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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 Ed, who saved himself a lot of time in transit by using a flight delay to his advantage. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Matt, who scored a great hotel award when rates were high. Here’s what he had to say:
I’ve found a number of excellent award redemptions of late, but I wanted to share a specific instance in which I feel I truly cashed out. I live in Austin, Texas and have used the city’s relatively central location as a launching point for a number of trips around parts of the US I might not have explored otherwise. I’m closing in on 50 states, and while trying to find a way to visit South Carolina in a relatively unique manner, I discovered a truly great way to spend Ultimate Rewards points.
I’ve always been a golf fan, and I went to college in Louisiana, so I have a lot of southern friends. The Masters tournament has been at the top of my list of high-caliber events to attend. I realized that Augusta, Georgia sits on the South Carolina border, so I started looking for a way to take a trip to the Masters while also checking South Carolina off my list (it will be my 44th state).
I discovered that there’s a newly renovated Hyatt Place in downtown Augusta, and that I could book king rooms for just 8,000 points per night during the Masters. Given that the rooms were retailing for $699 per night (basically $800 total per night after tax), my redemption of 16,000 Hyatt points (transferred from my Ultimate Rewards account) was worth $1,600.00. I can’t remember ever getting a better redemption on US soil.
This redemption allows me to check the Masters off my bucket list, visit friends in Georgia, check South Carolina off my list of states to visit (I’ll road trip to Columbia one day to hit the state capital), and spend some time driving through what I believe is one of the most scenic areas in the nation. Had I not discovered your work a couple years back, I never would have developed the kind of insight necessary to bring this trip to fruition, and so I wanted to thank you for that.
You can often find opportunities to maximize hotel points during price surges at low-level properties. A king room at the Hyatt Place Augusta normally goes for less than $150 per night, but as Matt discovered, the cash rate skyrockets when the Masters Tournament comes to town. Fortunately, the points rate remains the same, so you can still find inexpensive rooms as long as there’s availability. You’ll have better luck when you book early, though award space sometimes opens up at the last minute even in the most popular destinations (like Times Square on New Year’s Eve).
Matt got an outsized return on his points — well above what I list in my monthly valuations — but that’s not the only metric for deciding whether an award redemption is worthwhile. The most important part of his story is that he’s getting the trip he wants at a price he can afford. I hope you always get great value for your travel rewards, but don’t let that value dictate the destinations and experiences you pursue. After all, points and miles are meant to be spent!
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Matt 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 the Augusta National Golf Club.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel