This is the start of the Trip Report: The Greatest Diamond Challenge of All Time.
Up to this point, I would say that my $77,000 Trip Heard Round the World was my crowning achievement as a points player. While that’s probably still true, the impeccable orchestration for meeting the Hyatt Diamond Challenge for next to nothing comes in a close second.
A month ago, One Mile wrote 18 Months of Hyatt Diamond for $600, a guide for the Hyatt Diamond Challenge. In order to meet the challenge, participants have to stay 12 nights in 60 days at Hyatt hotels. As a result, they are given Hyatt Diamond status through February 2017 which includes 4 Diamond suite upgrades each year. From my experience in Andaz Napa and Argentina, I can testify that Hyatt Diamond is the way to go. You are treated like a king, given free breakfast, and offered the best rooms even if you don’t elect to use your suite upgrade.
So when I heard that July 31st was the last day to sign up for the challenge, I formulated a plan to meet the requirements without breaking the bank. In addition to simply qualifying, I utilized the perks from my latest churn cycle to get the most out of my trip.
Note: The destinations aren’t as sexy as the rtw trip but the point wasn’t to be glamorous, it was to qualify for Diamond in the best, most efficient way ever done.
Here is the breakdown of how I spent a meager $405.68 out of pocket to get Hyatt Diamond through February 2017.
Step 1: Getting out of Montana and Back: $34.83
A points player’s dream is crushed if he lives in Montana. Southwest doesn’t fly here and the only other two big carriers are Delta and United, both of whom are too devalue happy. I chose to fly the Greyhound of the skies, Allegiant directly from Missoula to Las Vegas. The cost for two people is $113.52. The return from Phoenix is $171.31. Applying the $250 Citi Prestige travel credit, the round trip is a justifiable $34.83
Step 2: Use Citi Prestige 4th Night Free: $273.06
Citi Prestige holders receive their 4th night free by calling the concierge and utilizing the 4th night free option. The Hyatt Place Scottsdale is only $80 a night because it’s too damn hot in the desert this time of year. Four nights would’ve cost $364.08 but I save $91.02 by using this great option.
Step 3: Barclays Credit for 8 Nights: $98.53
Before Barclays devalues its Arrival+ card, I decided to burn my balance of 46,000 points as well as use the $120 retention credit from converting a Frontier card to the BarclayCard Rewards and spending 1k in 3 months. The total credit from the two is $580.
To qualify for Diamond, participants are allowed to make cash + points bookings. Ideally these are made in category 1 hotels costing 2500 points + $50. Category 2 provides much better hotel/location choices and at 4000 points + $55, a better overall value. I selected two cash n point booking in category 2 for one night each:
- Hyatt Place Las Vegas: $61.60
- Hyatt Place San Diego/Vista-Carlsbad: $61.60
Since I was going all the way to Phoenix, I figured that I might as well use my Southwest Companion Pass and go somewhere I actually wanted to go. I chose Mexico City and booked the Hyatt Regency Mexico City. It costs 6000 points + $89.25 per night.
The total cash + points booking is $390.95 + 26,000 points.
To meet the 12 night requirement, I booked an additional 3 nights at the Hyatt Place Scottsdale using the ‘My Hyatt Rate’. The cost of those 3 nights is $287.58. Yes, I could’ve got another night for free using Citi but the objective is to burn the Arrival+ points. And who really wants to stay in Arizona for that long anyway?
Total cost of hotels in this step is $678.53-$580=$98.53
Step 4: Avoiding Taxes: -$.74
The issue for adding in Mexico City is that taxes per passenger is $94.03. That would increase the cost of the trip by 50%. Fortunately, I have my trusty Amex Platinum card which provides an annual statement credit of $200 for airline fees. I purchased two Southwest gift cards for $100 each, received the credit, and booked the flights. The remaining $6 was applied for the taxes, $11.20, for my flights from Vegas to San Diego and San Diego to Phoenix.
Step 5: Free Golf + Free Checked Bags: -$450
What is there to do in Phoenix and San Diego that would excite TPOL readers? Golf.
Two of us are playing The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale which goes from $87-$200 depending on the season for free thanks to my Citi Prestige Card. I am also playing the Legends Course at Omni in Carlsbad.
Allegiant does charge to check-in golf clubs. Don’t worry that $100 cost is covered by using my Wells Fargo Propel card which also covers $100 of airline fees.
Step 6: Recouping Hyatt GoldPassport Points: -4800 Points
Normally, I would never spend GoldPassport Points on domestic hotels nor could I rationalize 6000 points/night for Mexico City. But when this mattress run is all said and done, I’ll only be down -4800 points from the 26,000 used to meet this challenge. Here’s how:
- I receive 1,000 points for each of the first six nights as part of the challenge.
- Then I earn 5.75 base points (including the 15% Platinum bonus for being a Chase Hyatt card holder) per dollar spent on the 12 nights. Mexico City: 75*3=225, San Diego/Vegas: 55*2=110, Scottsdale: 80*4=320, Scottsdale: 85*3=255. The total is 5200.
- I also receive 10,000 points for Hyatt’s Sweet Dreams, Sweet Rewards promotion which awards 10k points for 10 nights stayed.
That’s a total of 21,200 points.
Step 7: Enjoying Diamond Status: Priceless
After all this savings and one hell of a ride, I will have plenty of time and points to enjoy diamond status. Not only will my account reflect 21,200 GoldPassport Points but I also have 2 free nights to be used at any Hyatt hotel, a benefit of applying for the Hyatt Card.
The first diamond stop is the Hyatt Regency Sharm El Sheikh for sun and fun following the Athens marathon. From there I hope to maximize my stays at Park Hyatts across the world including Zanzibar, Milan, and Marrakech, if it ever opens.