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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. Two weeks ago I posted a story from TPG reader Susan, who was able to afford a life-altering trip to San Francisco thanks to her travel rewards.

Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Bill, who is helping to make his friend’s birthday an unforgettable one by using points and miles to book them both on a first class South American vacation. Here’s what Bill had to say:

Paragliders at Miraflores in Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and just wanted to let you know that by following some of your strategies, I was able to book a first class trip to Peru for me and my friend. 

I fly on United a lot for work, so when I saw the United MileagePlus Explorer Card discussed on your site, I immediately took advantage of it.  I took your advice and also opened a business account to earn a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus. I was approved for both cards, and after meeting the spending requirements, I had about 120,000 MileagePlus miles (including some I had already earned from flying).

I saw that United partners with Taca and Copa, and that you can book International First/Business awards for 70,000 miles round-trip. Since I needed two tickets, I was still about 20,000 miles short, so I took some of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I earned with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and I transferred 1:1 to United, instantly giving me the points I needed. I booked over $7,300 worth of airfare for 140,000 miles and $140! Plus it’s my friend’s 30th birthday and he has no idea I’m going to surprise him with the premium upgrade! 

Aside from the flights, Lima is insanely cheap when it comes to SPG redemptions. We could redeem as few as 3,000 points for award nights at the Sheraton Lima Hotel, and since I have Platinum status, we’d more than likely be upgraded to a suite. However, seeing as this is a vacation, we might splurge and go for a few nights at the beautiful Westin Lima, which costs 12,000 points per night, or 6,000 and $110 if we use the SPG Cash & Points option.

Thanks to your help, we’re headed for a free first class trip to Peru!

Bill didn’t do anything extraordinary here, and that’s what I love about this story. He simply decided where he wanted to go, figured out how to earn the awards he needed, and booked an awesome first class trip for two. Loyalty programs are full of arcane rules, and planning award travel can seem like sorcery at times. But other times there’s really not much more to it than scoring a few big credit card sign-up bonuses and booking your ticket.

A Master Suite at the Westin Lima

I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Bill 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 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!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.