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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer Card
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 Bill, who was able to treat himself and a friend to a first-class trip to Peru thanks to the travel rewards he earned.
Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Ryan, who is taking a month long trip around the world (later this year) paid for almost entirely with points and miles. Here’s what Ryan had to say:
I’ve been following your blog for about a year now. When I first started, I was a little skeptical about how much I could accomplish, but I figured I would give this whole points thing a try. I didn’t really have a goal in mind, but I started applying for credit cards with good sign-up bonus offers and trying to diversify my points and miles.
I travel a lot for work (I spend, on average, about 130 nights a year in hotels), but since it’s all university business, I mostly stay in lower-tier hotels. I decided that my first step would be to stick to one hotel chain for work trips. Since budget was a major concern, I joined the Choice Hotels Privileges program, which also allows you to transfer points to various airlines.
The second step was choosing an airline carrier to focus on and transfer points to. I chose United thanks to its hub in San Francisco, and I applied for the United MileagePlus Explorer card to jump start my account with 30,000 miles. Next, I applied for a variety of other cards that I saw had lucrative offers, including the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from Amex, as well as cards from Lufthansa, Hyatt, and IHG.
From the sign-up bonuses I earned in combination with regular work–related hotel stays, I accumulated enough points over 8 months to book a month long trip around the world in November, including all of my airfare and hotel stays. I’m headed to Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Tokyo, and back to San Francisco. It’s going to be an amazing month!
What makes it even better is that many of the flights will be in business class, and many of the hotels will be high-end properties. I’ll be in Lufthansa business class from San Francisco to Athens, and again in business class between Cairo and Bangkok. I’ll get to stay at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, along with some other great hotels. All told, I value this trip at over $20,000, and all it cost me was $122 in taxes for my United flights.
I can’t thank you enough for laying out the blueprint for the best ways to maximize points and miles. I wouldn’t have even believed this was possible had I not stumbled onto this site. Thank you so very much for inspiring me to take this amazing trip!
Ryan, it is my pleasure! One message I try to impart to readers is that award travel is not only (mostly) free, but also it really isn’t even that difficult. If you want to truly maximize your points and miles, then you’ll need to put some time in and learn advanced techniques. but you can figure out how to earn big credit card sign-up bonuses, take advantage of airline partners, and avoid the most common mistakes with a little guidance and not much effort. Ryan may not have had the perfect strategy (for example, I’d generally recommend waiting for a higher 50,000 mile sign-up bonus from the United MileagePlus Explorer), but he was able to book the trip he wanted, and that’s what matters.
I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Ryan 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 email@example.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! Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.