How Buying Points Saved Me $950 — Reader Success Story
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Dmitry, who got a huge discount on a hotel stay in Croatia. Here's what he had to say:
The things I've learned from TPG have helped me keep a long distance relationship strong by letting us fill the relationship with lots of travel together. This year we're heading to Hungary and Croatia. We booked our flights using United miles transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards. We're flying from the US to Budapest, from Budapest to Split (using the United Excursionist Perk), and then from Dubrovnik back to the US for just 60,000 miles round-trip per person.
The big success we had in planning this trip was when we booked our stay at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera. We're headed there during high season and hotel prices were outrageous: the cheapest refundable rate was 266 euros (about $318) per night. However, the points rate is only 7,000 points per night, and with the fifth-night free benefit we could get five nights for just 28,000 points.
The problem was we didn't have enough Starpoints, and the ones we did have were earmarked for a future flight. But then I remembered a recent TPG article about Starpoints going on sale. We bought 28,000 points for $637, and immediately redeemed them for a hotel stay that would have cost us $1,590 if we booked directly with cash. We saved $953 on that stay and maintained our Starpoints balance for future plans. From now on I'll always check whether purchasing points can save money.
Whenever points and miles go on sale, it's worth checking your upcoming travel plans to see if buying rewards will cost you less than the going cash rate. Even without getting the fifth night free, Dmitry would have saved over 50% on his stay by taking advantage of the SPG sale, making his decision to buy an easy one. That said, I generally don't recommend buying points unless you have an immediate plan to redeem them. Also, keep in mind that award trips are generally ineligible to earn points or elite credits, so you should account for the difference in rewards when you're deciding how to pay.
On a related note, I'm not a fan of earmarking points for future travel if it prevents you from using them effectively in the present. Dmitry already had some Starpoints in his account, and in his shoes I would have preferred to redeem those first before buying more. While he got a good deal on his hotel stay, the amount he paid to replace those points effectively went toward covering that future flight. Depending on his timeline for booking that later trip, he may have had better options (like looking for a fare sale or scoring a sign-up bonus on an airline co-branded credit card).
Finally, Dmitry also made good use of the United Excursionist Perk to add a destination to his itinerary without burning more miles. While this feature isn't as flexible as the old MileagePlus routing rules, you can still get a lot of value from it if you get creative. Check out this recent post on how to maximize the Excursionist Perk for ideas, and see if you can tack an extra leg onto your next trip.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Dmitry for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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 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. 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!
Feature photo by @annaelisabethsmith via Twenty20