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By: Caroline Lupini
Many people feel overwhelmed when they see all the credit card options out there. While booking travel for (almost) free is exciting, adding anxiety to the process is not. With that in mind, we’ve decided to start a new series to help uncomplicate things for you.
If you’ve seen any of our reader success stories, you know miles and points can help you put together some insane trips across the world. Sure, the international first class flights — complete with champagne — and amazing hotels are exciting but that can take a little more planning.
If you want to keep things simple, you can still get out and see the world.
With that in mind, we’re launching our new “2 Card Trip” Series. We’ll be showing you how easily you can take trips thanks to the welcome bonuses from only two cards.
To kick things off, Caroline has put together a fun trip to Puerto Rico. I’ll let her take it from here!
Spencer, Editor in Chief
Puerto Rico got crossed off a lot of people’s travel lists while recovering from Hurricane Maria, but the island is very much open for business and welcoming tourists – especially in the capital of San Juan.
You can explore the historic old city, take a day trip to the magnificent El Yunque rainforest, or spend some quality time relaxing on the beach or at the pool – your options are wide open!
The Two Credit Cards
Today, I’m going to show you how you can easily use two Chase credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus, to visit San Juan for next to nothing.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. When using the card, you’ll earn 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and 1X point on all other purchases.
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase offers a bonus of two free nights (up to 35,000 points per night) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. You’ll also automatically get Marriott Silver Elite status just for holding the card.
This card earns 6X Marriott Rewards points per dollar at Marriott properties and 2X points everywhere else. You’ll also get a free night certificate (valid at properties costing up to 35,000 points per night) every year starting on your first anniversary of opening the card.
Where to Stay
There are several great Marriott properties in San Juan.
The La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort is a gorgeous beachfront property that costs 35,000 points per night – so you could spend two nights there with your welcome bonus.
Check out their beachfront infinity pool.
The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is nearby and also requires 35,000 points per night.
If you’d like to stretch your points, the Courtyard San Juan Miramar is just 17,500 points per night – and Marriott gives you the fifth night free on award stays of 4 nights or more, so you could spend five nights here with just the welcome bonus from the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus credit card, should you find an offer with the bonus of 75,000 Marriott points, — and still have a few points left over!
The area has lots of restaurants and is a short taxi or Uber ride from San Juan’s main attractions.
How to Get There
One of Chase’s partners is Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, which means you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest instantly at a 1:1 ratio (1,000 Ultimate Rewards points = 1,000 Rapid Rewards points).
That means the 50,000 points you earn as a welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is likely more than enough to get you a round-trip ticket to San Juan – and possibly even two tickets, depending on where you’re coming from and your travel dates.
Southwest uses a revenue-based award so there are no blackout dates, but award prices fluctuate depending on how much they’re charging for a cash ticket.
It’s even possible to find round-trip tickets for around 16,000 Rapid Rewards points.
Southwest has nonstop flights to San Juan from Baltimore (BWI), Chicago (MDW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (HOU), Orlando (MCO), and Tampa (TPA) – and of course, you can connect through one of those cities from elsewhere in the country.
If you live in an American Airlines hub – Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, or Philadelphia – you can also get a great deal by transferring points to British Airways’ Executive Club program. As with Southwest, 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points = 1,000 British Airways Avios miles.
British Airways’ prices are based on distance flown. A non-stop flight from Miami (MIA) to San Juan (SJU) would cost just 15,000 British Airways Avios round-trip.
Flights from Charlotte (CLT) or Philadelphia (PHL) would require 20,000 Avios round-trip while non-stops from Chicago (ORD) and Dallas (DFW) would be 25,000 Avios round trip.
Depending on Southwest’s prices from your city, these might be a better deal if you can find seats – unlike Southwest, award flights booked with British Airways Avios are subject to availability.
With the 50,000 points you can earn from the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s welcome bonus, you could have enough points for two round-trip flights from any of these cities.
Puerto Rico is a tricky place to get around without a car, so if you’re planning to venture outside of the city you may want to rent a car.
Luckily, the Chase Sapphire Preferred includes primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver coverage, so you don’t have to worry about collision insurance – just pay with your Chase Sapphire Preferred and decline the car rental company’s insurance.
You’ll be covered against theft and collision damage, up to the full cash value of the car, without filing a claim with your own auto insurance company.
You can even use your Ultimate Rewards points to pay for your rental car through the Ultimate Rewards travel website, where 1 Ultimate Rewards point = 1.25 cents. That means a $200 car rental would cost 16,000 points. This isn’t necessarily the most valuable way to use your points but could make sense depending on your needs.
If you’ll only be taking shorter trips, taxis don’t typically take credit cards, but you can use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card in the Uber app to earn 2X Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on your rides.
Welcome Bonus Restrictions
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, which means you will not be approved for the card if you have opened 5 or more personal credit cards with any bank — plus Capital One and Discover business cards — in the past 24 months.
The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus also has some extra restrictions. You can’t receive a welcome bonus for that card if any of the following are true:
- You currently have a Marriott Rewards Premier or Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase or received a welcome bonus on either of these cards in the past 24 months
- You currently have a Starwood Preferred Guest personal credit card from American Express or had it open within the past 30 days
- You opened a Starwood Preferred Guest personal, Business, or Luxury card with American Express in the past 90 days
- You received a welcome or upgrade bonus for a Starwood Preferred Guest Business or Luxury credit card from American Express in the past 24 months
San Juan is a great place to visit, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you use points and miles to cover your flights and hotels! With just two credit card sign-up bonuses, it’s possible to cover your flights for two people and up to five-night hotel stay in San Juan!
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.