To recap from yesterday’s introduction, some friends were discussing their plan to go to Hawaii later this year and asked me if I had any suggestions for saving money, including taking advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses.
I will lay out several different options. Yesterday I discussed how to get there, and today I’ll discuss how to stay there. In my experience, the hotels cost more than the flights. If you can find good flights, feel free to pay in cash. Credit card sign-up bonuses can still save you a bundle once you land.
You could choose to apply for all of these cards in one day if you wanted, but you’ll probably just need one airline card and one hotel card per person. Also keep in mind that many issuing banks limit you to just one card application every three months, or make you jump through hoops to get two.
This is one of my favorite options, probably because I’m a Hyatt fan and they have some amazing Hawaiian properties. Hyatt currently operates four hotels in Hawaii with a fifth one opening this summer. These include the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the Hyatt Place Waikiki, the Hyatt Regency Maui at Kaanapali, and the upcoming Andaz Maui at Wailea.
Apply for the Hyatt Visa from Chase and get two free nights after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. These free nights expire after one year from deposit, so plan carefully! I recently had to plead with Gold Passport to have Megan’s two free nights extended by another month. However, the benefits are obvious: two people = two cards = four nights. If you apply for an Ink Bold or Ink Plus business card at the same time, or an Sapphire Preferred card at a later date, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for additional free nights.
The Hyatt Visa carries an annual fee of $75, but it’s worth paying because you also get a free night each year. I used mine to stay at the Grand Hyatt Seattle on New Year’s Eve, when standard rates were $300.
The two best properties in Hawaii are the Grand Hyatt Kauai and (I expect) the new Andaz Maui at Wailea, which will be opening this summer. The Hyatt Regency Maui is also very good, but I don’t recommend most people use their free nights at this hotel. Why? Because the basic rooms you get with a free night award don’t offer a view, and it does tend to get overcrowded with families and children.
If you are a Platinum or Diamond member, you may get moved up to a better room at the Hyatt Regency Maui. I’ve enjoyed staying there a couple times with an ocean front view. But if you are just taking advantage of this card for the free nights and never stay at Hyatt otherwise, save them for the new Andaz instead.
Hilton’s points use to be worth a lot more before a recent devaluation. Now, I’m not sure I would bother trying to accumulate and redeem them. The value derived from free nights in Hawaii probably is not their best use, but let’s face it, most people are not heading off to the Conrad Maldives any time soon. So burning a load of Hilton points in Hawaii is still a good practical use. Points and miles you never use are effectively worthless.
Remember yesterday when I discussed the Hawaiian Airlines credit cards? Well, you could use the 140,000 HawaiianMiles toward air travel, or you can transfer them to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. This would give you 280,000 Hilton HHonors points. You could get another 40,000 to 60,000 points by signing up for one of several other Hilton cards offered by Citi or American Express.
I think, however, that you should apply for the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card instead. The Reserve will give you two free weekend nights at almost any Hilton property for $95 (plus it comes with free Gold elite status). You can then use the points you already have from transferring HawaiianMiles to fill in the weekdays, or keep the HawaiianMiles and switch to a different hotel using some of the options below. Again, two people = two cards = four nights, but these are weekend nights so you will have to stay for a full week and fill in the middle with something else.
Hilton has many properties spread across its different brands and the different islands. Rather than detail them, I will point out the best uses of a free weekend night certificate. Translation: most expensive. These are the Grand Wailea on Maui and Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu. Sadly, the Hilton Grand Vacations Club at Waikoloa on Hawaii is excluded.
Chase also offers a Fairmont Visa card that provides two free nights, with breakfast, at any Fairmont hotel after spending $1,000. Much like Hyatt, Fairmont has some pretty good properties in Hawaii including one on Maui near the new Andaz. Again, two people = two cards = four nights. Each card has an annual fee of $95. Keep in mind that because this card is offered by Chase, you must choose between the Hyatt or the Fairmont card. Chase only allows one personal card application at a time.
Fairmont has two excellent properties, the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui and the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii. Excellent service and staff, but you are limited by the number of locations and the cost of paying for additional nights, if necessary.
I mention this card last not because it’s a bad card but because I’m just not satisfied with any of the redemption opportunities in Hawaii. Starpoints are very valuable for Cash + Points awards. You can apply for a personal SPG American Express card and get 25,000 points after spending $5,000 in six months. The same offer is available for the business version. You can also combine points between two peoples’ accounts if you have the same address on record for more than one month.
Starwood has multiple hotels on almost every Hawaiian Island, but I’m just not a fan of most of them. I much prefer the Hyatt Regency Maui, for example, to the Westin Maui, and both are on the same beach with a shared boardwalk. The St. Regis Princeville on Kauai is the only one I look forward to, and it has limited participation in the SPG program.
I would recommend using this card just if you are running out of free nights with Hyatt, Fairmont, or Hilton and need someplace to crash. Otherwise, it’s a great card, but use your points at one of Starwood’s amazing properties somewhere else.