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Diversify Your Travel Rewards: TPG Reader Success Story

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives: the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced, and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.

Moving forward, I want to share these success stories with all of you more often, to help inspire you the way you inspire me! So every other week or so I’ll select a story that catches my eye and post it here for everyone to enjoy. Last week I posted a story from TPG reader Kim, who was able to afford a family trip to San Francisco thanks to the companion certificates on the US Airways Premier World MasterCard.

Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Luke, who followed one of my primary award travel tips in order to earn one of most important rewards anyone can have: getting to travel with someone you love! Here’s what Luke had to say:

Don’t get stuck on one loyalty program; diversify your points and miles and you’ll thank me later, like Luke did! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Dear TPG, about a year ago I started a job that requires me to travel from Cleveland (where I live) to Chicago on a near-weekly basis, and to various other countries about once every two months. The time away has been hard for my wife and I; we had planned for her to join me on many of the international trips, but it wasn’t in the budget, as all of our extra money was going toward paying off student loans.

When I started this job, I got some bad advice from a fellow traveler who told me to get one loyalty card and use it for all of my spending.  I got the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card since my company put me up at a local Marriott in Chicago each week. In six months I had earned over 300,000 Marriott points, but my AAdvantage account had only about 25,000 miles in it (the flight from Cleveland to Chicago doesn’t earn many miles).

Then I found TPG! You taught me the value of diversifying my rewards. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Marriott card; I use it for all my hotel stays, and I get good value out of the free nights, but 1 point per dollar on most purchases was lackluster (especially since you list them at only 0.7 cents apiece in your monthly valuations).  I got the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, , and a few months later the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard for a total of 100,000 bonus miles, and I started using them to earn miles faster than I thought possible. 

In January, I was able to use my miles to buy the most valuable rewards currency of them all: Husband Points! My wife accompanied me on a trip to Kyoto, Japan (one of her top five destinations), and at the end of March she’ll be coming with me to São Paolo, Brazil.

I don’t want to say you saved my marriage — that’s cheesy and probably not true — but you definitely helped ease tensions and made international travel more fun! Not to mention that we did it almost for free, so we could continue to pay off our student loans.  Thank you TPG and staff, you guys are awesome.

Luke learned the value of diversifying points and miles, which should absolutely be a part of your own award travel strategy. Accruing rewards in different programs helps you protect yourself from devaluations and other negative program changes. I tend to focus my earnings in flexible programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, which let me transfer points to lucrative airline and hotel partners.

Luke (and his wife) also learned how much value there is in top credit card sign-up bonuses like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select cards, which are both currently offering 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Even if you’re not in the market for a new credit card, you can still maximize your earnings by taking advantage of bonus spending categories on the cards you do have. And for that, I recommend using the TPG To Go app, which will let you know which card to use in order to maximize your return on each purchase.

Luke and his wife got to visit Kyoto together, with more adventures on the way! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Luke for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card, and I’d like to do the same for you.

If the tips and strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination, or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me (and the whole TPG team) with your own award travel success stories by emailing info@thepointsguy.com and putting “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, and a gift card to jump-start your next adventure (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course).

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!