I meant to do a post last year on how to save money on a Hawaiian vacation. Evidently I forgot. 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.
Lest you think this is another post just to shill credit cards, take note: the majority of these cards do not earn me any affiliate income. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it when if you choose to use my affiliate links, but I don’t think those offers are the best ones for this particular scenario. For example, I’ve left out several cards that earn flexible bank points. The bonuses are either too small to buy most tickets when converted to cash, or the points are too valuable to waste on inflated award charts when converted to miles.
I will lay out several different options. Today I’ll discuss how to get there, and tomorrow I’ll discuss how to stay there. In my experience, the hotels cost more than the flights, but I live on the West Coast.
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.
The first cards you should consider are the two Hawaiian Airlines credit cards. One is issued by Bank of America, and the second is issued by Bank of Hawaii. Each person can apply for both, but because both are managed by FIA Card Services, they’ll notice and you will probably get a concerned phone call asking if you made a mistake. Just tell the representative that you have some expenses you need to track separately. Each card earns 35,000 HawaiianMiles after spending $1,000 in 4 months. There is a $79 annual fee on each card, as well.
The great thing about HawaiianMiles is that as long as you keep your credit card account open, you can transfer miles to other people. So, combine your points to put all 140,000 miles in one account and you’ll have enough for two Coach Saver awards (30,000 miles per person each way). If you use manufactured spend to put $20,000 in purchases on these cards, you’ll have a total of 160,000 miles instead and that is enough for two First Class Saver awards (40,000 miles per person each way).
The downside is you’ll have to pay $316 in fees on four cards, but to make up for it I’ve found Hawaiian Airlines tends to have good award availability even at times when revenue fares are high. If Hawaiian doesn’t operate flights from your city, partner awards on Delta cost 45,000 miles round-trip in coach or 90,000 miles round-trip in first.
Another option is the Alaska Airlines Visa, also issued by Bank of America. While the 25,000-mile sign-up bonus is too small to get you a free flight to Hawaii, it could be enough to book a one-way award so that you later book the other direction using HawaiianMiles or Avios points. One-way flights in coach on Alaska are 20,000 to 27,500 miles for Super Saver or Choice awards. Book round-trip, and you’ll need 40,000 to 55,000 miles. You can also look for space on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines (these last two are round-trip only).
This card does come with a round-trip coach companion fare for $110 (including taxes/fees). When award space is tight and fares are high, this could be a better option. Alaska also serves more cities in the mainland U.S. than does Hawaiian Airlines.
Be sure to apply for this card while you’re booking another Alaska Airlines flight to see if they offer you a better deal that includes a $100 statement credit. And if you’re after the companion fare, obviously only one of you needs to apply.
British Airways Avios
Finally, consider the British Airways Visa issued by Chase. You’ll get 50,000 Avios points after spending $1,000, and the annual fee is $95. Those who live on the West Coast can get non-stop awards on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines for just 25,000 points round-trip, but adding a connection will require more. Learn more about the Avios award chart in this previous post.
In my experience, American Airlines tends to have poor award availability, but Alaska does okay. Search for award space using the American Airlines website (it displays both carriers’ awards) and then call Avios over the phone to book.
You can get lots of HawaiianMiles easily despite some hefty annual fees, and award space is pretty good. Any leftover miles can be used for things like a car rental gift certificate or even a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses. Avios points are a really good option, but you need to be able to book a non-stop award from the West Coast. Finally, Alaska Airlines offers a companion discount for paid tickets that could be useful if no award space is available. Their sign-up bonus doesn’t even provide enough miles for a round-trip award to Hawaii, but it would cover a one-way award. You could then use Hawaiian Miles or Avios to book the other half.
My friends are on the West Coast, and there aren’t a lot of good options if you live on the East Coast. In that case, you would probably need to apply for one or two cards from the same issuing bank, and that takes more time. Consider something like applying for a Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold card at the same time (the Ink Bold is a business card, so that’s still okay but harder to get approved). Or apply for a MileagePlus Explorer card first and a Sapphire Preferred card a few months later. The Ultimate Rewards points from the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold can both be transferred to United’s MileagePlus program or to British Airways’ Avios program.