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Best Programs & Deals to Save Money on Coaster Trips


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Southwest Airlines Credit Card in the US, for sure. Highly recommended.

 

Got 50,000 points just for signing up and spending $2,000 in first three months.

 

Then referrals.. My girlfriend, who then got her 50,000... And a few friends at 10,000 points a pop. Together, the girlfriend and I had a combined 140,000 points or so. In perspective, round trip to Cali is probably around 20K, Orlando around 15K per person. I use that card everywhere as my default now, so the points keep accumulating. Especially with rental cars where you can snag 3000-7500 points or some hotel deals.

 

For the past two years or so, we have flown free within the US. Still have some 80,000 points between us. This is probably 3 or 4 flights per year since we got the cards. San Diego, San Francisco, Nashville, Orlando a few times...

 

And you can avoid the ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Frontier...

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Choice Hotels just temporarily upped their sign-on bonus for their Choice Privileges Rewards Credit Card from 32,000 points to 50,000. If you don't already have this card, I highly recommend signing up.

 

I agree, this is the highest offer that I've ever seen on that card.

 

In addition, here's a weird one but if you like Choice Hotels this will net you a TON of points if you use Amtrak (because you need to have status to transfer points). Bank of America has an (I believe) all-time-high offer on their Amtrak Guest Rewards card. These points transfer to Choice at 1:3 so that's 120,000 Choice points for $79. There are also some Amtrak credits and I guess you could use the points for Amtrak too but... lol

 

Honestly this is a better card for accumulating Choice Points than the actual Choice card (except when you're using it at a Choice Hotel) as it effectively earns 3 points per dollar on everything, 6 on travel and more on Amtrak but who cares? There's an annual fee, but if you don't use it just cancel it after the first year.

 

PS: BOA is pretty inquiry sensitive so if you're like me and you have a lot of new cards lately, don't bother. Great credit will not help you. They know our game.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a quick bump...

 

First off, Wyndham just upped the bonus on their credit card for people that like Wyndham for some reason.

 

This card carries an annual fee which is partially offset by the 6,000 anniversary points each year and waived the first year. Personally I'm not getting this but if you like Wyndham it's a good offer. You can always cancel or downgrade to the free Wyndham card in year two. The bonus is good for 5 free nights in one of their lower tier hotels or 3 in a mid tier.

 

Secondly, The Choice Visa offer is going away at the end of the month (so in a few days). This is the highest I've ever seen it so if you want it, get it now.

 

In non-hotel news, Chase just added Emirates as a transfer partner. If anyone is eyeing that new Saudi Arabian Six Flags, start saving up now.

 

================

 

Finally, I want to talk about something that we haven't really talked about yet and that is that you can directly buy theme park admission tickets with points and sometimes get crazy value. We frequently use Chase Points for theme park admission and I don't think a lot of people know that you can do this (We went to Fantasy Island on points and nobody who worked at the park knew that it was a thing).

 

The Chase Ink cards, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve all earn Chase Ultimate Reward points. The Chase Freedom card and Chase Freedom Unlimited card can indirectly earn them if you hold one of those other cards and transfer your points (and you should, everyone needs a Chase Freedom card because it has no annual fee and you can absolutely stockpile points with their rotating category bonuses).

 

These points allow you to transfer to partners, but they also allow you to book through the Chase Portal for a fixed price. The Sapphire Preferred gets 1.25 cents per point, the Reserve gets 1.5 cents.

 

Anyway, all of this matters because the Chase Portal is powered by Expedia and a lot of theme parks sell tickets on Expedia. With a Sapphire card, you can often not only use points but (because of the multiplier) get great value on them.

 

For example, Fantasy Island is one of our better redemptions this year. Tickets are $30.65 through Expedia (which is cheaper than they are on the website) and on top of that, our Sapphire gets us a 1.25% multiplier so it's bookable for only 2,452 points (it would be even better with the Sapphire Reserve).

 

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This is not a one-off thing. We also used points to visit Elitch Gardens a few weeks ago. There was no discount here, but remember that you're getting a multiplier with the Sapphire cards (and not using cash) so unless you find an awesome promo code floating around it's still smart to book through Chase.

 

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Universal Orlando is another awesome use of points depending on your situation. You're buying an "anytime" ticket, so the base price is inflated but it also includes taxes and fees so if you're going on a $180 day you come out ahead even before the multiplier once they tack those on (if you're not, this is a bad deal and you should pay cash).

 

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If you want to go to Universal and don't want to drop $400 to do it for one day, signing up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred and hitting the bonus is a great alternative as it will pay for a family of 4.

 

Chase isn't the only game in town when it comes to this, but they're probably the best. I don't want to sound like a commercial here but if you're looking to visit a park that sells tickets on Expedia, we've been getting crazy value with Chase points lately.

 

Everyone knows that you can use points to save on airfare and hotels, but this is a great feature that's rarely discussed so I figured we should discuss it.

 

One final PSA: If you have signed up for more than 5 personal credit cards in the last 2 years, do not apply for ANY chase card. You will be immediately denied regardless of credit score and calling will get you nowhere.

Edited by coasterbill
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I have added Fuel Rewards as my extra on my Choice Privileges membership. For each qualifying stay, I get 20¢ per gallon off gas at Shell stations. The rewards are good for up to 20 gallons per fill up, so I can get at least $5 off per fill-up (you get 5¢ per gallon as a Fuel Rewards member) since I have a 31 gallon tank. I am going to try it tonight and see if it also stacks with the GetUpside app I'm using for gas purchases.

 

Also, I'm probably going to get the CP Visa card before the 50,000 point offer runs out Saturday. I haven't applied for any new cards in a few years and my credit score is excellent.

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Barclays is weird but you should be fine. They're very inquiry sensitive but that's not an issue for you.

 

My extra is the 400 Choice points because I drive a Honda Fit and Brit drives a Prius. The coffee thing is objectively the best one for 99% of people but it's not something that I care about.

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All aboard the points train.

 

Stay Twice - Get a Free Night is back with Choice through November 8th.

 

You probably know the drill by now but if not, here's a post I made on it two years ago. The terms and conditions have not changed. Remember to register for the promotion and remember that you can do this an *infinite* number of times.

 

*Yes, I realize that technically it's not infinite. Happy now? lol

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  • 3 weeks later...
I have added Fuel Rewards as my extra on my Choice Privileges membership. For each qualifying stay, I get 20¢ per gallon off gas at Shell stations. The rewards are good for up to 20 gallons per fill up, so I can get at least $5 off per fill-up (you get 5¢ per gallon as a Fuel Rewards member) since I have a 31 gallon tank. I am going to try it tonight and see if it also stacks with the GetUpside app I'm using for gas purchases.

 

I finally got around to doing this yesterday. I saved 45¢ per gallon from Fuel Rewards from two Choice hotel stays and 27¢ per gallon with GetUpside App for a total of $14.40 on a 20 gallon fill-up. I try to add a friend once a month (how often I fill up on average) to get the extra 15¢ per gallon on GetUpside. After that I get a penny per gallon for all direct referrals who use it and a 1/2 penny for each gallon for theirs.

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  • 2 months later...

It was kind of buried on the Choice Privileges site, but if you have gold, platinum, or diamond status in another hotel rewards program, they will match your status. I have platinum status with Wyndham, and now have it with Choice Privileges, with only 9 nights this year.

 

https://www.choicehotels.com/choice-privileges/membership-levels/status-match

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That's a really good tip. Lots of airlines, hotel chains and even car rental companies will status-match and you should always ask. This sometimes even applies if you got your status by holding a certain credit card or status-matching from somewhere else and not from hitting a certain metric with the hotel or airline.

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Any must buy black Friday deals?

 

SeaWorld and Busch Gardens both have some pretty good deals going on if you know you're going to be making a trip to either or both of those parks in 2020. 2 park ticket for $72, fun cards for both locations discounted 20%-40%, all season quick que for Sea World for $100.

 

I went ahead and jumped on the fun cards and passes for the family so we'll be making quite a few trips to SeaWorld/Aquatica/Bucsch Gardens in 2020.

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Any must buy black Friday deals?

 

SeaWorld and Busch Gardens both have some pretty good deals going on if you know you're going to be making a trip to either or both of those parks in 2020. 2 park ticket for $72, fun cards for both locations discounted 20%-40%, all season quick que for Sea World for $100.

 

I went ahead and jumped on the fun cards and passes for the family so we'll be making quite a few trips to SeaWorld/Aquatica/Bucsch Gardens in 2020.

 

Awesome, thanks. I took a look a few days ago and saw 'must visit by Jan 31 2020' and left the page. So I'll definitely look again today!

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Yeah I guess some of the ticket deal you have to make the first visit by Jan. 31 2020 but the fun cards are good for all of 2020. Busch Gardens Fun Cards are $75, add in the parking if you go twice it's pretty much a wash with a Bronze Pass but if you only plan on going 2 days and are traveling from out of town and uber or something it might be worth it.

 

*Edit, just remembered you have to be a FL resident for the Bronze Pass, either way $75 for a Busch gardens fun card is a pretty solid deal.

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Yeah I guess some of the ticket deal you have to make the first visit by Jan. 31 2020 but the fun cards are good for all of 2020. Busch Gardens Fun Cards are $75, add in the parking if you go twice it's pretty much a wash with a Bronze Pass but if you only plan on going 2 days and are traveling from out of town and uber or something it might be worth it.

 

*Edit, just remembered you have to be a FL resident for the Bronze Pass, either way $75 for a Busch gardens fun card is a pretty solid deal.

 

Good to know, thanks!

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  • 1 month later...

Anyone here have experience with the Hilton Honors program?

 

Really starting to consider the AmEx/Hilton Honors SURPASS card. Seems easy enough to get the $95 annual fee canceled out through points usage and Hiltons/Hampton Inns seem to be everywhere I need to go. Also would allow me Gold Status indefinitely. Also allows a multiplier on Gas, Grocery, and Resutraunt use, so places I'd be spending anyways.

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I don't know how I never found this thread before today but between park trips plus me being an avid skier that flys out to Utah and Colorado once or twice a winter, I know realize I've pissed away thousands of dollars I'll never get back. The only "rewards" programs I belong to are True Blue (and hotels.com if you count that) and obviously AAA.

 

I clearly have a lot of studying to do.

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  • 1 year later...

It's amazing how much useful information is in one topic! Thank you very much. I wish this pandemic would end soon :(
 I often use such applications and I like to sit and spend my free time on such nonsense. Recently, my brother recommended me https://yourmoneygeek.com/game-apps-to-win-real-money/ on which there was a selection of similar applications and I spent the whole day installing them, because I liked each of them. . Hell, someone tell me that I'm not the only one spending a lot of my time on this, otherwise I'd have to stop, lol.

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I should note that this topic is old now and I’ve definitely changed things up a bit but I still think Choice Privileges is the best hotel rewards program in the business but have diversified my credit card rewards game a lot and now usually fly Frontier (though it depends, we flew American a few weeks ago and we’ll fly United in 2 weeks, Google flights is your friend).

I’ve recently focused more on cashback cards where we dump the rewards into the travel account and transferable point currencies like Chase points, though we do sometimes use the Choice card because it gets decent value if you’re good at redeeming the points. The hardcore credit card churning people won’t like to hear the term “cashback card” but I don’t care if you can earn 17 cents per dollar on a lie-flat on Emirates booked through Etihad Guest in German or whatever because I wasn’t going to buy that anyway.

If you’re the kind of person that will then you’re probably not reading this thread, but if you are then ignore that, load up on Amex MR points and go to town.

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Google flights is your friend).


This. This. THIS!

The filters are absolutely fantastic. Not just saying how many people, how many bags you need to add to the costs for each individual airline (in my case frontier may not be your best deal, not just because of the bag, but also if the plane arrives in the middle of the day it's pretty much worthless to me), but using a little slider bar with times you want flights to arrive (great for planning amusement parks without blowing another night of hotels), number of stops, the 'price graph' where you can put in how many days you need your trip to be but find the best days for the price, the most your willing to pay and then you can track the prices of all potential flights in a filter OR an exact flight itinerary if all the things match in your favor, along with alerts in addition to all that. It will tell you if you are paying average, below average, etc.

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The only thing you have to do is check Southwest separate as they are not part of the aggregate sites. If you need (2 free) checked bags they will be a good deal.

There is a slight learning curve but once you know what you're doing it's awesome.

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So I'm still going to wait things out to see if things will go down in price on American (which I'm confident they absolutely will), but CURRENTLY there is a $110 difference for the two of us if we take.... spirit... (hears screams in the distance)

-- never flown them before but is it worth another $100 to avoid them at all costs? lol

I know the nickel and dime everything, but I'm more worried about the flight getting cancelled more than anything. I can deal with some inconveniences.

The only two options for my itinerary are Spirit and American out of DFW (Dallas fort worth) to Orlando. Frontier also flies direct but doing a middle of the afternoon flight won't work. American has A TON of flights so even if I miss one it wouldn't be the worst thing ever to get another one.

Also debating going to DAL/love field instead and taking Southwest. They have $49 flights too but I'd have to cut my six flags over texas trip a little short to be able to catch the flight. Which I'd rather not want to worry about.

Any Spirit airlines experience out there? [emoji48]

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