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From Shawn: Today’s post is the first in a brand new series of posts, Easy Trips for Two, which are designed to cut through the overwhelming number of options available and walk through an entire trip from credit card application to booking. This new series is written by Noah who manages Money Metagame, a blog where he writes about optimizing your finances with the help of credit cards, gift cards, retirement accounts, and more.
Easy Trips For Two Miami
There are hundreds of ways to earn airline miles and hotel points between credit cards, dining programs, shopping portals, and simply paying for flights and hotel nights. Not only that, there is a near infinite combination of ways to redeem them for free travel between all of the different destinations in the world, the various flights that can get you there, and the selection of hotels once you land.
All of these choices can become pretty overwhelming, especially for someone who has just discovered the world of miles and points. The goal of Easy Trips For Two is to walk through an entire trip from start to finish with all of the details necessary to get you there with little to no out of pocket cost. From earning the miles to redeeming them for the perfect trip, even brand new miles enthusiasts can start planning their first big trip.
Easy Trips For Two Basics
As the title implies, this trip is set up to be taken by two people that will each fly to the destination and share a hotel room once they get there. Luckily, both of these hypothetical people have a good credit history and can each sign up for credit cards to earn enough mile and points for the trip.
We’ll assume they are starting from somewhere in the continental United States and need to take a flight to get to the destination. While the post is set up for two people, there’s no reason you can’t scale it up or down to meet your own traveling needs.
Mile High View of 6 Nights in Miami for $410
3 Credit Cards
- 1x Citi American Airlines Platinum Select Mastercard for 50,000 AA miles
- 2x Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa Card for 90,000 Wyndham Rewards Points
By signing up for three credit cards between two people (only two unique cards), enough miles and points will be earned to get two people a flight to Miami and 6 nights in a beachside hotel. One person will sign up for the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select Mastercard to earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. These miles will be enough for two round-trip tickets from anywhere in the continental US to Miami (MIA).
Each person will then sign up for a Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa Card to earn a total of 90,000 Wyndham Rewards Points after spending $1,000 on each card within the first 90 days. These points are enough for 6 free nights in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach hotel which is rated a 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, typically costs over $200/night, and is located right next to the beach.
Out of Pocket Costs
- $138 – 2x $69 Annual Fee on the Wyndam credit card
- $22.40 – 2x $11.40 taxes and fees on the award flight
- $169.50 – 6x $28.25 Resort Fee per hotel night
- $80 – 2x $40 Cab rides from the airport to the hotel
- Total: $409.90
Despite using miles and points for the flights and hotels, there are still several out of pocket costs for this trip. Costs include the two $69 annual fees on the Wyndham cards, $22.40 to book both flights, a $28.25 resort fee per hotel night ($169.50 total), and two cab rides to get you from the Miami airport to the hotel which I estimate at $40 each way (I’m excluding any transportation/parking expenses at the origin airport).
This means two people can fly to Miami and spend 6 nights in a beautiful hotel for $409.90 total! While this particular trip is a little far from being “free”, it certainly beats the retail price of almost $4,000!!! ($932 for equivalent flights, $2976.42 for the same hotel nights, and $80 for the cab fare.
The Earning Details
With 3 total credit cards between two people, there’s a few different options for signing up and earning. If your regular spending is fairly low (~$1,000/month), I would have the person with the better credit sign up for the Citi American Airlines card first and make their traveling companion an authorized user to meet the $3,000 spending requirement together. Once that spending requirement is met, each person can sign up for the Wyndham card and start working towards the lower $1,000 spending requirement on each card.
On the other hand, if your spending is more in the $2,000+ per month range then it’s entirely possible to sign up for all 3 cards at the same time and still meet the minimum spend requirements comfortably with your regular expenses. Be sure to only count monthly spending that can be put on credit cards.
While an AAdvantage (American Airline’s loyalty program) account and Wyndham Rewards account will be created for you if not provided on the credit card application, I typically recommend joining yourself beforehand and including your account number on the application. This will alleviate any confusion about your login information and prevent a delay in the points or miles reaching your account. For this trip, one person will need both an AAdvantage account and a Wyndham rewards account while the other will simply need a Wyndham Rewards account.
After signing up for the 3 credit cards and meeting the minimum spend requirements, there should be ~53,000 AAdvantage miles in one account and ~94,000 Wyndham Rewards Points split between two accounts. Congrats! The earning part is over and now we get to move on to booking the trip.
- Direct Link to AAdvantage account registration
- Direct Link to Wyndham Rewards account registration
- Direct Link to Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard 50k Offer
- Direct Link to Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa Card (Select the Annual Fee version on the left)
The Redeeming Details
First, we’ll want to book the flight because flights are typically more difficult to book than the hotel nights. While redeeming points for hotels is often straightforward, finding the right flight on the right days for the right miles price can sometimes prove difficult. For this particular trip, we’re looking for 2 Economy MileSAAver Awards because those cost 12,500 miles each way for a total cost of 50,000 AAdvantage miles for two people round-trip. American Airlines allows you to book reward space up to 331 days out, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find availability much closer to departure, especially if you’re flexible with travel dates.
I decided to search for a February trip to get away from the Seattle weather for a nice Valentine’s Day trip. I found MileSAAver availability for several different 6-day spans, but decided to settle on Monday the 8th to Saturday the 14th. The total cost for booking the two round-trip tickets comes out to 50,000 AAdvantage miles and $22.40 for taxes as seen below.
After booking the flight, we’ll want to head over to Wyndham to book the hotel nights. Unlike some hotel programs, Wyndham does NOT allow you to combine balances or transfer points, so we will have to book a separate 3-night stay with each of the two accounts. While it’s not a guarantee, if you book the same room type for each stay and inform the front desk when checking in, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to stay in the same room all 6 nights. Worst case, you’ll have to move your luggage to a different room in the same hotel between the 3rd and 4th nights.
To book the rooms, search for “Miami, FL” on Wyndham’s reservation page with the first half of your desired dates (Feb 8-11 for my example) and be sure to check the “Redeem Wyndham Rewards” box. You will then be able to select the 15,000 points/night “Go Free Award” for the South Beach property and checkout for 45,000 Wyndham Rewards Points and $0 up front.
Warning! As you can see in the picture below, there is a $28.25 resort fee per night, so don’t be caught off guard when you have to pay that upon checkout.
After booking the first stay, log into the second Wyndham account and repeat the same steps for the second half of your stay (Feb 11-14 in my example).
- Direct Link to American Airlines Award Search (be sure to login)
- Direct Link to Wyndham Rewards Homepage (be sure to login)
Trip Summary and Extras
- Sign Up for 3 Credit Cards
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard for 50k AA Miles after $3,000 in spend
- 2x Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa Card for 45k Points after $1,000 in spend
- Spend $5,000 across the 3 cards to earn 50k AA miles and 90k Wyndham points
- Redeem 50k AA miles to book two round-trip tickets from the continental US to MIA (6 nights between flights)
- Redeem 45k Wyndham points twice for back to back 3-night stays at the Wyndham Grand South Beach property
- Enjoy your 6 night stay in Miami for only $410!
This trip came in a little higher cost that I expected going in mostly due to the resort fee, but it’s still an extremely cheap rate for 6 nights in Miami including flights. An alternative to crank up the trip quality would be to have both people sign up for an Citi AA Platinum Select card and upgrade the flight to business class each way (100k miles total and the same $22.40 out of pocket cost). If American Airlines doesn’t work for you, a 50k+ miles offer on a different airline may be substituted to achieve the flight for the same price as detailed here.
Hopefully walking through both the earning and redeeming of this miles and points trip either taught you something new or inspired your next trip, even if it’s not the exact one laid out here.
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