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A Last-Minute Trip to See the Eclipse — Reader Success Story

September 12 2017
6 min read
A Last-Minute Trip to See the Eclipse — Reader Success Story
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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 points and miles have helped them get where they want to go. Each week I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you're interested in sharing your own award travel success 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 Michael, who used points and miles to save on a late-planned trip to the path of totality during the recent solar eclipse. Here's what he had to say:

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A group of my friends were going to South Carolina to watch the solar eclipse, but due to scheduling complications, I was only able to confirm that I could join them about a week beforehand. At that point, the cheapest airfare from my home in Boston to Charleston was more than $1,000 round-trip, so I looked at award prices and availability.

Many of Delta's available routings connected in JFK or LaGuardia, and since I had been meaning to visit my sister in New York, I figured I could see her and then book a flight to Charleston (CHS) from there. Sure enough, award space was available on one of the nonstop JFK-CHS flights. The ticket was pricey at 40,000 SkyMiles one-way, but the cash price was $816. That means I got a redemption value of more than 2 cents per mile — much higher than TPG's valuation of 1.2 cents per mile.

To get to New York, I booked a Megabus ride from boston for $36.50. I redeemed the Anniversary Free Night certificate from my IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card at the EVEN Hotels New York in Times Square, which is one of the top-ranked hotels in the city on TripAdvisor! The paid rate (including taxes and fees) was $216, so I saved $167 after factoring in the credit card’s $49 annual fee. While I would have loved to use the certificate for a more expensive hotel — like the Crowne Plaza in Times Square over New Year's Eve — the EVEN hotel fit my needs perfectly for this trip, and the credit was due to expire soon anyway.

I had accommodations and transportation covered in South Carolina, but getting home was still a challenge. Flights from Charleston to Boston were extremely expensive in both miles and dollars. However, I expanded my search to nearby airports and found a nonstop JetBlue flight from Savannah to Boston for 16,700 JetBlue points and $5.60. That meant I had to get to Savannah and spend an extra night there, but I found good options for both.

I had originally planned to drive from Charleston to Savannah, but Amtrak also runs along that route, and I was able to book a one-way ticket for just $22. The ride took under two hours, and helped me avoid the risk of getting caught in eclipse traffic leaving Charleston. For my overnight in Savannah, I booked a night at the Staybridge Suites Savannah Airport for 20,000 IHG points (earned from my card and an IHG Accelerate promotion). The hotel offers free breakfast and a free shuttle to Savannah Airport, which covered my meal and transportation needs before the flight.

In the end, points and miles allowed me to lower the out-of-pocket cost of my trip from over $1,500 to just $96.70. Thanks for all of your help over the years, and for making this trip such a success!

Michael
Michael's IHG points made it easier for him to stay near (and fly out of) the Savannah Airport.

To measure the value of a given award, it's important to compare the cost in points or miles with the cash price of a comparable purchase. Spending 40,000 miles on a one-way domestic flight would typically be a terrible value, but if the alternative is buying an $800 ticket, then it's a solid deal. Use my monthly valuations to help you decide whether you're better off using rewards or paying cash. If you're getting a return near or above my valuation, then points are a good option. If the return is much lower, then consider paying cash and saving your rewards for another time.

Michael's experience is a good reminder that it pays to cast a wide net when searching for flights. If you can't find reasonable airfare to your destination, check other airports in the area for lower rates. Most airlines and online travel agencies allow you to search multiple origins and destinations at once, but I recommend using Google Flights, which makes the process especially easy.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Michael 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 at the top of this post). 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 photo by AFP/Getty Images

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
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Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees