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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
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 Eli, who took advantage of a status match opportunity on Alaska Airlines to make his holiday travel plans a bit more comfortable.
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Heather, who recently used points and miles to book a honeymoon trip to Germany, France and Spain. Here’s what she had to say:
TPG is a part of both my marriage proposal and my travel success story! I found your blog and subscribed last August, using several of your strategies to jump into the points game. You see, my boyfriend and I had been together for almost 5 years — there was some talk of marriage and I was hopeful it was coming soon, so I wanted to be prepared with enough points to give us flexibility in planning a honeymoon.
In March, I was lucky enough to attend the TPG meet-up in Austin during SXSW. My boyfriend was happy to join me as part of my birthday celebration (and when I told them there was free booze). We thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet you and talk with other award travel enthusiasts. By the time we got home it was a little after midnight and officially my 30th birthday. He ran upstairs to get my “gift” and then dropped to one knee in the living room and asked me to marry him. Obviously I said yes, so thanks TPG team for getting him liquored up enough to propose!
We’re getting married soon and going to Europe for our honeymoon at the end of March. We used a number of your tips and strategies to book our two-week trip mostly using points.
I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card in August 2014 — I already had the Chase Freedom card, so adding the Sapphire was a no-brainer. After adding an authorized user and meeting the spending requirement, I earned a sign-up bonus of 45,000 points. I use that card for everything, so I continue to rack up lots of points. I transferred 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways, and used 50,000 Avios to book a business class ticket from Chicago to Berlin on Air Berlin. I also used 7,500 Avios to book a short-haul award from our home in Austin to Chicago.
I convinced my fiancé to sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and use it to pay off the balance on my engagement ring in order to meet the spending requirement quickly. We used the 50,000 miles he received to book his ticket from Austin to Chicago in first class on American, and from Chicago to Berlin in business class on Air Berlin.
I signed up for the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card to get us two free night certificates, which we’ll use at the Waldorf Astoria in Berlin. We’ll celebrate Easter there before heading to the Black Forest. After spending three nights there, we’ll travel to Nice, France. We’re getting married at a Hyatt Resort and were given 120,000 bonus points just for signing the contract. I used a portion of these points to book three nights at the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée.
We’ll take a train from Nice to Paris and spend four nights there. I signed up for the Hyatt Credit Card and met the spending requirement (thanks in part to our wedding deposit), and again received two free night certificates. We’ll use those at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, along with two additional nights with the rest of our Hyatt wedding bonus points. After our stay in Paris, we’ll spend three nights in Madrid, where a friend’s parents have graciously offered us their apartment.
For flights back from Madrid, I purchased 2,600 Iberia Avios (for $60.64) to “activate” my account. I then transferred 32,000 points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways Avios, and then transferred those points to Iberia. I was alerted by a TPG article that your Iberia account must be at least three months old to allow transfers between BA and Iberia; thankfully, I had opened an Iberia account a while back!
I then booked a business class ticket from Madrid to Chicago on Iberia using 34,000 Avios (plus $132.67 in taxes). Lastly, I used 7,500 more points transferred to British Airways (along with taxes of $5.60) to get from Chicago back to Austin. My fiancé used 50,000 AA miles for these same flights (plus $143 in taxes).
Altogether we’re getting 11 free nights (two with Hilton, seven with Hyatt, and two courtesy of our friends). Our total taxes and fees paid on airline award redemptions is about $381, and we’ll pay about $1,000 out of pocket for Airbnb in the Black Forest and travel between cities, plus food, beverages, and fun while we’re there.
We’re so excited and thankful to the TPG team for helping to make our dream honeymoon (and our marriage) possible!
Despite the devaluation from British Airways earlier this year (and even more negative changes announced just last month), the Avios program still offers good value on short-haul flights and some transatlantic awards. While Heather had to use extra points to get to and from Chicago (since British Airways charges by the segment), roughly 100,000 Avios for business class to Europe is a good deal considering those flights could easily cost over $5,000.
An even better deal is scoring 120,000 Hyatt points from the wedding contract. I list those points at 1.8 cents apiece in my latest monthly valuations, so I’d value that haul at $2,160. The Park Hyatt in Paris is a great place to use them, as is the Hyatt Regency in Nice (which seems to be a popular honeymoon destination among TPG readers).
Finally, meeting minimum spending requirements is a great way to maximize large purchases. Good thinking to use the wedding ring as a way to earn the bonus on the AAdvantage card. It sounds like a fun honeymoon, and I’m glad TPG could play a role in getting you there!
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Heather 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, 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!