Book Overwater Villas at the Park Hyatt Maldives for Less



Recently, I wrapped up a brief series covering the cheapest way to book Hyatt stays on points. One of these posts dealt with the most efficient way to book Hyatt suites on points earned via manufactured spending. Generally, the best option is to book a Points + Cash award, charge the stay to your Arrival Plus card, redeem Arrival miles for the cash portion, and use a Hyatt Diamond upgrade to book yourself into a suite. Unfortunately, Diamond upgrades can’t be used at all-suite hotels like the Park Hyatt Maldives. So most folks have been booking the standard Park Villa on points and then paying $365-$580 per night for an upgrade to a Water Villa.

This method would require $25,000 in manufactured spending on an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card (not factoring in category bonuses) and $16,425 – $26,100 in spending on the Arrival Plus card for the upgrade fee (including the 10% discount on travel redemptions). In total, it would take $41,425 – $51,100 in spend to generate enough points for an Overwater Villa.

How to Book it for Less

Recently I came across a post on Travelsort that offers a cheaper alternative. The blog’s author is a Virtuoso agent and she discusses a promotion they’re having for bookings made at the Park Hyatt Maldives through September 27, 2014 for travel through December 25, 2015. Clients who book at least a 4-night stay through Virtuoso get a double confirmed upgrade. Booking the cheapest room, a Park Villa, would get you into an Overwater Villa if those are available at the time of booking. The following blackout dates do apply: December 24, 2014 – January 11, 2015 and February 18, 2015 to February 24, 2015.

The Virtuoso promotion creates an opportunity to book these Overwater Villas for fewer points. If you’re able to find a rate under $900 per night, it makes more sense to charge the stay to your Arrival plus card and redeem Arrival miles than to do an outright point booking with a cash upgrade. A rate of $900 per night would require 81,000 points per night or $40,500 in spending on the Arrival Plus card. 

You can certainly find lower rates than $900, which would make the Arrival redemption even more of a great value. For example, through the Hyatt Free Time promotion, guests booking at least 4 nights can get rates as low as $747.53 per night including taxes in September. Booking a rate like this would cost 67,278 Arrival Miles per night (after the 10% rebate) or $33,639 in manufactured spending. This presents a saving of almost $7,000 over the typical method of combining a point stay with a cash upgrade.

Not only is there potential to save points during this promotion, but you can also score a huge point pay day if your stay coincides with the latest Hyatt Gold Passport promotion and/or you stack it with the Hyatt Diamond Challenge. This is in addition to the standard 5 points per $1 Hyatt Gold Passport members earn on hotel stays.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this promotion, contact a Virtuoso agent (in this case, go with the author of Travelsort since she’s the one who wrote about the deal) and they’ll walk you through the process. I’d like to point out that I don’t have any kind of relationship with Virtuoso, nor do I know the author of the post I referenced. There’s nothing in it for me if anyone take advantage of this promotion. With the Park Hyatt Maldives being on many people’s bucket list, I thought it worthwhile to bring it to the attention of my readers.

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Changes to Simon Mall Gift Cards

Simon Mall Visa Gift Card

I’ve been hearing rumblings for a while now about Simon Malls implementing changes to their Visa gift cards. I assumed this would involve lower limits on the number of cards that could be purchased or perhaps a ban on credit cards altogether. Reader Tim alerted me this morning to the changes that have been implemented, which are mostly positive. I have outlined them below:

1. Simon Mall Visa Gift Cards are now issued by Metabank. Previously, Simon Mall Visa gift cards were issued by U.S. Bank. This doesn’t change much, since the Metabank issued cards are PIN-enable and can be used to fund Bluebird cards at Walmart. The American Express version of the card is still available, but most of us don’t buy those anyway.

2. A new look. This isn’t really relevant in the grander scheme of things, but the card does look drastically different. So if you buy these in-store, don’t be thrown off when you get these:

The new Simon Mall Visa gift card

The new Simon Mall Visa gift card

3. A new way to buy them. Along with the actual cards, the Simon Mall gift card page has also been redesigned and the Visa and American Express logos aren’t initially displayed. Once you pick a card design, you’ll see an option to choose between the two versions. When you pick the Visa version, you’ll be redirected to a Simon Giftcard page “powered by Giftcardmall” and the order process is identical to the one involved when ordering GCM Visa gift cards. The difference is that you can only buy up to $500 in Simon Mall Visa gift cards at a time – including the $2.95 fee. So really, you need to enter $497 for the purchase amount. For a more direct path to the purchase page, go to

4. Change in fees, purchase limit. Previously, it cost $5.95 to purchase $500 Simon Mall Visa gift cards online. Now that Giftcardmall is processing the orders, a $2.95 card fee applies and shipping is $1.99. While the fees have been reduced by $1.01, the maximum denomination you can purchase has decreased by $3. For the maximum $497 gift card order, customers will pay a total of $501.94, including shipping and fees. 

Overall, these changes are positive and we’re in the clear to continue buying and unloading Simon Mall gift cards via Bluebird. 

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The Cheapest Way to Book Hyatt Club Rooms on Points

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

Hyatt Regency SF Club Lounge Spread

For those wondering what the makes them so great, Club Level Rooms have several advantages over standard rooms. Often, these rooms are on higher floors and offer better amenities. More importantly, they offer access to the hotel’s club lounge, where guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast, snacks/appetizers, drinks, and wifi throughout the day. This can be a great value if you can manage to get a club level room on points. So what is the best way to do it via manufactured spending?

In most cases, hotels will upgrade Diamond members at check-in free of charge. This is preferable to the other alternative – having to provide them with complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant. However, if you’re not a Diamond member and you want to ensure you get a Club Room, there are a few options:

1. Book with cash and upgrade with points. Sometimes you stumble upon a cheap standard rate, depending on the day of the week and other factors. It might make sense to use 3,000 points per night for a Club Room upgrade. Again, this depends on the rate you’re paying as well as the category hotel you’re booking – it may be more prudent to just book the Club Room on points entirely, but this will vary.

If you are considering a 3,000 point nightly upgrade, do take into consideration the nightly cash rate, how much manufactured spending is needed to off-set it, and compare that to the point redemption rate for a Club Room in that particular category.

2. Book a Club Room on cash. Sometimes (either online or at the time of check-in), you may be offered a Club Room upgrade for a heavily discounted rate. I’ve received offers as low as $40 extra per night. In these cases, it makes more sense to pay the cash rate with your Arrival Plus card and redeem a travel statement credit (since you are earning those at double the rate of other currencies) than to utilize a 3,000 point nightly upgrade. So long as the upgrade cost is under $66 (after tax), you are better off using Arrival Miles earned with the Arrival Plus card.

3. Redeem points for a Club Room. Club rooms can be booked for about 40% more points than a standard room. Club Room redemptions range from 7,000 – 39,000 points per night, depending on the hotel category. Sometimes, the difference between a suite and a club room is just 1,000 points – it goes without saying that in this scenario, booking a suite is a better value. In any case, you should always weigh the cost of a club room on points against the cash rate, factoring in the rate of point accumulation to decide which option is best.

Below, I’ve outlined the amount of manufactured spending required for each redemption type, as well as the amount of travel rewards you’d earn by putting the spend on the Arrival Plus card (factoring in the 10% rebate) instead of a co-branded or Ultimate Reward earning card. This part is important because if you’re able to find a paid club room rate at or below these rates, it’s better to charge the entire stay to your Arrival Plus card and redeem Arrival miles for it. The amount of manufactured spending required at those levels may be less for the Arrival card than the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards (barring category bonuses).

Note: Scroll right to see calculations past Category 4

Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Category 4
Category 5
Category 6
Category 7
Club Room Point Redemption7,000 points12,000 points17,000 points21,000 points27,000 points33,000 points39,000 points
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card$7,000$12,000$17,000$21,000$27,000$33,000$39,000
Rewards earned by the Arrival Plus card for the same amount of spend$154$264$374$462$594$726$858
Upgrade3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night3,000 points per night
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink

Someone asked me in an earlier post why I didn’t factor category bonuses into these calculations. All of the Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards offer category bonuses of 2-5 points per $1 spent. To keep things simple, I’m basing my calculations on earnings of 1 point per $1 and the assumption that these miles will be generated at non-bonus category merchants like Simon Malls and via American Express gift cards (breaking even on the Amex gift card purchases).

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The Cheapest Way to Book Hyatt Suites on Points

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Suite

A few weeks ago I concluded that the cheapest way to earn Hyatt stays via manufactured spending, is by combining Hyatt’s Points + Cash award option with miles earned from the Barclay Arrival Plus card. That post applied to standard hotel redemptions only. What about if you’re redeeming points for a suite?

Hyatt has a few options if you’re looking to book a suite on points:

1. Redeem points for a suite. Suites can be booked for roughly 50% more points than a standard room. For example, a suite at a Category 1 Hyatt hotel requires 8,000 points per night (3,000 more than a standard room), while a Category 7 hotel like the Park Hyatt Sydney requires 48,000 points per night (18,000 more points than a standard room).

2. Book with cash and upgrade with points. Sometimes cash rates are cheap during low season, on certain days of the week, or during a special promotion. The advantage of these lower rates is that they make it reasonable to redeem 6,000 points per night for a suite upgrade if you’re redeeming them at a Category 2 hotel or higher. Hyatt used to require just 6,000 points per 4-night stay, but those days are long gone.

There are some rate restrictions around this option. Upgrading a resort stay requires that you book a certain rate and room types, which may make this option less desirable due to the higher cash rates that must be booked. At non-resort properties, you must book a minimum of the Hyatt Daily Rate in order to qualify for a point upgrade.

3. Book with cash and upgrade with a Diamond suite upgrade. Similar to the above scenario, if you’re a Hyatt Diamond member, you can use one of your four annual Diamond Suite upgrades to bump your paid stay to a suite for up to 7 nights. There are properties where Diamond suite upgrades cannot be applied, including the Park Hyatt Sydney, Park Hyatt Maldives, Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek, to name a few.

4. Book with Points + Cash and upgrade with a Diamond suite upgrade. The advantage of Hyatt’s Point + Cash redemption is that these stays count towards elite status and can be upgraded with a Diamond suite upgrade, which isn’t the case for awards booked fully on points.

So which of these options requires the least amount of manufactured spending? I broke it down in the table below. Keep in mind that the calculations involving Arrival Miles factor in the 10% point discount cardholders get on travel redemptions.

Note: Scroll right to see calculations past Category 4

Category 1
Category 2
Category 3
Category 4
Category 5
Category 6
Category 7
Suite Redemption8,000 points13,000 points20,000 points24,000 points32,000 points40,000 points48,000 points
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card$8,000$13,000$20,000$24,000$32,000$40,000$48,000
Points + Cash with a Diamond suite upgrade2,500 + $504,000 + $556,000 + $757,500 + $10010,000 + $12512,500 + $15015,000 + $300
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink
Card + Statement Credits
+ $5,000

Total: $7,500
+ $5,500

Total: $9,500
+ $7,500

Total: $13,500

Total: $17,500

Total: $22,500

Total: $27,500

Total: $45,000
Manufactured Spending on Hyatt/Sapphire/Freedom/Ink Card + Arrival Plus Card$2,500
+ $2,250 Arrival Miles

Total: $4,750
+ $2,475 Arrival Miles

Total: $6,275
+ $3,375 Arrival Miles

Total: $9,375
+ $4,500 Arrival Miles

Total: $10,500
+ $5,625 Arrival Miles

Total: $15,625
+ $6,750 Arrival Miles

Total: $19,250
$15,000 +13,500
Arrival Miles

Total: $28,500

If you’re a Hyatt Diamond member, Hyatt’s Points + Cash option using the Arrival Plus card wins out. You will have to forego one of your four annual Diamond suite night upgrades, but that is what they’re for.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a paid stay vs. Points + Cash. Do the math on how many Arrival Miles or Ultimate Rewards you’ll need to off-set the cash rate and compare that with the Points + Cash manufactured spending rate listed above. Category bonuses may also factor into which option is cheaper, but I’ve done the above calculation based on American Express gift card purchases earned at either a profit or enough cash back from a portal to off-set the fees. If you’re going to factor in category bonuses, you’ll also need to account for card fees, at which point the chart above will change depending on the type of gift cards you’re churning.

For those who do not have Diamond status, the only option is to either book a suite on points alone or book with cash and use 6,000 points per night for an upgrade. There are a few factors to consider here. Upgrading a cash stay with 6,000 points per night won’t make sense if the cash rate is low. Always take into account how much manufactured spending you’ll have to do for an outright point redemption for a suite vs. a cash stay with a 6,000 point nightly upgrade. That’s when the above chart will hopefully come in handy as a reference.

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American Express Travel 72-Hour Labor Day Sale

American Express 72-Hour Labor Day Sale

American Express Travel is running a 72-hour sale, offering discounts of 20-40% on hotels. Most notably on the list are the Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas, which have been discounted to as low as $132 per night. I checked the Wynn calendar and it appears the savings listed by American Express are accurate. However, there is a catch: You need to book a certain number of nights to get the discounted rate.

For example, between September 23-26, the Wynn Deluxe Resort room goes for $189 per night, while American Express Travel is offering the same room for $132 per night if you book at least two nights. Of course, most people aren’t going to Vegas for a single night, so this works out to be a pretty good deal.

You can use your Membership Rewards points to pay for these hotel stays, though based on limited searches, I’ve found it’s better to charge these stays to your Arrival Plus card. That’s based on the rate of accumulating both currencies as well as redemption value. 

It’s also worth noting that M-life resorts like the Luxor (which partners with Hyatt’s Gold Passport program) could present a good mattress running opportunity, with the recent targeted Hyatt promotion as well as Hyatt counting partner stays towards elite status. There’s no telling whether these third party bookings will count as eligible nights towards status, but if you’re heading to Vegas anyway and looking for cheap hotels, you may get the added bonus of elite night credits. 

If you’re looking to travel elsewhere, there is a search function that allows you to look for deals outside of the “featured” list. I’ve found some of the best deals are in Vegas and San Diego. A search for cities including San Francisco and New York turned up nothing but a few low rate guarantees. 

Bookings must be made by 11:50 PM (ET) on August 28. Discounts are good for travel between September 2 – 30, 2014. While it would have been nice to get last minute Labor Day discounts, these deals could still be a money saver for those who are planning to travel after Labor Day.

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Discounts Available to Amex Bluebird Cardholders

Amex Bluebird Deals

Amex Bluebird Deals

American Express is pretty good about offering cardholders discounts and freebies, and now they’ve extended some of those perks to Bluebird cardholders. I got an email from Bluebird, offering me 10% off La Quinta hotel stays and 15% off at Denny’s if I charge those expenses to my Bluebird card. 

They must be really sick of travel hackers like us using their bill pay feature, but trying to reel me in with discounts at La Quinta and Denny’s? I’ve walked into a Denny’s restaurant exactly twice in my life and walked straight back out because of the stench. Not to be a snob or anything – I eat at fast food restaurants that are far more terrible than Denny’s, but at least I have the barrier of the drive through to shield me from the ugliness.

The La Quinta deal is good for travel through October 31, 2014. Bookings must be made using promo code AMX10 and charged to your Bluebird card.  The 15% discount at Denny’s requires a coupon, which the email I received links to. I’m assuming this is a targeted email so if you want to take advantage of it, check your email for a message from Bluebird. The Denny’s coupon is good through September 30, 2014.

If American Express wants us to start using our Bluebird cards regularly, they need to step up their game. They’ve probably done their research and decided La Quinta and Denny’s cater to the same demographic as Walmart does. That certainly makes sense. However, those same people are probably regularly using their Bluebird cards. So really, it’s us, the travel hackers, they should be wooing with discounts and promotions.

Plus, a 10% discount at La Quinta is nothing you can’t scrounge up through an online shopping mall and I’m sure there are better discounts for Denny’s in my local Clip ‘N Save. Hopefully this is just the first in a long line of promotions offered to Bluebird cardholders. Personally, I’d love to see some kind of discount on Walmart purchases, for obvious reasons.

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5 Things That Drive Me Nuts About Manufactured Spending


As much fun as I have with this hobby, it’s pretty time consuming and at times patience-testing. I’m currently in the midst of meeting $82,00 in spending requirements, so my frustration is at an all time high. From buying gift cards to unloading, reloading, and depositing funds, it gets exhausting fast. And sometimes I wonder if my time isn’t better spent doing something else. Existential crisis aside, here are five things that I absolutely despise about manufactured spending:

1.Earning points. I’m not a heavy card churner and with the exception of a few mega sign-up bonus offers, I earn most of my miles from manufactured spending. In other words, I work hard for my miles and that takes time and patience. Though it’s worthwhile when I do redeem miles (and save cash on travel), it’s practically a full time job.

2. Cashing out gift cards. It’s such a rush ordering $5,000 worth of gift cards and getting an email from American Express confirming the order hasn’t been cancelled like you expected. When they arrive, you are faced with the task of unloading them without appearing like a criminal. A bit of friendly small talk usually does the trick, but sometimes cashing out gift cards is a sigh-inducing experience. While this was fun in the Vanilla Reload days, the process of cashing out $40,000 in gift cards every month has become more of a chore since.

3. Going to Walmart. Going to target to unload American Express gift cards via the American Express for Target card is fun. I pick up a drink from the in-house Starbucks, stock up on essentials, stroll the aisles of the home goods department – it’s as close to a spa day as manufactured spending gets. Walmart is the exact opposite in every way. It’s like they put up as many road blocks as possible to keep you out of the store. And when you muster up the will to jump through all the hurdles (having to park your car on the dark side of the moon, bypassing all the annoying solicitors), you are rewarded for your efforts with a broken Bluebird kiosk and having to spend 20 minutes in line to unload one Visa gift card. 

4. The time commitment. Unloading anything over $10,000 per month in gift cards becomes a part time job. It makes sense in some cases, when you’re raking in 4% cash back or more. But sometimes you end up spending several days trying to unload your cards when the kiosk is broken, the lines are just moving too slow, and you have that other thing called a life that demands your attention. This really makes you question whether you’re using your time wisely, until you become desperate and decide to use Google Wallet as an unloading tool.

5. Finding Award Space. After you manage to do all of the above without pulling your hair out, you are rewarded with enough miles to book that trip you’ve been saving up for. Ever since my summer 2012 booking fiasco, my anxiety level goes through the roof any time I have to pick up the phone and call American Airlines to book an award. I tend to travel during peak times and not being able to go where you want, when you want after having saved up miles to do so, is a major hassle. Outsourcing the task to an award booking service just makes me feel like a failure, so I suck it up and do it myself.

So why put up with all of this? This is why. I’d rather chase points and miles for a better travel experience, than deprive myself year-round to save up enough cash for an inferior experience. Ultimately this list of complaints is minor compared to the rewards and any real problems that plague our everyday lives, but we all have to vent sometimes, right? What is it about manufactured spending that drives you up a wall?

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Hotel Boasting the World’s Largest Suite to Join SPG Luxury Collection

Grand Hills Hotel and Spa Royal Residence

Grand Hills Hotel and Spa Royal Residence

Which city do you think boasts the world’s largest hotel suite? Dubai? Vegas? According to the Guinness Book of World Records that honor goes to the Grand Hills Hotel and Spa in Broumana, Lebanon. Broumana is about 30 minutes outside of the country’s capital, Beirut.The hotel boasts the largest hotel suite at 44,500 square feet – in it’s own right, the size of a small hotel. The Royal Residence takes up six floors and has not one, but two private pools, two saunas, a turkish bath, a gym, private gardens, and enough space to accommodate the entire native population of the UAE.

With all this grandiosity, you’d expect a hefty price tag. However, compared to presidential suites half it’s size, the Royal Residence at the Grand Hills Hotel is relatively cheap at $7,905 per night. I use that term loosely, of course, because obviously it’s an astronomic markup over what the average person would spend on hotel accommodations, but considering presidential suites in Vegas go for $20,000-$40,000 per night, this is a bargain in comparison.

When I reached out to the hotel to get more details about the suite, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that while the hotel is closed for renovations until May 2015, it would be rebranded as a Starwood Luxury Collection property. No word yet on which category it will be or whether the Royal Residence will still be available or, more prudently, turned into a separate wing of the hotel. My guess is they won’t want to give up their claim to the world’s biggest hotel suite and the Royal Residence will return bigger and glitzier than ever.

In the never ending pissing contest that is the points and miles world, if you wanted to stay at this hotel to make everyone jealous, there are a few ways to get around the huge price tag:

  1. Split the $7,905 bill 100 ways, bringing everyone’s share of the bill down to a reasonable $79.50. Turn your stay into a trial run as a hotel manager. With the suite occupying it’s own separate building roughly 1/3 the size of the resort, it’s not such a stretch. Run a few ads on Airbnb and you’ve got yourself an eclectic group of roommates.
  2. Charge the stay to you Barclay Arrival card. You only need 790,500 miles per night. Plus, you’ll get 10% of those miles back (79,050). Can you say bargain?
  3. Take one floor and sublet the remaining 5 to a Saudi royal who will consider the $6,587.50 price tag akin to raiding the $1 bin at Target. 

Aside from the suite, the hotel itself looks like a very relaxing place to stay. Now that the property will be joining SPG’s Luxury Collection, I look forward to the day when someone posts a review on Flyertalk about the world’s largest hotel suite.

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5 Cheap Ways to Complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge

Hyatt Regency Sacramento check-in

Hyatt Regency Sacramento check-in

After a slew of recent Hyatt-recentric posts, I realized I’ve failed to cover the most fundamental of all Hyatt posts: How to complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge cheap. Hyatt Diamond is the highest status level within the Gold Passport program. Typically, members are required to complete 25 stays/50 nights to achieve Diamond status. With the Hyatt Diamond challenge, members can earn status after just 12 nights. 

The 60 day Hyatt Diamond Challenge is one of the greatest travel hacks out there. It’s an easy way to upgrade your travel and save money with perks like complimentary breakfast, club lounge access, wifi, room upgrades, bonus points and more. In addition, members will get 1,000 bonus points for their first 6 nights, which is a nice bonus.

It’s easy to get and a great starting point for status matching to other programs. The preferred way to get matched to Hyatt Diamond is by picking up a Cit Hilton HHonors Reserve card, which comes with Gold status. Then simply send an email to with a screenshot displaying your Hilton Gold status and you’ll get confirmation via email about your Diamond challenge start/end date. While most other programs require you to complete a top-tier status challenge before getting access to the perks reserved for elites, those participating in a Hyatt Diamond challenge get those perks during the challenge. 

If you find during those 60 days that you’d like to keep your newfound status beyond the trial date, all it takes is 12 nights to cement your status through February of the following year. Whether you decide to mattress run your way through 12 stays or you’ve arranged the challenge so that it lines up with actual travel plans, there are always ways you can reduce your cost. Here are 5 ways you can complete the Hyatt Diamond trial cheaply:

1. Search for Cheap Hotels. This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re looking to pay out of pocket for a mattress mattress run, search beyond local hotels. I’ve had tremendous luck getting hotels from a variety of chains (Hyatt, IHG, Club Carlson) to check me in and out of a hotel remotely. The hotel gets the revenue without the guest they have to take care of, extend benefits to, and clean up after. 

With location hurdles out of the way, the first step is to find a cheap hotel, taking into accounts that markets like Orlando, Dallas, and Norfolk (VA) are some of the cheapest. It’s also a good idea to check Hyatt’s Category 1 hotel list for cheap properties. 

2. My Elite Rate. When searching for hotels, make sure you are logged into your account as a Diamond member to ensure that the My Elite Rate appears. This can save you an extra 20% on your stay, if you’re paying with cash. 

Once you’ve done your due diligence to find a cheap hotel, simply call the front desk, explain that you’re looking to meet elite night requirements, and ask if they’ll check you in and out virtually. I haven’t been turned down by a single hotel so far. 

3. Weekend Stays. Weekend stays (especially Sundays) are typically when hotels offer the cheapest rates - the exception being, of course, resorts. Even if you’re staying on a Points + Cash award, a weekend stay can make your mattress run cheaper in the long run. Why? Because if you choose a property that closes it’s lounge on weekends, you earn another 2,500 points per stay. If you can manage this for all 12 nights, you’re looking at off-setting the 30,000 points mentioned above altogether, brining your total out of pocket cost down to $0 if you factor in manufactured spending from the Arrival Plus card (see #2).

4. Get up to 10% Cash Back. A somewhat odd perk of the SPG Business card is 5% cash back at Hyatt hotels through the OPEN savings program. This is a good way to go if you’re booking your stay on cash only. Stack this with a shopping portal and you can get up to 10% cash back in total. As of this writing, the highest cash back amount on Hyatt stays is 3% offered by TopCashBack (referral link). It’s worth noting that My Elite rates do not qualify for cash back.

5. Points + Cash. Completing 12 nights on paid mattress runs can get expensive. Even if you score a low rate of $100 per night, that’s $1,200 of hard earned cash blown on hotels you never stayed at.  A better alternative is Hyatt’s Points + Cash option. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s the cheapest way to earn Hyatt stays via manufactured spending. Translation: It will cost you less overall. Pick a Category 1 Hyatt hotel for all 12 nights and you’re looking at a total of 30,000 Gold Passport points and $600 cash (Category 1 Points + Cash awards cost 2,500 points + $50 cash). Charge those stays on your Barclay Arrival Plus card and you can off-set the cash portion with 54,000 Arrival Miles/$27,000 in manufactured spending.  

That’s the Diamond Challenge in a nutshell. What makes it great is that it’s attainable and as the points above demonstrate, you can do it with very little to no out of pocket costs. 

Do you have any tips for completing the Hyatt Diamond challenge on a budget? Please share in the comment section.

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Best Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel Redemptions: Category 3

Within Starwood’s Category 3, several Luxury Collection properties start showing up. Oddly enough, many of them aren’t in the best shape and don’t measure up with lower-end brands like Four Points and Sheraton. However, there is still a great deal of value to be had in this category, with hotels and resorts requiring just 7,000 points per night. Redeem a hotel in this category as part of a Nights & Flights award and the rate on a 5-night stay decreases to just 2,000 points per night. Here are the best Category 3 Starwood Preferred Guest redemption options:



Aloft Orlando Downtown (Orlando, FL)

Aloft Orlando Downtown, Aloft Room

Aloft Orlando Downtown, Aloft Room

Distinctions: N/A

Accommodations: Standard Aloft Rooms are 374 sqft, with floor-to-ceiling windows to let in natural light and accentuate the modern decor. There’s also an ergonomic chair accompanying the desk – you’ll appreciate these if you’ve ever sat on those orange foam swivel chairs most office buildings are stocked with. All guests get complimentary wifi, local calls, bottled water, and coffee/tea provisions. Aloft rooms have views of either the city of lake.

Location: While the Aloft Orlando is in the midst of several corporate offices, it’s also within walking distance of the Amway Center, where you can take in an Orlando Magic game. Several performing arts centers, museums and shopping centers are also nearby. The hotel is also located within 20 miles of Seaworld, Universal Studios, and Disney World.

Honorable mention: Aloft Miami Doral (Doral, FL)


The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa (Victoria, BC)

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Distinctions: Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

Accommodations: At the standard level, guests can book a 450 sqft Fairways Building Traditional room, which sits right on the first hole of the championship golf course and offers views of the surrounding mountains or village, which guests can enjoy from the private balcony.. The room also features a kitchenette, while the bathroom has a deep soaker tub.  comes equipped with a kitchenette. It’s worth noting all rooms at this property are smoke free, which shouldn’t be surprising for a resort.

Location: The Westin Bear Mountain is a great place to redeem your Starpoints if you’re looking for a relaxing resort experience or a family vacation with a bit of the outdoors. You’ll likely need a car if you want to venture outside of the resort, where you’ll find several national parks, a movie theatre, shopping, a casino, and the harbor – all within 10 miles of the resort.

Honorable mention: N/A

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