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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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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 Mike, who explored Southeast Asia in business class using Membership Rewards points. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who took advantage of several Starwood Preferred Guest promotions to book hotel rooms on New Year’s Eve. Here’s what he had to say:
I recently stacked multiple promotions from SPG and American Express to earn points that will help me save on an upcoming trip. I hadn’t stayed with Starwood in a while, but I received an email promotion offering 1,500 bonus Starpoints for my first paid stay, and more for later stays. On top of this, select hotels in popular destinations were offering a bonus of 250 points per night, including the W Chicago (which fit into my plans).
To make things even sweeter, American Express was running a promotion for 2,500 bonus points for staying at certain SPG properties, paying with your Amex card and using SPG Keyless to access your room. Once again, the W Chicago was included. For my stay there at the last-minute prepaid rate of about $132, I earned a total of 4,476 Starpoints (including 226 base points).
That’s worth $111.90 based on your most recent valuations. However, I was able to get a much better return! I’m headed to Punta Cana to celebrate Christmas this year, but these points helped me extend the trip to include the New Year holiday as well. I booked a room at the Punta Cana Four Points by Sheraton (before it changed to Category 2) for only 2,000 points per night. The paid rate was $242 per night after taxes, so I’m getting over 6 cents per point by redeeming instead.
I’m definitely more of a frugal traveler and prefer to maximize my points at lower-tier properties, so I’m very happy with the way this worked out. My $132 stay in Chicago ended up getting me over $600 worth of hotel stays! I cherish every moment I get to soak in a new place, foreign or domestic. So thanks for doing what you do to inspire others to travel!
David’s story isn’t flashy, but it’s a clear example of how you can get great value from promotional bonuses. Without the various Starwood promotions, his stay in Chicago would have earned him just 226 Starpoints. By registering for the various promotions and meeting the requirements, he earned almost 20 times as much. Best of all, he didn’t have to go out of his way to collect. Before you book your next hotel stay, poke around and see which promotional offers can help you save money and/or maximize your rewards.
Signing up for loyalty programs is the first step toward award travel, and in some cases (like Starwood’s current bonus for new members), joining can be fairly lucrative. I also recommend setting up your account to receive promotional emails, since you may be targeted for special offers like the ones David mentioned. If you’re anxious about having your inbox bombarded, most programs will let you specify exactly which kinds of messages you want, so you can filter out most of the less useful material.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank David for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his 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!
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.
- 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