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  • I usually spend half of the year on the road, so after several months of quarantine I was ready for a quick vacation for my birthday in August.
  • The Ventana Big Sur has been my dream stay, and I was able to book three award nights through the World of Hyatt program.
  • I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to Hyatt’s loyalty program to book. 
  • Thanks to Hyatt promotions, I even received 25{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} of my redeemed points back.
  • See Business Insider’s guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards points »

I normally travel around half the year, reporting from the road. After being stuck at home in Los Angeles since March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, I was ready to take a carefully planned road trip up the California coast by the time my birthday rolled around in August.

Since I haven’t been traveling much, but have still been using my rewards credit cards to earn bonus points and miles on everyday spending, I had a stash of points to redeem toward travel. That’s how I was able to book a three-night stay at one of my all-time dream hotels, Ventana Big Sur.

Booking my dream stay

Ventana Big Sur is one of California’s most iconic luxury resorts. It’s perched on 1,000-foot bluffs overlooking the Pacific about halfway between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Surrounded by ancient redwood groves and coastal meadows, the lodge was originally built in 1975 and became renowned for the Central Coast’s distinctive brand of hippie chic (think guided meditations and clothing-optional pools).

After a major refurbishment in 2017, the hotel reopened as part of Singapore-based Alila Hotels & Resorts in 2017. Alila then became part of the Hyatt portfolio in 2018, which is how I was able to use World of Hyatt points to book a stay there in August once it reopened following a COVID-related closure.

Ventana Big Sur is now a World of Hyatt Category 7 property, which means award nights there start at 30,000 points apiece for standard rooms, 48,000 points for standard suites, and 60,000 points for premium suites. In reality, though, and after extensive searches across several months of availability, it seems you can only book standard suites starting at 48,000 points per night with a minimum of three nights for now. This might change as time goes on, so if you’re interested in staying here, check availability regularly to see if rates shift.

Ventana Big Sur points booking

Eric Rosen

For the dates of my stay – three nights in August – I found a Big Sur Spa Suite (the base level of suite listed by the hotel) available for a total of 144,000 World of Hyatt points. Given how tight award availability had been and the popularity of this property, I knew I needed to book immediately.

Transferring Chase points to Hyatt

I only had a few thousand World of Hyatt points in my account at the time. However, I have several credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. World of Hyatt is one of the Ultimate Rewards program’s 13 travel transfer partners (the other hotel ones include Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards Club). Once I nailed down my dates, I logged into my Ultimate Rewards account, transferred the points to my linked World of Hyatt account, and they were ready to redeem within seconds. I promptly made my reservation, and that was that.

If I’d paid cash, my stay would have cost $7,600. Pretty expensive, right? Part of that is because when it reopened after COVID, the hotel went all-inclusive so meals and certain activities like guided walks around the property, socially distanced happy hours, and s’mores in the redwood forest were all included. Only things like private dining experiences, activities including a falconry lesson, and amenities like alcoholic beverages cost extra. Unfortunately, spa services and the fitness center were unavailable during my stay due to health concerns.

I have World of Hyatt Discoverist elite status thanks to the fact that I carry the Hyatt Visa (this has been discontinued and replaced by The World Of Hyatt Credit Card, which I have not transitioned to yet). So when I checked in, I was informed that I’d been upgraded one category to a Big Sur Forest Shower Suite.

This is basically like the suite I’d originally booked, only with a larger deck featuring a double outdoor shower, which was a lovely amenity to enjoy during my stay. I had looked up prices beforehand just in case this happened and found that my stay would have cost $8,400 had I booked this room outright. What a deal!

Regular APR

16.99{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}-23.99{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} Variable

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
    • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
    • Get 50{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
    • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
    • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
    • Annual travel credit can effectively shave $300 off the annual fee if you use it
    • Strong travel insurance
    • Strong bonus rewards on travel and dining
    • Very high annual fee
    • The new DoorDash statement credits may not be useful for everyone, which can make the recently increased annual fee harder to justify

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    Saving even more points

    I’d initially hesitated at burning through 144,000 Ultimate Rewards points on a single three-night stay, especially because there are so many other fantastic uses for these points. However, at the end of the day, I decided it was worth treating myself and figuring out a way to recoup points with strategic spending and well-timed credit card sign-up bonuses somewhere down the line.

    After I booked, I lucked out again, though, because World of Hyatt announced a limited-time promotion to save members points on award stays through October 8. After registering, World of Hyatt members can receive 15{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} of their redeemed points back plus free parking during stays. Hyatt credit cardholders, however, receive an extra 10{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} back, meaning I’d get a full 25{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} of my redeemed points back for my stay.

    That brought my redemption total down to a mere 108,000 points. Plus, I’d registered for a different summer promotion with the chain where members can earn 3x points starting with their second qualifying stay through September 15, and earn 2,500 bonus points on their first stay. After I checked out, I found those points in my account immediately, bringing my out-of-pocket points down to just 105,500– only 15,500 more than if I’d been able to book a regular room at Ventana Big Sur. Overall, that made me feel even better about the value I got for my points and from my stay.

    I felt safe during my stay

    Speaking of my stay, I think it’s worth noting that I was not just booking hotels willy-nilly, especially as COVID-19 continues to endanger lives throughout California and the country. Rather, I was persuaded to book my stay after reading through Ventana Big Sur’s extensive new hygiene and sanitation procedures. Knowing that the hotel was requiring social distancing and masks, limiting guest-personnel interaction, and offering the option to take all one’s meals in the room all made me feel more comfortable about booking. Plus, there’s plenty of outdoor space to roam away from other people, 

    During my stay, every staff member I interacted with was masked at all times and conscientious about personal distancing, though I cannot say the same for other guests. There was a line-up at check-in, which I hope the hotel can fix soon, and the agent checking me in managed it well by walking me out of reception and to the door of my room to complete check-in. The pool areas were only busy occasionally, and even then, the chairs were spaced far apart in groups of two so couples could be together but away from other people.

    I also saw staff cleaning the public areas, including pool chairs, dining tables at the restaurant, and seating areas around the property, almost constantly. There was no need to go indoors (other than my room) during my stay. Meals at the main restaurant, Sur House, were served on the huge patio overlooking the mountains and the ocean with tables set far apart from one another in the fresh air and servers wearing both masks and gloves that were replaced frequently.

    While none of that lent the stay a sense of normalcy, it did create an ambiance of security and care that I appreciated so that I was fully able to enjoy my trip.

    Stocking back up on points

    Though I’m out over 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my stay (and the points I’ll be refunded through the promotion are Hyatt ones that I’ll use somewhere down the line), I thought it was well worth it. I’m already thinking about how to start building up my points balance again, though.

    The quickest way might be to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. At the moment, the card is offering a $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening plus 5{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first account year.

    Like many folks, groceries have become one of my major expenses this year as opposed to travel or dining out, so that makes this card more attractive. Rather than using the points earned with this card as cash back, though, I can combine them with those earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card so that they become transferable to Ultimate Rewards travel partners including Hyatt but also airlines like JetBlue and United. The sign-up offer then is worth 20,000 points plus 5 points per dollar on groceries that first year – meaning I could earn up to 80,000 points without even taking into account the card’s regular 1.5{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} cash back (1.5x points) on other purchases.

    Regular APR

    15.99{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}–20.99{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} variable APR

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • The information related to the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
    • Earn 3x points on up to $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, select online advertising, and internet, cable, and phone purchases, plus 1x points on everything else
    • Cash in rewards for gift cards statement credits, merchandise, 1:1 transfers to airline and hotel partners; get 25{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} more travel for free when you use points to book through the Chase portal
    • High sign-up bonus
    • Offers 3x bonus points on several spending categories, including travel and advertising purchases
    • Includes comprehensive travel coverage
    • Welcome bonus has a very high minimum spending requirement

    Read Our Review
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    Other than that, I’m trying to maximize the other rewards cards I already carry. I was able to test-drive a 2021 Jaguar F-Type convertible for my road trip, which made it even more fun.

    The car has a big, powerful engine that feels like a well-tuned rocket. But on a mix of both highways, back roads and city streets, it still got an average of about 21 miles per gallon. So over the course of my weeklong jaunt from Los Angeles up to Carmel and back with stops in San Luis Obispo and Big Sur, I only had to fill up the gas tank twice. On one fill, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve® to take advantage of a limited-time bonus earning rate of 5x points on up to $1,500 spent at gas stations through September 30, 2020.

    For the other fill-up, as well as restaurant deliveries, I whipped out my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, which earns 10 points per dollar on up to $7,500 of purchases at US gas stations and restaurants through October 31, 2020.

    I’m already thinking how to put those points toward my next trip, hoping that the US and the travel industry begin to bounce back from the coronavirus in the coming year.

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