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So, you’re getting ready to tie the knot. Putting the finishing touches your wedding can be a daunting personal and financial experience, even though it is one of the best days of your life. And just when you’re about at the top of your budget, it’s time to consider the honeymoon.

We understand the struggle. The average cost of a honeymoon is equal to almost 15 percent of the total wedding budget, or right around $5,000 per couple.

If you don’t have that kind of cash sitting around for your romantic getaway, it doesn’t mean that you have to take the cheap way out for such a memorable experience. A cost-effective alternative is to get clever about earning credit card rewards, and pay your honeymoon expenses with them.

Choosing the right rewards card to pay for your honeymoon

There are a few ways to get started earning credit card rewards before you even make it to the ceremony.  The first is to make sure you have the right card in your wallet. In order to rack up enough rewards to cover the trip, we recommend that you start at least six months prior to the big day.

You’re likely going to be spending a lot in preparations for your wedding, so it’s ideal to choose cards that will help you earn rewards as you spend. For example, those that earn you rewards on dining, entertainment or travel. There are a lot of cards out there, so let’s get started by helping you know what your options are.

Co-branded hotel cards

Co-branded hotel cards, or cards associated with certain hotel chains, are a great way to earn rewards for staying at a property.

Once you have your honeymoon destination set, research the hotel brands offered in the area, along with any co-branded hotel cards.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*

With the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll earn 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on eligible purchases at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio, 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and purchases made at U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases.

Most impressively, you’ll earn a 150,000-point bonus offer after spending $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months. Keep in mind the card comes with a $450 annual fee.

The most alluring benefits of the Aspire card are the Hilton Honors Annual Free Weekend Night Reward and Fifth Standard Reward Night Free.

During each year of your Card Membership, you’ll receive one complimentary weekend night issued in the form of a redeemable code via email. You can then receive an additional night after spending $60,000 on purchases in a calendar year.

As for the Fifth Night Free benefit, you’ll receive your fifth night free on up to 20 nights within a single stay when you book using rewards. Further, this perk can be used as much as you’d like.

Additional benefits include complimentary Diamond status, which includes the following perks:

  • Executive lounge access
  • Complimentary breakfast at all hotels
  • Second guest stays free
  • 100% extra Bonus Points on all Base Points you earn, room upgrades, and more

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card*

For a $450 annual fee, you’ll earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy Points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2X points on everything else.

There is a 75,000-point bonus when you $3,000 in purchases in your first three months. Plus, you’ll receive $300 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.

With the Bonvoy card, you’ll receive one Free Night Award every year after your card account anniversary. The award can be used for one night for rooms at eligible hotels and resorts valued at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

You’ll also receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status and can earn Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status after making $75,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year.

Additional perks include a $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit through which you can book stays at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® and receive up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges. Note: there’s a minimum stay of two nights in order to receive this perk.

Co-branded airline cards

With a co-branded airline card, you’ll earn rewards (typically miles) for flying with a specific airline. Here’s a look at some of the top co-branded airline card options according to our experts:

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

With the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, you’ll earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas stations and 1 AAdvantage® mile on everything else.

You’ll also receive a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after spending $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card.

There’s a 50,000-mile bonus when you spend $2,500 in purchases within your first three months of account opening, along with a $99 annual fee that’s waived for your first 12 months (significantly lower than the Executive World Elite’s $450 fee).

Additional perks:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Preferred boarding for you and up to four companions traveling with you and listed in the same reservation
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • 25% savings on eligible inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

For a $95 annual fee (waived your first year), the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card offers 2X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles on everything else.

There’s a 30,0000-mile bonus after you spend $1,000 in your first three months.

You won’t be charged any foreign transaction fees and you can check your first bag for free on a round-trip Delta flight. Plus, you and up to two guests traveling on a Delta flight can visit the Delta Sky Club at $29 per person.

Travel rewards cards

A great travel rewards card is a good bet, as it will reward your spending by giving you miles toward your honeymoon. Our top pick is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn 3X points on travel worldwide (excluding the $300 travel credit), 3X points on dining and restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases — perfect for the various dinners and trips you’ll host leading up to the wedding.

There’s a 50,000-point bonus offer after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, as well as an annual travel credit of $300.

You’ll have to pay a $450 annual fee (plus an additional $75 for each authorized user, i.e. your future spouse), but the perks of the card can easily make up for this charge.

When you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, your points take on 50% more value. That means 50,000 points would be worth $750 toward travel through the portal.

This card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, meaning you won’t be charged an additional fee for purchases made abroad, and there aren’t any blackout dates or travel restrictions.

Get started before the wedding

Let’s take a look at some of the common wedding-related purchases that will help you jumpstart your rewards.

Purchasing rings

If you’re planning on purchasing wedding bands or haven’t secured an engagement ring yet, this high dollar purchase is a great one to put on your credit card and rake in the rewards. If you can’t pay off the purchase in one fell swoop, make sure the card you put it on has a reasonable APR or an introductory APR period.

Engagement parties

Capitalize on any and all wedding-related parties leading up to the wedding — from engagement parties to bachelorette parties to bridal showers. Depending on the rewards card you own, you can easily earn rewards for dining out, travel, gas and any entertainment.

How to maximize your rewards when spending on the ceremony

Another great way to stock up on rewards before your honeymoon is by using a rewards card for purchases related to your wedding ceremony.

Dining rewards

To earn rewards on the dining-related purchases for your wedding, such as catering, be sure to check with your card issuer concerning whether or not your caterer will qualify in your card’s dining category.

Another trick is to make a small purchase in advance with the caterer to confirm whether or not you’ll receive the rewards.

Entertainment rewards

An easy way to earn rewards from wedding-related spending is through booking a band or DJ for the reception. These purchases will normally factor into the entertainment spending category of your credit card (should your card have one).

There are different costs associated with live music as opposed to a DJ, so make sure to fully research your options in conjunction with your budget before making a decision.

Destination weddings

If a destination wedding is in your future, make sure to do your research on whether or not your card’s rewards categories and perks will apply to the hotel brand you’re staying with.

Hotel brands such as Hilton, Marriott Bonvoy, Hyatt and IHG all offer wedding planning assistance tools. For example, Marriott offers an online form that allows you to check for event space availability based on your destination, dates, the number of people in your party and more.

For destination weddings, you’ll most likely want a card with a high sign-up bonus. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months (paired with its 10X miles category on hotel stays booked and paid through Hotels.com/venture) makes it a solid choice for destination events.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another solid option. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in your first three months from account opening (equal to $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal).

Set up a honeymoon registry

In lieu of wedding gifts, some couples are choosing to ask for donations to their honeymoon fund.

Honeymoon registry sites like Honeyfund and Zola help you to create a honeymoon fund and crowdfund cash from guests.

All of your guests, regardless of age and tech-savviness, will be able to donate a gift to your registry with ease. We suggest breaking up your honeymoon listings into several parts so that multiple guests can contribute to one big-ticket item.

Another option for crowdfunding your honeymoon could be point donations — simply provide guests with your airline or hotel loyalty number and wait. Then, you can combine your earnings with cash to cover the cost of flights or hotel stays. (Keep in mind that not all issuers allow you to gift others credit card rewards and not all loyalty programs allow you to combine cash and rewards.)

For example, Citi ThankYou Rewards allows you to transfer up to 100,000 points to those who are also ThankYou members using the Points Sharing feature.

Priority Pass lounge membership

Another benefit of being credit card savvy prior to your honeymoon is the ability to make your travels to and from your destination even more relaxing with a Priority Pass lounge membership.

With Priority Pass, an international airport lounge program, you’ll have access to 1,200+ lounges across the globe.

Check to see if your cards offer Priority Pass airport lounge membership, as well as what the guest policies are for your specific card. Some of the cards that offer the perk include the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

Point-less? There are other options

If you’re heading somewhere off the beaten path or don’t have a large conglomerate of points, we have a few options that will cut down the cost of your trip.

Credit cards that offer nights free

Certain cards offer an additional night free after booking a number of consecutive hotel stays with points, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card mentioned above.

Here are two other options we think you should know about:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you’ll receive 10X miles on hotel stays booked and paid through Hotels.com/venture.

If you’re a Hotels.com Rewards member, you’ll get one night free for every ten nights booked through the site. (No blackout dates, no restrictions). The value of your free night will equal the average price of the ten nights you’ve collected.

In addition to the 10X miles category, you’ll receive 2X miles on every purchase made with the card and a bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within your first three months (equal to $500 in travel).

The $95 annual fee is much lower compared to similar travel cards, and it’s waived for your first year of card membership.

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige Card offers a Complimentary 4th Night Hotel Stay at a hotel of your choice after booking at least four consecutive nights via ThankYou.com. Keep in mind that beginning September 1, 2019 this benefit is capped at two times per calendar year.

The card also offers up to $250 in travel credit every calendar year automatically, as well as a 50,000-point bonus offer when you spend $4,000 in your first three months. Even better, your bonus points are redeemable for $500 in travel through the ThankYou Travel Center.

Other than these perks, you’ll receive 5X points on air travel and restaurants, 3X points on hotels and cruise lines, plus 1X points on everything else.

Southwest Companion Pass

Another great option for covering your flights to and from your honeymoon destination is the Southwest Companion Pass.

With the Companion Pass, you can select one person to fly with you as often as you’d like. This perk applies for the year in which you obtain the pass, as well as the following calendar year.

To earn the companion pass, you’ll need to fly 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights or earn 110,000 Southwest points in a single calendar year.

Let’s take a look at two card options for earning Southwest points:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card offers up to 60,000 Rapid Rewards points: 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months plus 20,000 bonus points after you spend $12,000 within 12 months. Additionally, you’ll pay a $99 annual fee.

You’ll earn 2X points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases and 1X point spent on everything else. Plus, there aren’t any foreign transaction fees and, as always, you’ll get your first and second checked bags free.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

For a $69 annual fee, you’ll earn 2X points per dollar on Southwest Airlines flights, 2X points on hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1X points on all other purchases.

There’s up to a 60,000-point bonus offer: 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open plus an additional 20,000 bonus points when you spend $12,000 within 12 months.

Additional tips and tricks

Here are a few ways you can make sure your honeymoon is more relaxing than stressful as you lead up to the big (travel) day.

Build a budget

Many wedding-focused sites offer budgeting tools to help you gauge your spending. For example, Wedding Wire offers a Wedding Cost Guide tool that helps you see average wedding prices for couples in your area, plan for hidden costs and more.

Start applying

The most important step towards covering your honeymoon with credit card rewards is applying for the cards themselves. Additionally, make sure to pay off your card in full each month. If you plan on carrying a balance, specifically look with cards with a decent 0% introductory APR period.

The bottom line

No matter how you fund your honeymoon, it’s important to make wise financial choices early on in your relationship. Whether you use your rewards to fund your wedding or save them for the milestones to come, you can use these tips and tricks to save money in the future. Just be sure that you don’t overspend your budget, and your first few years together will be rewarding and debt-free.