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Update: Beginning July 23, 2017, the Citi Prestige 4th night free perk will refund the average cost of a 4-night stay, NOT including taxes. And Citi ThankYou points with the Citi Prestige card will be worth 1.25 cents each toward flights.
To get really Big Travel with Small Money, it’s wise to invest some time and effort learning award booking tricks. It takes practice!
But there are some deals that are so easy to earn and book, even folks who are new to miles & points can get traveling right away!
I’ll share my favorite no-brainer awards and deals that can get you on the road to Big Travel in no time!
Best “Easy” Deals for Big Travel
Here are my favorite deals which don’t require messing with award charts or transferring points!
1. Southwest Award Flights
Southwest award tickets are easy to book. Their frequent flyer program is revenue-based, which means the number of points required for an award flight depends on the cash price of the ticket.
So there’s NO award chart. You can use Southwest points at a rate of 70 to 80 Southwest points per $1 towards an award ticket.
And there are no blackout dates! As long as there’s a paid seat available, you can book it with Southwest points.
Keep in mind, you’ll pay fewer points if seats are on sale. And more if the ticket you want is very expensive (for example, if you’re booking last-minute).
This is my favorite travel deal! And it’s easy to earn lots of Southwest points quickly by signing-up for the Chase Southwest Premier (personal or small business) or Chase Southwest Plus cards and completing the minimum spending requirements.
2. Chase Hyatt Card
Link: Chase Hyatt
One of the easiest (and most valuable) hotel award deals is the Chase Hyatt card. You’ll get 2 nights at ANY Hyatt hotel after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account.
And if you’ve had a Hyatt stay since May 1, 2015, there’s an even better offer which also comes with a $50 statement credit after your 1st purchase.
There’s no worrying about an award chart with this deal, because all Hyatt hotels are eligible for the free nights. And each year on your card anniversary, you’ll get another free night in a category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel!
Emily and I have had terrific experiences at many Hyatt hotels, including the Park Hyatt Goa, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, Grand Hyatt Kauai, Hyatt Regency Maui, Park Hyatt Milan, Park Hyatt Paris – Vendome, Park Hyatt Sydney, and Park Hyatt Zurich.
3 & 4. Citi Prestige 4th Night Free and $250 Yearly Airfare Credit
Link: Citi Prestige
Using these perks is simple. To get the 4th night free on a paid stay, just call the Citi Prestige concierge to book your room. I’ve found the prices to be similar to what other sites charge.
To earn the airfare credit, use your Citi Prestige card to book a paid flight directly from the airline.
And because you’re booking paid rooms and tickets, there are no blackout dates. Plus, you’ll earn miles and points for your stay or flight.
When you sign-up for the Citi Prestige card and complete the minimum spending requirements, you’ll earn 50,000 Citi ThankYou points. You can transfer them to airlines or Hilton hotels for Big Travel.
Or use them at a rate of 1.6 cents per point on paid American Airlines (and partner) flights, or 1.33 cents per point on other airlines. That’s potentially worth up to $800 in airfare!
5. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve 2 Weekend Nights
You’ll earn 2 weekend (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) night certificates after you spend $2,500 in the 1st 4 months of opening your Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve account.
This is a terrific deal because you can use your certificates at almost any Hilton. Even their most expensive luxury resorts!
So you don’t have to worry about calculating the number of Hilton points required for your stay.
Plus, the card gets you Hilton Gold Elite status, which means free breakfast at many Hilton hotels, plus possible room upgrade.
You’ll earn the certificates after you’ve met the minimum spending requirements on the card. And they’re good for 12 months from the date of issue.
Here are some of my top picks for using these certificates:
- 5 Great Hotels in Europe
- 5 Top US Hotels
- 5 Amazing Hotels in Australia and the South Pacific
- 5 Spectacular Hotels in Asia
- 5 Beautiful Hotels in the Caribbean
- 5 of the Best US Beaches
6. Chase Fairmont Card
Link: Chase Fairmont
The $95 annual fee on this card is waived for the 1st year, which makes this deal even more amazing!
Note: There are blackout dates and some hotels have booking restrictions. Check this page for all the exclusions.
You’ll earn the certificates once you spend $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account. And they’re valid for 1 year from the date of issue.
This card is an easy way to earn very Big Travel quickly!
7. Chase Ritz-Carlton Card
Link: Chase Ritz-Carlton
Don’t be turned off by the $395 annual fee on the Chase Ritz-Carlton card. After you spend $4,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account, you’ll earn 2 complimentary nights at a tier 1 to 4 Ritz-Carlton hotel.
And those nights could be worth hundreds of dollars more than the annual fee!
You’ll receive your complimentary night certificates after you complete the minimum spending requirements.
Note: The certificates are good for 6 months from the date of issue, not a year like other cards.
Keep in mind, you can almost make up for the annual fee because this card comes with a $300 annual travel credit. You can use it for airline lounge day passes, a yearly lounge membership, airline seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight internet & entertainment, in-flight meals, and Global Entry fees.
However, you can NOT claim the credit for airfare purchases.
8. US Bank FlexPerks Cards
If you don’t want to fuss with available award seats or navigate airline award charts, the US Bank FlexPerks cards are a good choice!
You’ll earn 20,000 US Bank FlexPerks points after you spend $3,500 on purchases in the 1st 4 months of opening your US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature or US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express account.
And you can redeem those points for a paid airline ticket worth up to $400 on over 150 airlines.
It makes the most sense to book a ticket as close to $400 (but not above) as possible. That’s because you’ll pay 20,000 US Bank FlexPerks points whether your ticket costs $99 or $399!
9. Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points for Paid Flights (& More)
Here’s another way to avoid having to search for available award seats. Instead of transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points to travel partners, use them instead to book paid flights.
Folks who have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Plus Business Credit Card, or Chase Ink Bold (no longer offered) cards can use their Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1.25 cents each when they book flights, hotels, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
If you just have the Citi ThankYou Premier card, you’re still able to use your Citi ThankYou points for paid flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruises at a rate of 1.25 cents each.
This is a terrific use of points if you want the most flexibility. And remember, you’ll earn miles and points for your flights and stays, without blackout dates!
For flights, I prefer to transfer to Chase’s partners and use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for international Business and First Class on United Airlines and their partner airlines. But do what works best with your schedule!
10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus Travel Redemption
Not all Big Travel with Small Money can be booked with miles & points. For example, some folks prefer non-chain hotels, campgrounds, or booking stays with Airbnb.
Others may prefer taking the bus or train instead of flying, or enjoy cruises instead of staying in 1 spot.
With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you’ll earns miles which you can redeem for statement credits toward $100+ travel purchases, including:
- Hotels, motels, timeshares, & campgrounds
- Car rental agencies
- Cruise lines
- Travel agencies & discount travel sites
- Trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries
You’ll earn 40,000 Barclaycard Arrival miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 90 days of opening your Barclaycard Arrival Plus account. That’s worth $400 in travel statement credits.
Plus, you’ll get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them for travel.
Note: This isn’t as good a deal as it used to be! But it’s a simple process to redeem your miles through your Barclays account online.
That said, this is still a great sign-up bonus! And a good option for folks who want more choices for using their miles.
You don’t have to memorize charts or spend hours trying to find available award flights and stays to get Big Travel with Small Money!
Some awards are so easy to earn and book, even brand-new miles & points enthusiasts can get started quickly!
Did I miss any of your favorite “easy” awards to book? Please share your top picks in the comments!