Puerto Vallarta on miles and points

Yesterday, I reviewed the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.  Today, I’ll tell you how I used miles and points to pay for the trip.

The wife and I had gone to Cabo a couple of years ago, and I had been to Cancun about 10 years ago.  I hadn’t been to Puerto Vallarta yet, but I had heard good things.  Hyatt was launching a new chain of hotels called the Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara.  They currently have 3 locations – Cabo, Cancun, and PV.  The one we went to in PV was formerly called the “Dreams” hotel, and the relaunch was supposed to be in December 2014.  Well if you read Tripadvisor, the hotel wasn’t fully ready in December, and so I was a bit worried it might not have been fully ready by early March.  Anyhow, we had a great time on the trip.  This was also the first time we vacationed with friends as well as the extended family, and so I had to use a lot more points than normal, but it was well worth it seeing everyone having a great time.


2 ONE-WAY coach class tickets from Seattle to Puerto Vallarta

Retail Cost – ~$250 per ticket so $500 total

Cash Cost – $28 per ticket so $56 total (taxes and fees)

Points Used – 12,500 British Airways miles per ticket so 25K total

The cash price on this ticket wasn’t that bad, and I would have gladly paid it if I didn’t have so many BA points.  Who and why do I care about British Airways points?  Because they have a distance based award chart and Alaska Airlines is a partner.  If I had booked these using Alaska miles, I would have had to spend 17,500 Alaska miles per person since it was Mexico.  Well, Alaska miles are much harder to come by (easiest way would be the Bank of America Alaska 25K card) than BA points (Chase BA Visa card, Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to BA, AMEX Membership Rewards transfers to BA), it was a no brainer to use BA points.  So how did I get 25K BA points?  Well, I signed up for the AMEX Business Platinum in December that got me 100K MR points, which I converted to 140K BA points during a 40% transfer bonus.


2 roundtrip coach class tickets from Houston to Puerto Vallarta

Retail Cost – ~$560 per ticket so $1,120 total

Cash Cost – $85 per ticket so $170 total (airport taxes and fees)

Points Used – 20,000 ANA miles per ticket so 40K total

For a 2.5 hour flight, the cash price on this ticket is RIDICULOUS.  Even using United miles, it would cost 35K (1.6c of value) for the roundtrip ticket.  Now you are probably asking, “What the hell is ANA?  Aren’t they a Japanese airline?”  The answer is yes.  ANA is part of the Star Alliance, which United is a part of.  The great thing about ANA is that they have a distance-based award chart (no longer the case.)  Since IAH-PVR is 900 miles, roundtrip would be 1800 miles.  And for an 1800 mile roundtrip flight, it only costs 20K ANA miles (2.8c of value) instead of United’s 35K miles.  Now how do you get ANA miles?  Well, they are an AMEX Membership Rewards partner, and so I transferred 40K MR to ANA, which I got for signing up for the AMEX Business Gold in October for 75K MR.


5 nights at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

Retail Cost – $296 x 5 = $1,480 x 2 rooms = $2,960

Cash Cost – See Below

Points Used – 20K Hyatt points/night so 100K total (80K with 20% discount) X 2 rooms

4 nights at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

Retail Cost – $296 x 4 = $1,184 x 2 rooms = $2,368

Cash Cost – See Below

Points Used – 20K Hyatt points/night so 80K total (64K with 20% discount) X 2 rooms

I actually booked 2 rooms for 4 nights and 2 rooms for 5 nights, and so I spent a total of 360K Hyatt points.  How did I accumulate so many points?  Well, I signed up my wife and I for the Chase Ink Plus cards in the fall, which got us 70K each (140K total).  That meant I had to acquire 220K Hyatt points somehow.  The easiest way is to buy $200 Visa gift cards at Staples to earn 1K points for $6.95 each.  Well, that means 220K = 220 cards x $6.95 = $1,529.  Thus, my cash cost was $1,529 for $5,328 worth of hotel rooms.  However, since Hyatt just recently came out with a promo whereby Chase Hyatt Visa card owners received a 20% rebate on all award bookings through July 31, that meant I only had to spend 288k points for all the rooms and nights.  The new math would be 288K – 140K = 148 cards x $6.95 = $1,028.  That’s a discount of 80% off the cash cost!


2 ONE-WAY first class tickets from Puerto Vallarta to Seattle to Houston

Retail Cost – ~$1100 per ticket so $2200 total

Cash Cost – $68 per ticket so $136 total (airport taxes and fees)

Points Used – 30K Alaska miles per ticket so 60K total

Yes, you read that routing correctly.  Let me first explain that Alaska Air is the only airline that allows you to “stopover” on a one-way award ticket.  Therefore, my one-way ticket is really PV to Houston; we’re just stopping over in Seattle for a month.  Two things to note here – 1) this only works if you are booking an award ticket and 2) this only works if you have your NEXT destination already planned.  Because I knew we needed to be in Houston in April, this “trick” worked.  Remember, it costs 17.5K miles in coach one-way to and from Mexico, but it only costs 30K in first class.  Clearly, first class is a better value here.  It becomes an even greater value when you add in the “stopover” part of the award booking.  I realize this is next level advanced stuff, but once you’ve been in this hobby for as long as I have, you learn these tips and tricks.


Total Retail cost – $9,148

Cash Cost – $1,390

Total Points redeemed – 413,000 points 

You could say I “saved” over $7700 using miles and points or you could say I “saved” 85% off what the cash cost would have been for this trip.  I’m not sure how this compares to my other travels, but saving 85% of the true cash cost has to rank up there.  Adios amigos!

  • jewels

    I’ve just found your blog today (followed you from Drew/Travel is Free. This is a great post because you actually explain where you got what points with the how and the why. I am pretty much a noob but I have been accumulating AA miles with the BoA card for years. We just got our first CSPs. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    (I love that you discuss travelling from Seattle as most cheap airfare deals always seem to originate on the East Coast.)
    Julia in Woodinville, WA

    • Miles per Day

      Welcome Julia. See my other travel posts about South Africa and Italy for more breakdown on costs per travel. We here at MPD believe that travel is usually NOT FREE. 😉 But that’s because we like to fly premium first class and stay at nice hotels (vs AirBNB.) Have you ever been to one of the Seattle meetups?

      • jewels

        Actually, I just learned of the Meetup group from YOU. 😉 I have just joined the group and will have to go to a future one. I will be out of the country for most of August but will look forward to joining the group sometime. Thank you for the welcome.