Families with young children tend to get sticker shock the first
time they plan a vacation to one of the major US theme parks.
Between park tickets, themed hotel rooms, express passes and
dinners with princesses, the expenses add up quickly. Believe it or
not, as those kids grow older, parents discover that the Wizarding
World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando can make Disney seem
downright affordable. The good news is that right now it is
actually easier to use points and save money on trips to Universal
than it is to Disney.
Hull / The Points Guy) In This Post Use Chase Ultimate Rewards
Points Using Ultimate Rewards Points for Universal Hotels
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program can be a jack-of-all-trades
for a Universal Orlando vacation. Universal Orlando Resort has
three Premier-class hotels:
Universal Studios Loews Royal Pacific, The Hard Rock
Hotel and Loews
Portofino Bay Hotel. Reservations at each of these hotels
include Express Passes: Universal Orlando’s cut-the-line pass.
This is huge because those passes bought separately cost $89–$129
per person, per day. For a family of four, Express Passes can add
$500 in costs daily, so your better play is to book hotels that
confer the passes if you need them.
The “lower tiers” of Universal Orlando hotels don’t
include Express Passes, but do offer early access to the parks.
That will likely be key to
hanging with Hagrid’s new roller coaster without needing to
pack a lunch for the wait in line. Some of the Universal hotel
options that don’t include Express Passes can be really family
friendly, such as
the new Aventura Hotel that has family rooms.
new Universal Studios Aventura Hotel (Photo by Summer Hull / The
The full collection of Universal Orlando hotels are available
for booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The
value of your Chase points will vary based on the card you hold.
You’ll get the highest value if you have the Chase Sapphire
Reserve, as your points are then worth 1.5 cents each toward
The Chase Sapphire Preferred
Card and Chase Ink Business
Preferred Credit Card both offer slightly less (1.25 cents) in
value per Ultimate Rewards point redeemed when booking travel.
Finally, the Chase Freedom card
will provide you with a value of just 1 cent per point. However, if
you have the Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer the points you have
earned on your other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, like the
Freedom, to Sapphire Reserve and then redeem at 1.5 cents each.
One small caveat when booking through the Ultimate Rewards
travel portal: The “price” in points that you see displayed in
the search results is likely understated a bit since it doesn’t
include taxes. While points prices and cash prices vary by date, on
a test summer date, the Universal Orlando hotels ranged from 13,000
to 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night.
Using Ultimate Rewards Points for Universal Tickets
Unlike for Disney World and Disneyland, the Chase Ultimate
Rewards portal offers a variety of Universal Orlando park tickets
available for redemption. Ultimate Rewards will charge a $10
convenience fee that can be paid in points. The taxes on the
Ultimate Rewards portal are less than through Universal Orlando’s
own website, so that helps a bit. The actual difference in price is
about $4 on a sample one-day ticket for a peak day in July.
Like Disney World, Universal Orlando charges different prices
depending on the day you want to visit. It’s also worth looking
at the ticket calendar before you book, to see if you can target
cheaper dates. Even shifting from a Saturday to Friday or Sunday in
July would save you $10 per ticket.
That said, Universal Orlando can sometimes offer ticket deals
that may or may not be available in the Chase Ultimate Rewards
portal. For example, there’s currently a deal for two-day
Universal Orlando park tickets that come with an additional three
free days. Thankfully, that specific deal is in the Chase portal,
but that isn’t always the case.
consider a Universal annual pass if you’re visiting during a
peak time. Our family of four found it could actually save money
purchasing annual passes instead of buying two-day park tickets
with Express Passes. We sacrificed the all-day Express Pass option
for one that starts at 4pm every day and ended up with a year’s
worth of Hogwarts for the price of two days of tickets.
Use Citi ThankYou Points
Similar to using Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a fixed-value
to book an official Universal Orlando hotel room, you can use your
Citi ThankYou points to do the same via the ThankYou travel site.
Those with a Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige card can redeem
points at a fixed 1.25 cents per point value toward travel.
Loews Sapphire Falls (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Additionally, Prestige card holders also can book a three-night
stay and then use the card’s fourth-night-free benefit that is
available for any hotel booked through the ThankYou portal using
the card (using points, cash or a combo of the two). (Learn
how to redeem Citi ThankYou points for maximum value here.)
However, using ThankYou points for theme park tickets isn’t as
good of a deal as with Chase points since activities cash out at
just 1 cent per point, even with the Prestige or Premier cards.
Using Points for Off-Site Universal Hotels
There are a number of chain hotels located near Universal
Orlando Resort. This means lots of opportunities to use those hotel
points. During our visits over the past year, I’ve watched a
Hyatt House rise out of the ground and it is now open for business.
House is an excellent choice for families. Many rooms feature a
kitchen and separate bedrooms.
As Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, it’s
easy to use your points for a free stay. You can also use points
from the World of Hyatt Credit
Card, or even the annual
Category 1–4 award provided by that card, to book the Hyatt
House Universal Studios or Hyatt Place Universal Studios. Both are
Category 3 properties that go for 12,000 Hyatt points per
courtesy of Hyatt House Universal Orlando)
This specific Hyatt House is a Universal Partner property, which
means you’ll get certain discounts in the parks and at CityWalk,
Universal’s dining, shopping and entertainment venue. You can
walk from the hotel to the parks or enjoy free scheduled shuttle
service. Combine this with a ticket deal through the Chase Ultimate
Rewards portal and you could go from spending thousands of dollars
on a Harry Potter-themed vacation to just spending cash on your
magic wand and butterbeer.
by Summer Hull / The Points Guy) Other Ways to Save on Universal
Orlando Discount Ticket Brokers
If you don’t have a lot of points or miles available to you at
the moment, there are still ways to save on a Universal Orlando
vacation. Look for discounted Universal Orlando tickets on Undercover
Even when there’s a price increase on tickets at the parks,
Undercover Tourist will usually have inventory at the older prices
for a short period of time. Make sure to pay with your Chase
Sapphire Reserve to earn 3 points per dollar on the travel charge
via Undercover Tourist. However, note that if you purchase tickets
by themselves directly from Universal, they will likely code as
“entertainment” for the purposes of earning or using points.
This means earning 2 points per dollar via the Citi Premier Card is a
pretty good choice.
As a side note, not all discount ticket sites are created
equally. We trust Undercover Tourist based on past experiences and
their solid reputation. But, fake
theme park tickets are a real thing and will sting you if you
don’t use common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, it
American Express is the official credit card of Universal
Orlando. That means
you’re eligible for a handful of benefits, including 10% off
certain dining plans and 10% off merchandise when you spend $75 or
more. There’s even an American Express lounge in Universal
Studios theme park. To access that in-park lounge, you must have
purchased a multiday park ticket or annual pass with an American
Express card directly from Universal Orlando.
From time to time you’ll also find special Amex Offers that
involve Universal. There’s
currently a $100 discount when you spend $500 for some card
holders who book directly with Universal Orlando. Check your
account to see if you were targeted for that deal.
Amex Fine Hotels and Resort Perks
Speaking of American Express, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, one
of the three hotels that confers Express Passes, is bookable via
American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program available to
those with The
Platinum Card® from American Express or The
Business Platinum® Card from American Express. When booking a
stay via FHR, not only do you get Express Passes, but you will get
complimentary breakfast for two daily, early check-in, late
checkout and a $100 food and beverage credit per stay. There is
often a two-night minimum when booking via this method.
Daily Getaways Discounts
annual Daily Getaways sale are another way to save on Universal
Orlando. They come up once a year, usually around the beginning of
For 2019, you can purchase a certificate for two-nights at select
Loews hotels, including Loews Royal Pacific that includes
Express Passes for $325 total. There are unpublished blackout dates
with these deals, but if you have date flexibility, spending $325
to stay next to the Universal parks for two days and get Express
Passes for the whole family is an impossible to beat deal. There
are also some discounted VIP experiences and an entire Universal
Orlando vacation for four (with airfare) up for purchase via the
Daily Getaways this year.
Fixed Value Points
Last, but far from least, fixed
value points from credit cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus
World Elite Mastercard and Capital One Venture
Rewards Credit Card can make it very easy to book the hotel or
even an entire Universal Orlando vacation package and then use
points on the card(s) to pay off some or all of the charge. Not
sure which one to get?
Here’s an article to help you decide. (Or get both and earn
over $1,000 in travel credits toward your trip.)
Believe it or not, a Universal Orlando vacation can cost a
family more than Disney World if you’re not careful. The fact
that staying at select hotels at Universal offers the opportunity
to cut the line on many rides is a huge plus, especially if you can
leverage points or discounts to stay there. Beyond that, just
having the right credit card in your wallet can also make a
difference when it comes to discounts and maximizing points for
your next vacation. With each cold Butterbeer setting you back
about $7, you need all the help you can get!
Hull / The Points Guy)
Looking for more help to plan that Universal Orlando
vacation? We’ve got you covered:
Why Now is the Best Time to Buy Theme Park Tickets
How to Get the Most Out of One Day at Universal Studios
Is Universal Studios Orlando Getting a New Theme Park?
5 Ways Universal Studios is Better Than Disney
Inside a $3,000 Universal Studios VIP Tour
Is a Universal Studios Annual Pass Worth It?
Featured image courtesy of Summer Hull / The Points Guy
Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News2
How to Save Money at Universal Orlando By Using Points