- Caroline Lupini
- I don’t like to spend a lot of money on hotels, but I do like to treat myself by using points to book accommodations.
- Thanks to my portfolio of almost 30 rewards credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom, and the Platinum Card® from American Express, I’ve earned plenty of points that I’ve redeemed for hotel stays around the world.
- These are my favorite redemptions, from Grand Cayman to Vietnam, with details on how I earned the points for each stay.
There are so many cool accommodations around the world on my hotel bucket list, including some hotels that aren’t bookable on points.
But sometimes I’d rather not front the cost for a night or two when I could put those dollars toward other expenses. That’s where award stays come in – by putting everyday charges on my portfolio of nearly 30 rewards credit cards, I’ve earned enough points to stay in some amazing properties around the world.
Here are six of my all-time favorite award stays. If you’ve got a stockpile of points, I think you should check them out too!
For all of these hotels, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for any incidental expenses, but all of these nights were completely free thanks to rewards points earned from various credit cards, which I’ll outline below.
JW Marriott Phu Quoc in Vietnam
Phu Quoc island is an interesting anomaly because you technically don’t need a Vietnam visa to enter as long as you don’t touch mainland Vietnam on your way. For the Phu Quoc visa exemption to be valid for you, you’ll have to enter via air or sea.
But once you arrive, Phu Quoc is an idyllic place. This, in stark contrast to its recent past as a POW camp, has made the island a perfect site for the stunning JW Marriott Phu Quoc. I like everything about this property; its location on white sandy beaches, its colorful French colonial design, and the vibrant decor. It’s a warm and inviting property that serves up incredible coastal Vietnamese fare along with unbeatable customer service.
It’s a Category 5 Marriott property, and the standard redemption cost is 35,000 points per night. I think the redemption is absolutely worth it; that’s a great deal for what you get.
I earned the points required for my stay at this hotel buy signing up for the old Marriott credit cards. The newer versions of the cards are called the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business card, the latter of which isn’t open to new applicants. American Express also issues Marriott credit cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
Roomers Hotel Baden-Baden
- Caroline Lupini
Baden Baden, Germany has become something of a vacation destination for rich Middle Eastern royalty, but it truly is accessible to everyone. As the name suggests, Baden Baden lies on top of a system of natural hot springs that have been channeled into local spas for our enjoyment.
I went to Baden Baden for a visit to the famed Freidrichsbad, a walk-through spa modeled after ancient Roman baths. Baden Baden is nothing if not stylish, and my accommodations were no exception. Roomers has a chic, angular aesthetic with an eye for spa culture that fits right in with its surroundings. Expect simplicity but style; it’s a calm oasis from the bustling shopping centers in town. Rooms here cost 25,000 Marriott points per night, which is an incredible deal for the area.
I earned the points required for my stay at this hotel by signing up for the Marriott credit cards mentioned above.
Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
- Caroline Lupini
The Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires is famous for its combination of Latin American heritage and French influence, and the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires (also known as the Palacio Duhau) definitely plays off of that theme.
I loved the elegant decor and the efficient use of space; there are plenty of comfy couches as well as desk spaces for working on the go, which I do a lot. When I needed a break from the grind, I would go out to the terraced garden for an afternoon stroll.
A night at this tranquil and dignified hotel costs 25,000 Hyatt points, but you can also do a Points + Cash booking for 12,500 points and $250. As a general rule, I’d use the points if you have them.
You earn Hyatt points by signing up for the World of Hyatt Credit Card. Chase Ultimate Rewards points also transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, so if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you can move points over to Hyatt’s program.
Le Meridien Angkor
Siem Reap, Cambodia has no shortage of places to stay; it’s a bustling city complete with a busy Pub Street and numerous cafes. Most folks head to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat, which is why I went as well. I wanted easy access to the archaeological park as well as comfort and luxury, so I chose Le Meridien Angkor.
I really like how this hotel offers a peaceful space in the middle of energetic Siem Reap, while mimicking the tranquility of the Angkor Wat complex. My favorite part was the outdoor pool; the design really draws from the ancient architecture I saw while exploring the ruins, and there is no shortage of greenery. This is a Category 3 Marriott property, and rooms here cost only 17,500 points per night. That’s a steal, if you ask me.
I stayed at this hotel when it was still part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, but it’s now a Marriott hotel.
Kimpton Grand Cayman
- Caroline Lupini
Grand Cayman is one of my favorite spots for a beach getaway, and for me, doing Grand Cayman correctly includes a stay at Kimpton Grand Cayman. The Kimpton is located right between the Governor’s Creek wharf and the west coast, and you can’t beat the beach views.
I truly have nothing negative to say about this property; it’s the quintessential beach escape. From open-concept, ocean-view rooms to bungalows that have those wicker beach chairs that hang from the ceiling (you know, the ones in every Instagram influencer’s feed) it’s easy to find a space to relax.
Make sure to visit the on-site spa, because that is probably my favorite part. It’s 8,500 square feet of pure pampering and relaxation. This is a Category 13 IHG property that costs 70,000 points per night, so if you’ve been stockpiling points, this would be an amazing treat!
I stayed at this hotel for free when it first opened as a benefit of having top-tier Kimpton Inner Circle status, but you can earn IHG points by signing up for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, or by transferring them from a Chase Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Circulo Gran Via Madrid
The Spanish capital is full of art, culture, and history. Since I’m pretty into history and architecture, I always like staying in properties that used to be something else. In Madrid, the Circulo Gran Via used to be the home of The Circle Trade and Industrial Union.
Today, the property stands as a combination of historical remnants and modern amenities. Besides the design and ambience, I really liked the location of this property. Since it used to be a central location for trade and commerce in Madrid, it’s now perfectly placed for easy access to all of my favorite things to do and see in Madrid. This is a Category 7 Marriott property, and the standard redemption is 60,000 points per night.
Curious about which cards I use and why? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve, because it offers great rewards on travel and built-in travel insurance for when things don’t go as planned. It also offers great rewards on dining (3x points).
- Chase Freedom Unlimited, because it offers 1.5% cash back (1.5x Ultimate Rewards points) on all purchases. It’s my top pick for purchases that don’t earn a bonus with another card.
- Chase Freedom, thanks to its quarterly rotating categories that earn 5% cash back (5x points) on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate. A great way to rack up some serious points!
- Platinum Card from American Express, because it gets me access to American Express’ wonderful Centurion Lounges and credit for Uber rides each month.
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, mostly for the one free night at IHG hotels every year just for paying the annual fee.