If you're like most American newlyweds, you'll probably budget at least $5,000 for your honeymoon. With some skill and flexibility, most of that won't have to be your own money. "Travel hacking" your honeymoon has become easier than ever, thanks to eager credit card companies and information you can look up for free online. Use these five tips to cut the cost of your romantic getaway:
#1: Float Your Hotel Bill on a 0% APR Credit Card
While we'd never suggest going into debt to pay for your honeymoon, a resurgence of teaser rate promotions makes it possible to exploit a growing trend among hotels. Paying for your stay in advance almost always results in discounts, especially if you plan your trip far in advance. If you and your sweetie can tolerate a little risk, locking in a non-refundable deal can shave as much as half off the rack rate at most resorts. Just time your payments right and clear your credit card bill before the promotional rate expires.
#2: Airline Credit Cards Offer Free Flights
Getting to your honeymoon destination doesn't have to cost much, especially if you take advantage of airline credit cards. Although credit card issuers have generally cut back on rewards programs over the past few years, airlines still rely on eye-catching promotions to build frequent flyer loyalty. A quick review of credit card offers from May 2010 reveals that a handful of major carriers still offer enough frequent flyer miles after your first purchase to cover an off-peak round trip. Some major banks offer similar reward programs that grant you big blocks of frequent flyer miles on the airline of your choice, once you reach a spending threshold. Converting leftover miles to hotel reward points can score you a free night or a room upgrade.
#3: Hunt Down Bonus Dining Dollars from Credit Card Partners
The hospitality business depends on cash flow, and most restaurant owners juggle their own mix of credit cards and creative financing tools to keep their doors open. Banks and promotional companies have turned this into a thriving side business of semi-secret deals and special offers that you can usually only find online. Restaurants can qualify for better terms on their own financing by extending special offers, like deeply discounted gift certificates and "buy one get one" promotions. Check your credit card companies' websites for hidden links to great deals. Then, subscribe to "deal a day" newsletters targeting your honeymoon destination. Planning (or even paying) ahead can cut your dining bill in half, or more.
#4: Ask for Help from Credit Card Concierge Teams
Credit card issuers use special perks and benefits to lure more affluent customers, which is one reason why concierge services have made a major comeback among premium accounts. If any of your current credit cards offer a concierge as a perk, enlist their help. While you may not need them to locate a tub of nacho cheese or solve a crossword puzzle, teams of call center professionals can help you hunt down special discounts or special offers on activities and special events at your honeymoon destination.
#5: Funnel Everything You Purchase Into Cash Back Credit Cards
After following all four of these tips, you may still have a little balance left to pay down from your honeymoon budget. Again, some careful timing and planning can leave you with very little to pay out of pocket for the vacation of your dreams. Most of the remaining cash back credit cards on the market now offer special promotions that can double or triple your rewards on everyday purchases. For instance, one credit card company may offer 5% cash back on grocery purchases, while another may provide special incentives for automating your utility payments.
Of course, when planning a honeymoon fueled by credit card rewards, keep a few ground rules in mind. If you and your beloved plan to purchase a home together in the near future, you may want to limit the number of new credit card applications you complete. Focus first on benefits offered by cards you already carry, then round out your travel arsenal with just one or two new accounts. Remember that you'll get the biggest discounts and the best overall deals by traveling during off-peak times, and you may want to think about a list of possible destinations instead of tying yourself to just one option. The good news, however, is that when you save this much money, you won't have to wait very long for your second honeymoon.
About the Author
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of "How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line" (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).