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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 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 Shayan, who got great value from a hotel award stay in New York. Here’s what he had to say:
I’ve been planning a trip to New York for a long time, and wanted to travel in September when hotel rates can be really high. I signed up for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express when it offered a welcome bonus of 35,000 points (no longer available).To boost my account and help me meet the spending requirement, I then bought 30,000 Starpoints at 35% off during a recent sale.
I also decided to get the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card when it offered a 100,000-point sign-up bonus. Thanks to the transfer ratio from Starwood to Marriott, that gave me plenty of points to work with.
I had my eyes on some Marriott Category 8 hotels in Midtown (like the Courtyard and Residence Inn). Those hotels go for $400+ a night, but an award stay with the fifth night free would cost me just 160,000 points, which seemed like a good redemption.
However, I then found about Marriott’s Hotel + Air awards, which let me redeem 360,000 points for a week-long stay at a category 8 hotel plus 120,000 airline miles. I decided to take advantage of this to stay at the Residence Inn Central Park for a full week, which would have cost about $3,500 in cash. I also got 120,000 Alaska miles, which I plan to redeem for Emirates business class next year.
Overall I got 1.46 cents per Marriott point for the hotel stay (or about 4.4 cents per Starpoint), and I was able to exchange 120,000 Marriott points for more valuable Alaska Airlines miles. I was pleased with how much value I was able to get!
Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are a great reason to transfer points from SPG to Marriott Rewards. Those awards give you seven hotel nights for the price of six, and allow you to swap additional points for more valuable airline miles. Since one Starpoint gets you three Marriott points, you can effectively convert Starpoints into airline miles at that same ratio. That’s much better than the 1.25 miles per point you get by transferring Starpoints to frequent flyer programs directly.
Shayan also benefited by taking advantage of increased credit card bonuses, which earned him an extra 50,000 Marriott points over the standard offers. The top offers come and go, and you can get a lot of extra value by applying at the right time. That doesn’t mean you should always hold out for more — it makes sense to get a card if you can use the rewards or benefits right away, even when you’re not maximizing the bonus. If you’re interested in getting a new card, see how the current offer compares with previous ones. That should help you decide whether to apply now or wait.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Shayan 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 image courtesy of Matteo Colombo via Getty Images.
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