My husband and I started earning travel points just before we got engaged. We knew we wanted to take a special honeymoon, and we knew we’d have a lot of expenses to prepare for our wedding. We were confidently on track to marriage and had been very open in our finances throughout our entire relationship, so we felt comfortable opening up a credit card account together.
We started with one rewards card: a United Airlines credit card. We knew we wanted to go to Austria for our honeymoon, and knew we’d be flying United Airlines as they had the best prices we were able to find. Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough at points yet to get free flights, but we paid for our United flights with the United credit card to earn bonus points. We used these points later for free flights on another trip.
We also opened a Marriott Rewards credit card after receiving information about a sign up bonus offer. If we spent a certain amount within a certain time frame (I believe it was $3,000 in 3 months) we would earn 50,000 bonus points. We were new to the world of travel points, but felt it would be beneficial to us to be earning both airline miles and hotel points with plans to travel often in our future, so we signed up for this card as well.
We knew we could hit the minimum spending amount to earn the sign up bonus easily. We put all our living expenses on the card and paid it off each month, essentially using it instead of our debit cards. We also had some wedding expenses to put on it, and we had reached the amount needed to earn the sign up bonus before we knew it.
With 50,000 bonus points available to us, we knew we had a couple of options. First, we could use those points fugally and end up with a few free nights at a Marriott hotel if we chose a lesser tier option. OR we could go big and spend our entire sign up bonus on one night at the Ritz Carlton in Vienna for the first night of our honeymoon.
We’re normally pretty thrifty people, and tend to travel on a budget as much as possible…all the more reason for us to splurge for this once in a lifetime, special occasion. So, we did! We spent the entire sign up bonus, 50,000 points, on one night at the nicest hotel we’d ever set foot in.
We arrived in Vienna, 23 year olds from the Great Plains, bright eyed and freshly married, and walked into the lobby of the Ritz Carlton. It was easily the nicest place we’d ever been inside, and we still talk about how amazing it smelled in there. We had arrived pretty early, and were treated to free beverages while they finished preparing our room for us. The staff took great care of us, and never let on that it probably wasn’t every day that they had such young, clearly clueless to this lifestyle, guests checking in. Our room was incredible, with stunning views of Vienna.
I’m a huge believe in treating yourself from time to time, especially if you’re used to budget travel and are celebrating a special occasion. I’m an even bigger believer in it when it can be done for free, such as in this instance! Without our Marriott Rewards credit card sign up bonus, we would have never been able to afford to do something like this.
I felt a little bit of guilt at the time because I knew the responsible thing to do would be to try and get as many free nights out of the points as possible. That’s how I was wired to think. Once we arrived at the Ritz, however, I’ve never looked back and would do the same thing again in a heartbeat.
Sure, there’s other ways we could have spent our points that would have given us more value in terms of number of free nights. Instead, though we chose to live like royalty for the first night of our Austrian honeymoon, and we have no regrets about using our entire credit card sign up bonus on one free night of luxury these budget travelers will always remember at the Ritz Carlton in Vienna.