Credit Cards Destinations Marathons

Destination: Europe

Europe is the home of huge marathons. Not only is it the proud possessor of huge marathons, it also is the home of the historic, legendary, and exotic marathons. When one thinks of European marathons, the names that come to mind are: London, Berlin, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Athens, Amsterdam, and Rome. Many European cities have hosted Olympic games so the marathon courses take in the old stadiums at some point during the race. These races are no stranger to having American visitors, so you will not feel totally out of place.

There are some problems associated with races such as these. Transportation, lodging, and entry all come as difficulties when attempting to reach some of them. The larger marathons hold lotteries to determine which runners will be allowed in. The cost to reach them can be prohibitive due to the numbers of foreign runners that descend upon these cities, and that also means the lodging costs can go up.

The marathon that we will highlight today will be the Amsterdam marathon. This fast course has its ending in the 80 year old Olympic stadium – so for one day, you can know what it feels like to be an Olympian marathoner – at least for the finish!

The Amsterdam Marathon Course Map

This race is also known for its fast times having yielded 2:05 marathon times for the last couple of years. This would definitely be a good race for a fast time (however, so would many of the other big, European marathons). Last year, there were almost 10,000 finishers in the marathon with the runners coming in around 5000th place still being sub-4:00. That is faster than the average, so it speaks well of the course (and the runners, of course!)

Here are some details about the Amsterdam Marathon:

Date: October 21, 2012 (this will be the 37th running of it)

Races held: Marathon, Half-marathon, 8K, and Kids’ Fun Run (1k)

Registration cap: September 23rd or 15,000 for the marathon, 15,000 for the half-marathon, and 5,000 for the 8K

Cost: Marathon – €60 (about $77), Half-marathon – €25 (about $32), 8K – €12.50 (about $16)

Typical Weather – High – 54 degrees, Low – 45 degrees

Elevation – roughly, sea-level

So, the price is good for a big city marathon, the temperatures are good and the elevation is good. All of this points to a fine race in a beautiful city! You can learn more about the marathon here or read reviews here.

Now, how to get there for free (or close to it)!

First of all, there are some good options in getting there by air.

One of the better options is by way of Delta/KLM. Amsterdam is the international hub for KLM (Delta’s international partner), so that allows for minimum connections and more flight options. The low availability mile requirements for Delta (and its partners) is 60,000 miles (2 credit card applications). Here is a sample ticket (I just chose Dallas as a random departure city):

A random itinerary - notice the final cost in fees and the nice non-stop going to Amsterdam!

A word of warning about Delta, there award redemption calendar has many flaws. There are many times that it will show medium availability when there is low availability, such as this instance. Below is the award calendar with the departure date highlighted:

The date circled was the departure date used in the above photo - which was a low availability ticket. The calendar is not always perfect!

So, you may need to push past the calendar if you do not originally find what you are looking for. Be flexible with your dates and and be willing to call in to Delta if the calendar is giving you problems. If you want, you can also e-mail me for help in getting you the best option. I’m glad to help (and that help is, of course, free 🙂 ).

Another option to consider is United/Continental. They have the same mileage requirements – 60,000 miles to Europe (a little more than one credit card application – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase United cards that we have previously discussed). The taxes are pretty similar as well (around $65).

A sample itinerary for Continental - notice the actual price if purchased without miles!

There are quite a few different options when booking through Continental given the size of their alliance. The edge that Delta has over Continental in this particular case is the fewer stops. With the Delta itinerary, it was a non-stop from Dallas while the Continental itinerary has one stop. On the return, Delta had one layover while Continental had two. So, it is an increase of two layovers for this particular example.

So, the minimum cost for a ticket purchased out of pocket to Amsterdam would be $1025 (FinnAir), using our example city of Dallas. Each of the two airlines looked at in this Destination report require 60,000 miles and around $65 in taxes. That brings our total value of miles to = 1.6 cents per mile. That is not a great redemption rate, but when you figure the actual cost per ticket that you would be redeeming with the Delta miles, it goes up to 2.6 cents per mile (and about the same with Continental). That is better! One of the best things about award reservations is that you are not locked into picking a particular airline or itinerary based on cost. You can redeem it based on what you need (and the mile requirements, of course!). So I would definitely use the actual ticket cost in your equations.

However, to make it an even sweet number, I will just tease with a little shot of something I will talk about in a later post. Check out the following itinerary page with Continental:

Top off your European marathon with a side-stop in Rome, Italy!

How about that? For an extra $45 and the SAME amount of miles, you can also hop down to Rome for a couple of days. I mean, you are already over there, right? 🙂 I just plugged Rome in, but you could do the same for any other city in Europe (or a city in the US). How about something a little more exotic? You could also do Istanbul for the same cost in miles! Those are very good values and you can just play around with different options to see what works for you.


Unfortunately, there is not a plentiful supply of American chain hotels in Europe. There are some good values to be had, however, especially when you consider that this would be for a marathon weekend. In the US, most big city marathons have the best hotels already blocked out for their event, making you have to book through them at their non-negotiable rates (to be fair, they are generally a good value, just not available with points). To give you an example of one of my favorite redemption programs, I will show you what is possible with the Starwood Preferred Guest Program (SPG).

There are 3 SPG properties within or near (within 30 miles) of Amsterdam. They are:

Hotel Pulitzer –  A Luxury Collection Hotel

Not having been there myself, I will give you the description from their website

Overlooking two of the city’s most picturesque canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, Hotel Pulitzer is ideally located in the middle of the old city center of Amsterdam. Our unique hotel is comprised of 25 restored 17th and 18th century canal houses. Named to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2004 Gold List, we are unlike any other hotel. Each of our 230 distinctive guest rooms represents a small piece of Dutch history and culture. Located in the beautiful gardens, our art gallery offers multiple expositions each year.

Though rich in historical splendor, our hotel also offers today’s modern amenities, including the latest technology with wired and wireless (Wi-Fi) High Speed Internet Access in all public areas, meeting facilities and all guest rooms. Our meeting and banquet facilities offer a range of accommodations for your special event – from elegant ballrooms to private canal boats.

All guest rooms and public spaces are 100% non-smoking. Please contact the hotel for further information.

Savor an exquisite culinary experience in the beautiful, trendy Pulitzers Restaurant. Or relax with an aperitif in Pulitzers Bar. Enjoy complimentary access to Pulitzers Gym, equipped with the latest state-of-the-art fitness equipment with individual flat screen TVs.

Whether you are touring the nearby museums and attractions or conducting business in our excellent facilities, Hotel Pulitzer is the ideal place to enjoy.

To read what other travelers have to say, click here.

To visit the hotel’s website, click here.

There rates are a little over $500 a night for the nights of our sample itinerary. To redeem them with points, it takes 9,600 points for the 5 nights of the stay for a total of 48,000 points.

Here is the breakdown: For a rate that does not demand a prepaid reservation, it would cost $3,256 for your 5 night stay! With points, it comes to 48,000 points. That comes out to a whopping 6.7 cents per point redemption rate! That is huge!

The exterior of the Hotel Pulitzer

A standard guest room


Next up, we will look at another Luxury Collection hotel, the Hotel Des Indes in the Hague. Though this hotel is 30 miles away, I would still give it a strong consideration as you can easily drive the distance to the race. Besides, your whole trip there does not have the marathon as its single focus, does it? 🙂

Again, not having been there, I give you their description:

A View of History

Nestled in the heart of The Hague along the leafy Lange Voorhout—the Hotel Des Indes is an ideal haven for exploring this charismatic city. Spend the day browsing antique shops, masterpiece-filled museums, storied theatres, and lush public parks.

Landmark Luxury

The atrium’s magnificent drop chandelier and the colossal marble columns flanking the spacious lobby reflect the hotel’s palatial heritage, while the sophisticated restaurant, health club, and meeting facilities offer contemporary comfort and style.

Captivating Grandeur

Built to host aristocrats and heads of state, the hotel continues a tradition of opulence in each of its 92 uniquely designed guest rooms and suites. Vaulted ceilings, rich draperies, plush bedding, and the latest technology envelope you in comfort.

This hotel’s Best Available Rate is 270 Euros a night, which comes to a total of $1750 for the dates of our visit. Their calendar shows availability on those dates for one of SPG’s greatest value systems (Cash and Points) at a rate of 4800 SPG points per night + $90.

So, the breakdown is – $1750 for the 5 nights of our stay or 24,000 SPG points and $450 through the Cash & Points option. This gives a redemption value of  5.4 cents per point. Not as great a value as the previous hotel, but still an excellent value. Especially when you consider that this can be achieved through a single credit card application (link below – the Starwood American Express card).

To see what other travelers have to say about this hotel, click here.

To visit the hotel’s site directly, click here.

I will add some other options later, but this should be enough to get you started. Below you will find links to some credit cards that will get you started towards your Amsterdam marathon. I will cover these credit cards in detail at a later time (I do receive a commission if you apply and are approved with the following cards).

The exterior of the Hotel Des Indes

A standard guest room at the Hotel Des Indes

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.