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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 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 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 Rachel, who recently got into the points and miles game and booked a trip to Europe with her husband.
Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Jonathan, who earned travel rewards from wedding expenses so he and his fiancée could add a bit more luxury to their honeymoon. Here’s what he had to say:
About a month ago, my fiancée and I were busy planning (and paying for) our wedding later this year, when a good friend introduced me to your website and suggested that I might as well sign up for some travel credit cards to earn bonus points and miles for all the money we’re spending. After poking around your site and articles for a few nights, I kicked myself for not earning rewards on the purchases we had already made (mostly with cash), but I was determined to do better with the rest.
I applied and was approved for the Hyatt Credit Card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card and the Citi Prestige Card, and my fiancée got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, all in one night! We both have spectacular credit scores, so we knew we could afford the temporary credit score hit from signing up for multiple cards in such a short period.
Within a few weeks, we amassed 56,000 Citi ThankYou points, two free Hyatt nights at any property worldwide + 7,000 Hyatt points, 26,000 Alaska Airlines miles and 103,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (she had 50,000 points from her Chase Freedom card, which she combined with her sign-up bonus from the Sapphire Preferred). The next step was to figure out how we would use these points to add value to our honeymoon.
Although our flights and hotels in Barcelona were booked and pre-paid, our hotels in Nice, France were not. I checked the Hyatt website and found that Hyatt has a property in Nice: the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. Prices were about $328 or 25,000 Hyatt points per night. We thought about using our two free nights, but I learned from your website that Hyatt free night stays can be worth up to $800 each, so we decided against it.
Instead, we called the Hyatt Gold Passport hotline and asked for upgrade options using points. The reservations agent said that if we booked a standard room for $328, we could upgrade to a Sea View Suite for 6,000 points per night. The Sea View Suite costs $963 per night, so we knew we needed to jump on that immediately! The problem is we were planning to stay four nights, and therefore needed 24,000 points, while we only had 7,000.
I then remembered an article where you mentioned that one of the reasons you value Ultimate Rewards is because you can transfer to many partners instantly, so that’s what we did. My fiancee sent 17,000 of her points to my Ultimate Rewards account, and I then transferred those to my Hyatt account to book the upgrade. All of this took about five minutes, and we loved how easy the process was. Instead of staying in a standard king room for $328 per night, we’re staying in a Sea View Suite for $328 + 6,000 points. That’s a return of about 10.6 cents per point, and an upgrade from a 35-square-meter room to a 105-square-meter suite!
While we were at it, we decided to look into a trip to Hawaii next year for our anniversary. A round-trip ticket on Alaska Airlines would have been 40,000 points per ticket, which we didn’t have, so we used our companion certificate to score two tickets from Los Angeles to Kauai for $876 total including taxes — pretty good considering that one ticket was going for around $755 during the dates we wanted! I paid with my Citi Prestige Card and redeemed the $250 airline credit to bring the cost down to $626. We then redeemed our two free nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. Rooms were going for $509+ during the dates we wanted, so I feel much better about this redemption.
Thank you, TPG, for reminding us that it’s never too late to start making points and miles work for us! We’re so excited for our honeymoon and future travels that are now much more memorable and attainable, thanks to you!
If you’re going to spend money, you may as well earn rewards in the process. Everyday spending is a great way to boost your account balances, but larger and less frequent expenses (like a wedding, home remodel or college tuition) offer great opportunities to earn sign-up bonuses. Jonathan and his fiancée may have missed some of those opportunities, but it’s better to be late to this party than not show up at all. Please, Jonathan, buy something nice for the friend who tipped you off!
As for your travel plans, I have two suggestions. First, I would look into using the fourth night free benefit on your Citi Prestige card for your stay in Nice. By rebooking through the Citi Travel Concierge, you should be eligible to get the cost of your last night credited back to your account. I recommend making your new reservation before canceling the one you have.
Second, the next time you’re headed to Hawaii, consider redeeming British Airways Avios for awards on Alaska Airlines. Thanks to BA’s distance-based award chart, you can get economy flights from the West Coast to Hawaii for just 25,000 Avios round-trip. You can transfer those points from Ultimate Rewards, or you could think about signing up for the British Airways Visa Signature Card.
I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Jonathan 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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