Latest dollar exchange rate and how tipping, contactless payments and credit cards work

From figuring out how much to tip to paying for almost everything in cash, travelling in the US can be a minefield of money questions.

If you want to avoid blowing too many bucks on card fees and poor exchange rates it can pay to do your research before you travel.

A lot has changed in the 20 months since UK visitors were last spending dollar bills stateside, so read on to make cents of what’s new.

How’s the exchange rate right now?

Unfortunately for holidaymakers, news of the US opening to tourists from the UK and Europe had the effect of boosting the value of the dollar against the pound.

You’ll spend 2p more for every dollar you buy now than on 28 October. The rate as of Monday 15 November was 74 pence to the dollar.

Contactless payments

In the 400-plus days that British tourists have been away, the US has slowly caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to contactless payments.

Originally slow to the wireless payments game, Apple Pay and Google Pay helped accelerate the uptake of contactless payments stateside.

The best change in the past 20 months? You can finally use Apple or Google Pay on the entire New York Subway and bus system – just like the London Underground and other local transport networks back home.

Bank credit cards

There are lots of bank credit cards on the market that work for travelling with, but Halifax’s Clarity Credit Card regularly tops expert charts.

Anecdotally, the Mastercard is favoured by some of the world’s most frequent and frugal travellers. I took a quick poll of travel writers on a recent trip to New York, and it was the most popular card by far.

You don’t pay any charges on transactions or to take money out of ATMs while overseas and the currency rate is pegged to Mastercard’s official rate.

Digital bank cards

Digital banks are more popular than ever, with many customers choosing to leave brick and mortar banks in favour of online-only brands like Revolut, Starling and Monzo.

Currensea is a great pick for travel. The UK’s first direct debit travel card, it offers a great exchange – you’ll pay no more than 0.5 on the FX travel rate. Simply link it to your current account by direct debit and it takes the money out of your main account after you’ve spent it, providing an extra level of security and peace of mind while travelling. A Mastercard, this plastic is contactless, and chip and pin.

Tipping and cash

In big cities in the US, tipping in bars and restaurants is now expected at 20 per cent, according to every local I asked while reporting from New York last week.

Evelyn Jack, 35, a bartender at Pendry Manhattan West in Manhattan admits what many of us suspect – that service industry workers sometimes give locals preferential service because they know they’ll tip at the local standard rate of 20 per cent.

She said: “It’s not just Europeans who think that 15 per cent is what they should be tipping, some tourists from the Midwest don’t think to pay 20 per cent when they visit New York. The cost of living in the city is so high, wait staff really rely on people paying tips at that higher rate to survive.”

Ms Jack also says that even if you think your main server has not been up to scratch, it is important to tip anyway, as the money is usually split among the entire front-of-house team.

And on the question of cash or card, she says that servers prefer it if you can pay your tips in cash, as in some bars this can mean they will avoid paying tax on the cash.

Currency exchange shops

The golden rule here is to never exchange your money at the airport, where the rates are always poor.

An investigation by FairFX found that Travelex currency exchange desks at Heathrow Airport are offering rates that are 17 per cent less than the market rate, meaning you could lose out on £211 for every £1,000 exchanged.

A safe alternative is always the Post Office who will give you a much fairer rate.

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Capital One Launches Premium Travel Credit Card Venture X

There’s a new player in the competitive realm of high-end travel credit cards: Capital One’s just-launched Venture X. The card offers rewards of 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One’s travel portal, and 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through the portal. All other purchases earn 2 miles per dollar spent.

Venture X has an annual fee of $395, but it is offset by significant benefits. New cardholders will earn a 100,000-mile bonus offer once they spend $10,000 on purchases within the first six months from account opening, and cardholders will earn 10,000 more bonus miles every account anniversary. Each Capital One mile generally is worth 1 cent when redeemed for travel. The Venture X also delivers an annual travel credit up to $300 in statement credits on bookings through Capital One Travel.

Relaunched Travel Portal and New Airport Lounges Part of Premium Push

Earlier this fall, Capital One debuted a redesigned Capital One Travel, the place for Capital One cardholders to redeem miles and book travel. Venture X cardholders get huge miles bonuses for booking via the portal, even compared with other Capital One cards. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for instance, gets a 5-miles-per-dollar bonus for booking hotels and rental cars through the portal, compared with Venture X’s 10-miles-per-dollar bonus. Venture cardholders get no bonus for booking flights, compared with Venture X’s 5-miles-per-dollar bonus.

Capital One just opened its first airport lounge, located at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Venture X cardholders have unlimited free access, plus complimentary entry for two guests per visit. (By comparison, Venture cardholders get only two free visits per year.) Capital One plans to open two more lounges in 2022, at Denver International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

What Are Additional Benefits and Terms of the Venture X Card?

For a limited time, Capital One is offering another new-cardholder benefit: Get up to $200 in statement credits for vacation rentals paid for with your Venture X within the first year. Additional card benefits include:

  • Enroll in Priority Pass and get unlimited complimentary access to more than 1,300 domestic and international airport lounges.
  • Receive up to $100 in reimbursement on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Venture X charges no foreign transaction fees.
  • Venture X miles won’t expire, and there are no blackout dates when you use them to book travel.

The Venture X has an annual fee of $395. Additional card terms and fees include:

  • Annual percentage rate for purchases and transfers of 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on creditworthiness.
  • Cash advance APR of 23.99%.
  • Transfer fee of 3% of each transferred balance.
  • Cash advance fee of either $10 or 3%, whichever is greater.
  • Late payment fee of up to $40.

Should You Get the Capital One Venture X Credit Card?

Before the Venture X, Capital One offered two travel rewards cards: the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, with an annual fee of $95, and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, with no annual fee. The Venture X has a significantly higher annual fee of $395, but the benefits are also significantly better.

Capital One is positioning the Venture X to compete with high-end travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee) and The Platinum Card from American Express ($695 annual fee). If you travel often, you should certainly consider the Venture X – especially if you frequently pass through Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver or Washington Dulles airports, where a new Capital One lounge could be a welcome oasis during hectic travel days.

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Can Travel Hacking Hurt Your Credit? | National News

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — With the holidays fast approaching, you may be looking for ways to save on travel expenses. Travel hacking — using credit card rewards to get low-cost or free travel — could be an enticing option. But if you’re considering this approach, here are some tips from myFICO on what you need to know about applying for, opening, and using new credit cards can impact your FICO® Scores. 

For more loan and credit education, visit myFICO’s blog at

Applying for Credit Cards Might Hurt Your FICO® Scores

Travel hacking often requires opening multiple credit cards to earn intro bonuses and get other cardholder benefits that you can use during your trips. The exact impact on your FICO Scores will depend on your overall credit profile. However, applying for multiple cards can hurt your scores in several ways:

New Hard Inquiries

Each credit card application can lead to a new hard inquiry, which may decrease your FICO® Scores — even if you aren’t approved for the new cards. Many of the best travel credit cards also require good to excellent credit. (You can use myFICO to check your FICO Scores and reports.) 

Some credit card companies let you submit a credit card preapproval with a soft inquiry, which can help you determine which cards you can likely get without impacting your FICO® Scores. However, card issuers may have additional restrictions. For example, regardless of your FICO Score, you might not get approved for a new card if you recently got a card from the issuer. 

Lowering the Age of Your Accounts

The length of your credit history is another FICO® Score factor. Opening new credit cards will decrease the average age of your credit accounts, which may lower your FICO Scores. However, the negative impact could lessen as the accounts age. 

Managing Your Travel Cards

The majority of your FICO Score depends on your payment history and how much you owe. While the hard inquiries and a lower average age of accounts may hurt your FICO Scores a bit, how you manage the cards could be more important in the long run.

When travel hacking, it may be tempting to spend a lot of money to meet an intro bonus’s minimum spending requirement and to earn more points or miles. But a high balance can increase your credit utilization percent — even if you pay off your bill in full each month — which may hurt your FICO® Scores. Plus, if you wind up carrying a balance, the interest you pay could cost you more than you earn in rewards. 

Also, if you’re not used to juggling multiple credit cards and accidentally miss a payment, you could be charged additional late payment fees. Once your payment is 30 days past due, the late payment can also be reported to the credit bureaus and hurt your FICO Scores.

How new cards may affect your FICO® Scores over time:

  • Make your minimum payments by the due date. Setting up alerts or autopay on your credit cards could help. You may also be able to change your credit cards’ payment dates to make it easier to remember when the bills are due. 
  • Pay down your balances early. Credit card issuers generally report your card’s balance around the end of each statement period (often, a few weeks before a bill’s due date). If you’re using your credit card to earn points and miles and don’t want the high balance to lead to a high utilization rate, you may want to pay down the balance early. 
  • Keep your other cards open. Closing credit cards can decrease your available credit, which may increase your utilization. You may want to occasionally use the cards as well, or the card issuer may close them due to inactivity

Even if you responsibly manage the cards, opening multiple credit cards could hurt your FICO® Scores at first — particularly for people who are new to credit. If you’re applying for an auto loan or mortgage soon, you might want to put a pause on travel hacking until after you get the loan.

Picking Your Next Credit Cards 

When you want to use travel hacking to save money, researching which travel credit cards to get can be an important first step. It may be best to only apply for credit cards that you’ll likely get based on the card issuer’s rules and your FICO® Score. Also, learn about the pros and cons of each rewards program to determine which card — or cards — are best for your situation. 

About myFICO

myFICO makes it easy to understand your credit with FICO® Scores, credit reports and alerts from all 3 bureaus. myFICO is the consumer division of FICO– get your FICO Scores from the people that make the FICO Scores.  For more information, visit

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Kiplinger’s Personal Finance: Credit cards offer travel insurance | Business News


Your card may provide some coverage if your trip is canceled or disrupted.

Just when many people thought the pandemic was over, the COVID-19 delta variant has threatened fall and winter travel plans. But if you booked a trip with a credit card that offers travel insurance, you may be able to recoup some of your costs.

For example, your card may provide some coverage if your trip is canceled or disrupted, and it may cover the cost of delayed or lost luggage.

In general, premium rewards cards — which typically charge an annual fee — provide better coverage.

Protections usually kick in when events that affect your trip are out of your control, said Nick Ewen, travel rewards expert at The Points Guy, a consumer travel website.

For example, suppose a flight delay caused you to miss a night in a hotel room that you reserved with an advance, nonrefundable payment. If you paid for the room with a credit card that includes travel insurance, the card would more than likely cover your loss. But if you decided you no longer wanted to go on the trip — perhaps because of concerns about COVID-19 — your card’s travel insurance probably wouldn’t cover your losses.

All cards are not created equal.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card (annual fee $550) offers cancellation/interruption coverage of up to $10,000 per person, for example, while the American Express Platinum card (annual fee $695 for new cardholders) provides up to $10,000 per trip.

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Martin Lewis shares vital Universal Credit tip after cut

Martin Lewis offered his advice for those who may struggle to make ends meet following the end of the Universal Credit uplift.

The £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit introduced to support people on low incomes during the pandemic is being withdrawn.

From Wednesday, benefits assessments no longer include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no monthly payments will be received which include the extra money.

READ MORE:Travel red list cut to just seven countries before half term

The cut will be staggered as families receive payments on different dates.

On his ITV show tonight, Martin explained that the Universal Credit cut was coming during a cost of living crisis.

He said the best thing claimants could do now is make a budget.

Martin admitted : “There aren’t that many solutions

“Do a budget and go through every single line in that budget and ask ‘can I cut the cost?’.”

He also recommended the websites and for quick benefits check-ups, saying: “It’s just to see if you might be entitled to something.”

However, Martin said if you are ‘really struggling’ to speak to your local council and see if they have hardship funds.

If you’re not able to afford your energy bills, Martin said it’s worth a chat with your energy company.

He said: “If you are vulnerable tell your energy firm, talk to them, they might be able to put you on a payment slow down.”

He also recommended looking to see if you are eligible for the Warm Home Discount, worth £140.

*The Martin Lewis Money Show airs at 8.30pm on Thursday’s on ITV

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Why the Amex Platinum ‘digital entertainment credit’ is the most disappointing new perk

Why the Amex Platinum ‘digital entertainment credit’ is the most disappointing new perk – The Points Guy

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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8 Strategies To Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Although large welcome bonuses can be rightfully enticing, they aren’t the only regular source of miles and points for people looking to save money on travel. Don’t make the mistake of leaving miles and points on the table from your everyday spending. In this post we’ll discuss strategies to help you maximize your credit card rewards. Small wins will add up and help you to travel more for less.

Start With an End in Mind

One of the most important things to do and something that people often forget is to set a travel goal. It cannot be emphasized enough: If you know where you want to go you can tailor a better plan for your points. The miles and points you need to earn to take a cross country trip aren’t necessarily the same currencies as what you would want to use to get to Europe.

After you set a travel goal, make sure you research what miles and points can help you to reach that goal. Flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards can help give you flexible options to help you meet your goals. There are many different ways to reach your travel goal—the important thing is to figure out which miles and points you’ll need to make it to your goal. The last thing you want is a large stash of miles and points that you struggle to make work with your plans.

Learn the Loyalty Programs Relevant to Your Goal

Once you’ve figured out what loyalty programs will help you achieve your goal, it’s important to familiarize yourself with those programs. Each and every program is different and will have quirks that might be beneficial or detrimental to your trip.

Figuring out the answers to these questions will help you understand how many miles and points you will need to make it to your travel goal. It’s not easy work, but the rewards are worth it. Once you know how many miles and points you need, you can get to earning as efficiently as possible.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some questions you can research to get to know the loyalty programs you need better.

Questions for Airline Loyalty Programs

  • How much will the flight I want to take cost in miles?
  • Does the flight cost fluctuate depending on the time of year I’m flying?
  • Which airlines partner with this loyalty program?
  • Does the program offer earning boosts via spending or flights taken?

Questions for Hotel Loyalty Programs

  • Does the hotel chain have peak/off peak pricing?
  • Can I use any free night certificates towards my trip or will variable pricing mean they aren’t valid?
  • Does the program offer any free nights on bookings of a specific length?
  • Does the program waive resort fees on award bookings?
  • Are points and cash bookings an option?
  • Does a credit card I hold give me status with the program? Does that status confer benefits such as breakfast, upgrades or late checkout?

Questions for Transferable Points Programs

  • What value can I get for my points if I use them to pay for flights?
  • What transfer partners can I use to help get me to my destination?
  • What bonus categories does my card offer to help boost my earnings?

Use Credit Cards to Help You Reach Your Travel Goal

Once you’ve identified the loyalty programs that will help you reach your travel goal, you can apply for credit cards to help you meet those goals. Whether it’s the New United Quest℠ Card card, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card or a flexible card like Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, knowing what miles and points you need should inform the cards that will help you get there. The welcome bonuses for these new credit cards should give you a solid head start.

Most importantly, knowing the points you need to reach your goal should help inform which credit cards you apply for. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting money and time on miles and points you don’t need, instead focus on your travel goal and earn the welcome bonuses that will get you there.

Tip: Make a spreadsheet tracking how much you need to spend on a credit card to earn the welcome bonus and the deadline for making that spend so you don’t miss out on a bonus.

Maximize Credit Card Category Bonuses in Your Everyday Spending

Outside of welcome bonuses, one of the easiest ways to earn miles and points is to maximize your credit card category bonuses. Most credit cards offer double, triple or even quintuple points in certain spend categories. For example, the American Express® Gold Card card offers 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1 point per dollar), 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express travel. All other eligible purchases earn 1 point per dollar. (Terms apply. See rates and fees). If you hold the card, make sure you maximize the category bonus by using the card for all your dining and supermarket purchases.

Some credit cards, like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card card, allow you to choose a bonus category. That card lets you earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases. Cards with that kind of flexibility allow you to choose your own bonus categories which can make your points earning even more efficient.

Make sure you know what bonus categories each of your credit cards offer and try to earn bonus points whenever you can to get you to your travel goal even faster. You could even use stickers to help you remember which card to use at which venue.

Remember to Activate and Maximize Quarterly Bonus Categories

Certain credit cards, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠, offer rotating bonus categories. This requires some bookkeeping for you. You need to remember to activate these bonus categories every quarter. After you activate the bonus category, you also need to make sure you maximize the category for the quarter—without going over any limits. The Freedom Flex allows you to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the bonus category each quarter. Make sure you stay organized so you don’t leave any miles and points on the table.

Tip: Set calendar reminders for yourself to remember to activate quarterly bonus categories.

Strategically Time Your Large Purchases

A corollary to maximizing bonus categories is strategically timing your large purchases. If you know you have some big ticket items coming up due to moving to situations like moving to a new house or the holidays you can time your purchases to help maximize your points. If you know you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on new furniture in a few months, you might want to wait until then to apply for a new credit card. That way those dollars can be spent towards earning a welcome bonus (or two).

You can also strategically time your purchases to coincide with quarterly bonus categories. Let’s take the Chase Freedom Flex℠ as an example. In Q2 2021, home improvement stores were included in the 5% bonus category. If you were in the market for a new washer and dryer, it would have been good to wait until that quarter to purchase that item from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Once again, staying organized and knowing what bonus categories apply to which credit cards at what times can really help you to maximize your miles and points earnings.

Shop Through Portals to Earn Extra Miles

Another way to earn bonus miles and points is to utilize shopping portals when making purchases online. Most airline and bank rewards programs feature shopping portals. You create an account and then click through to the website where you want to make an online purchase. The shopping portal keeps a record of your purchase via a cookie and you earn bonus miles or points from the purchase. The trick is finding a shopping portal that offers you the most bonus points for the miles and points you’re looking for. Every bonus point counts so don’t leave points on the table by going directly to a retailer website—go through a shopping portal whenever you can.

Tip: Use Cashback Monitor to find the best shopping portal bonus.

Use a Dining Portal to Earn Bonus Miles When Dining

Many airline programs also have dining portals that allow you to earn bonus miles when dining at certain restaurants. You generally can only sign up for one of these dining portals at a time, but since you’re focused on a travel goal you should be able to sign up for a dining portal that will best help you reach that goal.

After linking a credit card to the dining portal, whenever you dine at a participating restaurant you will earn bonus points. You can either look up restaurants on the portal every time you want to go out to eat or just use the card linked to the portal every time you dine out. That way, if a restaurant is on the portal you’ll get the bonus points without even having to think about it. While you won’t earn a ton of miles and points this way, it’s still a nice way to top off your account.

Tip: Using a dining portal is an easy way to make sure your miles don’t expire—remember some programs require you to have activity every so often to avoid expiration.

Bottom Line

Having a clear travel goal for your miles and points will help you to maximize your miles and points earning. With efficiency and organization, you should be able to earn welcome bonuses and bonus points in the loyalty programs that will help you to meet your travel goal. Stay focused on your goal and you will be putting your hard earned miles and points to work in no time.

To view rates and fees for American Express® Gold Card please visit this page.

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Travel Free With Points: Great Destinations Using Credit Card Points

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The pandemic may have forced us to reign in our travel desires, but the vaccine has freed us to again engage in some wanderlust. Where to go? That first trip should be somewhere amazing, somewhere that will help make up for lost time at home, somewhere to help us forget about life and be pampered. It’s time to vacation like a celebrity.

We—you—can do this without spending big money. While you may have canceled or delayed trips over the last 16 months, your credit card spending continued, even if it’s been at a slower pace. That means your miles and points balances have grown. You may even have more points today than you’ve ever had.

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021

That makes now the perfect time to plan an aspirational trip. Pick a time, pick an amazing destination and use those overflowing points accounts to book a trip that you will remember forever. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The Maldives

The Maldives is almost always at the top of the list of aspirational travel destinations. There’s a good reason for that. Located in the Indian Ocean, this small archipelago is not only one of the more remote and beautiful locations on the planet, but it boasts a number of amazing luxury resorts. Each one provides easy access to the country’s unbelievable underwater world.

Even with its isolated location, the Maldives is somewhat of a celebrity hot spot.  A-listers—including John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Bieber— have holidayed in this paradise.

The Maldives is a dream destination for many and due to the wide variety of lodging options and the large number of airlines that serve the capital city Malé, it is a place that you can easily use your points to visit.


For celebrity treatment at 40,000 feet look no further than the big three Middle Eastern carriers: Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. All three airlines fly into Velana International Airport (MLE) in Malé.

Book Emirates flights from the U.S. with Emirates Skywards miles starting at 255,000 miles in first class, depending on your departure city. Expect to pay fuel surcharges when booking with Skywards miles, but the airline significantly reduced those charges recently.

You can book Etihad flights using American Airlines miles. Find roundtrip flights from the U.S. for 140,000 miles for business class and 230,000 miles for first class. You also can use Etihad Guest miles to book these flights, but you’ll need to pony up 300,000 miles for business class, so it isn’t the best option. Etihad also is a transfer partner of some of the most popular rewards programs. .

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021

Qatar Airways Qsuites is technically a business class product, but many who have flown in Qsuites compare it to first class on other airlines. You can book Qsuites from the U.S. to the Maldives for just 140,000 American Airlines miles. This is one of the best deals for travel to the Maldives when you consider the number of miles you are paying and the product you are receiving in return.

From the airport in Malé, transportation to your hotel is almost always via speedboat or floatplane and is usually set up through your hotel. The only way to pay for this part of the trip on points is by using a card that allows you to pay yourself back in points or by using points earned on a cash back card. Some of the most popular travel rewards credit cards will let you redeem points for travel expenses on your statement.


There are plenty of amazing hotel options in the Maldives. If you’re willing to spend some time searching for available award nights, many of them can be booked with points.

The St. Regis is one of the most impressive spots in the Maldives that allows you to book with points. Award nights cost between 85,000 and 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, depending on whether you are traveling during off-peak or peak dates. You may find a mix of prices if you are looking for several nights in a row. Award nights at this resort book into a Garden Villa with a private pool.

The Radisson Blu Resort Maldives is a new property and looks to be an amazing place to stay. You’ll pay just 70,000 Radisson points per night, which is a real bargain because Radisson Rewards points are typically not as valuable as points from other hotel programs. In addition to the comparatively low points cost, the base room for award nights at the Radisson Blu is an overwater villa with a private pool. This is one of the best values for an overwater villa anywhere in the world, and will certainly give you that keeping-away-from-the-Paparazzi vibe.


Thailand is a diverse country with something for everyone—and at every price point. From the bustling metropolis of Bangkok to the laid back comfort of Chiang Mai, you are sure to find something you love. But for that celebrity travel experience, you should look to the Thai islands.

There are many islands in this southeast Asian country, and all of them are fairly easily accessible through the capital city of Bangkok. Here’s how you can make your way to the delicious food, friendly people and gorgeous scenery of Thailand, and how you can do it all with points.


You have several options for flights to Thailand, but all of them end in Bangkok. Once you reach that city, you will need to take a short connecting flight to get to the island of your choice. After that quick hop, you’ll be pampered at your hotel in no time.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the best programs to help get you to Bangkok. The airline charges just 70,000 miles each way to fly first class on Cathay Pacific. Connect through Hong Kong and you have an amazingly cheap way to get to Thailand in luxury, and you can stop over in Hong Kong without sacrificing additional miles.

For your return flights, Thai Airways stands out above the rest due to the ground experience in Bangkok. Your first-class lounge experience includes an hour-long massage and impeccable service. Once in the air, you can expect that same fantastic service and a comfortable ride.

Thai doesn’t fly directly into the U.S. If you are willing to book within two weeks of your travel date, you may even be able to connect your Thai first class ride to Frankfurt with a Lufthansa first class flight back to the U.S. for one of the ultimate points redemptions. This dream trip is bookable using United Airlines miles from as low as 90,000 miles in business class or 140,000 miles in first.


With all of the different islands and the various hotel loyalty programs, you have almost an unlimited number of options for booking your lodging with points. Instead of taking a look at all of the luxury points properties, let’s look at a consistently amazing property from a program we know well, along with another option that requires thinking a bit out of the box.

One A-list spot is Koh Samui, which counts Richard Gere among its fans. The Conrad Koh Samui is well known in the points world as a bucket list hotel for its amazing rooms, the best in privacy and understated luxury. Costing 95,000 Hilton points per night, Hilton Honors premier members get the best value staying for five nights because the fifth night will be free. Rooms are nestled into a hillside overlooking the water, and each has its own private infinity pool. When you want to move around the resort, you simply call for a ride and an employee in a golf cart arrives to whisk you away to your destination.

For extreme luxury, the Amanpuri Resort on the island of Phuket is hard to beat. Aman resorts are known worldwide for their service and facilities, and attract numerous celebrities. Famous visitors include Angelina Jolie and her family and Lindsay Lohan.

Amanpuri, however, isn’t bookable with any hotel loyalty program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your points to book there. Several credit card rewards programs allow members to redeem points for travel charges. Amanpuri nightly rates range from the high hundreds of dollars to the low thousands. This isn’t a cheap redemption option, but you can actually stay at an Aman property using points.

The Caribbean

For Americans, the Caribbean is a lot closer to home and a lot easier to get to than Asia or the middle of the Indian Ocean. Time zone changes are less extreme, and the travel shouldn’t leave you jet-lagged.


Because it’s so close, you won’t find any flight options that are quite as amazing as the previous two destinations. You can pick pretty much any U.S.-based airline and use points to get to the Caribbean in business class. What you are really looking for in the Caribbean is an amazing property that you can stay at with points.


Here are two options that allow you to use points to stay at private islands. Both are a bit unbelievable, the first because of the opportunity it presents and the high number of points, and the second because of the low number of points it takes for a luxury experience.

Necker Island is a private island owned by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, but you can stay there using points. You have to redeem a whopping 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic points for a room for a week, but you are sure to have an incredible experience. Availability for individual rooms is limited to a few Celebration Weeks each year since the island is rented out in its entirety at other times.

You can live like actual royalty with our next spot: Calala Island, Nicaragua.  Princess Eugenie celebrated her engagement on the island where staff outnumbers guests by 3 to 1. Almost all of the available activities are included with your stay. The resort even provides transfers from the Managua airport for no additional cost.

Calala Island is on the other end of the spectrum for points cost, coming in at just 40,000 Hyatt points per night. There are only four rooms on this private-island SLH Resort off the coast of Nicaragua, and only three of them are bookable with points. This makes finding award availability quite a challenge, but if you can manage to string a few nights together, you are in for a treat.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking for an exclusive stay on a mostly private island or your own suite in the sky with a pampering staff to look after you, it’s absolutely possible for you to take a celebrity-inspired trip with points.

Yes, the cost in points may be higher than other options. Yes, it can be a challenge to find the right combination of flight and hotel award availability. But if you have some patience and a huge balance of points that’s been building up as you didn’t travel over the past year, you may just be able to make that first post-pandemic trip a true trip of a lifetime.

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021

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5 star luxury, 1 best friend: How I used credit card travel perks for the ultimate reunion

5 star luxury, 1 best friend: How I used credit card travel perks for the ultimate reunion – The Points Guy

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