Mexico: How I’ve Used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points 3X for Incredible Travel There and Why There’s No Way in Hell I’m Going Back Anytime Soon

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I’ve made 3 separate trips to Mexico using Chase Ultimate Rewards points over the past few years, staying for weeks or months at a time (I work online).  And it was wonderful.

I soaked in the in-suite hot tub overlooking the beautiful beach from my room at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun while guzzling, er, sipping, all-included name-brand cocktails.  I paid $0 for this $500-a-night room thanks to Chase Ultimate Rewards points I earned with my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card along with big bonuses from cards like the #1 business card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Got Me a Luxury Stay Worth $500-a-Night at the Hyatt Zilara All-Inclusive Hotel!  It Was Awesome!

Southwest Airlines got me there just fine with Chase Ultimate Rewards points and with 2 free checked bags.

And when I booked with Airbnb, I earned 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points by using my trusty Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with no foreign transaction fees.

But, no mas!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Transfer to Southwest for Free Flights and to Hyatt for Luxury Hotel Stays.  But Even Still, I’m Looking Elsewhere

Some of my Million Mile Secrets teammates disagree.  Harlan was in Mexico City recently and said he felt safe.  Emily is planning a trip to Cancun.  Not me.

I felt safe in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres (a somewhat-hidden and serene quiet gem, just a short ferry ride from Cancun).

Isla Mujeres Is a Relaxed Island Spot Perfect for Chill Tourists and Iguanas

But now I’ve read story after story about awful murders of innocent people including tourists in tourist towns.  And the deaths attributed to bad liquor also have me opting to go elsewhere.  It seems to be an “open secret” that Mexican authorities blame murders as drug dealers killing drug dealers when in reality, innocent people are getting killed too.

I realize I live in a dangerous country (US) but Mexico seems overrun with organized crime that is ruining this beautiful nation.

I’ve met very kind people in Mexico.  The 3 different Airbnb hosts I’ve had were all great folks.  Twice I lived with my host, renting a spare bedroom in a nice non-touristy neighborhood just a 10 minute ride outside the hotel zone.  When you live with someone for a month, you can get to know them a bit along with their friends.  They were great.  These folks were kind and smart small business owners, eager to be helpful.  The everyday local people I’ve met in Mexico while exploring the towns and beaches were really nice too.

And while my former Airbnb hosts welcome me back, I can’t do it.  Last time in Cancun (2017) my host mentioned something about not trusting the alcohol served in “hotel zone,” which is the main tourist strip.

Being a local, he showed me other places to party that were a bit more upscale.  Even so, I did make a number of visits to Senor Frog’s, Fat Tuesday, and the other establishments that line the avenue full of revelers.  It turns out Fat Tuesday has been accused of selling alcohol that can poison you — and it can happen after just one drink.

And it’s not just places aimed at younger people, five-star Iberostar Paraíso Del Mar resort in Playa del Carmen has also been named.  You may know the story of Abbey Conner.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an investigative report.  She was found floating face-down in a pool after she and her brother drank there.  The New York Post reports that authorities in Mexico have seized 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol from a manufacturer supplying it to popular resorts.

Here are stats I’ve seen:

  • 2017 was Mexico’s deadliest year on record
  • 31,174 murders recorded
  • May 2018: Mexico broke the previous deadliest month on record set in October with 2,530 reported cases of intentional homicides during the month, or 93 per day.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:

  • 10.19  intentional homicides per 100,000 people in Quintana Roo (state where Cancun is) in 2016
  • and in 2017 murders more than doubled to 21.57 per 100,000
  • Mexico City looks considerably safer at 12.3 murders per 100,000

To give you an idea, Florida and California each have a murder rate of ~5 people per 100,000.  I feel safe in Florida.  Not sure I want to go to a place with 4X the murder rate AND the possibility of tainted margaritas.

You may recall these other stories that made the news here in the US.

April 2018: tourists watched as a man’s body washed up at Caletilla Beach in Acapulco.

And the Washington Post reported,  “Officials in Mexico said they discovered 8 bodies in multiple locations across Cancun, a popular beach resort city — and magnet for American tourists — on the Yucatán Peninsula.  At least one victim had been bound before being shot, while another was apparently killed while lying in a hammock.  Other victims were dumped on the streets, dismembered and stuffed into plastic bags, or left inside an abandoned taxi.”

There Are Many Warm-Weather Alternatives Where You Can Use Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Yes, Mexico has a rich history, beautiful beaches, and Mayan ruins to explore.  But if you’re mostly going for a warm weather vacation or to party, you’ve got options.  You can use miles and points at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and on and on.

When you have great cards like the

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card #1 pick for folks new to using miles instead of money for travel

or 

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card best business credit card

you can transfer your points to Southwest.  Then fly on Southwest comfortably and with 2 free checked bags per passenger to destinations such as

  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • and all over the US like South Florida, Orlando, San Diego, and soon… Hawaii.

It’s super easy to move your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partners like Southwest and Hyatt.

With a Quick Click You Can Move Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for a Free Hyatt Hotel Stay

Bottom Line

I really hope the government of Mexico can get the violence under control.

I lived in New York City when it was a violent city rife with murders and assaults.  It wasn’t fun.  It’s much more enjoyable now.  I’m sure plenty of tourists skipped New York City back then for other big city options, just as I’m skipping Cancun and Mexico for now.

Maybe if I only planned to stay on the grounds of a hotel I trust like the Hyatt Zilara, I’d go back.  But for me, I usually like to explore the area.

Am I wrong for avoiding Cancun and Mexico?