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A First-Class Trip to Wine Country — Reader Success Story

Jan. 26, 2018
5 min read
napa valley reader mistake story
A First-Class Trip to Wine Country — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who used points to pay for flights and hotels on an anniversary trip to Napa. Here's what he had to say:

My wife and I have always loved travel and fine dining, and by taking advantage of some lucrative sign-up bonuses last year we were able to celebrate our fifth anniversary in style. We both signed up for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from Amex in the fall of 2016, thinking we would build up a bank of Starpoints for a future luxury vacation. Then the Chase Sapphire Reserve hit the market, so we each signed up and got the 100,000-point bonus shortly after that. Flush with points and planning for a big anniversary in 2017, we decided to use them in style.One of our bucket list restaurants is The French Laundry in Napa, and thanks to a timely TPG article about hotels in the area, we knew exactly where to stay. I booked us five nights at the Westin Verasa Napa using the fifth night free benefit after transferring my wife's Starpoints instantly to my account. We used our Ultimate Rewards points to book first class tickets to Oakland on Alaska Airlines. I could have booked those tickets through Alaska Mileage Plan for 50,000 miles each, but they only cost $450 per person, so booking through Ultimate Rewards (with the redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point) was a much better option.The last thing we needed was our reservation at The French Laundry, which is notoriously hard to get into. We were ready to go through the normal reservation process — get online as soon as dates become available and pray — but a few weeks before our preferred date opened up, my wife received a targeted offer for The Platinum Card® from American Express with a 100,000-point bonus (subject to change at anytime). We were both hoping to get that card and bonus eventually, so she jumped on it. One benefit offered by Amex Platinum is the Global Dining Collection, and once we had the card in hand, we called the concierge service and they were able to arrange our reservation for us.We had an amazing trip, saved thousands of dollars, and were able to spend that money instead on food and wine experiences we'll never forget!

Matt and his wife used Amex Platinum benefits to get a table at a bucket list restaurant in Napa (image courtesy of The French Laundry).

The Platinum Card is known for premium perks (like Centurion Lounge access and hotel elite status), but it features a variety of less renowned benefits that also offer a lot of value. Michael and his wife took advantage of the Global Dining Collection, which gives you VIP access to a selection of restaurants and culinary events. Others like premium road assistance, purchase protection and the Platinum Concierge are benefits you probably won't use often, but they're a great asset when you need them.

The same goes for most travel rewards cards. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve (among others) offers emergency medical and dental benefits, while Citi Prestige offers trip delay reimbursement up to $500 after just three hours (compared to 12 hours for most other cards). Even non-premium cards have unheralded perks that can come in handy, like the free museum entry offered by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cards. The takeaway is that it's worth digging into your card benefits to see what's available; it's better to know you have them and not need them than to need them and not know you have them.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Michael 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; 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 of a Napa Valley vineyard by @karen.kardatzke via Twenty20

Featured image by Napa Valley vineyard. Photo by @karen.kardatzke via Twenty20