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How to Pull off a National Park Trip on Points and Miles

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For many of us, travel is going to look a lot different this year. Forget long flights and trips to Europe. Road trips, national parks, and exploring the United States is at the top of the summer bucket list.

But even though your trip will look different, that doesn't mean you can't cut down on your travel costs. As you head out across the states, you can use points and miles for nearly every expense on the trip.

Curious how to make your national parks road trip this summer nearly free? Check this out.


Road Trip Ready: Use Points to Book Your Rental Car

Looking to road trip this summer? If you're renting a car, there isn’t a better option than the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. Here's why: Chase Ultimate Rewards points – the points you earn from both cards – can be used to book rental cars. 

Just as with booking flights and hotels with points, your points will be worth 1.5 cents each if you have the Reserve and 1.25 cents each if you have the Preferred card. This means a $100 rental would take 8,000 Ultimate Rewards points with the Preferred card – and just 6,660 points with the Reserve.


best credit cards for road trips


These cards aren't just our top pick because you can book rental cars with points. They also offer some of the best rental car insurance provided by any credit card. That’s true whether you use points to book or just charge the rental to your credit card. And that means you can may not need to purchase that additional coverage your rental company offers.

Both cards offer primary insurance coverage. Primary insurance covers all damage from collision or theft of most rental cars. If you waive the car rental company’s coverage when renting, these benefits will apply if your vehicle is damaged, lost, or stolen and you paid with a card offering primary insurance.

Thrifty Tip: For a deeper dive into car rental insurance on these cards, check out our article on using travel rewards cards on a road trip. What to learn more about which Sapphire card is right for you? Check out our YouTube video to help you make the decision.



The Main Attraction: National Park Admission on Points

Believe it or not, you can even cover your park entry fees with points and miles. Here's the secret: you can use miles from the Capital One Venture Rewards Card for more than just flights


national park


Simply pay for your park admission (or any travel expense, for that matter) with your Venture card. Then, use the Purchase Eraser feature to remove it from your billing statement. This is a perfect way to use your Venture miles – for expenses that otherwise can't be covered with other points and miles.

Thrifty Tip: Visiting several parks this summer? Consider buying an annual pass – at just $80, you'll recoup the cost after visiting just two or three national parks.

This versatility is one of the reasons why we recommend the Venture card to travel rewards beginners. And it makes it a must-have card for a trip across the U.S. visiting national parks.


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card


Click Here to get more information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. 


capital one ventureone card


Click Here to learn more about the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.


Thrifty Tip: Read our tips for planning the perfect road trip this summer. Our top national park road trip recommendation? Start in Las Vegas and visit the Utah Mighty Five!


Time to Fill Up: Earn Max Points on Gas

Are you maximizing your credit card at the pump? Before you fill up for that road trip, read this.

Here's yet another reason we're huge fans of the Chase Sapphire cards for travelers: You can earn up to 5x points at gas stations this summer. This is a no-brainer way to get some extra points at the pump!


gas station


If you’re a member of Costco Wholesale Club, there isn’t a better option for gas purchases year-round than the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. As long as you are a Costco member, the card has no annual fee and earns 4% cashback on gas purchases (up to $7,000 each year).


Citi Costco credit card


Click Here to learn more about the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. 


Not a Costco Member? The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is also a great option. You'll earn 3% cashback at U.S. gas stations, and 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 each year (then 1%).


American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card


Click Here to learn more about the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. 


Stay at an Airbnb or Camp, All on Points

Remember what I said earlier? Capital One Venture Miles are good for more than just flights. Unlike other travel rewards cards, Venture miles can be used to cover Airbnbs and campsites. Pay for your homestay or campsite with your Venture card and then use the purchase eraser feature to remove it from your billing statement.

Thrifty Tip: Check out our tips for saving on Airbnbs, booking unique homestays, and guide to glamping.




Hit the Hay: Free Hotel Stays on Points

Heading for a hotel instead of an Airbnb or campsite? We've got you covered there, too.

Yes, you can use points to book hotels for free. But there's one other travel hack you've got to take advantage of this summer: free anniversary nights at hotels.




Every major hotel chain has its own co-branded credit card that earns points towards free stays. But many of these cards go further, providing a free night stay each year just for holding the card. When you’re on the road in the middle of nowhere, that combination of free night certificates and hotel points can get you far.

Take, for example, the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card. You’ll earn 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months of card membership. And you can earn another 30,000 points by earning 2x points on all of your first $15,000 of spending in the first 6 months (60,000 points total)

On top of that, each year of card membership on your account anniversary, you get a free night certificate valid at any Hyatt category 1-4 property. There are no blackout dates – and as long as a room is available at the hotel, you should be able to redeem the certificate.

For example, you could use that certificate for a free night at the Hyatt Place Page-Lake Powell as you check out the Grand Canyon. Just be sure to sneak in a visit to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, too!


A large building with a pool

Photo courtesy of Hyatt


Read more: The Best Uses of the Hyatt Free Night Certificate

That free night certificate is a great way to keep costs down on the road, and it can be combined with your world of Hyatt points for a longer stay. Additionally, Hyatt is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. So if you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, it's a great combination.


World of Hyatt credit card


Click Here to learn more about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.


The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit CardMarriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express CardIHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, and the Hilton Aspire Credit Card all also offer free night certificates of their own that can drastically cut costs on the road.

You could use the certificate from the Hilton Aspire card for a free night at the Hoodoo Moab, a chic property just a few minutes from both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Moab.


Hoodoo Moab
Photo courtesy of Hilton



Maximize Your Points for Free Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Okay, there's lots of money to be saved — and points to be maximized — when it comes to food right now. Here's how to make the most of it all.

  • Stopping on your road trip at a restaurant for takeout, or al fresco dining?
  • Getting delivery after a long day exploring?
  • Buying groceries for your road trip to pack your own meals or stock the Airbnb?
  • Breakfast at the hotel before you hit the road?

You can use points to make all of these things free.




Chase recently introduced the new Pay Yourself Back feature, and it allows you to use points to cover purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, and food delivery platforms. And when you use points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred to Pay Yourself Back, they’re worth 1.25 cents each (or worth 1.5 cents each for Reserve cardholders) – the same as when you redeem them for travel.

That means you could use a stash of 20,000 points to cover $250 in groceries and dining throughout your trip. And this goes without saying, but you can use this awesome feature when you're home and not traveling, too.



Staying at a hotel during your trip? If you hold one of the two credit cards listed below, you get instant Hilton Gold status and free breakfast for you and a guest at any Hilton property during your stay. That may not sound exciting, but saving money on food can add up quickly.

First and foremost, the Platinum Card® from American Express offers complimentary Gold status just for holding the card.


Bottom Line

Points and miles aren't just for flights! Put those travel rewards cards to use to make your national parks trip this summer nearly free.

From your rental car or flight to park admission to what you eat on your trip and where you lay your head at night… make those travel rewards cards work for you no matter the style of trip you're taking this year!


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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