Catch The Points Guy Recap Week 4: New York

by on October 19, 2012 · 12 comments

in Catch The Points Guy, Chase

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Another week, another fantastic destination on “Catch The Points Guy”. This time I headed to one of my favorite cities in the US: New York.

Times Square in all its glory.

In addition to the special affinity I have for the Big Apple since it’s where I first moved after college, it’s also a great place to earn and redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points thanks to countless fabulous hotels, world-class restaurants, tons of mass-transit to get around, and plenty of fun sights to see.

To get here from Miami using points, I decided to take use the Ultimate Rewards travel portal’s pay with points option and redeemed 17,984 Ultimate Rewards points to purchase a $228.40 flight from Miami on Delta. Paying with points at the fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point (you get a 20% bonus on this option when you have the Sapphire Preferred). I got a complimentary upgrade to first class 5 days in advance of my flight due to my Platinum Medallion status and earned base 1,097 Delta SkyMiles, plus an additional 1,097 miles for my Platinum bonus and I also banked 1,097 Medallion Qualifying Miles. Flights booked through Ultimate Rewards Travel are just like tickets paid with cash, which comes in handy if you need to bank elite qualifying miles since award tickets generally do not accrue miles.

Because I flew into LaGuardia, I decided to take a taxi, which earned me 2 points per dollar on the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it is coded as a “travel” expense.

I decided to stay at one of my favorite hotels in the city, which also happens to be part of Hyatt and thus an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner: the Andaz Fifth Avenue right in the heart of Manhattan.

Award nights are 22,000 points a night, so for three nights I transferred a total of 66,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt Gold Passport account (which posted instantly) and redeemed for a standard Andaz King room. The paid rate would have been $495, but when I checked in, I was upgraded (thanks to my Diamond status) to an Andaz Loft room one category higher, that would have cost $545 per night if I’d paid. So I was getting about 2.5 cents per point of value from my redemption – twice what I would have gotten if I’d redeemed my points directly at Ultimate Rewards travel – so in this case transferring points and redeeming for award nights made sense.

My complimentary Hyatt Diamond room service breakfast at the Andaz 5th Avenue.

My Loft room was spacious by New York standards, at 400 square feet, with high ceilings and luxury touches like Frette linens on the bed, as well as the tech amenities Andaz is known for like free WiFi and a wall-mounted 42-inch flatscreen. There was also a small sitting area with a sofa and chair and a wooden workdesk. One of my Hyatt Diamond perks is free breakfast, but since this hotel has no club lounge, I was given the choice of having mine in the restaurant or through room service.

The High Line at West 20th Street is one of my favorite green spaces in the city.

The weather was beautiful, so I decided to take the subway (another “travel” category expense on which I earned double points) to the High Line, a former industrial rail line along Manhattan’s west side that has been converted into an elevated park with paths, places hang out, and occasional art installations.

Chelsea Market is a fun place to walk around and grab a bite to eat.

After my little walk, it was time for a quick lunch at Chelsea Market, a building development that the High Line passes through that includes a shopping mall, offices and a gourmet food court in a historic Nabisco factory complex where the Oreo cookie was invented. The restaurants there include some of my favorites in New York, such as Sarabeth’s Kitchen and Morimoto, as well as bakeries, butcher shops and more. I recharged with a lunch of fresh lobster from The Lobster Place.

Enjoying the “Around the World in 80 Plates” wrap party with host Cat Cora.

That evening, I attended the “Around the World in 80 Plates” Sneak Peak Finale party in Chelsea. Chase Sapphire is a sponsor of the show, so cardholders were granted exclusive access, and I was able to redeem 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a ticket.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Heather Thomson from The Real Housewives of NYC!

“Around the World in 80 Plates,” is a reality show on Bravo that combines two of my passions, travel and cuisine. On it, 12 chefs compete in culinary challenges in 10 countries over 44 days with celebrity chefs Cat Cora and Curtis Stone judging their performances. At the party, I got to meet the two hosts, as well as a few of my favorite Real Housewives of New York stars while tasting dishes from all over the world. Though I usually redeem points for airfare and hotels, unique experiences like this one can be fun to redeem.

Though my time in New York was short, I was already looking forward to my next destination for “Catch The Points Guy.” To find out where I headed next, as well as for chances to win weekly prizes and the Grand Prize trip for two to Paris, check the Chase Sapphire Facebook page next week.

Note: I was compensated by Chase for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions expressed are completely my own.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jamison

    wow, that’s so awesome!! i love redeeming for once in a lifetime experiences like that ;) – I usually hit up Amex By Invitation Only & SPG moments, but Chase exclusive access is one that I need to look into! Thanks for the insight

  • Chris

    When you book flights through the UR travel portal, is there the ability to enter your airline FF number? I don’t recall seeing that in the past. Did you have to call Delta after you booked the ticket to attach your Skymiles account to the flight?

  • JR

    TPG — You really need to rethink how you do these Chase pieces. You totally should be able to earn a living from your site, but week after week, these have just been terrible redemptions. And you know enough about this stuff to know they are terrible redemptions (and if you don’t, well, that’s even worse). The calculus you do here is a bit disingenuous, too. What brings a lot of these redemptions up to merely bad from outright awful is that you’re leveraging your status with the airline/hotel to bump up what you’re getting in return (seat/room upgrade). But a lot of readers aren’t going to be able to do that — so for them, these redemptions really are horrible (and I don’t just mean the ones this week but every week in this series). Maybe there is a way to do this where you simply present a trip and give the options possible with Ultimate Rewards — then let readers judge for themselves whether it makes sense. In that way, you’re letting people know what they can do with their UR points (which I think is really the point of these pieces) but not making a value judgment about the deal (because if you do make a value judgment, it should be an honest one, and these, TPG, aren’t that).

    Another strategy might be to run these each week, but post something else 5 minutes later, so people don’t see actually see them. That would help with the credibility issue, too.

    Good luck with all this. This is a tricky business and advertisers will love to turn everything you write into a marketing puff piece. Be strong, TPG! There are other ways to meet The Real Housewives.

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  • Dominique Francon

    I think I can explain it…

    “Note: I was compensated by Chase for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions expressed are completely my own. ”


  • Dominique Francon

    As a follow up, and in all seriousness, this is exactly why when I do credit card churns, I make 100% sure that I am not clicking a referral link of any sort unless perhaps it is someone from a forum that provided me good information. The blogs have some good information but 75% of the information is an advertisement.

    This post, for example.

    As another example, I saw yesterday on MommyPoints on the Chase Ink Plus post the blogger recommended in response to a commenter that they app for the Ink Plus even though the commenter just said they were applying for a mortgage in the near future. Either that blogger is completely dense to one of the main tenets of credit card churning (DON’T app for anything if you’re looking for a mortgage in the next 6 months-1 year), or is completely self-serving and screwing over someone’s immediate mortgage-app future for whatever Ultimate Rewards points, or whatever, she was receiving from Chase for her referral links.

    Either way, posts like that make my personal rule to never click referral links so as not to reward bloggers for their behavior.

  • Guest22

    Great write-up!

  • Asuruma

    I’d love to see a “best ways to use the ultimate rewards mall” post. Thanks!

  • The Points Guy

    I appreciate all your feedback, but please keep in mind that my posts for Catch The Points Guy are geared toward the general audience of 75,000 Chase Sapphire cardholders, and not for the hardcore churners out there.

    If you read me enough, you’ll know that I get tremendous value out of my Ultimate Rewards points and have redeemed them for first-class experiences on Lufthansa, British Airwayas and Singapore among other airlines, as well luxury hotels like Park Hyatts all over the world. However, not everyone is looking to redeem points for those experiences. Not to mention posts I’ve done about redeeming them for Priority Club awards and Amtrak. There are, in fact, a lot of people who want to redeem their points at a fixed rate through the Ultimate Rewards portal so they can book the travel they need to without blackout dates.

    The whole point of my Catch The Points Guy posts is not to showcase the very highest, extreme-case points redemptions, and nowhere do I say it is. Rather, these posts are meant to highlight the various ways these points can be redeemed – whether it’s ultra luxury travel or a night out on the town.

    I don’t say any of these are the best redemptions, I’m just presenting options, and every cardholder has to make the decision for themselves what they want to redeem their points for.

    You may scoff at hanging with the Real Housewives, but I had a blast – it was a fun event and I wouldn’t mock someone for spending 20,000 points to have an awesome night out with free food, cocktails, gift bags and reality celebrities. The proof: every cardholder there that I talked to had a fantastic time and was happy with their redemption.

    Again, I appreciate your feedback, but this promotion is not about outrageous luxury redemptions, it’s about presenting options, and though you may not be interested in some of them, others are.

  • Lisa W

    Shoot! We just got back from NYC. It never occurred to me that taxis would be considered a travel expense and we put them on the AmEx. I wish I would have read this a week earlier! Thanks for sharing; I love reading about your adventures!

  • BWI

    Yeah I agree these sponsored pieces don’t really belong on your blog. I know you put the disclaimer up that they provide the points but the whole thing is just disingenuous.

  • mike

    Not that I don’t agree with the other comments (haven’t actually read any of these Catch the Points Guy posts), but seriously, how am I the first one to comment on Cat Cora?

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