Cheap Flights & Four Nights in Madrid — Reader Success Story

Jan 16, 2017

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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 info@thepointsguy.com; 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 Andy, who used the SPG/Marriott partnership to book a New Year’s award stay in Maui. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Josh, who scored a trip to Spain courtesy of Ultimate Rewards points and the Citi Prestige Card. Here’s what he had to say:

Delta SkyMiles purchases
Josh scored a great deal on a Delta flight from New York to Madrid, and made it even better by paying with points.

I’ve been a happy user of the Citi Prestige Card for a while now, particularly thanks to the 4th Night Free benefit. During a month-long trip to Southeast Asia last summer, I managed to get four free nights, including at an amazing beach resort south of Bangkok. I also decided I couldn’t pass up the sign-up bonus and category rewards on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, and having these two cards helped me book a trip to Spain at a great price.

In November, I saw your Amazing Deal Alert for flights to Spain, and found an itinerary in February leaving JFK for Madrid on Wednesday night and returning on Monday afternoon. Tickets were $390 each on Delta, and since I had already exhausted the travel credits on both cards, I decided to buy them with some of the bonus points I had earned on the Sapphire Reserve. 

By booking directly through the Chase Travel Portal, the flights for my girlfriend and I ended up costing only about 26,000 Ultimate Rewards points each. While I know there are a lot of other good redemption opportunities, I really couldn’t complain about 26,000 points for a nonstop, round-trip flight to Europe! 

We found a great five-star hotel near central Madrid, with a club-level rate that includes breakfast, an afternoon open bar with tapas, and so on. Best of all, it’s eligible for the fourth night free perk. With the euro and dollar nearly on par, the hotel was reasonably priced, and will cost about $920 for four nights (after the fourth night free credit). All told, we’re getting to Madrid and staying four nights (with breakfast) for 52,000 points and $920 because of these two programs.

We’re looking forward to checking out museums and restaurants in the area: we have reservations at Restaurante Lua, will go to the Prado, see a flamenco show, and maybe take a day trip to Toledo. Thanks for your help in making it happen!

Transferring to airline and hotel partners is generally the best way to maximize your points. When rates are high, you can take advantage of award chart sweet spots and get an outsized return for your rewards. However, when airfare and hotel rooms are cheap, redeeming points directly (at a fixed rate) becomes a more attractive option.

Josh scored round-trip tickets to Europe for under 30,000 points each. Other than off-peak awards using British Airways Avios and the occasional discount promotion, you’re not likely to find similar rates elsewhere. For example, American Airlines charges 45,000 miles round-trip for off-peak MileSAAver awards to Europe, while United awards start at 60,000 miles round-trip. Josh booked his flights for around half that amount, leaving him plenty of points to spend on future travel. Learning when to transfer points versus when to book directly will help you be equally efficient with your own points.

The Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free benefit remains one of the most valuable travel rewards perks out there. It will lose some of its luster in July, as Citi will begin calculating the rebate based on the average nightly rate (instead of the rate for the actual fourth night), and will no longer include taxes in that calculation. Despite those changes, it’s an easy way to get a substantial discount on hotel stays.

Citi Prestige offers an easy way to save on hotel rooms. Image courtesy of the Gran Melía Palacio de los Duques.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Josh for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, 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 Dominic Dähncke via Getty Images.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.