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How to strategize your wedding spending for a FREE honeymoon

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We all know a traditional wedding is expensive and can cost upwards of $20,000 (or more). One of the biggest reasons I was excited about an actual wedding was to have an epic honeymoon- for free. This guide will give you an idea of how to strategically plan your wedding utilizing credit cards for sign-up bonuses to plan your honeymoon. So let’s get to it!

Credit Card Strategies for a Free Honeymoon Overview

First of all, if you are new to Basic Travel strategies, Welcome! Basic Travel is the fine art of utilizing credit cards strategically to maximize their value. In basic terms, opening a credit card, while utilizing welcome offers to travel for free. Points can be used for flights, hotels, airfare, or even cashback. There are a few basic “rules” to know before starting. The biggest and most common is Chase’s “5/24” rule, which we will get to in a minute. There are some other “unspoken bank rules” you might want to glance over for your general understanding. Following this guide will give you a free or cheap honeymoon in no time!

Chase 5/24

Essentially 5/24 is how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last 24 months. This means ANY credit card, even some store cards count. You can read our detailed guide of how to find your Chase 5/24 status here. Once you figure that out, it will help you know if you qualify for Chase cards or not. However, if you are over 5/24, you will not get approved with Chase. No worries though, there is plenty of other options available!

Use your resources

Next up, you want to understand how many people you can have work on this strategy with you to earn a free honeymoon. For Dave and myself, we were both able to open some credit cards. My parents also were willing to open cards to help pay for the wedding. This gave us 4 people to each open a card and spread out options for spending. We also were able to utilize our normal everyday spending to meet the minimum spends along with the wedding expenses. 

60,000
Ultimate Rewards Points
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Budgeting

Once you know who will be able to open a few cards, you will need to know what your budget is if you haven’t already. This is important because if your wedding costs $10,000 vs $25,000, there will be more opportunities for the higher spend which means more cards/more points for that free honeymoon. 

Once you know your budget, you could utilize one card to start paying for deposits and securing the vendors you will need to work towards that free honeymoon. Typically the deposits I’ve seen in Buffalo, NY have ranged from $50-$500. So you might just open one card for the deposits and then the bulk of most expenses will be due about two weeks to a month prior to the wedding. 

Credit Card Points

Now, let’s talk about credit cards. Not all cards are created equally, and not all points are created equally. There are 3 main types of cards:

  • Bank Credit Cards
  • Airline Credit Cards
  • Hotel Credit Cards

Typically I like to focus on Bank Credit Cards that offer their own type of rewards program. Examples of this would be Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi Thankyou Points, or Capital One Venture Miles. Ideally, you could go with any of these cards to start collecting points. However, your best bet would be to focus on Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) if you are under 5/24, and AMEX Membership Rewards (MR) if you are over 5/24. The same goes for each member who will be opening the cards.

Bank Cards

The reason that Bank credit cards are the most valuable is that they are super versatile in which you can utilize the points for flights, hotels, car rentals, or even excursions. This will be the main big bulk of your travel expenses for a free honeymoon. Once you have a hotel and flights covered on points, the rest is much more feasible when traveling. For example, in 2019, we flew to Japan utilizing a mixture of Chase UR points and Citi ThankYou Points to fly to Japan in First Class for only 116,000 points per person. We were able to transfer the points to Virgin Atlantic to book ANA flights. So depending on where you want to go for your honeymoon, you can also strategize how you want to fly. Do you want to fly in First Class, Business, or economy? 

60,000
Membership Rewards® points
after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Pick where you want to go on your FREE honeymoon

This is obviously the most fun of being able to utilize credit card strategies- especially with such large wedding expenses coming up. Figuring out where you want your honeymoon to be! What I enjoy most about Basic travel strategies is you can go anywhere in the world and just have to figure out the points to get there.

We actually helped our friends Brook and Jeff plan their honeymoon to Hawaii a few years ago, just as an idea for a destination and how to strategize your way to a cheap honeymoon. Depending on where you want to go will really determine how many points you will need. If you are traveling domestically or maybe in the Caribbean, flights would most likely cost less since it is a shorter distance. If you are like us, however, who want to head out to the Maldives in an overwater bungalow, we will need a lot more points. Stay tuned for our review on this when we book.

Which Card To Get?

Now that you know what your spending will be, and your 5/24 status, let’s talk about which cards are the best to open. No matter how many of you will be opening the cards, I would still follow the same list/order. This will help maximize the strategy for your free honeymoon. If you already have that card, you can move on to the next one. I included some business card options as they also offer pretty great welcome offers to utilize. Lastly, you can always check out our Top Credit Cards page which we regularly update with the latest offers.

Under 5/24

So for the first card, I will recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If it is just you and your future spouse, you can both open the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If a parent will also be helping out, they can also open the same card. 

The easiest way to cover your flights will be with flexible bank points. This way you can either transfer to an airline partner or book the flight through the reward program portal. You can also use the points for hotels once your flights are covered.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (CSP)

Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been in my wallet the last 4 years and I have no plans to get rid of it anytime soon. The points are valuable and worth 25% more when redeeming through the Ultimate Rewards Portal.

Other reading about Chase Ultimate Rewards

60,000
Ultimate Rewards Points
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

2. Business card options

IF you qualify for business cards, Chase Ink Business cards are your next best bet. You’d be surprised as to what qualifies for a small business card. Ultimate Rewards (UR) points from the Chase Ink business cards are transferable to combine with other UR points. These cards typically offer anywhere from 50,000-100,000 UR. There are 3 options for Chase Ink Business Cards. You are able to hold all 3 business cards for the same business, even as a sole proprietor. I do recommend the Chase Ink Business Unlimited and Chase Ink Business Cash first. They both have a $0 annual fee and often offer 0% interest on purchases for the first 12 months. Lastly, you can read our step-by-step guide to apply for a small business card.

Other Reading about Small Business Cards

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

$900
bonus cash back
after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

$900
Bonus cash back
after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

100,000
Ultimate Rewards points
after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

3. Chase Freedom Unlimited

While the Chase Freedom Unlimited or even Chase Freedom Flex offers a smaller welcome offer, you can easily combine these points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card to maximize value. Plus with having no annual fee, and unlimited 1.5% cashback on everything, you can earn extra points for those wedding expenses! As a bonus, the Chase Freedom Flex offers quarterly bonus categories to earn 5x the points on up to $1,500 each quarter.

Additional 1.5%
cash back
on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back

$0 Annual Fee

$200
Bonus
after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Flights

Working towards Chase Ultimate Rewards points will give you a ton of points. About 200,000 should cover flights for 2 people round trip to enjoy a free honeymoon anywhere in the world. If you are flying domestically, it could be even less. Booking your airfare through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card will give you 25% more on travel. This means 200,000 points will equal $2,500 in savings. If you need more points, keep going down the list. I will note you will have to pay taxes on award flights.

Cards over 5/24

If you have applied for more than 5 cards in the last 24 months, you would want to work towards non-chase cards. There are a TON of great options, this list is comprehensive to what offers you the greatest bang for your buck. The reason I put American Express® Gold Card before The Platinum Card® from American Express is the AMEX Gold has a lower annual fee of (Rates & Fees) than AMEX Platinum (Rates & Fees). Unless you are already an avid traveler, I suggest starting with AMEX Gold. If you could use the travel perks such as Centurion lounge access in airports, then you can start with AMEX Platinum.

4. American Express® Gold Card

Amex Membership Rewards points are another super versatile point system where you can maximize their value for hotels, flights, car rentals, or other miscellaneous travel-related excursions.

60,000
Membership Rewards® points
after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

5. The Platinum Card® from American Express

AMEX Platinum is an amazing card with plenty of benefits for the avid traveler. If you travel more than a handful of times a year, the value this card brings is worth it. Be sure to review the perks vs annual fee to decide if it is right for you.

$695 annual fee (Rates & Fees

80,000
Membership Reward Points
After spending $6,000 on your card in the first 6 months

6. Capital One Venture Credit Card

Capital One points are easy to use and redeem as you can simply ‘erase’ travel purchases. This card is a great ‘add on’ as you can charge food/spa services to the room then easily ‘erase’ the charges after you pay for the stay! It does have a higher minimum spending amount but also gives you a longer timeframe to meet the spending. You can check out our FIRST travel trip to Costa Rica for how we utilized these points.

Capital One Venture
75,000
Venture Miles
fter spending $4,000 within 3 months from account opening

Free Honeymoon Hotels:

Once you have a honeymoon destination, you will need to find what hotel brands are available to see what points you should focus on. A great resource for this is awardmapper.com to easily search your destination and see what hotel points options there are. It will also give you estimates of how many points per night. Lastly, then you can open the card based on that property. You could also utilize any leftover transferable bank points from the flight options as those were more versatile points to book anywhere. Hotels Credit Cards are hotel-specific so you will want to know where you are staying to work towards those points. You would each want to open the same card to maximize points/value for that card. I would focus on one brand here. Lastly, besides points hotels can also earn free night awards which can be valuable.

World of Hyatt Credit Card

This card has provided great value for us to travel to places such as Park Hyatt, Miraval Austin, All-Inclusive Stays at Hyatt Ziva/Zilara in Cancun, Jamaica, and other locations. It also can help you get to the highest tier status- Globalist, faster. (Note, you do have to be under 5/24 to get this card).

Other Reading on World of Hyatt:

30,000
Bonus Points
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

InterContinental Hotels Group Properties

IHG Hotel includes 2 credit card options that you can combine for some pretty nice stays. We stayed at one of the best properties in Japan for free on points here. These properties would include brands such as Kimpton, InterContinental Resorts, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and more. By combining the points and reward nights, you could easily cover free nights. Also, you can get the 4th night free when booking reward points nights. *Must be under 5/24 for these cards.

Other reading on IHG Properties

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

140,000
bonus points
after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

120,000
bonus points
after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy has multiple cards to choose from, including Chase or American Express branded cards. For the Chase cards, you will need to be under 5/24 to apply. If you are over, go for AMEX. There is also a business card option I will include. Marriott Bonvoy Brands also has some incredible properties such as The Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, Sheraton, Le Meridian, Renaissance, Courtyard and so many more.

Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

3 Free Night
Awards valued up to 50,000 points each
after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold

I always enjoy a no annual fee card to top off my points. It makes it easier to earn points without additional costs.

30,000
Marriott Bonvoy® Bonus Points
after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

150,000
Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points
after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.

BONUS: Marriott Bonvoy Business AMEX Credit Card

$125 annual fee. (Rates & Fees)

75,000
Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points
after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Hilton Honors Hotels

I’m not going to lie, Hilton Honors have been my favorite points to collect, and for a good reason. Hilton Honors points are pretty easy to collect- but don’t let the high point offers confuse you. Redemption nights are higher than compared to say World of Hyatt points. What I like about Hilton is the 3 different personal cards, plus a business card if you qualify. I hold 2 of the 3 personal cards as well as the business card to maximize points. We will be utilizing a mixture of these Hilton Honors branded cards to stay at the Conrad Maldives. If you are interested in a high-end stay such as an overwater bungalow- be sure to check out our review of How to book an Overwater Bungalow at the Conrad Maldives for cheap!

Hilton Honors

80,000
Hilton Honors Bonus Points
After you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Hilton Honors Surpass

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee.

130,000
Welcome Bonus
once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

Hilton Honors Aspire

The Hilton Honors Aspire card does come with the highest annual fee, but also provides the most bang for your buck. Be sure to check out the 11 reasons why you need the Hilton Honors Aspire Card in your wallet (especially if you are trying to get complimentary upgrades for your honeymoon).

150,000
Hilton Honors Bonus Points
once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. All information about Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by basictravelcouple.com

Need More Help?

Remember, there are many many many ways to strategize your wedding for a free honeymoon! This is a basic guideline with an easy list of cards to apply for. There are plenty of other credit cards out there. If you are interested in a specific strategy for yourself, feel free to email me at Lisa @ basictravelcouple.com (no spaces) with the following information: 

  1. Name
  2. Date of wedding
  3. How many cards you are looking to open 
  4. How many people will be opening cards and how many cards each person has opened in the last 24 months
  5. The destination you are trying to get to if you know 

Also, if you aren’t already, be sure to join our Basic Travel 101 points group on Facebook where you can ask questions with other like-minded members of the group. We are super active there and always posting about the latest tips and tricks for finance and travel. I suggest going to settings and turning on post notifications so you don’t miss anything.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out our course on learning how to utilize credit card reward points.

Basic Review to getting a free honeymoon

In conclusion, if you are going to be spending money on a wedding, you might as well get a FREE or super cheap honeymoon out of it. I hope this guide helped give you a better idea of how easy it can be. Be sure to see our very own breakdown of how we got a free honeymoon from our Basic Travel Strategies!

New to Credit Card Rewards Points? Check out the BASICS Below!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

The comments section below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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5 Basic Travel Strategies

Need-to-know tricks for cheap travel.

Top Credit Card Offers

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Citi Premier Credit Card

Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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We're Dave & Lisa

An easy-going, fun-loving couple who have a passion for adventure and exploring the world! Our strategies have saved us over $100,000 in travel over the last four years, and our goal is to help you do the same.

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