• Jay Hodge


Updated: Mar 19, 2019

***Disclaimer: Improper use of credit cards can result in extensive debt. Please take details as informational purposes only***

On our quest to visit Hawaii, my wife and I agreed we did not want to pay an arm and a leg for the trip. We both enjoy the thrill and challenge of the hunt. Finding good deals and paying the bare minimum possible for adventures around the world is a part of the experience for us. So, inevitably, always searching for deals, we were bound to eventually stumble upon traveling the world by using Airline miles and points from premium reward travel cards. Using the benefits and points from the premium reward cards have truly changed our way of traveling, in a good way. We have been able to make deep savings on our traveling and utilize the card’s many benefits to our advantage. Also, for being a military family, we have been able to utilize some of the big name travel cards with no annual fee. In other words, FOR FREE!!! For this trip, we have compiled a list of six steps to take a trip to Hawaii for almost nothing.


Among many Military benefits and discounts, one that takes the cake, is the credit card annual fee waived for some of the big premium card companies. Due to the Military Lending Act, banks and establishments are not allowed to charge more than 36% interest on loans. In support of the military, some financial institutions have taken it a step further and are now waiving premium card’s annual fees, in addition to lower interest rates. Example, the American Express Platinum card carries a hefty fee of $550. For military Personnel, that fee is reduced to $0. Even better, the fee waiver is also extended to spouses, which doubles the amount of potential points to gain and USE!

Step 1: Research

Booking our trip to Hawaii started well before our actual takeoff day. Months in advance, we started our research to see what the required price and points would be to make the trip a reality. We began our research for both the flight and hotel. For the hotel stay, we were often told about the much raved about Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, so we set our sights on that. Using strictly points for our hotel stay, we were able to spot a room for 5 days for a total of 240,000 Hilton Honor Points. For the flight purchase, the initial stages involved flight price stalking. Continuous searching was conducted a few months ahead of our departure date. We preferred to fly out of Sacramento utilizing Delta Airlines, and continued to stalk prices until a price point was acceptable to us. After our search, were able to find round trip Delta Airline tickets to Honolulu for $480 each.

Step 2: Take accountability of cards in inventory

After researching the flight and hotel, we knew what was necessary to make the trip happen and then had to take stock of where we were with points from the cards we had in our inventory. For all of the travel cards in our lineup, we ensured we had enough points to cover the hotel cost and also picked out additional perks of each card that would benefit our trip. At the time of booking, we utilized the following cards and the associated benefit:

Credit cards used and associated benefit

Note: At time of trip booking, the sign-up bonuses for all cards used were already achieved and gained.

Step 3: Purchase Airline Tickets:

The $480 price point per ticket was reasonable for us. But, keep in mind, there may be times in which a lesser price can be secured, if more price stalking is performed. Of course it goes without saying, the lesser the ticket price, the less money out-of-pocket you would have to dish out. The name of the game is to leverage the credits and benefits of the cards, to minimize your actual cost as close to zero as possible.

Utilizing the $200 Airline credit on one of our American Express Platinum card, we chose Delta Airlines as our Airline of choice, and purchased (4) $50 Delta gift cards, to use for this transaction. Once purchased, we were able to use two (2) of them to knock off $100 from the $480 price tag, bringing it down to $380. Due to Delta’s policy of three (3) total forms of payments able to be used on any transaction, only two gift cards were used per transaction. With the price-tag now at $380, we then put the remaining balance on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. With the $300 Airline credit (which credited to the account in a matter of 3 days), that brought our total out of pocket balance to $80. The same process was then repeated for my Wife’s ticket, on her Chase Sapphire Reserve card. For a grand total of $160 for both tickets.

Note: Since the booking was completed in two different transactions and had two confirmation numbers, we then called Delta customer service, informed them that we were traveling together and had them link our reservations in their system.

Step 4: Book Hotel:

As mentioned, we set our sights on the highly rated Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach resort. Looking to stay for 6 days, 5 nights, we checked via the Hilton App. Via the Hilton App, the total price of our 5-night stay equaled $2,295.35. The total price included a nightly rate of $359, a $40 per night resort fee and $298.70 for taxes. Using solely reward points for the same 5-night stay, the total Hilton Honor points requirement was 60,000 points per day, totaling 300,000 points. But, being a Hilton Honors member and using solely reward points for our stay, our 5th consecutive night was given as a complimentary night, which, decreased our 300,000 point requirement to 240,000. To reach the 240,000 reward point requirement, we used the 100,000 points sign-on bonus we gained from each of our American Express Hilton Aspire cards and 40,000 points out of the 75,000 points we gained from the sign-up bonus on one of our American Express Hilton Honors card. Additionally, for being Hilton Honors members, the Hilton Honors program waived both the $40 nightly resort fee and the $298.70 taxes.

Additionally, once at the location during check-in, we utilized the Hilton Diamond Status gained from the Hilton Aspire card and were able to skip the line and expedite our check in (the lines start long and stay long for check-in), ask and receive a suite upgrade from one of old towers to the newer more modern rainbow tower on a high floor, and the option to choose between daily continental breakfast or a daily $10 credit totaling $100 for my wife and I, to be used on-site at the various different bars and restaurants. We opted to use the $100 for drinks at the bar and occasional breakfast Starbucks drinks in the morning.

Lastly, we also utilized the $250 Resort credit on each Hilton Aspire Credit Card, equaling a total $500. Coupled with the $100 credit, we had a total of $600 to use at the resort.

Note: In order to use the $250 resort credit on two Hilton Aspire cards, be sure to add your spouse to your reservation at the hotel, to ensure the charges can be registered to both credit card statements when checkout occurs and charges are settled.

Hotel Hack: How we used our $600 resort credit. Hilton Hawaiian Village has a large variety of on-site restaurants and shops literally downstairs. The majority of the shops and restaurants allow you to charge your purchase to your room (SCORE!!). In order to utilize the Hilton Aspire card resort credit, charges must be charged to the room and paid for at the end of your stay with the $250 resort credit bearing card itself. With that in mind, we used the $600 for The Honolulu Cookie Company (Amazing), various on-site restaurants and the ABC convenience store (Goldmine). For the ABC convenience store, we stocked up on breakfast items for the fridge in the morning, snacks to take out and about with us, and SOUVENIRS!!! At the completion of our trip, we were able to use all of the credits, which decreased our overall amount of money spent on food and allowed for $0 out of pocket for souvenirs ( Of Course we stacked up on souvenirs for any and everyone... why not?).

Step 5: Find and use additional discounts and bargains:

Some cities and locations may offer more potential savings, discounts and offers on activities than others. In the case of Oahu, we were able to research and find the OAHU CITY GO PASS. The pass has a lineup of various amount of day options and allowed us access to many activities and attractions for one set price. We decided to purchase the 3-day option pass, which included one premium activity out of … and access to various other activities. For our premium activity, we decided to choose the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The 3-day pass is currently priced at $199, but, during the time of purchase, we searched and found the same pass on Groupon for $179, totaling $40 in savings between both tickets. As a visual representation, the deal breakdown is as follows for the events we actually used on the pass. If planned accordingly, more events can be jammed into the 3-day pass.

Savings from the OAHU CITY GO PASS

But wait… there’s more! Once on-site, the Hilton activities and events office will try to solicit your business for the Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare. At the time of travel, we were offered an additional $150 towards an activity for a 90-minute briefing about the Vacation club. We opted to sit in on the briefing on a morning that we had nothing planned and used the credit towards some water sports. We used the company H2O Water sports and picked the 2-activity option for $110 each person. Our activities of choice were parasailing and bumper boating. With the credit, we only paid $80 after the $150 was deducted. Transportation was provided to and from the location, which was roughly 45 minutes away from the hotel. H2O water sports was very professional and had a fast and efficient process to get us to our activities and back in a timely manner. We did not feel like there was any time wasted.

Step 6: Enjoy and have fun!

Outside of raking in all of the deals, Oahu is still a beautiful island, with a lot to offer. Whether you decide to be sit on the beach, eat the local foods, or even Cliff dive at Wameia.... Enjoy yourself and soak in the awesome vibes and hospitality of Hawaii. ALOHA!!! 🤙🏾

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