Chase Sapphire Reserve and AMEX SPG Credit Card: I Saved $3,100 On My Hawaiian Honeymoon

I uploaded a post a few days ago about my trip on the Road to Hana on the island of Maui. Today, I want to share how I used the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards to save money on that trip.  I was able to use the points generated from these two credit cards to save money on my honeymoon and I was very glad (and thankful) to book all these things online!

Let’s be real for a second – there are a ton of travel blog websites that specifically hype up the power of travel credit cards.  Don’t get me wrong.  I read these sites and I love the content they provide, but there’s always a lingering sense of exaggeration since the financial bottom line of many travel blog website’s are dictated by credit cards signups.  In any case, today I wanted to give you a realistic idea of what kind of savings you can generate with travel cards, specifically the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards.

In my own experience I was able to save about $3,100 on my 14 day honeymoon trip to the islands of Maui an Oahu using a combination of points for these two cards.  Other websites will tell you that they used points for their whole honeymoon, but usually they’ve amassed and hoarded huge numbers of points (250,000 points and above).  To me, these scenarios are slightly unrealistic without 2 years of financial planning.  So here is my strategy and it was fairly simple.  My fiancee (at the time) and myself used both credits cards to pay for our wedding expenses!  The obvious caveat is this, make sure you have the cash in your bank account to pay off each billing cycle so that you don’t get hit with huge APR fees.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Overview

In 2017, this credit card was on of the most hyped among the millennial generation for the 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) Sign Up Bonus.  This bonus was so lucrative that JP Morgan/Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, admitted that it lost Chase Bank an estimated $300 million that quarter! Since then the signup bonus has been cut in half and it doesn’t seem like the 100,000 UR bonus will ever come back. Regardless, the Credit Card provides solid returns earning 3% on Travel and Food and 1% on all other purchases in the form of Chase URs.  The drawback – A $450 annual fee.

$450 is a lot of money for a credit card.  If your unwilling to pay that annually then just stop reading and head over to the next section for a more digestible annual fee.  I’ll make no effort to convince you otherwise, but there are a couple aspects of this card that slightly balances out the fee.  A $300 Travel Credit which can be applied to airfare, parking, train tickets, and hotels just to name a few categories.  In essence, the annual fee turns into a $150 fee which makes it slightly more reasonable.  Another perk that somewhat justifies the annual fee is the Global Entry credit.  This $100 credit allows you to apply for Global Entry for free, though it is only applicable every 4 years.  While not the best perk, I think we can agree it’s still a positive rather than a detriment.  Furthermore, this card also gives you access to priority pass lounges which are located at airports throughout the world!

CategoryUltimate Rewards Earned
Food and Travel3
Using Ultimate rewards and transferring to Partners

As I said before, spending on this card will give you 3% on travel and food and 1% on all other purchases in the form of Chase URs.  These rewards will enable you to do three things within the chase ultimate reward portal: 1) Use to pay off credit card bill or covert to cash (100 URs = $1.00), 2) Use on Chase Travel Portal to book hotels or airline tickets (100 UR = $1.50), and 3) transfer to hotel or airline partners at a 1:1 Ratio (1000 UR = 1000 miles/points).  Of these three things, the best value will come from transferring your URs to other airline or hotel programs.  However, in our case we used the Chase Travel Portal to book stay at the Westin Ka’anapali Resort in Maui, which I’ll discuss below.

Transfer Partners

Airline PartnerHotel Partner
British Airways AviosHyatt Gold Passport
Air France/KLM Flying BlueIHG Rewards Club
Singapore KrisFlyerMarriott Rewards
United MileagePlus MilesRitz Carlton Rewards
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Korean Air Skypass
Iberia Plus
Aer Lingus AerClub
List of Airline and Hotel Transfer Partners for Chase Ultimate Rewards

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

The AMEX SPG Credit Card is another travel card that awards Starwood points for spending.  This card may not be as well known as the CSR, but among travelers, it is considered one of the most powerful for award travel.  This card has an annual fee of only $95, with first year waived, and can earn up to 5 starwood points depending on SPG status :

Starwood Point Earning Rate

Spending CategoryEarning Rate (Points per $)
Starwood Hotels (Platinum/Gold Status)5
Starwood Hotels (Premier)4
Starwood and Marriott Hotels (Base)2
Everything Else1

The SPG Credit Card does have a smaller annual fee than the CSR, yet it also lacks the additional perks provided with the CSR.  With the SPG points you earn you can do three things: 1) Use points for Starwood Hotel Redemptions, 2) Transfer points to Marriott Rewards (1 SPG: 1MR) and redeem for Marriott Hotel Stays, and 3) transfer to airline partners.

The real power comes in the form of bonus points when Starwood points are transferred to other airlines or Marriott Hotels (since they are now apart of the same company)!  You are able to transfer a maximum of 20,000 Starwood points per transaction with a daily cap of 80,000 points.  More importantly, there is a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred to an airline partner.   For our honeymoon, we were able to transfer our SPG points to Marriott Rewards and used them to stay at Marriott Beach Resort in Wailea.

Honeymoon Details: Hotels

Getting to Hawaii from the East Coast of the United States was at first somewhat daunting due to the distance, but it proved to be a somewhat easy flight since our connection in PHX easily broke up the flight.  I can’t image flying non-stop.  We could have used our Ultimate Rewards or Starwood Points to transfer to airlines to pay for our flights, but we were lucky to have our flights to Hawaii gifted as a wedding present.   Like I said before, I wanted to give you a realistic idea of what kind of savings you can generate with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the AMEX SPG.  We stayed in Maui for 7 days and Oahu for another 7 and used our points for hotels in Maui.  Even though we saved around $3000 dollars we still had to pay about $1000 from our pocket, which was primarily spent on our 7 day stay in Oahu.

For our first 4 days in Maui, we stayed at the Westin Ka’anapali Resort in Maui. This seemed to be a quite popular hotel.  At first we were given a room on the 2nd floor that overlooked a roof (boo!), but were able to request a room that was higher up that contained a better view (I certainly recommend a high floor room).   A 4-day stay beach viewing room at the Westin would have costed us $1,800, but we instead were able to use 120,000 Ultimate Rewards from our wedding purchases to pay for this stay.   Alternatively we could have transfered URs to Marriot Rewards and then convert then to starwood points, however this would’ve resulted in a 3:1 ratio!  Also, this stay certainly wouldn’t be feasible since it takes 20,000 starwood points/night (80,000 SPG/240,000 MR or UR) – A terrible redemption.  So in this case the chase travel portal made sense.

For the next 3 days in Maui we stayed at the Marriott Beach Resort in Wailea.  For anyone thinking of traveling to Maui, here’s a tip: Wailea is a couple’s paradise while Ka’anapali is a more family centered environment. This hotel was superb! The views were unparalleled to any other place on the island and the adult pool area was relaxing (although get there early in the morning, it fills up fast!).  A 3-night stay here would have cost us $1,300 but we instead used 30,000 SPG points, converted to 120,000 Marriots Rewards to pay for this stay. In addition, we used the AMEX SPG credit card to pay for any taxes or hotel expenses which earned us additional points!

Bottom Line:

At the end of our honeymoon, we saved about $3100 and spent about $1000.  This easily could’ve been up to a $5000 trip for hotels alone! But using the Chase Sapphire Reserve and AMEX SPG Credit Cards enabled us to save money on our trip.

If you enjoyed this post, Please consider using These Referral Links:

Earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Reserve. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card.

Apply for The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

2 thoughts on “Chase Sapphire Reserve and AMEX SPG Credit Card: I Saved $3,100 On My Hawaiian Honeymoon

  1. John says:

    I’ve always been confused about points and how to redeem them, and that’s why I avoided signing up for these type of credit cards. But I definitely realize the benefits.
    Thanks for breaking things down and giving a real world example about how to benefit from points. You may have just pushed me over the edge to applying for one of these cards 🙂

    1. pandaslash says:

      Hi John – these credit cards are great for getting free travel! Just remember the caveat, pay off your monthly charges in full to avoid the APR charge.

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