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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Ashley, who used an American Express and Virgin Atlantic promotion to save on premium international awards. Here’s what she had to say:

Since it’s the season of thankfulness, I wanted to take the time to thank you and your staff for the article about maximizing the Amex transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. After a week of searching across ANA, United Airlines and ExpertFlyer, we were able to find a combination of flights that fit our needs. Now we’re excited to be heading to Japan in April!

As our travel was around Golden Week, finding more than one seat in first class proved to be next to impossible. Instead we redeemed 160,000 Membership Rewards points to book two business class tickets on an open-jaw IAH-NRT-SJC itinerary for me and little man. Papa will be enjoying the comforts of first on a IAH-NRT round-trip for 93,000 points. The two J tickets would have cost over $7,600 each on the day of booking, while the F ticket cost nearly $22,000. All in, we redeemed 253,000 points (plus the 30% Virgin Atlantic bonus) for over $36,000 of airfare.

By sheer luck, Hilton’s 50% off flash sale in Asia was running when we booked our flights, and we nabbed quite a few nights of our stay for $100 to $150 per night. We’re looking forward to this amazing, comfortable journey, and to celebrating our son’s sixth birthday (and thirtieth country) in Japan!

Photo by Phattana via Getty Images.
Ashely found premium awards to Japan during one of the busiest travel times. Photo by Phattana via Getty Images.

Transfer bonuses create an easy opportunity to get extra value from your points. You can typically swap transferable points 1:1 for airline or hotel rewards, but a bonus can give you an additional 30% or sometimes more. The improved transfer ratio acts as a discount on awards, and it’s especially useful when you’re booking expensive premium flights like Ashley was. When you don’t have immediate plans to redeem, however, I think it’s best not to transfer speculatively to programs you don’t use regularly even when the bonus is huge.

Amex Membership Rewards offered a variety of transfer bonuses in 2017, including a recent one to JetBlue. Citi ThankYou Rewards has done the same with Cathay Pacific and other partners, and even Starwood Preferred Guest has offered bonuses on top of the standard 5,000 extra miles for transfers of 20,000 points or more. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Ultimate Rewards program, and while I value those points highly, the lack of transfer bonuses stands out as one area where Chase falls short of the competition.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Ashley 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. Please email your own award travel success stories 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. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by M Swiet Productions via Getty Images.

Know before you go.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.