A few years ago I started looking into maximizing credit card points to get free travel. I heard many people talk about getting free flights, hotel stays, and even cash from using their credit cards to pay for everything they were going to buy anyway. I figured if they could do it… why couldn’t I?? I started with the American Express SPG Card since we usually stay at Starwood Properties when we travel. There is a $95 annual fee but it is waived the first year. Technically you can get your 7 free nights before the annual fee hits in year 2, so you can always cancel the card to avoid paying the fee. You’d be surprised how easy it is to rack up points with this card to earn free nights, so you may find the $95 fee is totally worth it.
I wish I had the knowledge I have now when I opened my SPG card a couple years ago. I didn’t fully maximize the free nights, but since I’ve figured it out it’s worth sharing for those who are starting the credit card point game or heading to Disney World and want to save a significant amount of money. Disney World is a VERY expensive vacation, especially for a family, but it is worth EVERY penny in my opinion. Subtracting the cost of a 7-night hotel stay (minus parking & the resort fee which i’ll explain later) definitely helps the budget.
It is also worth noting that the Swan and Dolphin are on Disney property and have most of the privileges that the Disney hotels have. There is the complimentary Walt Disney World Transportation to all of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks (via boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studies, via bus to all others), Extra Magic Hours, and the Fast Pass+ service where guests can select time slots for attractions up to 60 days before resort arrival.
Are you ready to start planning your Disney Vacation? I’m about to show you how to eliminate the significant cost of your hotel stay…
First thing to note is the time frame it will take you to gather enough SPG points. You will need 2 people in the same household opening 2 SEPARATE SPG cards so it may take some time. The SPG points are NOT worth credit card debt, or even a revolving balance on your credit card, so make sure you can pay it off every month. Second thing to note is that you have to spend $3,000 in 3 months to get the bonus points offered with the SPG card. I would recommend NOT opening the second card until the first card has hit the $3,000 spending requirement so that you have 6 months to spend $6,000 instead of 3 months to spend $6,000. If that is an amount you and/or your family usually doesn’t spend, wait to open the card until you have a big purchase you’ve saved up for and then pay off the card once it is due. The more time you have to gather the points before booking the vacation, the better off you’ll be. Note that you can always use the steps below and only open one SPG card, but you’ll only be getting 2 or 3 nights free instead of the 7. It won’t save you as much money, but definitely better than nothing… and it is FREE!
Okay, so let’s begin…
- Open the American Express SPG Account directly here
- After receiving the card, you have 3 months to spend $3,000 to get you 25,000 SPG points (technically 28,000 points since you also accumulate 1 point for every $ you spend so you’ll have an additional 3,000 points for the $3k you just spent).
- Once you’ve hit the $3k spending requirement, you can refer the 2nd member of your household to the SPG card here. This step is VERY IMPORTANT. By referring the SPG card you get a bonus of 5,000 points… that gets you to 33,000 SPG points. Make sure you are referring the 2nd member to sign up for a NEW SPG card; do not add them as an authorized user to your existing SPG Card or it will make them ineligible for their own 25,000 bonus points.
- With the 2nd SPG card in hand, repeat step #2. Spend the $3,000 in 3 months and get the 25,000 SPG points + the 3,000 points for spending $3k.
- You now have SPG Card #1 at 33,000 points and SPG Card #2 at 28,000 points. SPG allows you to transfer points between accounts as long as they are registered at the same address for at least 30 days. There are 2 ways to transfer your points (also note it has to be done in increments of 1,000 points):
- Call (888) 625-4988 and request transfer of your points to another member
- Fill out the online transfer form at spg.com here
Here comes the fun part! With one SPG account now having a balance of 61,000 points, you are now ready to book your FREE stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin!
The Swan and Dolphin are 2 hotels located on the same property within the Disney Boardwalk area that share amenities. The Swan is operated by Westin Hotels and the Dolphin is operated by Sheraton. The Swan is considered a higher category, costing 12,000 SPG points/free night. The Dolphin is 10,000 SPG points/free night. The reason I had you transfer the SPG points to 1 account was because for every 4 nights you book with SPG points, you get the 5th night FREE! That brings a 5 night stay at the Swan to 48,000 points and a 5 night Dolphin stay to 40,000 points. Add two nights to the Dolphin at 10,000 points each and the total cost for your 7 night stay is 60,000 points… leaving you a balance of 1,000 points. I mentioned the Swan above because you may have accumulated enough points to stay there instead (if you are putting everything you usually spend on your new SPG card you’d be surprised all the additional points that add up). I’ve stayed at each property several times and both provide the hub to a great vacation, but if you have the extra points I’d stay at the Swan over the Dolphin just based on preference. I’ll put together a blog post on the pros and cons of each soon to explain my decision.
As mentioned earlier, you do have to pay a resort fee and parking when staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. It increases every so often, but at the time of this post the resort fee is $25 USD per day (includes High Speed Internet Access, 2 bottles of water daily, unlimited access to full-service health club, unlimited domestic long distance (US mainland) and local calls, tennis equipment and access to the lighted courts, seasonal pool access and recreational activities) and self parking is $20 USD per day. I find these fees a little ridiculous, but since the rooms are free I think it is tolerable. When booking a Disney hotel without the free SPG nights, I would definitely consider staying at another Disney property that does not charge the resort or parking fee.
There you have it!
Hopefully everything I’ve explained above helps you plan your next Disney vacation! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. I’ll try to answer everything to the best of my ability. One final note… there are no affiliate links or advertisements in the above post. I am providing the information strictly because I want to share good finds/deals as I come across them. If you would like to help support this blog and sign up for your SPG card through a referral link of mine, sign up here.