How to Get 10 Nights in Hawaii and First Class Flights for Free

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This post will explain how a couple can get 10 nights for free at a top-tier hotel in Hawaii plus First Class roundtrip flights all for about $150 per person total. Similar techniques could achieve:

  • 10 free hotel nights and economy class tickets to anywhere in the world that the Star Alliance flies including: Buenos Aires, Madrid, London, Krakow, Berlin, Tokyo, New Delhi, or Beijing
  • one person getting 5 free hotel nights and economy class tickets to the same places and many others
Do you want to be here? (Sheraton Kona)

The crux of this deal is to:

  • Get three credit cards that work very well together: the Starwood Preferred Guest personal card, the Starwood Preferred Guest business card, and the US Airways Premier World MasterCard
  • Take advantage of US Airways’ awesome award chart: the cheapest three-cabin first class price to Hawaii and average or cheap prices everywhere else
  • Take advantage of SPG’s Nights & Flights awards, which is one of the highest value use of Starpoints
  • Benefit from having a travel companion (optional!)

Nights & Flights

I mentioned SPG’s Nights & Flights awards in passing in my Starwood Preferred Guest Primer, but I didn’t do the award justice. Here are the full details on Nights & Flights.

The deal is that for:

  • 60,000 Starpoints: you get 50,000 American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, or other 1:1 SPG airline partner miles plus five free nights in a Category 3 hotel
  • 70,000 Starpoints: you get the 50k airline miles plus five free nights at a Category 4 hotel.

Normally 50k airline miles would require 40k Starpoints, since 20k Starpoints transfer to 25k miles with several major airlines.

That means that for an extra 20k or 30k Starpoints, you get five nights free at some fantastic hotels.

Obviously this is a tremendous deal, made even more tremendous if you can find an “under-categoried” hotel that is a bargain within its own category. Any Category 3 or 4 hotel is a possible destination for the vacation.

US Airways Chart

The US Airways chart for award flights is my favorite of any airline. US Airways charges the same or fewer miles for almost every award compared to competitors. And US Airways miles can be used on any Star Alliance partner, which is convenient since the Star Alliance is the best alliance to

  • Hawaii (United)
  • Europe (tons of partners)
  • and almost everywhere else (largest alliance in the world).

Here is US Airways’ full award chart. Here are the roundtrip prices from the US to other regions.

Each person who follows the steps in this post will have 80k US Airways miles, so anything on the chart that costs fewer than 80k miles is a possible destination for the vacation. These include:

  • Anywhere in the world that the Star Alliance flies in economy
  • One way economy and one way in business to Europe or Brazil (if US Airways operates the entire award)
  • First Class to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Central America, or Mexico
  • Only 10k miles short of Business Class (flat beds!) to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, South Korea, or Taiwan (with a free stopover in Europe if you’d like)

Companion?

Having a companion is ideal for any promo that includes hotel stays. Two first class seats cost twice the miles that one seat costs, but a hotel room for two costs the same number of points as a hotel room for one.

That means that if two companions follow the steps in this post, you can get the award flights to the destination of your dreams and 10 free hotel nights. Or companions can have two five-night hotel stays instead of one 10 night stay.

One person alone can follow the steps and be entitled to the same flights but only five free hotel nights.

Examples

Los Angeles-based couple who wants to vacation in Kona, Hawaii.

United flies daily from Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Kona. Connections are readily available from everywhere else in the US to those three hubs.

Award space is fantastic on the Los Angeles to Kona route in October of this year for two passengers in First Class. Snagging those seats would require a quick call to US Airways and 80k US Airways miles + $55 per passenger.

(Note that these flights feature domestic-style first class. There are some international-style business class beds that United flies to Hawaii from Newark, Washington, San Francisco, Denver, Houston, and more. See here for more on those flights.)

The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keahou Bay is a Starwood Category 4 hotel.

Nights & Flights awards allow for redemption if any standard room is for sale with no blackout dates.

If each member of the couple amassed 70k Starpoints + 30k US Airways miles, the couple could fly roundtrip in First Class to Hawaii and stay 10 nights at the Sheraton Kona for $110 total.

The 70k Starpoints would be used to book consecutive Nights & Flights awards. That would create 10 free nights total plus 50k US Airways miles per person. Combined with the other 30k US Airways miles each person has, the 80k US Airways miles would be used to book the award flights!

Ten nights at the hotel normally go for about $2,600. The award flights I found would cost $3,400 in first class, which most people would never pay, and cost $1,400 even in economy!

That means this $5,000 to $7,000 vacation would cost only $110 + 70k Starpoints + 30k US Airways points per person. That’s the power of Nights & Flights and the US Airways award chart.

Newark-based couple who want 10 nights in Europe

The Star Alliance has incredible award availability to Europe, all of which is available to US Airways miles. Here’s a quick award for two passengers that spends five days in Munich on a stopover, hops over to Brussels for five days at the destination, then returns to Newark next summer during the perfect time to travel to Europe.

This award would cost 60k US Airways miles + $200.90 per person in taxes and fees.

Both Munich and Brussels have centrally-located SPG Category 4 properties.

Munich, yesterday

If each member of the couple amassed 70k Starpoints + 10k US Airways miles, the couple could fly roundtrip to Munich and Brussels, staying five nights in each city for only $402 plus points.

That is a steal considering that ten nights at these hotels next summer is going for 1990 euros ($2670), and united.com says the flights would be about $3,000 total.

Five nights in Munich should cost 1,055 euros
Five nights in Brussels should cost 935 euros
The flights should cost about $3,000

So this is a $5,615 vacation for $201 + 70k Starpoints + 10k US Airways miles per person. Here’s how:

  1. One person redeems 70k Starpoints for five nights in Munich + 50k US Airways miles.
  2. The other person redeems 70k Starpoints for five nights in Brussels + 50k US Airways miles.
  3. Combined with the 10k US Airways miles each person already had, each person redeems 60k miles + $201 in taxes and fees for the flights.

Build Your Own

Here are lists of Category 3 and Category 4 hotels. Here is How to Search United.com to Redeem US Airways Miles.

Anywhere you find Star Alliance award space and SPG Category 3 or 4 hotels, you can construct your own dream vacation.

Cards

Because the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business cards from American Express both are offering their a 25k point sign up bonus after spending $5k in the first six months, the points necessary are within reach.

To follow the steps in this post and have vacations like the examples mentioned–or vacations to your preferred destination anywhere in the world the Star Alliance flies and SPG has Category 3 and 4 hotels–each person needs to get three credit cards.

  1. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  2. Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  3. US Airways Premier World MasterCard

The Starwood cards both offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months of cardmembership. Meeting both minimum spending requirements would give you 60k Starpoints, the exact number needed for a Nights & Flights award at Category 4 hotels.

The US Airways card gives 30k US Airways miles after first purchase, the exact number of US Airways miles needed–in combination with the 50k you get from Nights & Flights awards–for a First Class ticket to Hawaii and more than enough for a roundtrip anywhere in the world that the Star Alliance flies.

Each person trying to construct a vacation like those in this post would need to spend $10,001 on these cards over six months or about $1,667 per month to unlock the bonuses, well within most of our reaches.

Recap

Incredible value vacations are within reach by combining a few excellent deals:

  • Get three credit cards that work very well together: SPG personal, SPG business, US Airways card
  • Take advantage of US Airways’ awesome award chart: the cheapest three-cabin first class price to Hawaii and average or cheap prices everywhere else
  • Take advantage of SPG’s Nights & Flights awards, which is one of the highest value use of points
  • Benefit from having a travel companion (optional!)

Full card offers:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

  • Starpoints® bonus: earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
  • That’s enough for a weekend getaway to a Category 4 Hotel.
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG hotels and resorts – that’s 2 Starpoints for using the Card in addition to the Starpoints you earn as an SPG member. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide – with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights – with no blackout dates
  • No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and Restrictions apply.

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

  • Starpoints® bonus: Earn up to 25,000 bonus points
  • Earn 10,000 Starpoints® after your first purchase on the Card and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
  • Starpoints® redeemable towards Free Hotel Nights at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide – with no blackout dates
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts participating in the SPG® program
  • Earn 1 Starpoint® for each dollar of eligible purchases
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and limitations apply

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase

  • Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles on qualifying transactions
  • EXCLUSIVE: Redeem flights for 5,000 fewer miles
  • Zone 2 boarding on every flight
  • Enjoy 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
  • Annual companion certificate good for round-trip travel for up to 2 companions at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • First Class check-in
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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46 COMMENTS

  1. At the Sheraton Kona, there will be a ‘resort fee’ of $31.25/nt for a total of $312.50 for 10 nights. Any strategy for getting out of this charge? As an elite? Please update the post accordingly.

  2. Totally don’t agree that Nights & Flights is a good use of points… unless you were already going to transfer the SPG points to airline miles–which is a questionable decision to begin with in this type of quantity. Airline miles are so, so, so easy to earn and SPG points are very hard unless you’re a frequent SPG guest or spend tens of thousands of dollars per month in non-bonus spending.

  3. This part is incorrect “One way economy and one way in business to Europe or Brazil ” – US would still charge the RT business class price, so you’d have to go in economy all the way or earn more miles.

  4. I put a little caveat about it all being US metal. My understanding is that all US metal, you can mix-and-match for the fair price, but any partner flights and you get charged the roundtrip price of the highest cabin.

  5. What if your partner has a credit score of 660 and probably won’t be approved for any 3 of them, could I substitute with different cards?

    • I agree. Hopefully the post made it clear that by “Free” I meant “very cheap because you don’t pay the base cost only the associated taxes on the flight and one credit card annual fee.”

      I don’t know a word that encompasses that idea, and I thought the post was really good, so I stretched the word “Free” a bit. Do you have a suggestion for next time?

      • You are also forgetting resort fees? Take a look at Frugal Travel Guy’s posts about traveling to Hawaii before he sold his blog. Free should mean free.

        • Brent/Scott–Do you know of any way to avoid resort fees? I am planning a trip to Hawaii so would be very interested in hearing about that. Thinking about using nights and flights for 5 nights at Kona.

          • It wouldn’t make it free outright, but you should definitely put the resort fees on a Barclay Arrival World card if possible so that you can use the points to get a statement credit for the charges.

  6. This information is very helpful to me and my family of five. Because of your advice we will be able to fly business class to Europe in six months. It’s amazing how quickly the credit card bonuses will take us all!

  7. The posts have been great Scott! I look forward to your daily emails every morning.

    I have a question somewhat related to this post, am hoping someone with experience in the area can answer. I’m looking to book a US Air off-peak award to Europe (hopefully Ireland/UK and a TBD location in mainland Europe) next Feb. However, when I search most of the cities on US Air’s route map, nothing will come up. Not just no award availability, but it comes back with an error saying that there are no flights to/from the cities.

    How would you suggest I figure out what my award options are for a Feb off peak award? Are there just a few cities that US Air flies to in Europe at that time of year? Can I search on United.com for only US Air flights?

    Thanks!

  8. […] I wrote extensively about Nights & Flights yesterday. At the 70k redemption level, you’d get five free hotel nights at any Starwood Category 4 property and 50,000 American Airlines, US Airways, or Delta miles, which you could use for two domestic roundtrip flight awards, to get to that hotel. […]

  9. If I am reading this correctly, you say both people will need to get both cards? That would then necessitate spending $20,000 on credit cards in 6 months ($3,333 per month on credit cards). I can’t speak for everyone, but that seems to leave many people out of the loop.

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