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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!
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Robert, who saved over 65% on a winter getaway earlier this year. Here’s what he had to say:
Thanks to your coverage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card last year, I was able to get the 100,000-point sign-up bonus. Using the card benefits and Ultimate Rewards points I had earned previously from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, I saved $1,615 on a skiing holiday in Canada earlier this year!
In March, I traveled with two friends to Lake Louise in Alberta. I paid $295 for my round-trip flight from Atlanta to Calgary on Alaska Airlines, which I booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Thanks to the redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point with Sapphire Reserve, the flight cost me just 19,666 points with no out-of-pocket expense.
Since Sapphire Reserve offers Avis Preferred status, my rental car had a 30% applied discount. I reserved a Chevy Impala, which was upgraded to an AWD Cadillac CTS upon arrival at no additional cost. The total for 5 days was just $133 USD (instead of $190 without the discount), and of course the rental was fully covered by my card.
My friends and I spent four nights at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and once again, I used Ultimate Rewards to book my stay. After the favorable exchange rate, the total cost came to $1,189 USD. I redeemed 54,333 points toward $815 of that total, and applied my untapped 2017 travel credit to cover another $300, leaving a final bill of just $74. My stay was enhanced by booking through Chase’s Luxury Resort Collection, as I was given a room upgrade, complimentary breakfast for two every morning and free Wi-Fi, with the last two representing another $148 in savings!
After lift passes, ski rentals, meals and other miscellaneous expenses, the total for my trip would have been $2,468. Instead, I only spent $853 out of pocket (or just $171 per day for everything). Apart from the skiing, we got to skate out on the frozen lake by an ice castle, and took horse-drawn sleighs around Lake Louise, which is a must if you visit in winter. It’s worth noting that 2017 is Canada’s 150th Anniversary, so admission to all of the National Parks is free this year!
Without my Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits, the exchange rate to Canadian dollars, and your guidance in how to utilize my points, this trip would have cost significantly more. So thanks TPG for all your top tips and advice!
You can get a lot of value quickly from the top credit card sign-up bonuses, but Robert’s story is a good reminder that award travelers shouldn’t overlook their lucrative everyday benefits. Between his car rental discount and complimentary hotel perks (neither of which had anything to do with points), Robert saved over $200 — about 23% of what he spent overall. Those savings probably won’t make or break any one trip, but they make a huge difference cumulatively.
The US dollar has been relatively strong against foreign currencies in recent years, creating opportunities for American travelers to stretch their funds a bit further abroad. Canada isn’t the only destination where you can take advantage of a favorable exchange rate: Japan, Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe all fit the bill as well. Traveling to those regions won’t necessarily be cheap, but it’s currently more affordable than usual.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Robert 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 Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.