[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. For current terms and conditions, please see card agreements.]
Credit card rewards seem to exist to allow us to splurge on the most desirable activities. This winter, cardholders can use their accumulated points and miles to take a ski vacation. Let’s take a look at the major expenses involved in taking a typical ski trip.
Other than those who are lucky enough to live near the mountains, most Americans will need to fly out of state to enjoy the best ski resorts. This is where credit card rewards can save you plenty of money. Most airlines will require a minimum of 25,000 miles for a domestic round trip in economy class. The problem is that many ski areas are in remote locations. The closest airports to these resorts only served by smaller aircraft with fewer available award seats at the lowest mileage levels, especially during the peak skiing season. To have the best chance of using your miles for a ski trip, consider flying into some of the larger cities near ski country such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno and Albuquerque.
Credit card rewards can also be valuable when finding lodging. In fact, most of these programs do not have the tight capacity controls on awards that are seen in frequent flier programs, making it easier for guests to redeem points for free nights during the peak season. On the other hand, many of the ski lodges will be locally owned properties that are not part of a national chain’s loyalty program.
Many skiers can take a shuttle bus to their slope side lodges and enjoy their vacation without a vehicle. But it can make sense to rent a car, especially when flying into major cities that can be several hours’ drive from the ski slopes. Fortunately, some credit card rewards programs such as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards allow points to be used for rental cars. In fact, many of their cards, such as the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold, offer Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards rental car reservations made through Chase’s web site.
Lift Tickets, Ski Rentals, and Lessons
American Express’s Membership Rewards program offers opportunities to redeem points for lift tickets, rentals and lessons at some of the most popular resorts including Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado, Jackson Hole Wyoming, and Killington Vermont. Other options include Snowbird Utah, Sun Valley Idaho, and Telluride Colorado. For example, a 5-day lift ticket award in Telluride requires 40,000 Membership Rewards points for tickets that normally sell for $460. This returns a reasonable 1.15 cents per point compared to most gift card options that return only one cent in value per point redeemed.
Since a family ski trip can easily cost $5-10,000, it cannot be considered a budget vacation. But by utilizing reward credit cards and their points and miles, you and your family can enjoy a ski trip at a reasonable price.
At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Ink Bold cards are offered through Credit.com product pages and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Image: Greg Younger, via Flickr