Travel

How many rewards would Trump need to vacation in Mexico for the next 4 years?

Alex Cohen Alex Cohen  | 

Hola Amigos!

This 2016 Presidential election has been absolute chaos. We’ve seen Ben Carson be… Ben Carson, Ted Cruz eat a skin tag, Deez Nuts emerge as a candidate, Hillary somehow get off with no charges and Trump talk over and over again about how we’re going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for it.

As we go deeper into the trenches of this wonderfully exciting but absolutely terrifying presidential election I began to think to myself, “what if we could just send Trump to Mexico? Wouldn’t that solve all of our problems? I’m sure he could use a vacation.” And given that I live in the world of credit card rewards, I inevitably came about the idea of figuring out how much it would cost in rewards for Trump to take a vacation to Mexico City. And then stay there for four years. If you’d like to see the end result, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Disclaimer: Trump, if you read this, I hope this serves as a comprehensive guide and gives you motivation to cash in on all those reward points we know you’re hoarding in an online account somewhere.

If you’ve followed the election at all, you’re probably quite aware that Donald Trump is extremely proud of the fact that he has self-financed the majority of his campaign. I took a deeper look into this to see just how accurate his self-proclamations were and find out how much cash he’s dropped on his run for presidency. According to opensecrets.org he has supposedly self-financed 72% - a whopping $45,703,185. That’s a lot of money, and I hope for his sake he’s using a shiny credit card or two to pay for all of these expenses.

As I began my research to accurately calculate the rewards Trump would need to earn to effectively pay for a four-year vacation, I had to first choose a credit card that offered great earnings on everyday spend but also offered a high value when redeemed for hotel stays. This was the most important part, because if all goes according to plan, this hotel room will be his new home. I chose the Starwood Preferred Guest card by American Express. Here’s why:

Earning points with the SPG card is easy:
-2 Starpoint per $1 spent on SPG Hotels -1 Starpoint per $1 spent everywhere else

What’s important is that the SPG Amex card does not have an earning limit. Meaning that for every dollar Trump spends on qualifying campaign purchases, he can continue to earn unlimited Starpoints.

Status with SPG gives you some great perks:

Since Trump will be staying in a Starwood hotel for a total of 1,460 days, he easily earns the minimum number of nights required to achieve platinum status. With this Platinum status he only has to stay in the hotel for 75 nights before he begins to earn an additional 4 Starpoints for every $1 spent on SPG hotels, stacked on top of the 2 he earns from being a cardholder. In fact, after 500 nights he earns SPG Lifetime Platinum Status and SPG Ambassador Service. No negotiations required for this one!

Trump will receive a wealth of Platinum level perks, including complimentary premium internet access, health club, Club-Level and Executive-Level access, complimentary upgrades to the best available room at check in and his choice of a gift among arrival.

Some of the best reward options available:

In the industry, we refer to cashing in on rewards as the “burn.” What we just talked about above is called the “earn.” Yes, we’re super creative. But before we actually crunch the numbers it’s important that I lay out exactly how SPG works for redeeming rewards, as they have some nice hotels down in Mexico City that I think fit Trump’s exquisite taste.

SPG actually has a really high value for redeeming rewards – sometimes it can be as high as 4 cents per point, equivalent to getting 4% back on purchases. This is part of the reason why I chose this card for Trump. A man of his stature only deserves the best. Also the credit card is quite light and he should be able to grip it easily.

Another really exciting redemption option that SPG offers is the 5th night free when you redeem 4 nights for rewards. This is actually the reason why this card is absolutely perfect for this scenario. Given the length of time we expect Trump to stay down in this Mexican hotel, I’m going to save him 20% of his rewards throughout this trip! He can thank me later. This is valid on category 3-7 hotels, and we’re only going to book the best for Donald.

How many rewards does the Donald have?

To make things easy, I’m going to go under the assumption that for his campaign, every purchase that Trump makes is eligible to earn SPG points and that he has put every single purchase during this time on his Starwood Preferred Guest Card. I’m also only going to include expenses that are publicly available unless he wants to slide into my DM’s with a list of his personal purchases.

It’s a straightforward calculation:

$45,703,185 x 1 point/$1 spent

= 45,703,185 points.

Trump officially declared his Presidency on June 16, 2015 and now a year and 46 million dollars later we can see that he is spending 3.5 million dollars each month on his campaign.

That’s a lot of points. Lucky for me, the SPG card doesn’t have any crazy changing categories so calculating his estimated rewards earned is really simple at 1 point per dollar spent. Also, I don’t think Trump typically takes Uber, but if he did he could earn up to 4 points for every dollar spent on Uber rides. (They do have a LUX service that he may like).

YASS It’s time for the Fun Part

I have absolutely spent way too much time on this post but I have no ragrets. This is important stuff and it’s the reason why I became an entrepreneur in the first place – to solve really huge and important problems.

I spent a couple of hours researching the different hotels available in Mexico City. I broke down the hotels by different criteria and ranked these by importance – after all Trump will be living vacationing in the hotel for 4 years and I want to make sure he’s comfortable during his stay:

Criteria and Ranking:

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From the beginning I ruled out any hotels in Mexico City that were under a category 6. And because there were no category 7 hotels, my choices were limited to:

W Mexico City – St. Regis – Las Alcobas

Once I narrowed down my search, finding availability was of the utmost importance. I admit this may be a tad flawed as I tried to search for a 4 year stay on Starwood’s site but they require you call if your stay is longer than 90 days. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to explain this to the booking agent.

So after spending a few hours on the phone with a wonderful Starwood rep, I had to rule out the St. Regis and Las Alcobas as they wouldn’t let me use my SPG points for suites at these hotels. We searched for a two week stay and looked at all different combinations of date ranges. I made sure that they knew I was going to Mexico City and would only “ball out” in a suite. I also made up an elaborate story where I had hundreds of thousands of points on my American Express membership rewards card and wanted to transfer them over. After all this searching we were only able to find one hotel - The W Mexico City - which offers their highest tier suite using SPG points. I was sold.

I calculated the days between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2020 – a total of 1,462 days, or 1,461 nights. If we’re lucky I figure we can maybe squeeze in early check-in/late check-out.

The rep and I found the best possible room available – the Marvelous Suite. It can range between $600-$1000 per night, and I found the name fitting to Donald’s personality. Each night was going to cost 40,000 SPG Points. It sounds like a lot, but hey, for every 4 nights we get 1 free!


Look, I even made a cool calendar to describe this promotion!

So, for 1,461 nights we have to take out every 5th night. If my math is correct, we only have to use SPG points for a total of 1169 nights. We’re getting 292 nights for free! Woohoo!

All-inclusive for 1,169 nights, we are looking at 46,760,000 SPG points. Not too bad. Not too bad.

Now that we’ve got the hotel figured out, let’s talk airfare:

For a moment here I am going to humble Trump by searching for first class tickets on a generic airline that any one of us common people would ordinarily fly on. I figure in real life he would probably just fly on his private jet.

Because Trump has a lot of Starpoints with his SPG card, I made sure to search for airlines where he could redeem these points for a first class ticket. I search First Class on SPG’s site from JFK – MEX on November 1st, and only two airlines were offered: Delta and American Airlines.

Now I’ve never flown first class before - I tend to just look for the cheapest window seat in coach. So I don’t have any personal recommendation for which airline has a better first class experience. After doing some research and googling pictures of seats I couldn’t afford, I came to the conclusion that Delta would be the better First Class choice. Not that the cost matters, but both AA and Delta were the same number of SPG points.

That’s a lie. British Airways and Lufthansa also offered flights, but had layovers in Frankfurt and London.

For Trump and his wife Melania, it’s going to cost 100,000 Starpoints. Peanuts compared to the hotel.

What about food and other stuff!

So this is where things start to get tricky. The SPG card doesn’t have any transfer partners (that I’m aware of) who offer redemptions for statement credit or generic gift cards like Visa and Amex.

In this case, I would recommend that Trump open up the Citi Double Cash card, which offers 1% cash back when you shop and 1% back when you pay off your bill. It’s one of the best cash back cards.

To determine how much he needs to spend on this card to fully pay for his food and other stuff during this upcoming trip in November, we have to figure out just how much his expenses on vacation are going to be each month. Hotel and airfare is taken care of, so his only expenses should hopefully be restaurants, car service and booze. Lots and lots of booze.

I’ve estimated that his personal, non-travel related expenses will cost $5,000 per person per month. Over the course of 48 months this adds up to $480,000. Trump will have to spend
$480,000/.02 = $24,000,000 during the next 5 months. The majority of this spend will be from his campaign, and I assume his personal expenses are high enough to cover the rest of the points needed.

Once Trump spends an additional $24 million, he will have earned enough cash back to pay his expenses on vacation for the next 4 years.

A final recap:

I’ve attached my excel spreadsheet to summarize just how many rewards it would take Trump to go on vacation in Mexico City for 4 years.

He needs to spend an additional $1,156,185 on his SPG card from campaign expenses over the next 5 months, and put the rest of that spend - $16,343,185 – on his Citi Double Cash card in order to almost have enough rewards to pay for everything. He then will have to spend another $7,656,185 on his personal Citi card and that should cover everything else.

All in:
Flights: 100,000 SPG Points
Hotels: 46,760,000 SPG Points
Vacation Expenses: $480,000 cash back

That’s all from me – I hope you enjoyed the read!

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen

I run Birch by day and watch cat videos by night

San Francisco, CA