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Last week I announced the TPG Spring Cleaning Contest and the findings of the national survey that I conducted through The Princeton Group to find out just how well people keep track of their miles and how they use them.
As part of the contest, I said I would give out six one-year free trial memberships to TripIt Pro to three people with the best stories about keeping track of their points and used them for great redemptions, as well as three people with the best/worst stories about losing track of their points or miles.
If you’re not familiar with TripIt Pro, membership includes features like: tracking all your frequent travel account information including balances and expiration dates, instant alerts about flight delays, cancellations and gate changes (often before airlines themselves even notify you), the ability to automatically share your travel plans with contacts and complimentary one-year memberships to Hertz #1 Club Gold and Regus Gold.
I got a lot of good submissions and it was difficult to choose the best stories out there, but here are the winners that team TPG selected.
Best point tracking and redemption winners:
Robert – The father of my girlfriend is a retired executive who formerly had Senator status with Lufthansa’s Miles & More. Once he stopped working, he stopped flying. And once he stopped flying, his status drop from tier to tier, year after year, until it was gone. So long as he had status, his miles were protected. A quarter of a million miles were at stake. And no one knew about it until I thought to ask. The miles were saved with only days to spare and put to good use at Christmas, with minimum fees which is difficult with Miles and More, on the following itinerary: CDG-CAI-LXR-AMM-LHR. Stopovers were in CAI & AMM. The return to CDG was unavailable so we took the Chunnel. All told we got to see Cairo, the pyramids, Memphis, Luxor, the Valleys of the Kings, Nobles and Artists, Petra, the Wadi Rum, the King’s Road, the Wadi Mujib, and London. A fabulous time snatched from the jaws of mile expiration. All the accounts have subsequently been entered into AwardWallet of course.
Bre – Last year I decided to introduce my English husband to Disney World in Florida. We are big kids at heart, but there was no way of convincing him that the trip was worth spending actual money on. So I turned to my points. We had enough Jet Blue points to fly one-way non-stop. In order to make the return leg of the trip happen I applied for the Citi American AAdvantage card with the 30,000-mile bonus. I quickly hit the spend requirement and received the 30k miles not long after. I used those to book us both into business class with the additional AA miles I had in my account (flying through MIA). Because I had the AA card I knew that I would get 10% of those miles back (so 5,000) that I could use to planning our next trip. We then used Starwood Preferred Guest points to book into the Dolphin. Then we needed to get our passes. I realized that I had some Virgin Atlantic miles that I wasn’t going to use to use for our next trip to LHR due to the hefty fuel surcharges, so I transferred those points to Hilton (at a rate of 2:1) and used the Hilton points to book passes at Disney world since they had a special offer going on. All in all the travel and passes cost us $16. And I got a picture of Will with Mickey, which was pretty priceless.
Andrew – I recently took a new rotational job based in Europe. Everything about this opportunity seemed perfect at the time, except when I discovered that while all of my travel, moving, etc expenses would be covered when I moved in Europe, I first had to get myself there. Packing your life into a couple suitcases is no easy task and finding affordable transatlantic flights at the time was a huge chore. I did however have several thousand Delta SkyMiles that I racked up using their online mall. Weighing the options between economy and business class tickets I came to the decision that having 2 free checked bags with the ability to be heavier than economy’s one free checked bag, as well as the added comfort of flying business, was worth the additional point outlay. The only issue was I was still about 15,000 miles short of the award ticket. I processed the reservation and had 24 hours to accrue the miles and thought back to a post about transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Delta and Amex’s policy on point advances. After calling up Amex and having 14,000 Membership Rewards points + a 1,000 point advance transferred to Delta, I was in business!
Well done all of you – great job at tracking your various points balances and putting them towards fantastic travel experiences! But now for the…
Worst stories about losing track of points:
Tony – Mine is a bad example story where a tracking program probably would’ve come in handy. Instead, at my house, we used a whiteboard in our home office to track our 9 different travel-related loyalty accounts, updating it once a month. We have since grown up to Excel spreadsheets. For our anniversary, I was going to surprise my wife with business class tickets to Greece (her homeland). It would be the first time either of us had ever flown non-coach. We had spent every dollar for the prior 3 years on our British Airways card and saved a ton of miles, enough to get a companion ticket after the first year, the only one we earned since the beginning. So we were going to go big with it. But we had a family tragedy the next year, and neither of us could get the work schedules to align for a big trip to Europe after that. So then this year comes. We’ve saved 500,000 Avios. We go to book everything and spend a heartbreaking amount of points (you all know that feeling!)…and our companion ticket had expired a month earlier! It cost us a huge amount of points and the ability to upgrade to first. I am still scarred to this day.
Meghan – I spend two years dating an English guy and spend thousands and thousands of dollars flying British Airways, United and Lufthansa to/from LHR. We also took two trips to India on Emirates, but I never kept track of any of these points and let them expire. Even worse, I never registered a frequent flyer number to get credit for the trips! I always assumed it wasn’t worth it to keep track, and that I didn’t travel enough to see any return on collecting points. Years later I finally joined the world of miles and points and I’m bummed I missed out on all of those points! Well, ya live, ya learn!
Bill F – A few years ago I had a Capital One card with over 100,000 points. I was planning to redeem them when the annual fee came due. Without thinking I cancelled the card and when I went to redeem the points a few weeks later they were all gone. When I called I was told you had to have an active account and when I tried to reopen it they would not reinstate the points. Live and learn to read the rules closely.
The point of all these stories is that keeping track of your points and miles can make a huge difference in getting you where you want to go the way you want to get there, and that a few points here and there can really add up – so it’s worth spending a little extra time keeping track of them (or letting TripIt Pro do it for you).
Congratulations to our winners, and thanks to everyone who entered!