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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 Mary, who saved thousands of valuable points by looking at multiple options for booking a hotel award. Here’s what she had to say:
Starwood Preferred Guest has long been my go-to hotel program due to my SPG Gold status and the relatively reasonable cost of award nights. I used to invest a fair amount of time checking out other options. but SPG was always the better value. I rarely look elsewhere now unless there’s no award space, or there are no Starwood hotels in the area that meet my particular needs.
I followed my familiar pattern for an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., and booked two weekend nights in a king room at the Westin Georgetown for a total of 24,000 Starpoints. However, since I followed your advice last year and signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I decided to log into Chase Ultimate Rewards to confirm that booking through SPG offered the best value.
Imagine my surprise when I was able to book the exact same room at the exact same hotel for only 19,958 Ultimate Rewards points (just under 10,000 per night)! I immediately cancelled my SPG booking and grabbed the room for over 4,000 points less through Ultimate Rewards, and my 24,000 Starpoints were instantaneously redeposited to my account. This is a minor score, but I think the lesson here is a valuable one: it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to investigate all your options before you book!
Shopping around is just as important for award travel as it is for other purchases, and in general, you shouldn’t blindly accept the first price you see. By taking a few extra minutes to weigh her options, Mary saved thousands of points that she can put to use elsewhere. If you conservatively value both Starpoints and Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents apiece, she saved over $60 in value. Based on my most recent valuations, however, she saved considerably more.
When airfare and hotels are inexpensive, you get less value out of booking awards at normal rates. Redeeming points at a fixed value is a great option in that scenario, since the award price drops in tandem with the cash price. However, you should also take into account any perks you might lose by not booking directly. For example, many hotels don’t recognize elite status if you book through a third party, which means you won’t get benefits like upgrades or late check-out. That could offset your savings, so try to compare apples to apples when shopping around.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Mary for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her 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 Westin Georgetown.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- 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
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards