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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.
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Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.
- Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
- Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
- Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
- Terms Apply
- See Rates & Fees