Trip Astute has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Trip Astute and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Planning a wedding is expensive. I know this to be the case since we’ve been planning our wedding for the past year. Though if there’s a silver lining in spending so much on an event is that it’s an amazing opportunity to build points and meet minimum spend requirements. These points have helped to offset the cost of our honeymoon. In this post and video, I want to share how we were able to earn points from our wedding, totaling around $2,500 that can be put toward our travels. We’ll also cover some of the best credit cards for wedding planning and spend.
Weddings are expensive
The average cost of a wedding in the US is $30,000. If you can find ways to capture points from the experience, it could be enough to offset the cost of your next trip or even your honeymoon.
Types of wedding expenses
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve broken up wedding costs into three big categories:
- Food, beverage, and venue
- Gifts, clothing, and supplies
- Service and vendors
Food, beverage, and venue
Food, beverages, and venue account for about 50% of our wedding cost. A lot of weddings have receptions in restaurants or hotels. With dining out often being a bonus category for many travel rewards credit cards, this can be an easy way to earn points. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns three points per dollar on travel and dining out expenses, while the American Express Gold earns four points per dollar on dining out. Both of these would be great cards to use depending on where you are having your wedding.
In our case, we’re having both our wedding and reception at a hotel here in Southern California. The venue is not only charging us to use the space, but also for the food and drinks. We’ve been putting all the charges on my Sapphire Reserve. The reason I opted for the Sapphire Reserve over other cards is that both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred provide a bonus on dining out and travel expenses. Chase also has a wide definition of what constitutes a travel expense. I wasn’t sure if the food and drinks were going to code as a hotel or restaurant charge. Therefore, I wanted to use a card that would earn a bonus on both types of spend. Plus, since I love Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it seemed like the best approach for us.
Looking at the actual breakdown, we spent close to $18,000 this past year on food, beverage, and venue costs. Since we put all of it on my Sapphire Reserve, we earned about 53,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Since each Ultimate Rewards points is worth at least 1.5 cents, the value is about $800. Of course, we’re often able to get more than 1.5 cents per point, so that number is a conservative figure.
Services and vendors
Services and vendors are another huge expense when planning a wedding. This includes the cake, flowers, photographer, planner, etc. These types of expenses are typically not captured by a bonus earning category. Also, we found the vendors to be a bit more tricky when it comes to making payments. Some of them preferred payments through PayPal or Venmo. This meant choosing between paying cash or incurring a processing fee with a credit card payment.
Focusing on minimum spend
For these expenses, I recommend using it to meet a minimum spend requirement. If you have a new credit card with a large welcome offer, there is often a large spend requirement to earn the bonus. You might pay a processing fee to pay with a credit card if the vendor prefers payment methods like Venmo. However, it could be worth the extra cost in order to earn a big welcome offer. Venmo charges 3% for credit cards, so you’d have to weigh the cost versus the benefit. Also, you could reduce the processing fee to 2.5% if you use a service like Plastiq. Plastiq works like your bank’s bill pay system. They can charge your credit card and send a check or electronic payment to your vendor.
Using a flat-rate rewards card
The other strategy would be to use a card that earns a flat-rate. If you’re invested in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, then the Freedom Unlimited might be a great card for this purpose, especially if it’s paired it with a Sapphire card. It only earns 1.5 points per dollar. However, since Ultimate Rewards points can usually be redeemed at 1.5 cents of value at a minimum, the card has a higher adjusted earning rate. At the time of this post, Chase is offering three points per dollar on up to $20,000 of spend for the first year on new applications. At 3X points, you would be offsetting the processing fee of services like Plastiq and Venmo.
If you’re looking for a more simple and straightforward way to earn points on your general spend, then the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be a better fit. You’ll earn two points per dollar. Since each point is worth one cent, you’ll earn a flat rate of 2%. This can be used toward travel expenses using Capital One’s purchase eraser tool.
Focusing on cashback
If you’re interested in cashback, then a card like the Citi Double Cash might be the way to go. It also has a 2% earning rate without an annual fee. You might be wondering why you would bother getting the Capital One Venture over the Citi Double Cash if they earn at the same rate. Keep in mind that the Capital One Venture does include additional travel protections and benefits. It also has a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck enrollment fee reimbursement. The annual fee on the Venture card is waived in the first year of card membership.
Our card approach
In our case, we had a mix of cards that we used for this category. Though for simplicity sake, we bucketed the majority of these charges on Fiona’s Capital One Venture card. She got this card late last year, so we used these expenses to help meet her minimum spend. When Fiona applied for the card in December 2018, the Capital One Venture had a welcome offer of 75,000 points. In addition to the spend she put on the card, we earned the $750 welcome offer, which meant that we earned about $1,000 with her Venture card.
Gifts, clothing, and supplies
Weddings are filled with other expenses like gifts, clothing, and supplies. This includes things like attire, rings, stationery, and gifts. Similar to the services and vendor category, these expenses tend to be non-bonus spend. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to find additional value or bonuses through your credit cards.
In terms of credit cards, we used different cards for this category. However, the bulk of it went on Fiona’s SPG Amex, which is now a Marriott Bonvoy card. She needed $3,000 of spend to meet the minimum spend requirement to earn 75,000 SPG points. Most of the remainder went on my Chase Freedom Unlimited, which means that I earned at a 1.5 points per dollar. But since I can redeem at a minimum of 1.5 cents on the Chase Travel Portal since I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’m earning at an adjusted rate of 2.25% with this card.
Using shopping portals and offers
There are additional savings not captured by our breakdown. We earned cashback and points by using different portals. I recommend checking CashBack Monitor if you plan to purchase anything online. The site shows you if there are any travel or cashback portals that can award you extra points for your purchase. Also, make sure to check your American Express and Chase offers for relevant deals.
As an example, we purchased Fiona’s wedding ring from Blue Nile. I originally looked at local jewelry stores, but felt like the prices and advice were inconsistent. We liked that Blue Nile offered more transparency without any upsell. When I looked online at the time, Cashback Monitor showed that TopCashback was offering 5% back on purchases from Blue Nile. I also noticed that American Express had an offer for $100 back after spending $600 or more on a piece of jewelry. So, I essentially combined the offer. I clicked through the TopCashback portal offer for 5%, then used my American Express card. In the end, I was able to save quite a bit of money off the normal price.
Developing your card strategy and approach
For most couples, I recommend evaluating your projected expenses and upcoming travel goals to determine how to capture the most value from your spend. For example, if we were new to credit card rewards but wanted to build our Chase portfolio, you could see how different card set-ups could result in different total values due to the earning rates and welcome offers.
Using our numbers, I mapped out the spending into scenarios where one or both partners have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, and at least one person has a Freedom Unlimited. You’ll notice that the total value is different depending variations on the set-up. This assumes that you’re earning welcome offers on the Sapphire cards and the 3X points first-year promotion on the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Power of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
You’ll notice that having a Sapphire Reserve as one of the cards tends to improve your overall value. This is due to the Reserve’s additional minimum earning rate of 1.5 cents on the Chase Travel Portal and the 3X earning rate for travel and dining out. This affects the redemption rate for all the cards in your Chase portfolio.
Keep in mind that I’m not accounting for the annual fees in this model since it is complicated. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, which is much higher than the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred. But when you consider that you get $300 back in travel credits and get lounge access, the real annual fee can be lower depending on your usage. Also, I should add a caveat that you should plan to pay your statement balance every month as paying any interest would negate the value earned from your points. This is an important concept, especially for those of you new to the points and miles hobby.
The big takeaway from this post and video is that if you’re planning a wedding or any type of event, it’s worth thinking about the type of expenses that you’ll be incurring. You’ll want to align the cards and programs that can earn you the most points. It pays to be strategic and deliberate with your points and miles strategy and approach!
Have you paid for a major event, like a wedding, that allowed you to earn a lot of points? What tips or cards do you recommend for these types of situations?
Just a reminder that we are taking the next two weeks off for our wedding and honeymoon. Though we’ll be posting updates on our community tab and Instagram feed, so make sure you to subscribe to both our YouTube channel and Instagram feed (and enable notifications for both).
If you’re interested in applying for a credit card, we encourage you to compare credit offers. We do get a commission if you use our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it helps us to continue building content for our site and channel. If you need help picking your next card or developing a strategy and approach, sign-up for our free card consultation service.