Hack Your Way Through Weddings With Travel Rewards

Rachel Smith
By Rachel Smith 
Edited by Mary M. Flory
Hack Your Way Through Weddings With Travel Rewards

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When it comes to attending weddings, it can be exciting to watch your loved ones tie the knot, but the costs to attend all these events can add up.

There are airfare and car travel expenses. If you're flying somewhere that demands a rental car, then you're stuck with both expenses. There are hotel or Airbnb rates, and perhaps resort fees depending on where you stay. You might need to rent a tux. All that, and you haven't even sent the gift yet.

What's more is that you're likely attending more weddings than ever this year. America is expected to see 2.6 million weddings in 2022, up from the 2.2 million weddings that were held in 2019, pre-pandemic. That's according to the latest Real Wedding Study from wedding planning website The Knot.

Luckily, there are ways to navigate the travel expenses that weddings guests incur without falling deeper into debt. Here’s how you can lower your costs as a traveling wedding guest while also making the most of your spending.

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Put your bonus offer to work

Many couples set up a hotel block for out-of-town guests. This typically means they’ve negotiated lower rates, often for rooms that are closer to one other in the same hotel or in a couple of hotels nearby. There may be cheaper hotels than those in the wedding block, but using that option likely means coordinating rides to and from the wedding and other activities.

No matter which hotel you choose, make sure you’ve signed up for its rewards program and check for any promotions. Some hotels may allow you to combine other offers with the hotel room block rate if you ask. Additionally, you can receive more points for future stays if you have that hotel’s branded credit card.

Do your research: There are a lot of great travel credit cards out there, but you should only sign up for the one that makes sense given your financial situation and goals. For example, I recently opened a Hilton Honors American Express Card and got bonus offer points after qualifying spending activities. This covers the hotel room for two of the six weddings we will attend this year. Note that welcome bonuses vary. The current offer is: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Coordinate shared expenses

One of the best ways to cut down the cost of attending an out-of-your-zip-code wedding is by sharing accommodations with friends. A few years ago, my husband and I split a room with four other people. We made the room reservation on our credit card, which helps us get all the rewards points on the booking. Our room had two double beds and a pull-out couch, so everyone had a decent place to sleep. While that might sound extremely frugal, it enabled us to have a fun time and catch up with one another.

The task of splitting expenses and coordinating payments from people has gotten easier with apps such as Venmo and Zelle. Our friends were grateful we coordinated the booking and payments, so they didn’t mind us receiving all the bonus points.

With the Hilton Honors American Express Card, for example, we receive 7X points on any booking at a Hilton Honors-branded property that’s charged to the card. Another option is to book an Airbnb with a group, which can be cheaper than using the hotel block, but it also can be farther from the event.

A photo of my husband and me at the wedding where we shared a room with four other people. Yes, I was pregnant at the time. Yes, it was still worth it to share a room. (Photo by Rachel Smith)

Buy wedding gifts using rewards

Of the six weddings I have to attend, five of the couples are registered on Amazon. If you need to buy wedding gifts on Amazon, there are ways to cut the cost by using credit card rewards points to cover or offset the expenses.

One way is to use credit card points on the Amazon website itself. For example, to redeem Hilton Honors points, simply link your Amazon and Hilton Honors accounts. Then during checkout, select Hilton Honors points as the form of payment; 500 Hilton Honors points are worth $1 on Amazon. The payment options are flexible, which means your order can be paid using a combination of cash and points. Similarly, Citi Rewards ThankYou points and American Express Membership Rewards points can be used to shop on Amazon, too. To redeem, link the credit card rewards and Amazon accounts then select points as the payment method during checkout. Check out the full list of participating programs to shop with points on Amazon.

Another option is to redeem through the rewards portals of specific credit cards, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Chase redemptions through Amazon have a conversion of 100 points for $1. The Chase program with Amazon also allows partial payments. Several Chase cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are eligible for this program.

Take advantage of cash-back offers

Many credit cards offer a cash-back option to redeem rewards, and wedding guests can use it to trim out-of-pocket spending on gifts. This expands your points to be used toward any registry the couple might have beyond Amazon. This cash back would typically appear as a statement credit from your card issuer. So while it wouldn’t be used to directly buy wedding presents, it does cut down the total amount spent.

Remember that tip about sharing a room and receiving the credit card rewards on the booking? You can do the same thing with a gift. If you can coordinate the cost of the item by splitting it with friends, you can receive the card rewards on the purchase while getting the couple something extra special.

Other ways to save

  • Prioritize hotels that offer breakfast. That’s one less meal to pay for, and will likely be appreciated after festivities.

  • Have a designated driver planned within your group, or see if the hotel will do a free pickup from the reception. This way, you can avoid paying for an Uber or Lyft.

  • Bring snacks or additional drinks along if you are staying in a hotel. That can help you avoid spending on high-cost, late-night cravings.

  • If you’re driving to an out-of-town event, take advantage of gas credit cards and loyalty programs that offers offer discounts on gas and other rewards.

  • Make sure to check for coupons or discounts on registry items.

  • Earn flexible rewards on any wedding spending with a card like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2x on any purchase.

And if you don’t quite have enough points to save with the closest wedding, make sure to take advantage of the rewards programs mentioned to save on future ones. We certainly don’t have enough points to cover all six of our weddings this fall. But we do have ways to minimize our spending and make the most of what we do spend.

The two weddings covered are specific to my travels; point redemptions vary by hotel company, dates and location.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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