Front of Hyatt Regency Clearwater from street

If you are trying to plan family travel on a budget, or are looking to save money on travel for a large family, using points and miles to earn free or discounted travel can be a game changer. We regularly use points and miles we earned through our credit cards to get us a few free hotel nights a year, if not an entire vacation booked for free (including flights and hotel.)

For families of five or more, or anyone who has traveled on a multigenerational trip or with a large group, you probably know that accommodations can be expensive. In fact, accommodations usually take up the bulk of any travel budget.

And, typically, you either need a multi-bedroom suite or multiple rooms for larger families, and the costs can add up. So finding a gem like this hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida, and paying for it with points and miles, is a great way to get a lot for less to maximize a family vacation.

Imagine being able to enjoy a dream vacation for a fraction of the typical cost! Here’s everything you need to know about how to get started using points and miles for travel. And find out how this travel blogger earned a free stay at a Clearwater Beach resort that was big enough for a large family.

This is a Guest Post written by Alex of Second Dad To The Right Blog. Alex has a lot of experience on earning points and miles for free or discounted travel and has earned enough points to cover over $20,000 worth of travel in the last year alone. This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. See my disclosures. Cover photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

Clearwater Beach Trip Overview

balcony view at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater
Our view from our room at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater, Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

This past spring break, my family and I headed down to the beach in Clearwater, Florida with a family of six. It was my wife, two daughters, my 2-year-old son, my teenage niece, and me.

Clearwater is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Tampa. It’s not far from the beautiful Anna Maria Island and about 1.5 hours from Orlando, so it makes for a great beach vacation to relax after a fun-filled Disney vacation.

Finding accommodations for this many people can be tricky. But we were able to book a beautiful 2-bedroom suite for four nights at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater.

I’ll be honest – it t was an amazing room! With a well-appointed, amazing balcony view overlooking the beach and a full kitchen, it was perfect for a big family like ours. It was also in an ideal location — near lots of restaurants, Pier 60, and the beachfront (after crossing the road).

And the best part? It was almost entirely free! We used credit card points to book the room and managed to pick up a few upgrades and perks along the way. Here’s how it works.

How Points and Miles Work

First, I’ll give a quick explanation of how credit card points and miles work and the best way to use them. Credit Card points (sometimes called rewards or miles) are a bank of points that credit cards give you for using them that you can redeem for cash, statement credit, gift cards, experiences, and travel.

For the sake of this article, I’ll mostly be talking about travel (and you should, too, because they are worth much more in travel than other redemptions). There are many cards where you can earn points and miles.

Some are specific to airlines or hotel brands, while others can earn you points and miles to use toward travel in general (for flights, hotels, car rentals, and even to erase travel purchases.)

If you are someone who uses your credit card for every day purchases, having one that earns great rewards toward travel is well worth it. And, it’s one of the best ways to get free and discounted travel!

Flexible Points and Co-Branded Cards

There are two different types of credit cards that rack up travel points. The first is a flexible points card.

These are issued directly by the bank, and the points can be used for various things—in other words, they are flexible. The best points programs are cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Citi Thank You points.

For travel, you can use these cards to book lots of travel options through each bank’s portal (not usually a great value), or you can transfer them to a hotel or airline partner. Since we stayed at a Hyatt, we used Chase points primarily.

The other type of card is what’s called a co-branded card. This is card issued by a bank (like Chase or Amex) but it’s branded by a travel company like Hyatt, Marriott, Southwest, or Delta. These only earn points for redemption with their specific company. Therefore, it’s much more limited than a flexible rewards card.

However, some cards make up for the limitation by offering other perks like status and free upgrades with the company. Some offer you free hotel rooms each year.

There’s lots more to know about the points and miles game, but let’s move on to how to earn points.

Sign Up Offers or Welcome Offers

The fastest way to earn a lot of points is to open a new card with a sign-up offer.  A good travel card will give you 50,000 to 100,000 or more points just for hitting a minimum spend threshold in a certain period of time, for example $3,000 in 3 months. If you have enough expenses to cover it in the timeframe, get the card!

In case you’re wondering, we’ve actually opened 13 cards (between my wife and me) in the last 12 months. It didn’t hurt our credit score…and we racked up over 1 million points (worth a potential $20,000 in travel) just on sign up offers or reward offers. But make sure you understand the rules and strategies before trying this.

But there’s more ways to earn points.

Clearwater Beach at night from hotel room at Hyatt Regency Clearwater
Our view at night, Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

Multiplied Spending

Most cards will give you one point per dollar spent. However, most cards also have categories that will give multiplied points for spending.

Depending on the type of card, you could even earn 2x the dollar amount spent. The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is one of these types of credit cards.

Certain cards will have rewards for things like dining, groceries, gas, travel, and office supplies. Therefore, you don’t have to make a lot of bad financial decisions to earn points. Just use the right card for the right transaction and watch the points pile up.

Paying Your Taxes with a Credit Card

Another great way to get a lot of points is to pay your taxes with a credit card. If you have a small business and have to pay estimated taxes or if you owe something in April, use a card.

There will be a transaction fee (usually just under 2%), but if you can earn 75,000 points (roughly $1000-1500 in travel) for a sign-up offer, then it’s worth it. Do talk to your tax accountant about your personal circumstances related to paying your taxes and the ways to do so with your personal situation.

Important Tip: Spend Responsibly

Again, spend responsibly. There’s no benefit to racking up points if you’re racking up debt. After your statement closes (not before!), pay the balance in full, and you won’t have any interest charges. This is the best way to ensure travel points and miles earned from your credit card benefit you.

Best Cards for a Large Family Going to Clearwater

The Hyatt Regency Clearwater outside from beach
The Hyatt Regency Clearwater has beachfront views, Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

So how did we end up in a suite that should have cost $1,200 a night for free? Chase is the only transfer partner with Hyatt, so if you want to stay at a Hyatt, you need Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards or you need a Hyatt card.

We “paid” 44,000 a night for a one-bedroom suite, for a total of 178,000 points. That’s a lot of points, but this was Spring Break, and we booked last minute. However, Hyatt uses an award chart, so it will never be more than that unless they reclassify the resort.

Here are the cards we used:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The best card for anyone trying to rack up Ultimate Rewards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a low annual fee ($95) and has plenty of perks to make up for it.

You can usually get 60k or more points for the sign-up offer. It also has great travel protection (when you pay with it), rewards for dining, online groceries, and travel, and lots of other perks. Always check the travel protection your credit card provides to see if you need additional travel insurance or if what your credit card provides is enough.

However, the main reason it’s everyone’s first card is that you need this card (or the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Business Ink Preferred) to transfer to the partners. So, it’s a good one to start with if you want to start earning points and miles with your credit cards for travel.

My wife and I each opened this card last year at an elevated 80k sign-up offer That’s almost enough points to cover this whole trip just with the sign-up offer. Just with using it to spend, we probably couldn’t have done this that quickly.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you don’t like annual fees, another good card to have in your wallet is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The sign-up offer is usually much lower, but it earns 1.5x on every purchase. So you can rack up points on the hard-to-categorize spending with this card.

We have one of these to pick up points on random things that I can’t earn rewards on elsewhere.

Hyatt Regency sign
Hyatt Regency, Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

The World of Hyatt Card

This is an obvious card if you want to stay at Hyatts for free. The World Of Hyatt comes with welcome offers that get you lots of Hyatt points, and you earn Hyatt points when you use it.

You especially earn Hyatt points when you use it to stay at Hyatts, and this hotel chain is one of the finest for families in locations around the world. In fact, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts on Maui for families.

But it’s not just about the points. The Hyatt card also helps you get Elite status (more on that below).

Just by opening the card you get five qualifying nights towards elite status (not free stays), and using the card gets your more qualifying nights. If you want to get to Globalist, you need this card in your wallet.

Chase Ink Cash

The Chase Ink Cash Business Card is a great card, but it’s a business card, so you need a business. However, that business can be selling stuff on Ebay or Marketplace. It can be tutoring (like my wife), or it can be blogging.

A business can be anything you make a few bucks doing on the side. Once you figure out what your small business or side hustle is, you’re ready to open a business card.

The Chase Ink Cash gets you a large sign-up offer, 2x on gas, 5x on cell phones and internet, and 5x on office supplies (where you can buy gift cards for just about anything).

Hyatt Elite Status: How We Updgraded From a 1 to a 2 Bedroom Suite

restaurant for the Hyatt Regency Clearwater
Breakfast Room at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater, Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

At this point, you should be wondering how we got from a one-bedroom suite to a two-bedroom suite. Well, someone gave us what’s called a “guest of honor” award.

This gives us the benefits of the highest Hyatt elite status (Globalist). We got a free room upgrade, free breakfast for all of us ($120 value each morning), free parking ($40 a day), waived resort fees, and free BOTTLED WATER.

The breakfast deal varies by hotel. I was told on the phone that it was $100 comped. In person, I was told breakfast was free for four, but at checkout, they comped everything for 6 people (well, 5 people and a 2-year-old).

The breakfast at the Hyatt Regency was amazing! On the buffet were sugar pearl waffles, omelet station, great variety for kids, and charcuterie (odd, but amazing). On the menu, they had delicious beignets and Nutella French toast, among other things.

That’s why it’s worth using all your points for Hyatt stays to get to Globalist. After you reach Globalist, you can get that at every Hyatt you visit.

Conclusion and Further Reading

We had an amazing time at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater. We ;headed to the beach, enjoyed the rooftop pool, and discovered lots of surrounding events like Pier 60 and a dolphin encounter.

Now, we did pay for our experiences, the meals besides breakfast (which can be cheap if you use the full kitchen in the room), and drinks at the bar. However, at the end of the trip, thanks to my Chase points, we got $7000 worth of vacation for free between the room, breakfast, resort fee, parking, and so much bottled water (from the front desk and in the fridge from housekeeping).

I write mostly about Disney World, so for further reading, check out my article about saving money at Disney World where I talk about using points at Disney. You can also check my review of the Hilton Palace Disney Springs, another hotel you can book on points.

Author Bio

picture of man with Mickey Mouse
Photo credit: Alex | Second Dad To The Right blog

Alex has three kids and an amazing wife, and he’s spent a lot of time at Disney Parks and on Disney Cruises with them. He loves Disney and wants to share tips, insights, and funny stories to help parents everywhere navigate the Most Magical Place on Earth. You can find him at Second Dad To The Right.

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