How I Saved $7,500 on Hotels During a Trip to New York

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  • I used travel rewards points to book two hotels in New York City.
  • By paying with points, I ended up saving about $7,500.
  • Using travel credit cards is a great way to earn rewards and save on big travel costs.

My travel rewards paid off in a big way when booking expensive hotels.

In September, my wife and I spent 10 days in New York City. It was our first time there, and based on everything I'd heard, I figured it was going to be expensive. I was right to think so -- when I started shopping around for hotels, even the more affordable options cost $400 to $500 per night, plus tax.

Fortunately, I had a sizable stack of points I earned using my travel credit cards. I got to work sorting through different options, and I ended up booking two hotels for five nights apiece, saving nearly $7,500 by paying with rewards. To show you how to do the same, I'm going to explain exactly how I did it.

Making a plan

Whenever I'm trying to book travel using rewards, the first thing I do is look at what kind of rewards I have available that could help. In this case, I had points in two rewards programs that would work for booking hotels:

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  • Over 200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • About 140,000 Hilton Honors points

The Chase Ultimate Rewards points aren't tied to a hotel, but they're transferable to some hotel loyalty programs. One transfer option in particular that I like is the World of Hyatt program. Hyatt hotels often have great deals when you book with points, so transferring Chase points to Hyatt is a way to get a high value for your rewards.

I also wanted to use my Hilton Honors points, but I knew I wasn't going to have enough points to cover many nights. However, Hilton was running a promotion where you could get a bonus when buying points, which could help me bridge the gap. I also have Hilton elite status through my Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, so on standard reward stays, I could get a fifth night free. That means I'd only need enough points to cover four nights.

Based on my rewards options with my credit cards, I knew the hotel brands I'd go with. Next, I went to the Hyatt and Hilton websites to look at which hotels they had available. Here's what I booked.

Thompson Central Park New York ($909 per night)

Thompson Central Park New York is a four-star hotel located blocks away from, you guessed it, Central Park. It's a fantastic location if you want to be in Manhattan. The hotel is also designed well, although I wasn't exactly blown away by the standard room I booked, which didn't even have a coffee maker.

Nights cost an average of $909 for the dates I wanted, before tax. Plus, there was the always-annoying "daily destination fee" of $34.86. But rooms were also available for just 29,000 points per night. To make it even better, you don't pay taxes or Hyatt's daily destination fee when you book with points.

I transferred 145,000 Ultimate Rewards points to the World of Hyatt program and reserved a room for five nights. That means my points saved me:

  • $4,545 for the stay (five nights at $909 per night)
  • $889 in taxes
  • $200 in daily destination fees ($34.86 per night for five nights, plus tax)

Total savings: $5,634

Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square South ($450 per night)

Hampton Inn is a Hilton brand, and it has several hotels around Times Square. I chose this one because it had the nicest looking room, only to later discover that it looked a whole lot better in the pictures.

Nights cost an average of $450 or 70,000 points per night. I only had about 140,000 points, which put me three nights short.

Normally, I don't like buying points, but I did the math and realized it was the best deal. I spent $780 and, with a Hilton bonus offer, I received 140,400 points. With that purchase, I had the 280,000 points I needed to cover four nights. That was enough, since Hilton elite status allowed me to book a five-night stay and get the fifth night free.

In total, I spent $780 to buy those points, which then saved me:

  • $2,250 for the stay (five nights at $450 per night)
  • $351 in taxes and fees on the stay

Total savings: $1,821

The grand total: $7,455

Being able to save so much money on travel is exactly why I spend time figuring out how to maximize credit card rewards. By getting the most expensive part of our trip for free, my wife and I could spend more on experiences in New York, without worrying about going over budget.

If you want to earn more travel points and save on future trips, here are the methods that have helped me the most:

  • Get credit cards with big sign-up bonuses. These bonus offers are how I've earned most of my points.
  • Use rewards credit cards as much as possible. I always pay with a credit card, unless there's an extra fee, to earn rewards on every purchase.
  • Always pay the full balance on your credit card statement. It's important to avoid interest charges, as these could cost you more than you earn in rewards.

Considering it could cost more to travel in 2023, it's the perfect time to start stocking up on travel points. You'll be glad you did when you're able to get hotels, airfare, or other costly travel expenses free of charge.

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