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How to Use Credit Card Points for a Fabulous 'Staycation'

A woman wearing a bathrobe and stretching her arms as she sits on a hotel bed facing the window.

Image source: Getty Images

There's never been a more appropriate time for a "staycation." Travel isn't anywhere near back to normal and many people have been cooped up in their homes for months. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a staycation is when you do vacation-type activities either in your home city or anywhere within a day's drive.

You could rent a luxury hotel room, visit museums, try a couple of new restaurants, or all of the above. The allure of a staycation is that you get the vacation experience without going far from home. That's an even bigger benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic since you don't need to fly anywhere or cross any borders.

Just like traditional vacations, staycations are even better if you don't need to pay for them. And there are several great ways you can use credit card points to book yours.

Score a free hotel stay

A nice hotel is a simple, yet effective way to have an exciting staycation. Book a hotel for a long weekend and consider yourself a tourist once you've checked in.

The obvious way to get a free hotel stay is a hotel credit card. Fortunately, there are lots of options available, and many offer big sign-up bonuses that can cover multiple nights, even at luxurious properties. Here are a couple to check out:

  • IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: 125,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 on purchases in three months. Free nights start at 10,000 points. $89 annual fee.
  • World of Hyatt Credit Card: Up to 50,000 bonus points (25,000 for spending $3,000 on purchases in three months, plus another 25,000 for spending $6,000 on purchases in six months). Free nights start at 5,000 points. $95 annual fee.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: 150,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in three months. Free nights start at 5,000 points. $450 annual fee.

The bonuses on any of those cards could easily pay for your stay, so it's just a matter of picking the hotel chain that's closest to you or that you like the most.

Treat yourself to a fine dining experience

Discovering the best places to eat and trying local cuisines are highlights of any good vacation. Even if you are familiar with the dining scene in your area, you could still look for new options or go with one of your favorites.

With the right Chase card, you could also pay for your meals with points. Chase has temporarily altered to how you can use its Sapphire card Ultimate Rewards points. Through Sept. 30, 2020, you can redeem points toward dining (and grocery store) purchases as if they were travel purchases. Here are the cards with this benefit:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Points are worth $0.0125 each toward dining purchases. Offers 60,000 bonus points ($750 value) for spending $4,000 in three months. $95 annual fee.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Points are worth $0.015 each toward dining purchases. Offers 50,000 bonus points ($750 value) for spending $4,000 in three months. $550 annual fee.

Takeout orders and those made through eligible delivery services also qualify, so you can pay with points even if it's not sit-down dining.

Book fun activities and experiences

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are also useful for booking activities. Under the "Things to Do" section in the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, enter a city and your staycation dates to find a wide range of options. These include:

  • Tickets to theme parks
  • All-inclusive city passes with a variety of activities
  • Sightseeing tours by bike, bus, or even helicopter
  • Admission to museums

Since these are considered travel purchases, you can redeem points at the travel rate. That's either $0.0125 per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or $0.015 per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Get around using rideshares

Your staycation might be much more relaxing if you don't have to drive. You don't need to worry about finding parking or getting gas, and if you end up stuck in traffic, at least you're not the one who has to navigate through it.

There aren't many credit cards with points intended specifically for rideshares. But some cards have rewards you can redeem as a statement credit toward any travel purchase. Two popular options include:

  • Venture® Rewards from Capital One®: Miles are worth $0.01 each toward travel purchases. 50,000 bonus points ($500 value) after spending $3,000 in three months. $95 annual fee.
  • Discover it® Miles: Miles are worth $0.01 each toward travel purchases (or as cash back). Discover doubles the miles you earn in your first year using the card. No annual fee.

You could use either card to pay for rideshare services, and then redeem miles as a statement credit toward those purchases. And you could do the same with any other purchases that are categorized as travel.

A staycation that's paid for in points

If you've been stuck at home and you've got serious travel cravings, a staycation may be the perfect solution. If you take advantage of travel credit cards, you could also go on that staycation without spending much.

Our credit card expert uses this card, and it could earn you $1,148 (seriously)

As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.

But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases until late 2021, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.

That’s why our expert – who has reviewed hundreds of cards – signed up for this one personally. Click here to get free access to our expert’s top pick.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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