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6 ways to save on spring break travel with credit card points in 2024

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Spring break may fall a little differently on the calendar based on where you live, yet most US school systems offer this break sometime in mid-March through the beginning of April. This means a large swath of the nation is trying to travel around the same time, which inevitably results in more travel demand and higher prices for airfare, hotels and car rentals.
Since most airline and hotel loyalty programs rely on dynamic pricing to set rewards rates and availability, booking spring break with travel rewards points and miles as early as possible is often your best bet. This also means you may have fewer ways to use rewards for peak travel if you wait until the last minute.
If you’re trying to plan a trip that uses rewards and won’t break the bank for spring break 2024, the following strategies can help.
Check for last-minute award availability with hotels
There’s still award availability at many popular spring break hotels, like The Confidante Miami Beach. Daniel Zuliani/Hyatt
First off, don’t assume you can’t find award flights or free hotel stays with points and miles for spring break — even at the last minute. We searched for award availability in some popular spring break destinations for late March of 2024 and found some pretty good options on the day of this writing.
For example, multiple hotels in Miami Beach, Florida, can be booked for 23,000 World of Hyatt points per night. This includes popular hotels like the Hyatt Centric South Beach and the The Confidante Miami Beach.
We also found incredible Hyatt options in Hawaii from 20,000 to 35,000 World of Hyatt points per night at properties like the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.
Marriott Bonvoy award availability in destinations like Aruba and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, was also very solid with similar rates to what you find other times of the year. This is even true for some all-inclusive properties available through the program.
Also note that the hotel availability examples listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. I was surprised to find that most destinations where I searched for award stays in the second half of March and the first half of April 2024 had plenty of options without the exorbitant award prices one might expect.
Check travel portal options for flights and hotels
Consider redeeming your credit card rewards for flights this spring break season. shakzu/iStock Editorial/Getty Images
Also remember that you don’t have to book hotels through hotel loyalty programs, nor do you have to book flights through frequent flyer programs to use rewards.
If you have flexible rewards points through programs like American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can check travel options available through each programs’ respective portal. Doing so means you can use your rewards to book any travel that’s available without blackout dates, which leads to having more flexibility to book the travel you really want.
You may even qualify for a “rewards bonus” based on the card you have, which can drive down the cost for your spring break trip. As an example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives users 25% more value when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, whereas the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 50% more value for each point redeemed.
If you check the Chase travel portal, you’ll also find a nearly endless number of travel plans that could work well for spring break. For example, you could fly from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to West Palm Beach, Florida (PBI) in late March for just 9,307 Chase points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
There are also all kinds of hotels and resorts available through the platform, including all-inclusive resorts in destinations like Mexico. As just one example, you could stay as many nights as you wanted in late March into April at the Occidental Costa Cancun All-Inclusive in Cancun, Mexico, starting at just 19,628 points per night with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (based on double occupancy).
Use statement credits to cover travel expenses
You can redeem some credit card points toward any travel expense you charge to your card. Victor Elias/Victor Elias Photography/Hilton
You can also go about using rewards for travel in a totally different way, but you should only try this strategy with specific travel credit cards. We’re talking about using your credit card to book any type of travel you want, then redeeming rewards for statement credits to cover all or part of your travel plans.
Capital One travel credit cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card are good options for travel statements since you can redeem your miles to cover travel purchases made within 90 days at a rate of one cent per mile. Simply charge airfare, hotels and other travel expenses to your card and then use your miles to cover all or part of the purchases.
Capital One
You can also redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits to cover travel purchases (or any other purchases) at the same rate of one cent per point. Just remember that Amex Membership Rewards points are worth just 0.6 cents per point if redeemed for statement credits, so you probably want to steer clear of this redemption.
Redeem rewards for dining and travel gift cards
Redeeming credit card points for gift cards can offset the cost of food on your next trip. Joel Carillet/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images
Gift cards for dining or travel can also help you lower the costs of spring break, but you’ll want to make sure you’re redeeming for gift cards you can actually use and getting a great rate. Fortunately, most flexible rewards programs offer at least some gift card redemptions for one cent per point.
Plenty of travel and dining gift cards are available through programs like Capital One, which could be used for spring break plans or dinner on vacation. Gift card examples we found available through Capital One as of this writing include the following:
Burger King.
Carnival Cruise Lines.
Texas Roadhouse.
You can also check Chase Ultimate Rewards for gift cards that could help with spring break since there are usually some options that have a 10% discount.
Use rewards for alternative vacation plans
Consider redeeming your credit card rewards toward a cruise or other alternate travel plans. Sjo/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images
If you’re tired of searching for availability in the most popular spring break destinations, you might want to consider some alternative options. For example, consider spring break in smaller beachfront destinations in Florida over more obvious options like Daytona Beach or Miami, or opt for spring break in a major US city with plenty to do and see like Chicago or New York City. For even more options, consider spending spring break in the mountains or at a theme park that offers accommodations on-site.
You also have time to consider a cruise for spring break, which can be a money-saving option if you can drive to a cruise port and avoid costs for airfare. The fact is, there are quite a few travel credit cards that work well for cruises, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
There are lots of excellent last-minute cruise deals you can find for spring break as well. Consider searching on Cruise Critic, which offers last-minute cruise deals.
Redeem cash back rewards for spring break travel
You can use your cash back credit card’s rewards to cover flights, hotels and other travel expenses. Eliyahu Parypa/iStock Editorial/Getty Images
Also keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to have a travel credit card to redeem rewards for spring break. Plenty of cash back credit cards also let you redeem rewards for travel, either by redeeming for airfare, hotels and other travel through a portal, or for statement credits to cover travel purchases after the fact.
For example, cash back credit cards from Chase like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ let you redeem points for travel through Chase or statement credits at a rate of one cent per point. Other cash back credit cards like the Citi Double Cash® Card and the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card let you redeem cash back for statement credits at the same standard rate.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Flex, Citi Double Cash Card and the Wells Fargo Active Cash Cash has been collected by CNN Underscored. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
While you may not get as much “bang for your buck” if you redeem rewards for statement credits over transfers to airline and hotel programs, this option can help you save money on spring break while putting your rewards to good use.
Bottom line
There are still a ton of ways to utilize rewards points to save money or get at least part of your spring break trip for free, but you shouldn’t delay any longer if you hope to lock something in.
Our advice? Figure out what rewards you currently have and their available redemption options before you start your search. Once you have a handle on the points you have and how you can use them, you can start searching for spring break travel plans that suit your needs and your travel budget.
Looking for a new travel credit card? Check out CNN Underscored Money’s list of the best credit cards currently available.



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