you’ve had some nice experiences with travel hacking! Enjoy Quebec. I’ve been to Montreal twice but not there. I’m sure it’s very nice sites in the winter (if it snows).

      Reply
  13. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Travel hacking is so awesome. We used an $800 credit for our flights for an upcoming vacation and only had to pay about $200 on top of it. My wife also is going to an out-of-state bachelorette party and we were able to use miles for the flights. It feels great to be able to travel without having to worry as much about the high costs of flights.

    Reply
  14. My Money Design

    Nice score! I’ve been to Cancun several times with the family and it is not cheap, so every little bit helps. I’ve also recently decided to try my hand at travel points and just signed up for the Chase Sapphire card. My goal: Get free flights for our vacation next year.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Chase Sapphire is a great one to start with. Make sure you get the Freedom to pair up with it!

      Reply
  15. Mr Crazy Kicks

    Free vacation! And all inclusive, sounds like some great R&R for the winter break. I think you can qualify yourself as a pro now. We just recently travel hacked our way to Colorado for a road trip. Got the flight and two of the nights on points, then we got lucky on the trip back and earned some travel vouchers. We thought it would cost us $1400, but In the end we ended up ahead $1000.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      R&R vacations are my favorite type! I love Colorado, great job visiting there on the cheap.

      Reply
  16. Miles4Matt

    The Hyatt Ziva is a great place to use your 2 free Hyatt nights! I definitely need to plan a trip there for my wife and I.

    FYI. The way Southwest award tickets work is that they fluctuate along with cash price of tickets. For example, if a flight costs $100, it’ll cost roughly 5,500 miles. Let’s say that same flight drops in price to $75. It’ll now cost roughly 4,000 miles. The great thing about Southwest is that you can “change” your ticket at any point. This means if the flight does drop in price you can “change” your flight and get the difference in points. In the case above, you’d get 1,500 miles credited back to your account. This is one of the great perks about Southwest (even though I hate their boarding process). My wife and I always book our Southwest flights on points pretty far in advance since they are flexible. I re-check our flights whenever Southwest has a sale and see if they’ve dropped in price. I’ve saved quite a bit of money/points this way.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I did know that about SW flights but I don’t check it as regularly as I should – so thanks for the reminder!

      Reply

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