Travel hacking for the purpose of paying less for a hotel is not a thing everyone believes in. However, you only need to take advantage of it once and there’s no turning back. Therefore, would you like to know how I go about booking nights in 3 and 4 star hotels for as little as 12 Canadian Dollars? I will explain how in detail in this article. Pay close attention!
Travelling can be expensive. Everyone agrees on that. When taking flight tickets, accommodation, car rental, food and activities into consideration, a travel budget can quickly get out of hand. Contrary to popular belief, the largest expense is not always the flight tickets, but is more often accommodation. With long-term travel, the cost of the flight is spread over the duration of the whole trip. But accommodation is a daily cost which can cause a budget to quickly escalate and ultimately can shorten a trip. It is therefore important to know the tricks of the trade to find a good deal.
There is of course couchsurfing, which costs nothing. If you are travelling alone, it can be practical as you can also make friends along the way. However, for a family of 4 like ours, it is a little restricting. Otherwise there are hotels and special services such as Airbnb (if you haven’t yet come across Airbnb and would like to check it out, click on this link to get $45 credit. It’ll help us out too!). From my experience, Airbnbs is often cheaper than hotels in Europe. In North America, it’s the opposite. When travelling I try to choose the cheaper of the two, but it always ends up being expensive in the end. That’s why I want to talk about the advantages of Travel Hacking.
Introducing Travel Hacking
How to take advantage of credit card rewards
When we talk about rewards, we generally think about their value in terms of money. Now, think of the credit card you use most often. Does it offer you monetary rewards or rewards in another form? What is its reward rate? We can hopefully agree that a card with no annual fee which provides 1% return on purchases can be considered respectable. To get 2% return on a card, you often have to pay an annual fee and in this case it’s best if its benefits outweigh the cost. What if I told you that Travel Hacking could offer a reward rate of up to 60%. Does that get your attention?
The foundations for success in Travel Hacking
Some people are passionate about Extreme Couponing. I prefer Travel Hacking. Don’t worry, it’s completely legal and many people practice this activity in a very methodical and profitable way! The objective of Travel Hacking is to benefit from the subscription bonuses offered by credit card companies. These bonuses are usually translated into points or credits after the subscriber has spent a minimum amount of money within a specified period of time. Depending on the card, points can be redeemed for airline tickets, hotel rooms, merchandise or cash credit. The principle is simple and can be described in 4 steps:
- Subscribe to a credit card offering promotional points;
- Make the minimum expenditures on the card to get the points before the maximum time limit;
- Enjoy the points;
- Close the credit card account before the annual fee renewal (recommended), if applicable.
Of course, Travel Hacking has its disadvantages:
- It is necessary to have a good credit history because each credit application has the potential to lower your credit rating.
- Remember to pay the balance due before the grace period to avoid interest, which would negate the benefits of Travel Hacking.
- Card management can be time-consuming. It is an activity like any other.
If you are not afraid of these inconveniences, then you are qualified to succeed! So let’s get down to business. I will now introduce you to THE credit card to hold to start with Travel Hacking. Be mentally prepared, there will be numbers!
The American Express Marriott Bonvoy
The credit card
Please note that credit card benefits are subject to frequent changes. The information presented here does not always reflect the latest changes. I encourage you to do your research diligently before applying to a credit card.
Whether you travel frequently or only once a year, you should consider the American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card. It is a real jewel for those who will understand the benefits it can provide. Marriott International is a hotel chain that owns 30 internationally recognized brands, including: The Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, JW Marriott, Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, Le Méridien, Element, Aloft and Four Points. Marriott offers a points-based rewards program that saves small and frequent travellers money. This program is known to be simply the most advantageous and flexible in the travel industry. Let’s not be afraid of superlatives!
The American Express Marriott Bonvoy offers 50,000 Bonvoy points after spending $1500 in the first 3 months. In addition, each dollar spent on the card gives additional points, depending on the category of expense.
Other benefits of the card include, of course, insurance products. I mention them below but I do not dwell on them because, although they are remarkable, that is not the subject of the article:
- Travel Accident Insurance covering up to $500,000;
- Car rental loss and damage insurance;
- Flight delay insurance;
- Insurance for delayed/misplaced luggage;
- Insurance for lost or stolen luggage;
- Cover for theft in a hotel or motel.
The card costs $120 per year. Some may frown at the mere mention of this amount. If this is your case, stop reading, because Travel Hacking is not for you. Otherwise, discover the considerable potential of this card: it is possible to have a hotel night for as little as 5,000 points! So with 50,000 bonus points, you are entitled to 10 nights, equivalent to $12 per night!
Spending Bonvoy points in Marriott hotels
To put things in perspective and demonstrate the power of Travel Hacking, we will calculate a reasonable reward rate. Considering 10 nights at 5,000 points worth $100 each, we deduce that the cash value of the 50,000 bonus points is equivalent to $1,000. A $1,000 value for spending $1,500 + $120 in fees equals a 61.73% rewards rate. We’re a long way from the 2%, aren’t we?
We can also calculate the benefit in terms of return on “investment”. Considering that you spend $1,500 on common expenses that you would have made anyway, we can establish that your initial fee of $120 is worth $1,000. That is a return on investment of ((1000-120) / 120) x 100, or 733% in 3 months maximum!
I have used the amount of $100 as a guide price for an overnight stay for a category 1 hotel. Some nights in these hotels may be worth less, and sometimes more. For example, I suggest you visit Turkey and rent a room at the JW Marriott Hotel Ankara, a category 2 hotel. For 10,000 points, you could be entitled to a beautiful room with a city view worth 332 EUR, nearly 500 CAD!
The following table summarizes the points required per night in the different hotel categories. Within the same category, the point value varies according to high or low periods.
- Category 1: 5,000 – 10,000 points;
- Category 2: 10,000 – 15,000 points;
- Category 3: 15,000 – 20,000 points;
- Category 4: 20,000 – 30,000 points;
- Category 5: 30,000 – 40,000 points;
- Category 6: 40,000 – 60,000 points;
- Category 7: 50,000 – 70,000 points;
- Category 8: 70,000 – 100,000 points.
You will find more details on the Marriott website.
The strategy to accumulate 282,000 points
If it were just that, it would be good enough, but hang in there because you might fall out of your chair now, unless you’re already comfortably sitting on a couch!
You can collect 282,000 points, or potentially 56 hotel nights! This is incredible because many will spend more than 5 years to collect that many points at the rate of 1 point per dollar spent. But it shows you how profitable Travel Hacking can be. First of all, you need an accomplice, or preferably a spouse. American Express offers you a 10,000 points bonus if you refer someone to them who subscribes to their Marriott Bonvoy card and who also receives 10,000 points as an additional bonus. The small disadvantage is that instead of having to spend $1500 in the first 3 months, $3000 must be spent through the sponsorship link. Your accomplice will therefore receive 60,000 points.
In addition, the Marriott Bonvoy card is also available in Business version, which also gives 60,000 bonus points: the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business card. Don’t worry, even if you don’t have a business, you can still subscribe to it. Simply enter your first and last name in the “Company name” box. On the other hand, the company card costs $150 annually instead of $120 for the personal card. But what is $30 more when you know the benefits of the card?
And here is the table that summarizes how easily 282,000 points can be reached with 4 cards:
|Credit Card||Bonus Points||Referral Points||Purchase Points||Total Points|
|Amex Marriott Bonvoy Personal (principal)||60 000||3 000||63 000|
|Amex Marriott Bonvoy Personal (spouse)||60 000||10 000||3 000||73 000|
|Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business (principal)||60 000||10 000||3 000||73 000|
|Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business (spouse)||60 000||10 000||3 000||73 000|
An additional tip: on the card’s anniversary, you will get a certificate for one night costing up to 35,000 points.
In addition, Marriott offers a 5th complimentary night for every 4 nights spent in the same hotel. So you get even more value for your points!
All you have to do now is locate some Marriott hotels for your next travel destination! You will notice that Marriott hotels of categories 1 and 2 are very numerous in the United States. You may want to start by collecting Bonvoy points!
Are you now convinced of the potential of Travel Hacking? If so, I think that subscribing the American Express Marriott Bonvoy card is a good way to start.
In a next post, I will explain how to quickly collect 430,000 airline points, and especially how to redeem them in order to maximize their profitability.
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I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you the summary of our exceptional world tour as a family!
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- How to book flights at the lowest price ?
- How to enjoy free hotels nights with credit cards ? (for Canadians)
- How to make the most of your travel points? (for Canadians)
- Which credit card to carry when traveling ? (for Canadians)
- How to travel with carry-ons only ? Our lightweight travel gear list
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- How to estimate a budget for a trip around the world ?
- How to enhance your photos with Lightroom?
- How to start a travel blog ?