Earn a 5 Night Vacation With Flights for Free

grand bahia poolRecently, I wrote about the Starwood Preferred Guest Card and its bangin’ sign-up bonus.  Basically, it works like this: you spend $5,000 in 6 months and earn 25,000 bonus starpoints on top of earning 1 point per dollar spent.  Pretty good deal, huh? I think so.  A few weeks before that, I also wrote about the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard and its sweet 40,000 sign-up bonus.  Here’s the basic rundown of how that deal works: you simply spend $3,000 in the first three months of signing up and earn 40,000 bonus points in addition to 2 point per dollar spent.  So, after spending a thousand bucks, you’ll have $460 that can be redeemed for travel anywhere.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this….and you’re about to find out.  Wait for it….wait for it……

Earn a 5 Night Vacation with Flights

By convincing your spouse to join you in your quest for travel rewards and combining these offers, you can travel to dozens of Starwood properties all over the world for free, with options all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Asia. Here’s how:

First, two point-earners need to sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest card and hit the required spending amount.  And with 5K needed for each card, hitting the minimum spend can be daunting.  But, just remember, you do have six months to do it and that’s a whole lotta gas, groceries, and such that you can put on those cards.  The Starwood Preferred American Express also waives its annual fee for the first year, making it that much easier to score the points without spending anything out of pocket.  Once those cards and done, you can stash those babies away.

Next, you and your partner in crime can sign up for the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard and work on hitting that minimum spend.  And this time it will be easy peasy.  Spending $3,000 in three months, even with two cards, should be a breeze if you put your groceries, gas, and monthly bills on the cards. Then, boom.  You’re done.

Nights & Flights

At this point, you can start planning your trip using the Starwood Preferred Guest Nights & Flights option.  According to the company website, it works like this:

“With Nights & Flights, you can redeem 60,000 Starpoints for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a Category 3 hotel or resort.

With Nights & Flights II, you can redeem 70,000 Starpoints and receive 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a Category 4 hotel or resort.”

At minimum, you should have at least 60,000 starpoints between the two of you due to the 50,000 in bonus points and $10,000 you had to spend to earn them.  With at least 60,000 starpoints, you can pick from any level three hotel with options all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

If you’ve managed to earn 70,000 starpoints with additional spending, you can crank up your hotel options to include category 4 Starwood properties with possibilities all over the world including Aruba, the Bahamas, Mexico, Australia, and Europe.

Click here to browse Category 3 hotels.

Click here to browse Category 4 hotels.

Fly the Friendly Skies for Free

Now it’s time to pick your flights.  Starwood’s Nights & Flights program allows you to redeem your starpoints for 50,000 frequent flyer miles with any qualifying airline.  Once you’ve decided where you want to travel, investigate which airline will give you the most bang for your buck.  From my own hometown (Indianapolis), I found that my husband and I can fly round-trip to Nassau or Aruba for 50,000 American Airlines miles and less than $200 total in additional taxes and fees.

And this is where your Barclay Arrival World Mastercard comes in.  Since its reward points are redeemable for any type of travel, you can use your $920 in travel rewards to cover any additional mileage that the 50,000 in frequent flyer miles don’t.

Want to sign up for the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard?  You can sign up here.

Have you ever paid for an entire trip with credit card rewards?  If not, why not?

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.


  1. Nice! I keep meaning to sign us up for the Barclays card but it’s one of those things that keeps getting pushed off. Besides the bonus, which is obviously sweet, I think it’ll be a good every day use card for us as well.

  2. Holly,
    It seems this card is all everywhere. If I’m a united flyer how does it work, do they give me miles or do I charge the plane ticket and they credit me out. Seems like a good deal, I haven’t travel hacked yet.

  3. I definitely could use one of those right about now. :)

  4. We just signed up for the Barclay’s card this weekend, and we are really looking forward to getting to use it for sweet travel rewards!!

  5. Another great review of the Barclay’s card, thanks Holly!

  6. A 5 night vacation with flights included sounds AMAZING right now! Great write-up on the very real potential for these cards!

  7. Nice work! We should be getting our Barclay cards in the mail any day now :)

  8. Those Starwood resorts are so nice. It is tempting!

  9. Very interesting use of rewards cards! I will consider this next time I plan a vacation!

  10. I, too, have been eyeing the Barclays card for a while. I’ve been thinking about updating my credit card “strategy” for a while now – I need to get a little more organized with it.

  11. I thought you had to pay for the hotel nights to get the flights. If not, that is a great deal and worth getting those cards for sure!

  12. Very nice overview Holly. I need to look into the Starwood card. We’ve both churned the Barclaycard and the whole process was very easy. Our trip to Vegas in 29 days (I’m not counting at all ;) ) is fully paid for with rewards points and we have about $600 in rewards cash we have to spend while there too. :)

  13. Very nice! Love that I can transfer the miles over to my United account, too. If we vacation next year, it’s going to have to be a very frugal one. So this is a good option! Thanks for the write-up!

  14. Nights and flights is can be one of those gems on award charts that gets overlooked (much like the Oneworld Explorer Awards). Glad to see someone is taking advantage of this.

    We haven’t done a 100% covered trip because I tend to not focus on airline miles much since when we can travel is usually not extremely flexible which is a major pre-requisite to really get the most from an airlines reward chart. In the end I just end up staying in really nice hotels I would never pay that much to stay in.

  15. We’re in the middle of our churning plan for the year – I’m really hoping to get two of our trips this year totally covered. Especially since the flights from our place to Omaha in May are currently listed at about $660 per person! No way do I want to pay that!

  16. BALLER! We only have 30,000 Starwood pts left (have blown through the other 70k on fancy pants hotels over 3 trips), but this is a GREAT deal for redemption on those. Just sign up for 2 Starwoods, get your 60k points, and BOOM! Free vacation.

    We’re picking up a pair of Barclaycards next month. It’ll help us get two renatal cars, and pay for any booking fees for our Hawaii trip.

    Nice write up Holly.

  17. Thanks for the great read!
    Merry X-mas!

  18. Hey Holly,

    I want to get a new CC to pay off a loan that the interest is way to high. My credit score is way better than it was so now I can get CC with 0 interest and plan to pay off my CC this year. My question is if I pay off my loan with this card which will be a payment not a balance transfer would that include in the money that I need to spend to receive the bonus? Or do I need to use it for groceries and gas only?

    • Oh, I definitely think so. If you’re paying a payment on your loan with a credit card, it will count as a purchase. The CC company does not care what the purchase is. It wouldn’t work with a balance transfer though.

  19. Hi Holly,

    I just signed up for the Starwood card and am psyched! I’m thinking we will use the rewards for travel next year. Is there any reason my husband and I can’t stagger our churning (next 6 months for me, then he signs up), to guarantee we hit the minimum spending? Sorry if this is a silly question…


    • Nope, no reason you can’t. We staggered our card sign-ups 4 months or so because that was the only way that we could meet the spending requirement. Just remember that the annual fee hits at 12 months and to use, spend, or plan for your points before then if you don’t want to pay it.

      • Good point about the annual fee at 12 months! I think staggering the sign ups by a few months should do the trick. Thanks, Holly!

  20. I am really thankful to the owner of this web page who has shared this fantastic article
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