Managing a Long-Distance Relationship — Reader Success Story

Jul 11, 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!

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Ya’ir, whose points helped him save on short-haul trips to visit his girlfriend. Here’s what he had to say:

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Ya’ir and his girlfriend have used British Airways Avios to score inexpensive award flights between New York and Washington, D.C.

Two years ago, my girlfriend and I were living in DC/Northern Virginia, but in parallel she got a postdoc in North Carolina and I got a fantastic job with a company in New York. We both knew the relationship was extremely important to us, but we weren’t sure how we could make the long distance work.

Thanks to TPG, I knew that British Airways Avios points offer good value when redeemed for short-haul American Airlines flights. Fortunately, we had both already signed up for the British Airways Visa Signature Card with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, and we still had about about one third of our points remaining. We were able to convert those into five round-trip flights before British Airways raised the cost of short-haul domestic awards from 4,500 to 7,500 points each way — which I still consider an outstanding value.

We then both signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and got sign-up bonuses of 100,000 points. This has been great for us in two ways: we can transfer from Ultimate Rewards to British Airways when we find seats for 7,500 points, or we can simply buy tickets through Chase at 1.5 cents per point when there’s no award availability. The former is generally a better value, but it’s great to have both options in our pocket.

By using these techniques, over the past two years we’ve saved a total of $6,445 across 21 round-trip flights. Between those visits and times when we could parlay work travel into seeing each other, we’ve managed to get together nearly every other weekend during the school year. That has helped our relationship remain strong — stronger than ever, in fact, since last spring (during one of these very visits) we got engaged!

Each airline has its own award chart, and while learning to navigate the various frequent flyer programs can be intimidating, it’s also the key to maximizing your rewards. In Ya’ir’s case, both British Airways and American Airlines charge 7,500 points (or miles) for one-way, short-haul domestic flights like New York to Washington, D.C. However, AAdvantage awards jump up to 12,500 miles each way for flights over 500 miles, while you’ll still pay just 7,500 Avios for partner flights traveling up to 1,150 miles (like New York to Miami or Dallas to Las Vegas).

Another important difference is that American Airlines charges a $75 close-in booking fee for awards booked less than 21 days in advance, which nearly wipes out the value of redeeming miles on flights that don’t cost much to begin with. Fortunately, British Airways doesn’t add such fees, so Ya’ir and his girlfriend are able to visit each other on short notice without paying extra. Avios aren’t always superior — for example, British Airways is known for tacking huge fuel surcharges on to its own flights, and the AAdvantage program has its own sweet spots. Make sure you know the differences between them when you’re planning your next Oneworld award.

Taken today 4/11/14 during peak bloom at the Tidal Basin.
Avios are great for hopping around the East Coast. Image courtesy of Kevin Voelker Photography via Getty Images.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Ya’ir 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 Dave and Les Jacobs via Getty Images.

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