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by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Sept. 11, 2019
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Travel for free with credit card points.
Credit cards make it easy to have a lavish honeymoon now and pay for it all later. However, coming back home to the reality of credit card debt isn’t a great way to start off your marriage.
Most honeymooners should avoid using credit cards altogether and instead pay for their trip using money they’ve already saved. However, if you want to go on the honeymoon of your dreams without destroying your future with high-interest debt, there is one way to have your cake and eat it too: Pay for your honeymoon with credit card points.
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Travel credit cards reward your spending by offering points and miles that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, cruises, and other travel expenses. You can earn points through everyday spending like groceries and gas, and many travel credit cards offer bonus points for purchases in certain categories, like airfare, hotels, or eating out.
As a rule of thumb, for many general travel credit cards, each point is worth 1 cent in travel purchases. This means that if you have 50,000 points, you can get a $500 plane ticket for free. However, their actual value varies a lot depending on the rewards credit card you’re using and how you redeem your points. Some redemptions will only get you 0.4 cents per point, while others will get you upward of 4 cents per point.
That’s why it’s important to choose the right rewards credit card for your spending habits and travel goals. Decide on where you want to go and what you want to do, and then look into credit cards that offer points you can use to cover those plans. For example, if you want to go to Aruba, look into airlines that fly there and offer low-cost award flights, and then find credit cards with points that can be redeemed with that airline.
Generic travel credit cards that earn points that can be used for a range of travel purchases, rather than limiting you to just one airline or hotel chain, can give you more flexibility. There are also airline or hotel co-branded credit cards, which generally only allow you to redeem your points with that brand and its partners. If you know you’ll be staying with a particular hotel chain, it might be wise to go with their credit card to cover your stay. On the other hand, if you want to be able to pay for an Airbnb or a scuba-diving tour with points, generic travel credit cards are the way to go.
You’ll also want to look for credit cards that reward your spending habits. If you typically spend a lot on restaurants, look for a credit card that gives you extra bonus points for dining out.
You’ll need to plan ahead -- ideally, at least one year in advance -- in order to accumulate enough points for your honeymoon. Jump-start your rewards with a credit card with a big sign-up bonus. These generally give you a lump sum of points, which can be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000, for hitting a spending threshold within a certain period of time. For example, you might get 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
You can rack up points quickly by putting all of your wedding expenses on your credit card. If you’re still in your introductory period, you can double-dip by using your wedding expenses to also meet your minimum spending limit. The key here is to always make sure you pay off your credit card before you end up paying interest. Otherwise you'll end up paying even more for those wedding expenses.
Finally, make sure to book your flight and hotel accommodations well in advance of your honeymoon, as there isn’t always award availability. A travel credit card with generic points may come in handy in this situation because the points are more flexible.
Although you might have your heart set on an extravagant honeymoon, it may not be realistic given your budget. Avoid taking on new debt in order to finance your travels by paying off your rewards credit cards in full every month. The goal is to save you money and take advantage of free travel benefits by using your credit card points -- not to take a “free” trip thanks to your credit card with a plan to worry about the cost later down the line.
Most importantly, if the numbers don’t make sense, consider taking a more affordable honeymoon and saving up together for the trip of your dreams in the future.
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