Vacation Can Be Expensive

With so many incredible airline credit cards recently, we’ve had a strong focus on helping you earn free flights. According to consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just under 50% of an average individual’s vacation expenses are made up of the airline flights.

Another 25% — 30% of vacation expenses come from lodging. Geez, that’s a lot. While the average person is spending thousands on flights and hotels, you can get all of this for free. Among getting your personal finance system working for you, Wall Street Minimalist is here to help you save thousands of dollars every year on travel.

Vacation Can Be Cheap

Hannah and I have booked multiple upcoming vacations in the last month that would have cost us north of $8,000 already (spoiler: we haven’t paid a dollar other than flight taxes and light fees). We have saved close to 70% — 80% on our vacation costs with the exact tips and instructions we teach you here.

Getting free flights is awesome, but scoring free hotel stays makes the credit card game even sweeter. If you’re not trying to blow your income every year on expensive hotels or even ok Airbnb bookings, here are two of the best credit cards in the hotel booking game that will get you nice accommodations for absolutely no cost: Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards Premier.

What These Cards Are Worth

With the Starwood Preferred Guest card alone, Hannah and I booked a 5-day stay at the Westin Resort & Spa in Cancun — these rooms go for $500 per night.

Even better, Starwood will gift you a fifth night at your hotel free if you book the first four with your SPG points. Our fifth night at the Westin Resort & Spa in Cancun would have cost us 7,000 additional points, but we got it for free by booking the first four nights. We’ll definitely be booking more resorts for our other upcoming vacations!

The Starwood Preferred Guest is actually a really good long-term credit card as well. At around 2.7 cents per point, SPG points are the most valuable of any rewards program. You’ll get one point for every dollar you spend and two points for all other travel purchases.

Hands down, SPG points are the most flexible, allowing easy 1:1 point transfer from SPG to American, British Airways, Delta, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, among many others. To make the transfer even sweeter, for every 20,000 points you transfer, Starwood will gift you a bonus 5,000 points.

For example, Hannah just transferred 20,000 points to her American Airlines account last week to book our next vacation and received 25,000 points in her account due to the 5,000 free bonus points.

The Offer: Starwood Preferred Guest

So between the screaming deals on hotel stays and solid point transfer flexibility, we absolutely recommend this card. The signup bonus is 25,000 points after a $3,000 minimum spend, so you’ll have at least 28,000 points towards your next vacation. This will easily be enough.

The Offer: Marriott Rewards Premier

The Marriott Rewards Premier card is incredible as well. The current offer is 80,000 points after you hit the $3,000 minimum spend requirement. A quick history lesson for you: a couple years ago, the bank I work for advised Starwood Hotels on its merger with Marriott. With the announcement of the merger of these influential brands, each hotel’s rewards programs have been earnestly interconnected. This is a wonderful thing for you as a consumer.

Pair your Marriott Rewards Premier card with your Starwood Preferred Guest card for SEAMLESS transfer between the two programs. The current transfer rate is 3:1 (3 Marriott points transfer to 1 SPG point).

Why is this phenomenal? Because Marriott may not have tons of travel partners, but if you transfer your points to Starwood, you’ll have immediate flexibility in transferring your points further to an airline of your choice. Or if you want to expand your hotel redemption locations, simple transfer optionality between the two juggernauts opens up over 5,700 hotels worldwide. You’re covered no matter where you decide to take your next vacation.

FREE Night Every Year

As if you weren’t already convinced — your Marriott Rewards Premier card gives you a FREE hotel stay every year at any of their category 1-5 hotels. That’s 3,635 available hotels, and category 5 hotels can cost around $250 per night. How cool is that!! It’s not hard to get your money’s worth with the Marriott Rewards Premier card.

Free Hotels Forever

If you’re making vacation plans like we are, don’t forget that about 25% — 30% of your expenses come from lodging costs. And they’re entirely avoidable if you get the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards Premier credit cards.

Safe travels and comfortable lodging!

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