Money Tree

Free Honeymoon With Two Credit Card Bonuses

Weddings can be a pretty expensive proposition. The average cost of a wedding in the US is more than $26,000, although most people spend less than $10,000. I guess the multiple Kardashian weddings skew the number up. After spending all of that money on a wedding, who wants to spend lots on a honeymoon? Yet many Americans do. They don’t have to, as there are ways to get a free honeymoon.

I Did Not Get A Free Honeymoon

I recently wrote a post related to how I got involved in travel hacking.  It was quite eyeopening to learn that I could travel for pennies on the dollar. However, this knowledge came a bit late for my own honeymoon. My honeymoon was probably the last major trip I took at full price. Had I known about the ease of scoring frequent flyer miles, my trip to Cancun would have been quite a bit cheaper.

A free honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta is possible.
A view of the pool and ocean and the Puerto Vallarta Marriott, photo by author

You Can Get A Free Honeymoon

Through the use of travel hacking, you can get a free honeymoon. All that it takes is a couple of strategic credit card signup bonuses. I do want to note that by free, I’m referring to highly discounted flights and hotel rooms. Food, ground transportation, and attractions would require more than the two signups that the title suggests. There are taxes on any flights that you can’t get around easily without certain credit cards that give credits for purchases. Additionally, there is the possibility that the hotel will charge a resort fee.

Get The Starwood Preferred Guest Card

Until April 5, 2017, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card (link with higher signup bonus good until April 5, 2017) is offering a 35,000 point signup bonus with 25,000 paid out after spending $3,000 within three months and another 10,000 paid out after spending an additional $2,000 in the first six months on the personal version. You’d need to spend $5,000 and $3,000  over the same time frames to get the same bonus on the business version. **Please note that you cannot get this bonus if you’ve ever earned it before.

This 35,000 bonus is the highest that anyone has ever seen for the great card. With the recent merger between Marriott and Starwood, it may disappear in short order, so the time to apply is now.

While this number of points might not sound as impressive as some other cards that might be offering 50,000 or even 100,000, it can actually provide even more value.

When I first started reading travel hacking websites a few years ago, this card was the number one recommendation for everyday spending. Users of the Starwood Preferred Guest (personal and business versions) can transfer to just about any airline that has a frequent flyer program. These points transfer at a 1:1 ratio in most, but not all, instances.

A Room at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino in Oranjestat
You could use your points for a room like this one that I enjoyed at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino.

Transfer Starwood Points To Marriott

Those who transfer in 20,000 point batches get a 5,000 mile bonus. This results in what is effectively 1.25 miles per dollar spent, which is a pretty good deal.

However, for the strategy that I’m recommending, you’d want to transfer these points to Marriott Rewards. Marriott recently bought out Starwood, and those who have an account with both programs can link and transfer back and forth between them. Starwood points are worth 3 Marriott Rewards points each.

If you spend the required $5,000 to get the 35,000 bonus points, you’d also earn at least 5,000 additional points at one point per dollar of spending. These 40,000 would then equal 120,000 Marriott Rewards points.

If your spouse-to-be has not earned the bonus before and you still have some wedding expenses coming up, you both could possibly get the bonus by applying before April 5. These two bonuses would equal 240,000 Marriott Rewards points, and you’d be set. I’ll show you how below.

Sign Up For the Marriott Rewards Card

If you’ve only signed up for one of the Starwood cards, your second application should be the Marriott Rewards Premier card (sign up the the highlighted link–I may receive bonus points if you do, and I’d definitely appreciate your support–this is the highest offer currently available so you lose nothing by using my link).

This card offers an 80,000 point bonus after spending at least $3,000 in the first 90 days after your application. This will result in at least 83,000 points. 80,000 of these points will come from the bonus, and the additional 3,000 Marriott Rewards points will come from meeting the minimum spend.

You’ll earn one point per dollar spent on everything outside of restaurants and travel. These purchases earn two points per dollar.  Additionally, purchases at Marriott properties earn five points per dollar.

If the Marriott Rewards Premier Card is your second card, you’d now have at least 203,000 points after transferring the points from the Starwood card. If you both decide to get a Starwood card and then get the Marriott card, you’d then have more than 320,000 points should you be able to meet the required spend.

This is where it gets really, really interesting and where the free honeymoon comes into play.

Get A Marriott Vacation Package

Marriott is pretty unique among loyalty programs, because it provides the option of getting a week at a hotel AND frequent flyer miles. For 200,000 Marriott Rewards points, you could stay a week at any of their category 1-5 hotels and get 50,000 miles in most domestic airline programs (as well as a few international ones).  These miles could get you to many places throughout the continental United States, including California and Florida.

The 320,000 points that you could get should you choose to get two Starwood cards (one for you and your significant other) and a Marriott card would get you 7 nights in a category 6 hotel and 120,000 miles. This would be enough miles for a trip to Europe for both of you in economy class. You could also get 7 nights in a category 7 hotel and 100,000 miles, which would be enough for a trip to Hawaii if you can find availability.

If you both got a Starwood card and a Marriott card, you’d have more than 400,000 Marriott Rewards points available, and that would score you a week at just about any Marriott property in the world and some lower level Ritz Carlton properties.  You can search the various Marriott vacation package options at the Marriott site.  These options open the possibility of a free honeymoon to just about anyone who has solid credit.

Money Tree

Setting Goals To Achieve Success

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. This is a common refrain that I’ve heard many times in my life. Another example is the statement that those who aim for nothing will hit it every time. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to fail to hit anything. This is why I’ve decided to start setting goals. The beginning of a new year is a good time to set up new goals.

Consider How To Get There

The most important step in setting goals is knowing where you want to go in life. Perhaps you want to become an engineer. This would require going to school for an engineering degree. The same goes for becoming a teacher, a lawyer, or a doctor. If you’d rather become an entrepreneur, schooling might not be quite so necessary. There are many successful entrepreneurs who haven’t completed a degree, among them are such billionaires and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. However, these innovators had big ideas and the technical know-how to achieve their goals.

Set Up Checkpoints To Measure Success

It’s a good idea to break up major goals into smaller chunks. This is where short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals come into play. In the example of getting an engineering degree, the long-term goal is getting the degree and getting licensed. A good short-term goal might be passing Calculus 1. After getting through the short-term goals, the medium-term goals will become the new short-term goals. Evaluating goals is a constant necessity.

Here are some goals that I’ve been interested in.

Setting Goals for Passive Income Can Lead to Financial Success

I recently read the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. Questioning some of the purchases that we frequently make can help us cut expenses that require life energy to pay for. When we make more money than we spend, what’s left over is capital that we can use toward an emergency fund or toward building passive income. I’ve decided after reading up on blogs like Dividend Growth Investor that trying to build up a portfolio of dividend growth stocks like Omega Healthcare Investors and Coca-Cola can provide a growing stream of passive income through growth in the annual dividend payments and through the deployment of additional capital. My long-term goal is building up enough passive income to pay for living expenses. My short-term goal might be to get to $1,000 in forward dividend income by the end of the year.

Setting Goals Can Lead to Passive Income
B&O Stock Certificate, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Online Earning Could Be A Smart Goal

While it’s possible to build up passive income with many jobs, many people will have a problem having enough excess capital to grow much passive income on their main salary. This is where earning a bit of money on the side can help. This excess money can then go toward savings if it’s not required for paying ordinary living expenses. It’s also possible to earn quite a nice sum from making money online. There are many lists online that offer ways to make money, some without spending a penny. I’ve used these methods to earn thousands over the past few years.

Paying Off Debt

Debt can really be a drag. The more you have, the closer you might be to financial ruin. It’s hard to grow a strong stream of passive income and a solid net worth with massive amounts of debt. Setting goals for paying down debt over time can lead to a great achievement that can definitely aid in your overall financial success.

Achieving Travel Goals

I love to travel. Therefore, some of my goals have to do with visiting some cool places around the US and the world. I had a goal of taking my family to Europe on the cheap, and I was able to do so. However, before I could, I had to figure out a way to pay for most of the trip’s possible expenses with frequent  flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. I achieved this goal with some well-timed credit card signup bonuses like the ones offered on these five credit cards that you could get in 2017.  I’m already strategizing two trips ahead with the credit cards I’m using.

The process of setting and achieving goals can be a great process that can help you gain the success that you’re looking for.  Setting up mileposts along the way can help you gauge how you’re doing in the process. If you don’t set any goals, one thing is certain. You won’t accomplish them.

Have you set any goals this year? Let us know in the comments.

Also, if you’d like to keep up with new posts and ideas for maximizing your resources in life (including time), be sure to sign up for email updates in the box at the top of the page and via our Twitter account @moneyinpajamas.

Money Tree

Sweepstakes for 100,000 United Miles and $2,500

This offer is no longer available.

I frequently read travel blogs to keep up with the latest offers to earn points and miles that can supersize my frequent flyer accounts and hotel loyalty programs. This morning, I checked out the Mommy Points blog to see if there was any good information. Apparently, there is an opportunity to earn 20 points per dollar of spending at some 20 or so impressive retailers like Nike. The offer is available at the United Airlines shopping portal.

The Eiffel Tower in France
The Eiffel Tower in France–It’s possible to get here with United Airlines miles.

I dutifully checked out the United Shopping portal to see what retailers were really going to benefit shoppers, and I was hit with a pop-up immediately. It was an opportunity to enter a sweepstakes for 100,000 United Airlines miles and $2,500. Of course, I decided to enter the sweepstakes and clicked on the link. From there, I was asked for my Mileage Plus account number and my password. After entering this information, I got a message that said that I was entered.

Of course, it’s not terribly likely that I’ll win the sweepstakes, but it only took a few seconds to look up my account number and fill out the form. If I do happen to be the lucky winner, I’ll be sure to let you know. The possible pay-off was definitely worth it, as some travel bloggers value UA miles at around 1.7 cents apiece. When added to the cash payout, this could really be a big payoff. I don’t know how long the sweepstakes will be available, so it might be a good idea to head over the the United shopping portal to get your entry in.

If you’re wondering what 100,000 United Miles could get for you, there are several options that include:

4 round-trip tickets in the continental US

1 off-peak round-trip ticket to just about anywhere in the world–as long as you’re OK in economy.

There are also several options for a one-way business-class seat that you could get with 100,000 United Miles

I’m all about earning extra income where possible, preferably while sitting in the comfort of my recliner, and I also like to travel. This is where building up a nice stash of miles and points can come in handy. As I’ve pointed out before, just this year, I’ve been able to take my family of four to a couple of European capitals and Mexico with frequent flyer miles and hotel points.  I’d not be able to travel nearly as much without these great benefits, so I’m all about maximizing them when possible.

 

Money Tree

Saving Money in Pajamas with Credit Cards?

One of my favorite pastimes is travel. I’ve had the good fortune to visit a wide range of countries over three different continents. I’m hoping to get to more next year. I’ve also been on trips to Hawaii and California at prices that most people could only dream about. For example, I got tickets to LA from my home in the Midwest for a whopping $11.20 each. I also got three of my five nights at a Hyatt House hotel for $0. I paid for two nights out-of-pocket.

How do I do this? I use points that I’ve earned from various credit card bonus programs. This is not for everyone. People with bad credit will not get approved for a card. People who tend not to pay off their bills in full every month should not get approved for a card. Those who only buy what they can afford and then pay it off every month can get some great awards. There are several different options that can help you get to the destinations that you’re looking to get to.

1. Airline or Hotel Co-Branded Cards

These cards are tied to a specific airline or hotel. For example, Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt all have their own credit cards that give you a certain number of points per dollar spent. They usually pay bonus points when used to pay for a hotel room at the hotel company that the card represents. All of the major US airlines have a co-branded card (or cards) that can help you get to the destination of your dreams quickly, be it Orlando or Oranjestad. Of course trips to exotic locations like Australia or Tanzania might take more points, but they can be had. I’ve flown to Aruba, Denver, and LAX on miles, and I’ve stayed in Honolulu, Aruba, and Anaheim on hotel points.

2. Flexible Point Cards

These are the gold standard amongst those who are really travel hackers. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Citi Thank You Premier fall into this category. Chase, Citi, and AMEX all have their own point systems that allow you to transfer your points into a chosen travel partner (or get cash back). For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 rate to airlines like United, British, or Southwest, among others. They can also get transferred to IHG (Holiday Inn), Marriott, or Hyatt at the same rate. Only certain Chase cards work like this. I used these cards for my recent trip to see Mickey and Minnie, and they saved me over $1,000. If you’d rather have cash back, some of these cards will offer a bonus of up to $500 after meeting a minimum spend over 3 months. Of course, if you have to pay interest to get the bonus, it’s not worth it, so make sure that you can pay off your account IN FULL each month before applying.

3. Cash Back Cards

These cards come in two major varieties. One is the straight cash back card. The old Discover It card would fall into this category. Basically, users get 1% cash back for every dollar spent and 5% cash back on various rotating categories each quarter that can involve merchants like gas stations, travel, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. The other form of cash back card is the travel reimbursement card. The Capital One Venture Miles or the Barclay World Arrival Mastercard would fall under this category. These pay a cent or two back for every dollar spent, redeemable for a statement credit on travel expenses.

Before getting these cards, it’s important to remember that credit cards can be a very good employee, but they can be a very bad master. Do not go applying for credit cards if you have a propensity to be a spendthrift. If you’re fairly frugal, you pay off all of your bills every month, and you can avoid the temptation to spend money you don’t have just because it’s on plastic, these cards can help you save money on travel or get some cash back on a regular basis. They can get be a great way to get into debt, but they can also be a great way to get some great experiences for a fraction of what you’d otherwise have to pay.

For more information on how to game the system, I regularly read popular travel blogs like

The Frugal Travel Guy and Million Mile Secrets, among others.

Apply at your own risk, but if you’re disciplined, these cards can really pay off.