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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Teresa, who used rewards to save on flights for her and her husband to Peru. Here’s what she had to say:
My husband and I wanted to book a trip to Machu Picchu this upcoming May, but our expendable income is limited since we’re both students. Thanks to travel savvy friends and TPG posts, however, we booked a trip for two for less than $200.
Between conference travel, everyday spending and work trips, we were able to accrue points across various programs, including American Airlines, Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG and United. I then signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earned the bonus of 50,000 points, plus 5,000 points for adding my husband as an authorized user (authorized user bonus no longer available).
I transferred 27,000 points to my husband’s United account and booked two one-way flights from Chicago to Lima (with an overnight in Panama City) for 20,000 miles and $21.85 each. Next, I transferred 18,000 points to my British Airways account and booked two round-trip flights on LATAM between Lima and Cusco, with a fee of $15.17 per ticket. For our return, we booked flights from Lima to Kansas City for 17,500 AAdvantage miles and $52.80 each, and finally booked Southwest flights back to Chicago for 8,640 points and $5.60 each.
As for our hotels, we used SPG Cash & Points to book two nights at the Sheraton Lima Hotel for 2,000 points + $35 per night, and we plan to book a complimentary night at a Marriott property in Panama City thanks to the recent free night MegaBonus promotion. The total cost of airfare for this trip is $190.84 and 101,640 points. Is this the best use of points? Maybe not, but considering our very limited expendable income and the points we had available, we are extremely satisfied!
One of the most fundamental lessons to learn about award travel is that you can use miles from one airline to book flights on another. Teresa and her husband took advantage of British Airways’ distance-based award chart and used Avios to cover their flights between Lima and Cuzco. Round-trip airfare along that route starts around $165 on low-cost carriers, so after accounting for the $15 per person in fees, they got a solid return of over 1.6 cents per point.
Most hotel programs offer a mixed points and cash award option, which can be helpful when you don’t have enough points to cover your entire stay, or if you want to reduce your out-of-pocket cost. You may also be able to book with cash and points when regular award nights are unavailable. Just make sure to compare the mixed rate with the regular paid rate, since these awards don’t always provide good value.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Teresa 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 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!
Featured image by Kelly Cheng Travel Photography via Getty Images.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees