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Update: Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
TPG reader RJ wants to start accruing points for a future family trip to Ireland:
“My family and I (5 total) want to take an anniversary trip to Ireland in about 3 years. I want to start building up points balances now that we can leverage them (probably for airfare). I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. What else should I do to build points that will be flexible to use for whatever is a good deal 3 years from now? We do not have a preferred airline. We live in St. Louis, so we will be connecting, of course.”
First of all, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great card and one of my favorites. Ultimate Rewards points are very versatile and you can transfer them to United, which I think are probably the most valuable miles out there.
I’ve flown on United from Newark to Dublin with lie-flat seats, which is always nice to have on an international flight, although the airline uses a 757 on this flight which I generally don’t like flying across oceans, though they are lie-flat seats and probably one of the best business class products flying from the US to Dublin non-stop. United also partners with Aer Lingus, so you’re looking at 60,000 miles roundtrip for economy or 100,000 for business class (note that you need to call to book business class because it isn’t currently showing on united.com, though I suspect that will change by the time you book!).
Another transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards is British Airways, so you can use your points on them, or on any of BA’s Oneworld or other partners. I actually just booked a flight for this summer from JFK to Dublin on Aer Lingus using British Airways Avios.When booking with British Airways and flying via London you usually get stuck with huge taxes and fees which you can avoid by flying on Aer Lingus. My one-way business class ticket only cost me 40,000 Avios $30 rather than the couple hundred dollars that it would have cost if I were flying on a British Airways flight. Aer Lingus also flies to Chicago so that could be a good option for you and your family since you live in St Louis.
Using Ultimate Rewards for Hotels
Hyatt is one of Ultimate Rewards hotel partners. While you can transfer to Marriott, Ritz Carlton and Priority Club (soon to be IHG Rewards), the redemption value for those partners isn’t nearly as good as with Hyatt, where a top-tier hotel redemption only requires 22,000 points.
However, Hyatt is the smallest among the large international chains so its footprint abroad is a bit more limited and you won’t find any Hyatt properties in Ireland. So in your case, what I would focus on is building up your Ultimate Rewards points to cover the flights and then getting a Starwood American Express card to earn the Starwood Preferred Guest to cover your hotel stay (or at least part of it).
One of my favorite hotels in the city is the Westin Dublin, which you can book for 12,000 Starpoints per night for an award stay or 6,000 points + $110 with Cash & Points. There aren’t a whole lot of chain hotels in Ireland so I would really recommend staying at the Westin if you want to use points for your accommodations.
There is also a Radisson Blu property that I’ll be checking out this summer while I’m in town. The room rates were pretty cheap for the dates that will be there, only 189 EUR ($245) a night, so I didn’t end up using Club Carlson points but if you have some, you can redeem 44,000 for an award night since this is a Category 6 hotel. Also if you have one of the Club Carlson credit cards, you get one free award night when you redeem Gold points for 2 or more consecutive nights, so that can be pretty lucrative – essentially if you’re booking 2-night stays, you can get half-price awards.
If you’re going to travel all throughout Ireland you may want to get a fixed-value point credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to cover any incidentals. For example, you can use the miles you earn from your Arrival card book a rental car. Using this card, you earn 2 miles per dollar on all expenses, and then 1 mile equates to 1 cent when redeemed towards travel, plus you get 10% back on travel redemptions, so in all, you’ll get a total of 2.2% back on your spending when redeeming Arrival miles for travel. The sign-up bonus for this card right now is 50,000 miles – worth about $500 – which would be nice to use to cover your rental car, or even a stay at a bed and breakfast, or any other incidental travel expenses.
The major thing to keep in mind is that in 3 years, this game could be completely different. I don’t think miles and points will be going away, but I wouldn’t completely bank on one strategy. I think you would be really smart to accrue points with programs that give you a lot of different options like Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest so that when the time comes to book your travel, you have as many options as possible and can transfer your points to the program or programs that make the most sense for your needs. If, for example, Hyatt undergoes a huge points devaluation like several of the other chains carried out this year, you will still have other options to transfer your points to, like Southwest which you could use to get flights to Chicago so you can then get on a flight to Dublin.
I think you’re doing everything right for the time being. Just keep an eye out for some big credit card bonuses and hop on them when you can. If you have any other questions feel free to comment below or tweet me @thepointsguy and keep an eye out this summer for my review on the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin.
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