Video: Couples score free honeymoons using rewards

Careful credit card use turned wedding spending into massive cache of points


If you're footing the bill for your own wedding, a grand honeymoon may seem out of reach. It doesn't have to be. With a bit of credit card strategizing, you can have your wedding cake and eat it too -- while overlooking white sand beaches and crystal blue waters.

"We had to pay for our wedding ourselves," says Dan Schoenfeld, who paid for his honeymoon with reward points. "So we knew we were going to probably be putting money on credit cards, anyway. So we wanted to make that money we were putting on our credit card work for us."

Dan and Lorena Schoenfeld spent the year before their wedding figuring out how to maximize their hotel and frequent flier rewards points for a lavish honeymoon in Tahiti, complete with a first class flight and eight nights swaying to sleep in over-the-water bungalows. It was a trip that should have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Their bill?

"When we checked out we only had to pay $16," says Lorena Schoenfeld. "It was bacially for free. It was a free honeymoon."

So how did they do it?

Tip 1: Combine accounts
First, since they both had credit cards that earned airline and hotel rewards points, they combined their rewards accounts.

"To combine them they actually require a copy of a marriage certificate. We actually went and got our marriage certificate several months before we got married, before we started putting everything on the card," says Dan Schoenfeld.

Tip 2: Get a card affiliated with your wedding location
Second, since they were getting married at a Starwood hotel and paid all of their expenses with a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, they got three points for every dollar they spent.

Tip 3: Ask the hotel for your guests’ unclaimed points
And, by simply asking the hotel, they earned three points for every dollar spent by their guests who were not Starwood loyalty members. Since everyone was staying at the same hotel, this tactic paid off big.

"So everything just kind of tripled outrageously," says Lorena Schoenfeld.

The Schoenfelds' story was so impressive, their wedding photographers Maggie Stolzberg and Dorian Iribarren followed their example when it was their own turn to walk down the aisle. With every cent they charged for their dream wedding in Italy, they earned points toward their fantasy honeymoon in Santorini, Greece.

Tip 4: Use only one card
Their top tip? Use only one card so you concentrate your rewards earnings. "That resulted in being able to stay in nicer places that were more expensive, but were actually free because we paid with points," says Dorian Iribarren, owner of Sea Glass Studios.

Tip 5: Start as early as possible
Both couples agree, the biggest tip is to start consolidating and collecting points as early as possible, even before the wedding bills come due.

Consider it a thank you card to yourselves. 

See related: 6 wedding expenses you should always charge on credit, Video: Credit card travel rewards tips from the pros, Video: How one woman travels the world on credit card points

Published: February 29, 2016

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Updated: 10-23-2016

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