August 17, 2022

How Having a Child Will Change My Credit Card Rewards Strategy

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How Having a Child Will Change My Credit Card Rewards Strategy

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  • Having a baby should not hamper your travel aspirations.
  • Once my daughter is born, I plan to book (nearly) the same trips as before — but I’ll use different credit cards to achieve my travel goals.
  • Miles and points allow you to travel comfortably for cheaper than hostels and uncomfortable budget airline seats.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best travel credit cards.

Getting married dismantled my travel strategy.

I used to book seedy hostels with mattresses the color of a used coffee filter, where I could stay a week for the price of a single day at the nearby middle-of-the-road hotel. I used to intentionally get lost in cities with non-romantic languages just for the fun of finding my way back to my hotel. I used to take anxiety-free night walks through dicey areas of Mexico.

I don’t do those things anymore. My wife has a different and more prudent approach — she’s more of a leisure travel kind of person. While I do sometimes miss those more careless days, I’m enjoying a far more luxurious (and equally inexpensive) style of travel. And, admittedly, I have less chance of getting into trouble.

We’ve now got a kid on the way, and the list of risks I’m willing to take while traveling is growing ever-smaller. When you’re traveling with a family, airline miles and hotel points transition from “nice to have” to “crucial” when planning a budget vacation.

Here’s what my credit card rewards strategy looks like with a growing family.

Travel as a single person

Some of my absolute favorite memories are from traveling as a bachelor. The serenity of solo travel at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a forest is almost spiritual. And the few precious friends I had that were willing to do things like hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu or climb the Haiku Stairs in Oahu made travel extra fun.

Traveling does not take a lot of money. Even without credit card rewards, you can go just about anywhere regardless of your budget if you’re willing to stay in one-star accommodation and eat like the locals.

Read more: 5 real-life trips taken by credit card reward travel experts to inspire your vacation planning — especially if you have lots of points and miles to burn

As a solo traveler, I used my airline miles and hotel points for as many trips as possible, sitting in the back of the plane and booking a mix of hostels and award nights at budget hotels.

Even if you’re a casual collector of miles and points, a budget traveler can take many (nearly) free trips every year by knowing the best ways to maximize travel rewards.

Travel after marriage

I no longer focus on stretching my credit card rewards for as many budget trips as possible. I now spend them on fewer, more luxurious trips.

I’d prefer not to expose my wife to hostels if I can help it. They can be fun ways to meet interesting travelers from around the world — and some hostels are exceptionally maintained — but the quality can be a grab bag, no matter how glowing the online reviews are.

Read more: I pay more than $1,000 in annual fees for my hotel credit cards, but they’re on track to save me over $4,000 next year alone

We book two or three proper luxury trips each year. There is certainly less cultural interaction than budget travel — but I never quite understood the immense value of miles and points until I started regularly booking hotel rooms that cost $1,000+ per night for literally no money. We’ve stayed at five-star hotels in Mexico, Hawaii, the Maldives, Colorado, Miami, and more.

Joseph Hostetler laying in an overwater hammock at the St. Regis Maldives, a Marriott hotel

An overwater villa at the St. Regis Maldives retails for $2,800 per night, but we stayed five nights for free with credit card rewards.

Joseph Hostetler/Insider


Travel with a baby

Again, my travel strategy will pivot when my daughter is born in May — but not as drastically as you might think.

We’ve got a strap-the-baby-to-our-chest-and-go mentality when it comes to future trips. There are only a handful of aspects an infant will dictate the credit cards I open and the points I earn.

Read more: Why I plan to add my infant daughter as an authorized user on my credit card

1. Our hotel choices will change a bit


Regular APR


15.74%-24.74% Variable


Recommended Credit Score


Good to Excellent


Regular APR


15.74%-24.74% Variable


Recommended Credit Score


Good to Excellent

Pros

  • High welcome bonus
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold elite status
  • Generous bonus categories for earning points

Cons

  • Weekend night reward requires spending $15,000 on the card in a year
  • Not much in the way of complimentary benefits beyond Hilton Gold status

Read Our Review
Read Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

More Information

  • The information related to the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer.
  • Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

There are several hotels on our bucket list to which we won’t be able to visit for a long while. Resorts like the Alila Ventana Big Sur and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall are adults-only.

Furthermore, many hotels restrict certain room options for those with small children. For example, it’s difficult to find an overwater bungalow that allows babies — just because of the potential hazard.

We may even find that we put more value on hotels that offer things like full kitchens and living areas in the standard rooms. To this end, I may switch to Hilton Honors and away from World of Hyatt. Hilton has several brands, such as Home2 Suites, Homewood Suites, and Embassy Suites that come with these features.

Read more: 3 Amex Hilton credit cards now come with their most lucrative bonuses ever — here’s how to get $1,500+ in value

There are three Hilton credit cards I plan to open in the near future:

Hilton points are good for the odd five-star jaw-dropper (like Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels), but they’re also exceptionally useful for middle-of-the-road hotels where other hotel chains aren’t (like Hyatt).

Collecting Hilton points nearly guarantees me that wherever I travel, there will be a hotel nearby.

Read more: The best hotel credit cards of 2022

2. We’ll get a Southwest Companion Pass


Regular APR


15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Recommended Credit Score


Good to Excellent


Regular APR


15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Recommended Credit Score


Good to Excellent

More Information

  • Limited-time offer: earn Companion Pass® through 2/28/23 plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • With Companion Pass®, every time you fly, your friend can too.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year.
  • Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • New! Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • New! Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming.
  • New! 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

I currently do not collect Southwest points. I’ve got enough miles with other airlines that I just don’t need them. But my focus will shift to them in a little over a year.

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to bring a friend or family member with you for just the cost of taxes and fees — as often as you fly Southwest. Even if you fly every single day, your companion can come with you. Normally, to earn the Companion Pass you must accrue 125,000 qualifying points within a calendar year. You can often achieve this by opening and earning the bonus on:

You can read here to learn how the Southwest Companion Pass works.

Depending on when you earn it, the Companion Pass can last for up to two years. And because lap infants usually fly for free domestically until the age of two, I don’t expect to pay for a flight for my daughter until she’s at least four years old.

In truth, I don’t expect to pay for airfare for my daughter ever, as long as I continue to earn miles and points.

Read more: The Southwest personal credit cards are offering a rare sign-up bonus that includes a Companion Pass — one of the best deals in travel

Bottom line

When you earn rewards from the best travel credit cards, it’s possible to book comfortable (or even luxury) travel with a family for less out-of-pocket cost than slumming around at hostels and booking budget airlines as a solo traveler. Just because a child enters the mix doesn’t mean your travel plans must screech to a halt.

Sure, there are dark alleys I’ll no longer walk down and rickety rope bridges I’ll opt not to cross. But for me, the destinations and adventures will remain largely the same. The miles and points I use to achieve them may differ.

Featured credit cards from our partners

Regular APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99% Variable

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Regular APR

14.99% – 23.74% Variable APR

Credit Score

Good to Excellent