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.