You’re not alone if you entered 2023 with full intentions of finally getting a grip on your finances. But managing money can be difficult and overwhelming, especially if you are about to start planning for a wedding. What if we were to say that every penny spent on your upcoming nuptials, from the engagement ring to the dress to the venue, could be used to fund travels for a dream honeymoon?
We are excited to introduce financial travel expert Armand Khatri. Armand and his wife are getting ready to embark on their honeymoon in Japan next month. This once-in-a-lifetime trip is being covered entirely by credit card points and miles that the couple earned from paying for their wedding. Here, Armand breaks down the strategies and tips you must follow to take full advantage of your credit card use, and turn your wedding expenses into benefits and rewards.
My wife, Annette, and I were married this past September in the Italian wine region of Franciacorta. It was a dream come true to not only share our love of the region with friends and family but also to celebrate its significance on this most special of occasions.
In a lifetime of memories that we about to share together, we knew from what friends and family had told us that the day would flash before our eyes all too quickly. To best extend the excitement and happiness that come with getting married, we decided to have a mini-moon in Switzerland immediately after the wedding. We planned to delay our dream honeymoon until March 2023 when we would spend a few weeks at our favorite destination: Japan.
Best of all, the flights and hotel stays for both the mini-moon and the dream honeymoon were entirely covered by credit card points and miles that we very strategically earned from expenses incurred from our wedding. In fact, in the 6 months leading up to the wedding, Annette and I collected over 600,000 credit card points that we were able to redeem for over $48,000 worth of travel between October 2022 and March 2023. In this article, I’ll share a few tips based on our success as well as a few realizations on what we could have done better.
Before we dive in, let’s address the most important rule about credit cards: you must pay the full balance due each and every month. If you’re currently in credit card debt or know that you have a penchant for overspending, then this article is not for you. That said, if you currently have very good to excellent credit, you can start to think of credit cards as another way to make your money work for you. In return for using them to cover large expenses, you can unlock credit card points and miles for future travel or cash back.
With that out of way, we’ll approach this guide on a timeline that many of you are going through right now:
1. The Proposal
2. The Wedding
3. The Honeymoon
While tempting to jump ahead, it’s worth reviewing each of the stages as they offer different tips.
Let’s start at the beginning, the proposal. Purchasing an engagement ring is one of the easiest ways to get a jump start on earning points. It’s “easy” for two reasons:
• It is typically a significant purchase, so your budget can dictate which card you want to sign up for.
• It can all be paid for in two swipes (deposit + balance due) within the typical 3 months timespan you must earn your intro bonus for a new card.
For the ring purchase and any other physical items such the wedding dress, tuxedo, additional clothing as well as wedding bands and jewelry, I would recommend a premium card that includes price protection and purchase protection. Price protection ensures that you’re entitled to a price adjustment should prices go down within a few months period, while purchase protection insures the item against loss or theft for the first 90-120 days. Purchase protection was particularly assuring when thinking about traveling with the engagement ring to propose during a vacation.
Congrats, you’re engaged! Now the “fun” begins. As stressful as wedding planning can be, it, and many other difficult moments in life, can truly become fun by turning them into a game. The objective of the game was acquiring as many points as possible while sticking to our budget.
A pro tip here is to be conscious of how your venue and various vendors show up on your credit card statement. Many venues double as bars/restaurants, meaning you may want to consider utilizing a card that earns bonus points for restaurant spending. In order to double check how your prospective venue codes appear on a credit card statement, you can start by asking them directly, and then verify by asking your credit card company or simply making a mini-deposit on the card to test it. While it may sound like a hassle, this small step can be the difference between earning 1 point per dollar versus 4 points per dollar.
For those venues and vendors who do not take credit cards directly, you might be able to use PayPal or similar payment services. Despite not having a card reader, the vendor can sign up for a PayPal account and you can then process the payment via credit card. Those of you familiar with interchange fees may wonder why you would want to pay the extra 3% in fees just to use a card. The answer is simple math; if you’re earning a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points for $5,000 of spend, you’re effectively earning 10 points per dollar. Hence it may be worth paying an extra 3% if it’s the only way you can unlock the sign-up bonus.
Finally, the honeymoon. If you’ve played your cards well, you’ll be booking the ultimate post-wedding getaway with your well-deserved points. One of the hidden benefits of travel booked with points is just how flexible they are. If you book a flight with airline points, you can typically cancel it for a full refund, as long as you do so 24+ hours beforehand, whereas the same flight booked with cash may face change fees or other penalties.
Regardless of how you’ve booked flight, you’ll still incur some expenses while traveling. For those expenses, I would recommend a premium credit card that is focused on travel benefits. Features like no foreign exchange fees, travel insurance, airline lounge access, and Global Entry/TSA Pre-check can greatly improve the travel experience and allow you to spend more time enjoying yourselves.
A few other pro tips for travelers:
• When paying by card abroad, always choose to be billed in the local currency.
• Instead of converting currency at an airport, consider asking your bank to waive foreign ATM fees and simply withdraw funds at a non-airport ATM.
• Be mindful of which card benefits are US only versus international.
Credit cards can be a powerful tool to not only build your credit, but also get rewarded for expenses you’re already going to incur. Despite the notion of personal finance typically being dry and mundane, credit card points have led to some of my most cherished memories.
Each stage of the journey calls for different cards and different strategies as outlined above, the fun part is determining which card is best for your specific situation. I offer free credit card consults to help you plan the optimal order of operations no matter which stage of the ‘game’ you’re in.
Congrats again on your special day, and looking forward to speaking with you!
A big thank you to Armand for sharing his financial insight with us! Wishing you and Annette a honeymoon in Japan filled with memories to last a lifetime.