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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 readers Mark & Katie, who are using their points for a free business class trip to Asia later this year, including stays at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo and the Grand Hyatt in Seoul.
Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Chandler, who maximized his points by transferring to international airline partners. Here’s what he had to say:
Until recently I had focused on earning miles with domestic carriers, since I was apprehensive about the logistics of using foreign airline loyalty programs. However, thanks to your website I became confident enough to venture into uncharted territory — with great results!
My goal was to find a business class seat from Miami to Madrid in late June. I usually use Chase Ultimate Rewards points (from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Plus Business Card), but this time I wanted to chip away at some of the Amex Membership Rewards points that I had stockpiled.
With your guidance I figured out how to get great value out of transferring my Amex points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. Not only was I able to use fewer miles than I would have with United, but also I was able to avoid the dreaded higher taxes and fees often imposed by European airlines.
A business class seat on Avianca (from Miami to Madrid via Bogotá) was only 45,000 Aeroplan miles and $27.80. On United, the best option was in business class on TAP (via Lisbon) for 70,000 miles and $19. I would have been tempted to burn some AAdvantage miles if there were non-stop MIA-MAD availability, but the best option was through London on British Airways for 50,000 miles and a whopping $490.20.
Making this Aeroplan/Avianca flight work is a huge success for me, as I was able to finally utilize Membership Rewards points, spend fewer points overall, avoid high taxes and fees and get comfortable with some non-domestic loyalty programs. That familiarity came in handy shortly after when I used Aeroplan to book a last minute, first-class seat on United from Los Angeles to Boston without the close-in booking fee I would have been charged through the MileagePlus program.
Thanks for helping me experience the bliss of virtually free first and business class travel!
One of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced award travelers is thinking that you have to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles within the same program. Not only is it possible to redeem with other airlines (thanks to alliances and other useful partnerships), transfers and partners awards are often the best option you have! I’ve written at length about how to get great value from programs like American Airlines AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, British Airways Avios and others by taking advantage of airline partners, and once you learn how to search for availability, it’s not all that difficult.
Of course, transferability is one of the main attractions of credit card loyalty programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Chandler put his Amex points to good use by directing them to the program that was most useful for the award he wanted. That flexibility is what makes those points so powerful, and explains why they’re always at the top of my monthly valuations.
I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Chandler 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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