Which New Travel Credit Cards for Honeymoon Expenses?
Hilary Stockton

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Which New Travel Credit Cards for Honeymoon Expenses?

Which New Travel Credit Cards for a Honeymoon? TravelSort reader Maria comments on the Best Travel Credit Cards page:

"We are in the middle of planning a November 2016 honeymoon to Thailand for 2 weeks from Miami. We want to book hotel and flights this month. We would like to take advantage of the $15,000 we plan on spending and hopefully use it towards future international travel.

However, since we don't travel that often, I don't know if a travel rewards card is best for us. We have the BoA Travel Rewards and Venture Capital One credit card but wonder if there is a card that we could apply for that would give us greater benefits. We fly domestic twice a year to visit family and once every two years abroad, mainly Europe. I don't consider that frequent travel. What card is best for us?"

First, congratulations to Maria and her husband on their upcoming wedding and honeymoon! It's great that during this hectic time they are taking the time to make a savvy choice in terms of which travel credit cards will work best for them. I would also recommend, since they're anticipating $15,000 in spend, that they take advantage of this to each signup up for a couple of new credit cards so as to maximize their bonuses and benefits with a total of 4 new cards.

Here are my recommendations, given their primarily domestic but some international travel:

1. 50K Citi Prestige 

Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points after making $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Additional benefits

  • $250 air travel credit each year (December to December billing cycle)
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit
  • Earn 3X points on air travel and hotels 
  • Earn 2X points on restaurants
  • Admirals Club access
  • 4th night free at hotels (but must be booked via Citi, and cannot be combined with Virtuoso or preferred partner benefits)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Medical evacuation, trip interruption, trip delay, lost and delayed baggage protectioin

Cost: $450 annual fee is *not* waived the first year

The Citi Prestige is an expensive card, with a $450 annual fee that is also charged the first year, but it's worth getting for at least the first year thanks to the $250 air travel credit each year (so $500 air travel credit in your first year of card membership). Plus, if you don't already have Global Entry, that's another $100 in value right there, over and above the signup bonus value.

The signup bonus of 50,000 Citi ThankYou points is best transferred to Singapore KrisFlyer, but there's no need to redeem it for travel to Asia; Singapore also flies NYC JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) and from Houston (IAH) to Moscow (DME), so the miles can be redeemed for travel to Europe as well. Also, Singapore KrisFlyer miles can be redeemed for other Star Alliance award travel, including domestic U.S. travel on United airlines, and in fact KrisFlyer awards are often a better deal than United MileagePlus. A one way business class award in the Continental U.S. is 25,000 United miles but only 20,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles. And a one way business class award from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii is 40,000 United miles, but only 30,000 KrisFlyer miles. The catch? You do need to call Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book United and other partner award, these can't be booked online.

Another option for domestic travel is to redeem Citi ThankYou points for travel on American Airlines (and American codeshare flights), at the rate of 1 ThankYou points = 1.6 cents. While 1.6 cents is what I regard as a low valuation for points (I prefer to redeem my miles and points for at least 5 cents per point in value, if not 8 or 10 cents or more per point), 1.6 cents isn't horrible given that you'd also be earning miles on the paid flight. Many of my clients credit these paid fares to Alaska Airlines, their domestic U.S. airline frequent flyer program of choice, but of course you can simply credit to American AAdvantage or your other preferred oneworld frequent flyer program.


2. 55K Sapphire Preferred

Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after $4000 spend within the first 3 months + 5000 additional points if you add an authorized user within the first 3 months = 55K points total

Additional Benefits

  • 2X points per dollar spent on travel and dining
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Singapore KrisFlyer, Korean Air SkyPass, British Airways, United MileagePlus, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Southwest, InterContinental, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cost: No fee the first year, then $95 per year

My next recommendation is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has no annual fee the first year and a $95 per year fee after the first year, and gives you 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining. The reason I value this over a cash back card is that transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX Membership Rewards points can be worth much more than the 1 cent per point you earn with a cash back card, if you know how to maximize points with transfers to travel partners.

And as transferable points currencies go, I prefer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Citi ThankYou points since it transfers to additional travel partners that I find useful: Singapore KrisFlyer, which Citi ThankYou points also transfer to, and also Korean SkyPass, British Airways Avios, United MileagePlus and Hyatt Gold Passport, among others. And while I personally detest Southwest (one Southwest flight was more than enough), it certainly provides many domestic flight options for those willing to fly them.


3. 35K Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX

Bonus: 35,000 Starpoints after spending $3000 on the card within the first 3 months.

Additional Benefits

  • Transfer Starpoints to over 30 frequent flyer programs, with a 25% bonus when you transfer in increments of 20,000 points. Also see SPG Airline Partners: Transfer Starwood Points to Miles
  • Earn 2 additional Starpoints per dollar spent at participating Starwood properties, in addition to the 2-3 Starpoints per dollar you earn, depending on your SPG elite status.
  • Complimentary premium Internet access at all Starwood properties when booked directly with Starwood or by your travel advisor, such as TravelSort (a Starwood Luxury Privileges advisor)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cost: No fee the first year, then $95 per year

Even if Maria and her husband don't frequently stay at Starwood properties, Starpoints are still valuable. I almost never stay at Starwood properties, and certainly don't use Starpoints at the occasional SPG property I do stay at. Instead, I recommend transferring Starpoints to frequent flyer programs, particularly those that are otherwise difficult to earn miles in (unless you happen to fly them often), such as Lufthansa Miles & More and Alaska Mileage Plan. The other great thing about getting the SPG AMEX now is that it's the best public bonus we've seen for the card; the usual signup bonus is 25,000 points.


4. 50K AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card

Bonus: 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $1000 on the card within the first 3 months

Additional Benefits

  • $100 airline fee credit for incidental fees, per calendar year
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cost: No fee the first year, then $195 per year
Note that while the usual public offer for the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card is 25,000 points, it's often possible to pull up the 50K offer in an incognito window or a Safari browser. AMEX signup bonuses are once per lifetime, so you aren't eligible for the bonus if you've previously had this card.
AMEX Membership Rewards points are another great transferable points currency, which don't expire as long as you have an AMEX card linked to Membership Rewards points. My favorite transfer partners for Membership Rewards points are Singapore KrisFlyer, Air Canada Aeroplan, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Air France/KLM Flying Blue. And since you pay no annual fee your first year, you can actually make $200 off this card in the first year with the airline incidental fee credits alone, in addition to the bonus points and other benefits. Note, however, that these are supposed to be incidental fees such as baggage fees, so you don't receive any statement credit for purchasing tickets. What has worked is purchasing American Airlines gift cards, in $50 or $100 denominations. Also see Maximizing the AMEX Platinum Airline Fee Credit


5. Hyatt Visa: 2 Free Nights

Bonus: 2 free nights at any Hyatt property worldwide after $1000 in spend within the first 3 months; 5000 Hyatt points after adding an authorized user within the first 3 months. You may even be able to get an offer that includes a $50 statement credit, but you'll need to look for this offer when making a Hyatt reservation and lately, it doesn't consistently appear, at least for me.

Additional Benefits

  • Each year on card membership anniversary, receive 1 annual free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt
  • 3X Hyatt points per dollar spent on Hyatt hotels
  • 2X Hyatt points per dollar spentat restaurants, airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, and car rental agencies
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cost: No fee the first year, then $75 per year

Something to be aware of with the Hyatt free nights is that they must be used within 1 year from the date of issue, and of course the best way to maximize them is to use them somewhere such as the Park Hyatt Maldives, where even the Park Villas are often over $1000 + tax per night. In Thailand, the Hyatt hotels are less compelling, although it's possible that the Park Hyatt Bangkok will open in time for their honeymoon, as it's supposed to open Q4 2016. Until then, the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok is another option, although Bangkok luxury hotels are not all that expensive, so it's a bit of a waste of the free nights to use them in Bangkok.


Honeymoon in Thailand

Finally, in case Maria and her husband are looking for Thailand hotel recommendations, I'll include some of my favorite hotels and experiences:

Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui

Four Seasons Koh Samui Breakfast and Koh Thai Kitchen Review

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort (there's also the more exclusive Four Seasons Golden Triangle, which shares the same elephants).

Mahout Experience at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp

Dining by Design at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp

Peninsula Bangkok Hotel Review

Thai Airways First Class Lounge and Spa Bangkok Review

Bottom Line

Maria and her husband could apply and potentially be approved for all 5 of these new travel credit cards between the two of them, since the required minimum spend for all of them is $12,000. If they did, they would earn 50K Citi ThankYou points, 55K Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points, 35,000 Starpoints and 2 complimentary nights at any Hyatt worldwide, not to mention $500 in airfare credits ($250 in 2016 and $250 in 2017) for the Citi Prestige; $200 in airline incidental credits from the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold ($100 in 2016 and $100 in 2017); a $100 Global Entry fee credit; Admirals Club lounge access from the Citi Prestige; 

Should they at some point want to redeem points for either international Star Alliance travel or domestic U.S. travel on United, a logical transfer partner is Singapore KrisFlyer, since ThankYou points, Ultimate Rewards points, Membership Rewards points and Starpoints all transfer to KrisFlyer.

Finally, I encourage Maria and her husband to become a TravelSort client if they're not already using a travel advisor, since for a trip as important as a honeymoon, an expert advisor can assist with first hand advice on the destination and hotels, a better chance of upgrades and special perks, and advocacy should there be any issues during the stay.

Related Posts

35K SPG AMEX and 35K SPG Business AMEX Bonus Offers

Top 20 Luxury Honeymoon Destinations

Honeymoon in Hawaii: Which Island and Which Hotels?

Which Chase Credit Cards to Apply For Before 5/24 Rule Takes Effect?

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