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- Credit card rewards can allow you to book free stays at stunning luxury hotels.
- Even if your room rate is free, you could still pay thousands of dollars during what was meant to be a budget stay.
- I bring a collapsible electric kettle and a FlasKap to save hundreds of dollars during my stay.
- Read Insider’s guide to the best hotel credit cards.
A big reason many of us dive into the world of credit card rewards is that we want to do fun things for which our finances wouldn’t otherwise allow. For some, that simply means traveling more often. For others, it means sharply improving the quality of the handful of trips you’re able to take each year.
Here’s the problem: When you use points to book free stays at luxury hotels, you’re often still subject to all the other exorbitant expenses the hotel has to offer. You may be paying zero dollars per night, but the spending can still pile up:
- The luxury hotel houses luxury restaurants. Food and drinks can cost $100+ per person each meal.
- You may have booked an activity-specific hotel, such as a ski resort where lift tickets and equipment rentals are outrageous.
- The location requires an expensive airport transfer. Hotels in the Maldives and Bora Bora often require a round-trip speedboat or seaplane transfer of $500+ per person.
In other words, even if you’re able to stay at the hotel for free, you could still find yourself holding a bill for thousands of dollars at checkout. For this reason, even a free hotel stay can still be inaccessible to many of us.
There are two devices which both cost $34 that I use to further discount hotel stays like this: a collapsible electric kettle and the FlasKap. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to visit luxury resorts nearly as often.
Read more: The best rewards credit cards of 2022
Free luxury hotels stays can still be expensive
16.24% – 23.24% Variable
Recommended Credit Score
Good to Excellent
16.24% – 23.24% Variable
Recommended Credit Score
Good to Excellent
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
By opening any of the best hotel credit cards, earning hotel points is largely effortless — and they are some of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to bulldoze through your lengthy bucket list. Here are some examples.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a larger-than-normal 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You can transfer these points instantly to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have nearly enough points to book three nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives, which sells for $800+ per night.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card currently offers 3 free nights (each worth up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. You could use this for five-star hotels like the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa — a hotel on its own island in the Venetian Lagoon. The hotel regularly costs $600+ per night.
The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership. You can transfer Amex points to Hilton at a ratio of 2:1, meaning this bonus is worth 200,000 Hilton points. After meeting minimum spending, you’d have almost exactly the amount of points needed for three nights at a hotel such as the DoubleTree by Hilton Seychelles – Allamanda Resort and Spa in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This hotel sells for $400+ per night.
Here are two items you should take with you when visiting properties like these if you’re on a budget.
A collapsible electric kettle is the perfect companion for miles and points
At many bucket-list resorts, you can’t just stroll into town for a cheap meal. Certain properties tend to quarantine you from local culture, and therefore don’t allow you to eat like the locals.
For example, if you’re visiting a luxury resort in the Maldives, you’ll be captive to a jaw-droppingly beautiful island with 90 miles of ocean separating you from the cheap eats the locals enjoy.
At a hotel like this, a $34 travel kettle can single-handedly bring hotels like this within the realm of possibility for any budget — depending on how frequently you’re willing to use it.
A big bag of quality dehydrated camping food generally costs less than $10, and (in my experience) feeds two people. I know, it doesn’t sound idyllic to eat camping food at a luxury resort. But I’ve unrepentantly brought dehydrated meals to fancy locations like the St. Regis Maldives, Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, and Andaz Maui. Rooms at these hotels regularly cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per night — and while I was able to get the room for completely free thanks to credit card rewards, I wasn’t about to spend $400 per day on food.
My wife and I will eat three or four of these camping meals during a five-night stay and save potentially $600+ by forfeiting a few fancy meals. It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make to visit a glitzy property that we otherwise simply couldn’t afford. Just boil some water for three minutes, pour it into a bag of dehydrated food, and voila: You’ve saved $200 on dinner. That’s not an exaggeration.
We still eat plenty at the hotel — a big part of vacation is eating fun meals. If our budget tightens, we could still manage to visit hotels like this if we really wanted to by eating more camping meals during our stay. Honestly, some of them are legitimately delicious.
FlasKap can save tons of money on alcohol
It’s not uncommon for mixed drink prices at luxury hotels to breach $20. While they may occasionally be worth the splurge, alcohol can account for half your food bill at the end of your stay if you’re not careful.
I bring my own alcohol to five-star hotels whenever I can. There exists a genius $34 device called a FlasKap that stores between six and nine ounces of alcohol (depending on the size you buy) and fits atop your tumbler. It allows you to purchase far less expensive beverages and jazz them up with a simple click. Just press the button on top and the FlasKap will release half-ounce increments of alcohol into your drink.
Filling the FlasKap just once could easily save you and a travel buddy $50+ in alcohol in a single afternoon.
You don’t need a six-figure salary to stay at hotels that cater to the 1%. If you collect points from the best hotel credit cards, you can reserve super-Instagrammable hotels for completely free. And with a collapsible electric kettle and a FlasKap, you can reduce your food and alcohol expenses to potentially $25 per person per day.
For me, however, much of the fun of staying in a luxury resort is enjoying is upscale facilities. I use these tools to diminish my food prices. By eating a freeze-dried camping meal one night, I can less guiltily enjoy a fancy meal the next night.
Credit cards reporter
Joseph Hostetler is a credit cards reporter for Insider who also covers helpful miles and points tricks. He has more than five years of experience writing professionally about credit cards, previously authoring and editing for The Points Guy and Million Mile Secrets. You can reach Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about how Personal Finance Insider chooses, rates, and covers financial products and services »