Let's face it, vacations aren't cheap.
You have to pay for the travel, lodging, activities and food, which can add up to a hefty bill at the end of your trip. But if you know how to use a credit card to your advantage, you could receive exclusive discounts that can save you hundreds of dollars.
I saved $350 by using my American Express® Gold Card during a recent vacation to Arizona. The card is one of CNBC Select's top picks for the best travel credit cards and offers superb travel and dining perks that helped me more than recoup the card's $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Here's how I easily saved $350 with my American Express® Gold Card, and how you can, too.
4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases
35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
See Pay Over Time APR
See rates and fees
The American Express® Gold Card offers a $100 annual airline fee credit to cover incidentals, such as seat upgrades and checked bags, as well as in-flight food and beverages.
Before you can take advantage of the credit, you have to select an airline to benefit from this perk. I opted for JetBlue because it's the airline I fly most often. I used my credit to offset the $130 cost of upgrading two seats to Even More Space.
Cardholders can also benefit from an annual $120 dining credit ($10 a month) at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations, after a one-time enrollment. I didn't use this credit when traveling, but if I had, that would've added $10 to my savings.
The bulk of my savings ($250) came from booking my hotel via American Express Travel and selecting a resort in The Hotel Collection, which offers cardholders exclusive perks, such as up to a $100 hotel credit, complimentary room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, when available.
I stayed at the Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, and I used the $100 credit to cover room service and dining expenses at the resort during my stay.
To my pleasant surprise, I also received a complimentary daily breakfast for two (up to $25 per person), which is a perk that's usually exclusive to The Platinum Card® from American Express' Fine Hotels and Resorts.
For my three-night stay, my partner and I were able to maximize the breakfast credit. I even pulled out my phone to calculate the cost of menu items to ensure I used up the total $50 credit. I couldn't resist getting my full money's worth!
To receive these credits, I simply had to charge any purchases at the resort to my room. Then upon checkout, the credits were applied to my balance. Since I had prepaid for my hotel and spent exactly up to the discounts I knew I'd get, I checked out with a $0 balance.
Overall, using my American Express® Gold Card during vacation added up to great savings, which made me feel less stress since I knew that my bill wouldn't be as high as it could've been, had I used a different credit card.
Interested in learning more? Read our American Express® Gold Card review.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.