I value simplicity and flexibility when it comes to using travel points - here's how I planning to save $500 in Europe with just one card

I value simplicity and flexibility when it comes to using travel points - here's how I planning to save $500 in Europe with just one card

Obidos Portugal

Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

I'm still deciding between a hotel stay in Croatia and Obidos, Portugal (the latter of which is pictured).

  • My approach to award travel is "less is more." Instead of using multiple rewards credit cards to cover my entire trip with points, I try to find a flight deal and focus on earning hotel points to cover my accommodation.
  • For an upcoming trip to Europe, I'm using the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card to earn points toward a stay in Croatia or Portugal.
  • The Bonvoy Boundless card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
  • I chose this card because it gives me lots of options for using my points - I haven't decided where I'll stay just yet because my trip is still several months away.
  • See Business Insider's list of the best rewards credit cards.

When it comes to booking travel with points and miles, I have one rule: Less is more. Instead of keeping detailed spreadsheets of multiple credit cards or trying to pay for an entire trip with credit card points, I like to focus on using points for one part of my trip.

For my upcoming summer travels in Europe, I'm using the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card to earn points for free nights at a hotel. Hotel credit cards are often overlooked, but using this Marriott card is helping me save nearly $1,000. Here's why simple is better, how I'm planning ahead and why hotel points provide flexibility.


Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

Hotel points provide flexibility

The truth is that I haven't quite picked a destination for my travels yet. That might sound crazy, but I know the dates, the type of vacation, and the continent. For now, that's enough. Here's what I do know: I'll be in England over summer to visit family and decided to add a five-night trip somewhere in continental Europe while I'm abroad. Because I still have six months until the trip, I'm not worried that I don't know my exact location, and a big part of the reason for that is because I've chosen a hotel chain.

Instead of choosing a destination and then figuring out the logistics, I prefer to stay flexible while I earn credit card points. Earning rewards points through credit cards takes multiple months - you need to apply for the card, receive the card, meet the minimum spending requirement, and then wait for the points to appear in your account. I like to leave myself more than enough time to complete those steps and part of the way I do that is by choosing a hotel chain instead of a destination.


I've narrowed down my possible locations to a coastal town in Portugal or Croatia. The most important thing these locations have in common? Marriott hotels.

I have lots of Marriott options in Europe

I chose Marriott because of its great hotel locations throughout Europe. But even beyond that, Marriott offers members a fifth night free, even when you book with points. After researching hotels in both countries, I narrowed it down to the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel in Mlini, Croatia and the Praia D'El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort in Obidos, Portugal. Both hotels are Category 4, which means that during summer peak season with the fifth night free, my stay will "cost" about 120,000 points. That's compared to the cash price of €1,067.50 ($1,187.06) at the hotel in Mlini or €997.00 ($1,108.66) at the hotel in Obidos.

Even after accounting for the $95 annual fee on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card, the savings are still substantial. Right now, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card comes with a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 within the first three months. Even though 100,000 points isn't enough to pay for my entire stay at the hotel, it's more than enough to pay for my half of it. (The friend I am travelling with is planning on applying for the card as well and using points to pay for the other half.)


After accounting for the annual fee, I'll personally save about $500 by paying for the hotel with points. Compared to some award travelers who save thousands of dollars by using points, $500 might not seem like a lot. But considering the ease and simplicity of using one credit card versus timing, tracking, and managing multiple accounts, I'm happy with my savings.

You can keep it simple and still reap the rewards

Award travel can feel overwhelming, especially when it seems like other people are able to score thousands of dollars in value through their points and miles. But that's exactly why I like to keep it simple. I don't have any desire to spend hours of my life tracking bonus points on a spreadsheet or buying things I don't need in order to meet a new credit card's minimum spending requirement. Instead, I prefer to focus on one credit card at a time and to meet the minimum spend through regular monthly expenses.

But even beyond that, I'm able to score great deals on airfare through setting price alerts, utilizing budget airlines, and planning ahead. Because of that, hotel points are the most cost effective and easiest way to for me to travel hack.


Click here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card »

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