A wedding can be one of the most costly events of a lifetime. But as weddings and the celebrations leading up to them get more extravagant, it’s no longer just the bride and groom who are shelling out lots of money to celebrate their love.
Now, whether you’re in the wedding party or just attending as a guest, you likely find yourself paying for travel, buying a new outfit to fit the wedding dress code and, of course, shopping for a gift for the happy couple.
With all of these components, it’s not uncommon to spend over $1,000 to be a part of a wedding. If you’re on a budget or have multiple weddings to attend, the cost of wedding season can really hurt.
Fortunately, credit card points and miles can help ease that pain.
In many cases, you can use them to help cover some of your wedding season costs. And even if you don’t, you can take advantage of the extra spending to earn some good rewards to use for yourself later. Whether you find yourself currently in the middle of wedding season or planning for next year, follow our tips below to make the most of that spending.
Use points and miles
If you’re traveling for a wedding, using points and miles for your travel is the easiest way to cover your largest expense. In the video below, TPG’s Madison Blancaflor helps two readers come up with multiple options to use points and miles for their upcoming wedding travel.
To determine your own best strategy, follow the process she lays out in this video. Start by taking inventory of any points and miles you already have. Then, look at some different flight and lodging options that could work for your wedding travel. Use this information to choose either a cobranded card or a card that earns transferable points that makes the most sense for you and your wedding travel needs.
For example, I have a wedding to attend in California next year. A good option for me could be to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® because I could transfer the 80,000-point sign-up bonus to United and Hyatt to cover my round-trip flight between Nashville and San Francisco and two nights at a hotel near the wedding.
Having those travel expenses covered allows you to spend a little bit more on an outfit and a wedding gift and helps you stay focused on the celebration rather than worry about the cost of your travel.
Using your points and miles for gift cards is generally a less valuable redemption than other options, but it can be a good way to keep your wedding season costs down.
You can redeem your points for gift cards to use as wedding gifts themselves or to keep yourself to purchase the things you’ll need, like the perfect pair of shoes — or coffee to fuel your shopping.
Citi ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points will give you the highest gift card redemption value, at 1 cent per point or higher during a sale. You can use these points to get gift cards for places like Williams Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue, Target, Amazon and Starbucks.
Unless your card only earns cash-back rewards, this is another redemption we don’t usually recommend, since it is rarely as valuable as other redemption options. However, it is the simplest way to cover your expenses during wedding season, so it can still be an attractive option.
Most cards that earn transferable points will allow you to redeem your points for a statement credit, but some have restrictions. For those cards with those restrictions, you can still redeem your points for allowable cash-back categories and free up some of your budget for other wedding expenses.
If you want to use the cash-back option as your strategy for wedding season budgeting, your best path is to get a cash-back card that currently offers a welcome bonus. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (see rates and fees), Chase Freedom Flex℠ and U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card are great choices since they offer bonuses worth between $200 and $500. Using one of these cards will allow you to apply the bonus toward your spending and continue earning cash back on all your wedding season purchases.
Earning points and miles
If you can’t use your points and miles to offset wedding travel and don’t want to redeem them for a less valuable gift card or statement credit, you can shift your focus to earning the most points and miles while swiping your card for that new wedding outfit and gift.
Use the right card
Since the categories you’ll be spending in are likely not the ones that earn extra points and miles on your cards, you may want to use a card other than your usual go-to. Here, your best bet is to use a card with a solid, consistent earning rate, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Citi® Double Cash Card.
Check merchant offers
Check to see if you have any merchant offers on your cards that you can use toward any of your wedding season purchases. Hopefully, you’re already in the habit of checking these, but you may have skipped over some offers that you can take advantage of for your wedding-specific shopping.
Use Amex split pay for group purchases
If you’re a part of any kind of group purchase, like a celebratory dinner out or a group gift, offer to put the purchase on your American Express card and have everyone else pay you back. This way, you can earn points on the entire purchase and use Amex’s split pay feature to request payment from everyone else.
If you’ve linked your Venmo account, you can opt for their payments to go straight back to your account as a statement credit. You can also track who has paid through the app, allowing you to get all the points but skip most of the hassle of collecting payments.
Wedding season can get expensive, but using the right credit card can help you make the most of it. Whether you choose a travel card with a welcome bonus to help you get to a wedding or focus on using a card that will help you earn the most points on your purchases, you have some great options to make your points and miles work for you as you celebrate all season.