I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of credit card experiences. I am a self-proclaimed credit card point connoisseur, so I’m constantly looking for ways to stretch my points. As someone who usually uses points for flights or hotel upgrades, the idea of just handing a credit card company my points and them giving me a travel itinerary in return seems like a magical experience that does not exist in my world. So, obviously, when the opportunity to experience one of these special credit card events at Sundance Film Festival came my way, I absolutely could not pass it up. I had to suss out if these credit card travel experiences were worth the hype (and the boatload of points, in my humble and not-rich opinion).
So I hopped on a plane with one of Sundance’s presenting sponsors, Chase Sapphire, and got ready to experience the festival from the eyes of a cardholder. Full disclosure, I actually have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card that I obsessively use, so once on the ground, I was determined to do literally everything I could with the power of credit card points. And let me tell you, I did.
The Basics: Flights & Hotel
I arrived in Park City, UT via Delta (the round trip flight from NYC to SLC was 50,000 points), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the opening afternoon of Sundance and immediately checked into the Park City Peaks hotel. The hotel was, well, much better than my NYC standards were expecting. It had an indoor and outdoor pool, a hot tub, a gym, ridiculous mountain views, and an Italian restaurant with very good pasta and very small martinis (Utah liquor laws are fascinating). My hotel stay was valued at roughly 100,000 points but would have been just 48,000 points if it wasn’t a peak time. Seeing as a single night at a Brooklyn hotel cost me 58,000 points — this is not a bad deal.
From the hotel, I picked up my credentials (included in Chase Sundance Film Festival Opening Week Celebration Package For Two, which costs 140,000 points, or 70,000 per person) and dove straight into the festivities, starting with a Mark Ronson Sound Check at a TAO pop up. It had an open bar, was free to cardholders who were able to nab tickets, and featured some very good DJing by Mark Ronson. Other fun sightings included Post Malone with six security guards and Cousin Greg the Egg, of Succession fame, in a light blue hoodie being very Greg-like (I know his real name is Nicholas Braun, but for the sake of this story, he’s Greg). This would be one of many star-studded events that I would attend over the course of the festival, so if spotting Elisabeth Moss sipping a cocktail in a velvet suit is your thing, please read on.
I spent a lot of my time at the Chase Sapphire House On Main Street (aka home of Sundance), which was open to the public and had a special cardholder lounge where I drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of snacks. Between panels, movies, and parties, this was a lovely in-between spot to put my feet up and chow down on some Brooke Williamson biscuits (she made them live in front of me and it was a treat!). The panels and many of the Chase Package-exclusive parties were also in the Chase house, so I didn’t have to stray far from my snacks to watch Stanley Tucci talk about his process, or to see Glenn Close wearing a $2,000 tie-dye sweater, or Andy Samberg saying “cool, cool, cool.” My Chase card also got me into priority box office lines, a yoga class, and a whiskey tasting (did you know whiskey distilling only became legal in Utah in 2004? Because I didn’t, but now I do).
Points: Included in the experience
Points: Included in the experience
The creme de la creme of the festival was, unsurprisingly, the films. The package included two tickets to a Day One screening as well as two tickets to four other film screenings, but with only three and a half days and a lot of parties and panels to attend, I saw two movies, Shirley and Four Good Days. I did have a ticket to Palm Springs (Andy Samberg’s rom-com with a sci-fi twist featuring Camila Mendes), but it was so popular that every seat got taken by a pass holder, so I spent that hour and a half sipping coffee next to Greg the Egg.
Total Points: 220,000
Total Points: 220,000
I ended my trip with an hour-long Lyft ride (5x points) in which I gave my ex-Mormon college student Lyft driver advice on how to be openly gay. I got on the plane back to NYC with a heart full of inspiration, four new beanies, and Aya Cash as a seatmate. Looking over my finances on the flight, I spent about $200 on food and drinks over the five days (eating out was basically the only option as my hotel room didn’t have a kitchen and the Chase house snacks were good, but not enough, also martinis were $6, so sue me) and about $250 on Lyfts to and from the hotel (there is a shuttle, but it didn’t stop at my hotel). I also bought my fiancé a $25 Sundance water bottle, but beyond that, I didn’t spend anything else. So for a total of $475 and 220,000 points, aka $176,000 with the Sapphire Preferred card (or 290,000 points if you’re paying for both halves of the package), I had a pretty excellent opening Sundance weekend.
My final takeaway is honest to goodness pleasant surprise. I was skeptical of a credit card planning a vacation for me, but I had more free time than I anticipated to go exploring and take advantage of the snowy festival. I also ended up enjoying the stress the schedule saved me — for once in my busy life, somebody else planned my relaxation time and that’s pretty priceless. My Sundance experience was also decidedly better because I had a Chase card — they are presenting sponsors, after all.
That being said, 220,000 points is A LOT of points. You’d have to spend $176,000 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to get that many points ($146,000 if you have Reserve) and that’s just not something I feasibly can do (and definitely not in one year). I like to use my points for flight or hotel upgrades (in-room pool anybody?) or full flights if I can find a great deal (I flew to Australia last year with 150,000 points and felt invincible, but that included my 50,000 sign up bonus and a few 10,000 referral bonuses).
I’m also not quite at the stage in my life where I need the luxury that points packages offer and I’m not sure I ever will be, seeing as I like to plan my own vacations and I really don’t like paying to get into parties. I'd still much rather use my points to save money. However, if brushes with fame and/or not having to lift a luxurious finger on vacation is your jam, and you casually spend over 100 grand a year, credit card vacation packages are most definitely for you.
Chase Sapphire paid for the hotel, airfare, food, and activities as part of a press trip the writer of this story attended. However, Chase Sapphire did not approve or review this story.