How about 4 free nights in nice hotels? There is a great credit card offer that I’ve certainly taken advantage of… and you should too. If you’re financially responsible.
If you’ve read our introduction to Travel Hacking, you now know that credit cards are a great way to travel for free, as long as you’re financially responsible and always pay your balance in full every month, as if it was a debit or bank card.
That’s because credit card sign-up bonuses are incredibly generous. Take this example, one of the best credit card offers available right now in the Canadian market, the American Express SPG card.
You simply need to apply for this credit card and you’ll get 20,000 SPG Starpoints, which can be exchanged for 4 free nights (no need to pay tax) in very decent hotels (or 2-3 nights in more luxurious hotels if you prefer) or transferred to Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for 25,000 miles, which is a free flight anywhere in North America (you’ll need to pay taxes though).
I don’t want to read the whole thing, I just want the link to the card.
As a footnote, there already are a lot of resources out there to tell you how travel hacking can be used for luxury travel (5-star hotels and business-class flights), but that’s not really our style. We prefer to travel more often. So we aim to become Canada’s destination for travel hacking tips aimed at people who want to use these techniques to travel more often, not more luxuriously.
So the best way to do that is to get this card, get the sign-up bonus, and transfer SPG Starpoints to Marriott Points for free in a couple of clicks online, which will allow you to use the points at much more locations, thanks to the two companies’ merger.
Given that they transfer at a 1:3 ratio, getting this credit card will net you an incredible 60,000 Marriott Points. What are those worth? Well it depends on the category of each hotel. Even Marriott’s own Visa Premier card (no longer available) only offered 50,000 points. To be conservative, that’s why we said you would get 4 free nights, because if you’re a bit flexible you can easily find great Category 3 hotels for 15,000 Marriott points per night (15K x 4 = 60K).
Your free hotel nights
Category 1 hotels are actually only 7,500 Points per night, so you can potentially even get 8 free nights out of these 20,000 SPG / 60,000 Marriott Points… however those Category 1 hotels are much rarer. Keep in mind that North America and Europe are the most expensive hotel markets, but if you want to use these points in other parts of the world, you’ll get much nicer hotels for the same amount of points (and we’ll help you find great flight deals to get there).
Here are just a few examples of Category 3 hotels, of which you get 4 free nights at with the sign-up bonus:
Courtyard Lyndhurst (near New York City)
Courtyard Orlando Altamonte
TownePlace Ventura (California)
Moxy Milan Malpensa
JW Marriott Jakarta
Scroll to the bottom of the article to see a useful map of all Category 3 Marriott hotels.
You could also use 30,000 points per night and splurge on two luxury stays, you have absolute flexibility.
Completely free nights
Unlike when redeeming airline miles and points (where you have to pay taxes out-of-pocket), hotel redemptions are really completely free. No taxes, nothing.
So 4 completely free nights, just by getting a credit card. Easy right?
Well, the only thing is that this credit card does have a $120 annual fee (as most premium credit cards usually do), but $120 is actually less than the cost of one hotel stay, so let’s be conservative and say you’ll get 3 completely free nights in Category 3 hotels (the 4th one is paid for by the annual fee).
Your points won’t expire and you don’t need to use them all in the first year. You can use them one night at a time or all at once (when you redeem 4 consecutive nights, the 5th is free).
The simplest tip I give everyone who is a less experienced traveler is pretty simple: always pay your plane ticket with a travel credit card. Why? If you’re flight is delayed for more than 4 hours or cancelled, you will automatically get $500 completely free for necessary food expenses (and lodging if it is overnight). That is so easy. It’s called Flight Delay Insurance, and this card offers it.
And if you travel a bit, you know you will inevitably face a delay at some point. Do you want to be the one stuck at the gate complaining about it without being able to do anything? Because airlines owe you absolutely nothing, not a cent, when the delay is caused by weather. Makes sense. How are they supposed to control the weather? So next time, you keep proof of the delay, you call up the credit card’s insurance and in 5 minutes you’re on your way with $500 to spend. Pretty simple. A detailed article on the subject is coming soon. Subscribe to our free newsletters to get it in your inbox, just like 19,000 other travel enthusiasts who already receive them.
You’ll also get all the standard free insurance coverage that comes with the premium credit cards, like baggage delay insurance, purchase protection insurance, etc.
The card also offers Car Rental Loss/Damage Insurance, which means if you own a personal automobile insurance policy, by paying for your car rental with this card, you’ll be able to decline the ridiculously expensive insurance rental car companies try to sell you. That means you can rent a car for much lower prices, like I am doing right now in Oregon, for only $19US per day, all-included.
You will also get access to American Express Front of the Line, a program that let’s you buy tickets to popular (and sometimes exclusive) events before the general public.
You convinced me, I just want the link to the card.
Almost all credit cards that offer interesting bonuses require you to spend a certain amount on the card in the first three months, to unlock the bonus. It’s inevitable and it’s a one-off thing. Once you’ve hit the minimum threshold for the bonus, you can store the card in a drawer and never use it again, you’ve got your 20,000 SPG Starpoints.
In this case, you only need to spend $1500 in three months, which should be easy considering the Holidays are less than three months away. American Express are accepted at most retailers now (Walmart, Shoppers, Metro, Best Buy, Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Amazon, all cellphone providers, almost all gas stations, almost all restaurants, almost all clothing retailers, etc.) If you don’t have enough purchases to make to reach $1500 in three months, ask your friends to let you pay for their big purchases or buy pre-paid retailer gift cards (not VISA pre-paid cards).
You’ll probably get instant approval, or it will be very quick.
So for all the reasons above, but mostly because 5 nights in Marriott hotels is an incredible bonus, you should order the American Express SPG if you’re financially responsible. The 20,000 SPG Starpoints is the highest ever seen, and once transferred to 60,000 Marriott Points, it’s one of the best hotel credit card bonuses of all time in Canada.
What do you think of this offer? Tell us in the comments below!
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