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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. And, while I pick one each week that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy, this week I’m posting two — because of the World Series that ended Wednesday. (You’ll see below!)
If you’re interested in sharing your own award travel success story, email it to email@example.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 posted to the TPG Lounge by reader Cristina, who used points and miles to take in the World Series in Houston. Here’s what she had to say:
I grew up in Los Angeles and am a Dodgers fan all the way, but I also lived in Houston for six years, so when the Dodgers and Astros made it to the World Series, I knew I had to go! Just five days in advance, my wife and I were able to pay for our flights, hotel, and even tickets to Game 5 using points and miles!
Our flights from Atlanta to Houston cost $416 per person for main cabin at the time of booking. Instead I redeemed 25,000 SkyMiles each for a total of 50,000 SkyMiles plus $11.20 per person in fees, which was covered by the annual $200 airline credit on my Amex Platinum Card. My Platinum Medallion status got us automatic upgrades to Delta Comfort+ seats, which were going for over $500. Also, we used CLEAR for the first time at the airport, since we have six months of free membership from the FoundersCard trial offer.
We stayed one mile from Minute Maid Park at the Aloft Houston Downtown. Rooms during the World Series were pricing around $700 per night with taxes and fees, but we booked for for only 10,000 Starpoints per night, and ended up with no out-of-pocket expense!
Finally, I purchased my World Series tickets on StubHub because of their purchase guarantee. Over the last two years I’ve earned sign-up bonuses for both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, and I’ve accumulated Ultimate Rewards through my regular spending. The tickets cost nearly $2,000 total, but I redeemed points for a 1:1 statement credit and got my tickets completely “free.” This was the only purchase that I couldn’t get over one cent per point for, but if you watched the game, you’ll know it was totally worth it!
We spent a total of $150 for the trip (on food and Lyft rides to and from the airport). This was a once in a lifetime bucket list experience for me, and I can’t wait to see what other things i can use my points for!
I recommend using points and miles for travel, because that’s typically what gives you the best redemption value. Cristina got a solid return of over 1.6 cents per mile on her flights, and an incredible 7 cents per point on her hotel stay. Both numbers exceed my most recent valuations (for SkyMiles and Starpoints, respectively), and her story is a great example of how it pays to search for award availability when you’re making last-minute travel plans.
Many rewards programs allow you to redeem points for events and experiences, but they might not line up with your interests. One nice feature of Chase Ultimate Rewards is that you can redeem points as a statement credit at 1 cent apiece. That gives you the flexibility to cover any purchase with your rewards, even those that aren’t travel-related. The redemption value is well below average, but if it allows you to have an amazing experience that would otherwise be out of reach, then don’t sweat it.
When you’re buying online, be sure to use a shopping portal to maximize your purchase. For example, you can currently earn 2 AAdvantage miles, 5 Hilton Honors points, or varying levels of cash back for each dollar spent at StubHub when you initiate your search through a portal. All of those would have provided a nice bonus for Cristina’s World Series tickets. Before you shop, check one of the portal aggregators to see which site has the best earning rates, and remember to check for any special bonuses that may be available.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Cristina for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline 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 by Cristina Briboneria.
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