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Making a Long-Distance Marriage Work — 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.

I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Recently, I posted a success story from Evan, who used points and miles to help him travel to France on a college budget. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Katie, whose Southwest Rapid Rewards and other points have been a huge help to her long-distance marriage. Here’s what she had to say:

In addition to their weekend visits, Katie and her husband took a trip to Atlanta with her travel rewards.

My husband Justin and I just celebrated our first anniversary in December! We got married when we were both still in school, and while he graduated in May of 2015, I won’t finish until later this year. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a suitable position near my school, and ended up moving three states away. The job has been great for him, but it means spending the school semesters living apart. We weren’t too excited about this as newlyweds, so I began looking into how we could see each other as often as possible.

That’s when I found The Points Guy and began taking advantage of travel rewards! After reading about the different credit card options for domestic flights, I signed up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card, and a month or two later I got the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, both of which came with 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. After earning the bonuses and a bit more from spending, I earned 110,000 points and the Southwest Companion Pass. With those points (and thanks to some great fares along our route), I was able to book 12 round-trip flights for us to see each other!

Excited about the possibilities of award travel, I then opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earned 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in three months and adding an authorized user (this was before the current increased sign-up bonus). Using those points, we booked a long weekend getaway to Atlanta for our anniversary. With the Companion Pass and an incredible fare sale, we both flew to Atlanta for just over 2,000 points total! We then transferred points from Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt for three nights at the downtown Hyatt House at 8,000 points each. Having our flight and hotel costs covered with points helped us enjoy our time there and not worry about how much we were spending! 

I also opened a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, and used part of the sign-up bonus to cover a round-trip ticket on American Airlines that I was unable to pay for with other miles. A few more weekend trips later this year will be funded with United miles from a sign-up bonus on the United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

In a few months, we’ll be back in the same city for good. While we’ll no longer need points and miles to see each other, we’re getting excited about the future trips we’ll take together: Lake Tahoe and New York this year, and hopefully Maui or Italy in 2017 (those ones are still in the daydream stage). Thanks to what I’ve learned from The Points Guy, we’ve been able to spend every weekend together, something I never thought would have possible for us. I’m so grateful for how this new hobby has allowed us to pursue his career and my education while keeping our marriage strong and our bank accounts happy!

There’s a lot of variation in airline award charts. You can get huge value from frequent flyer programs that have fixed mileage requirements, especially when airfare is high. On the other hand, programs with revenue-based awards (like Southwest Rapid Rewards and Virgin America Elevate) provide great opportunities to redeem points when prices are low. Katie’s story illustrates this perfectly — thanks to a few fare sales and the Companion Pass, she was able to maximize the points she earned from her sign-up bonuses and book an impressive amount of travel.

Much like necessity is the mother of invention, I think it’s fair to say that love is often the inspiration for award travel. I hear from a lot of readers whose romances and relationships have been fueled (at least in part) by points and miles, and I can’t think of many better uses for travel rewards than bringing people together. That said, I’m glad Katie and her husband can start planning adventures beyond their weekends together.

Katie and Justin enjoying their anniversary in Atlanta.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Katie for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on her travels (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course), and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the 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 by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). You’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

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

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