Spending

'You can save thousands of dollars' on your honeymoon if you use credit card rewards wisely, says travel expert

Putting wedding-related expenses on credit cards is a great way to "earn a whole lot of points."

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A wedding boom is on the horizon. There are expected to be 2.5 million weddings in 2022 – the most the U.S. has seen since 1984, according to The Wedding Report, a market research firm.

Many couples were forced to postpone their nuptials and put honeymoon plans on hold as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the uptick in weddings, it's likely honeymoon bookings will increase, too.

Planning a honeymoon this year? "You can save thousands of dollars if you use your credit card points wisely," says Ricky Zhang, founder of Prince of Travel, a Canadian company that helps users maximize credit card rewards.

"If you have wedding expenses like paying for the venue, catering, a wedding planner, and so on, then it's easy to split your $30,000 wedding on to a bunch of new cards," says Zhang who has traveled to 54 countries and currently has 25 credit cards and a credit score of 815, which FICO classifies as "exceptional."

Putting wedding-related expenses on the right credit cards is key and "a great way to hit those spend requirements and earn a whole lot of points," says Nick Ewen senior editor at the credit-card blog The Points Guy.

Opt for a credit card with flexible points

Not all credit card points are created equal, says Ewen. "I always recommend, rather than doubling down on one airline's program, go after those flexible transferable points," he says. "The big benefit to that is that you aren't forced into using one airline or one airline's partner in order to get to your destination."

Having credit card points that can be redeemed on most airlines or for a variety of hotels can help you save money, Ewen says. "You can search across a wide swath of partners and figure out which is going to be the best option to get the best bang for your points or your miles."

Having flexible and transferrable points makes sense, "especially as the world goes through these ebbs and flows of reopening and then closing down," Ewen says.

That's because when you book with points, "you can usually cancel basically for free and get the points redeposited," says Zhang. "Where as if you pay for a ticket in cash and you need to cancel, best case scenario is typically that you're going to get a credit for a new flight, which is significantly less flexible."

Use your credit cards wisely, though. "Make sure you're not tempted to overspend on credit cards. Make sure whatever spending you do, you can pay off every month on time and in full," Zhang says. "That's the only way to make the rewards worthwhile."

Consider international airline loyalty programs

There's another benefit to opting for a credit card with flexible points, says Ewen: "What I'm about to tell you is like getting a PhD in points. It's an insider hack."

Credit cards with flexible points often allow you to transfer points and miles to international airline loyalty programs. For example, you can take the points or miles you've earned using an American Express or Chase credit card and transfer them to AirCanada's AeroPlan loyalty program, or United Arab Emirates loyalty program called Emirates Skywards.

Why would you want to do that? Because international airline loyalty programs may offer you more value, Ewen says. "Over the last few years, "the big U.S. airlines have all gone through a variety of devaluations or changes to their programs, where they have introduced much more dynamic pricing to their tickets," he says.

"If you went on Delta's website right now," he adds, "you could find a one-way flight from JFK to London. It could be 120,000 miles on one day and it could be 400,000 miles the next day. It can fluctuate all over the place."

Whereas "foreign airline loyalty programs have not had the same level of changes and the same shift in dynamic pricing," Ewen says. And "any of these programs are free for anyone to join."

Zhang recently used his Aeroplan points to pay for two round-trip business class tickets to Japan for 110,000 points per person. That's a value of around "$8,000 to $10,000," he says.

"To be clear: it's not any credit card currency, it's specific ones and the list of transfer partners does vary," he says.

And before you transfer your credit card points, make sure your the flight is available. "Because once you transfer the points, they're there permanently, you can't decide, 'Oh you know what, I changed my mind, I want to convert those Aeroplan points back to Chase points.' It doesn't work like that," Ewen says.

'Travel insurance is essential in today's world'

Savings thousands on your honeymoon is only worth it if you actually go on your trip. "I truly believe travel insurance is essential in today's world," says Lila Goldberg, a travel agent at Shattuck Travel.

"Travel insurance not only pays for emergency medical expenses during travel but protects you if you need to cancel your trip due to a medical situation," she says.

"Honeymoons can be expensive and once in a life time experiences. It would be a shame to lose your deposit and non-refundable fees because you didn't have travel insurance."

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