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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 Harris, who was able to maximize a sign-up bonus by adjusting his credit card statement closing date. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Meghan, whose Starpoints helped her avoid costly airline change fees. Here’s what she had to say:
Huge thanks to TPG for keeping me updated on the Starwood-Marriott merger!
As Marriott Vacation Club owners, we spend a week in Aruba every winter. Availability at the Aruba Surf Club is always hard to come by, so stays must be scheduled 13 months in advance. We booked for February 2017, and I was thrilled when I found round-trip tickets from Newark on United for around $400 per person, since they can often sell for as high as $800. We were already getting excited for our trip when I realized I had booked the plane tickets for the wrong week!
Calls to the Vacation Club confirmed my worst fear: the week could not be changed, as there was no availability. Rebooking with United meant change or cancellation fees of $150 to $200 per ticket. I was bummed my mistake was going to cost our family a lot of money.
Then I remembered you had recently posted about transferring points from Starwood to Marriott. We’ve been using our Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card for years to rack up points for all of our monthly expenses, and I knew we had over 125,000 Starpoints in our account. Starwood no longer has any properties in Aruba, but one of your recommendations was to transfer points to Marriott for a RewardsPlus Hotel + Air package, which would give us a week-long hotel stay and bonus miles with United.
I called Marriott immediately, and thanks to the 1:3 transfer ratio, I was able to convert 107,000 Starpoints into over 320,000 Marriott Rewards points — enough to purchase a Category 9 RewardsPlus package. With the help of the Marriott Rewards team, I booked one week in an Ocean Front room at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino on Palm Beach in Aruba, and got a bonus of 55,000 United Miles in the deal.
We can now use the United miles for a future flight, or possibly to upgrade on this trip. As an added perk, Marriott matched our Starwood Gold status, so we’ll have access to complimentary food and drink throughout the day at the resort’s Tradewinds Club, which is sure to be a money saver.
I’m so grateful that you posted these tips. Now we can still have a fabulous trip in 2017, and we’ll bank our timeshare week so we can take two low-cost vacations in 2018!
I generally advocate that you should spend rewards sooner rather than later, but Meghan’s story is a perfect example of how having a decent stash on hand can help in a pinch. Without their Starpoints, she and her family would have had to pay either to change flights or for different lodging. Thanks to the recent merger and the favorable transfer ratio between SPG and Marriott, they can cancel the timeshare week and leave their itinerary intact.
If you travel often enough, there’s a good chance that eventually you’ll make a mistake. Fortunately, Meghan was able to keep her trip on course without too much trouble, but even if you can’t clean up your mistakes so effectively, you (and all of us) can learn from them. That’s why I’m putting out a call for reader stories about the worst travel blunders you’ve made and what you did to fix them. Please submit your own, and help the rest of us avoid the same pitfalls.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Meghan for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, 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!
Featured image courtesy of the Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.
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