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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Lea, who used cash + points awards to cover travel expenses on a recent trip abroad. Here’s what she had to say:
My husband and I recently traveled to Europe and used mostly points and miles for our trip. We originally wanted to fly into Zagreb with a return from Dubrovnik, but when we saw a fare sale from New York to Vienna for $448 per person round-trip, we immediately booked it through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Our two tickets totaled around 71,000 Ultimate Rewards points; we had accumulated 63,193 points, so we paid an additional $106 to cover the difference. We then paid $190 per person for flights from Vienna to Zagreb with a return from Dubrovnik.
For lodging we leaned on Starwood Preferred Guest. We spent a night in Vienna at the Das Triest hotel for 7,000 Starpoints, and then flew to Zagreb and stayed at the Sheraton Zagreb for just 3,000 Starpoints. We spent two nights in Split at the Le Meridien Lav Split, where we booked a SPG Cash & Points award for 5,000 points + $75 per night. We did the same for three nights at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera, where we paid 3,500 points + $35 per night (for some reason we got a discount on the cash portion). Finally, we used 15,000 Marriott Rewards points to book a night at the Moxy Vienna Airport before our trip home. Our eight nights of accommodation cost us a total of $282 (including taxes).
By utilizing Chase Ultimate Rewards and SPG/Marriott points, we made this the least expensive vacation we’ve taken to Europe, having spent under $800 on flights and accommodations.
One nice feature of Chase Ultimate Rewards (and Citi ThankYou Rewards) is that you can book travel directly with a mix of points and cash. That’s helpful if you don’t have enough points to cover your entire purchase (like Lea and her husband), or if want to reserve some of your balance for another trip. However you split the total cost, you’ll mostly get the same travel protections as if you had paid entirely with your card, and you’ll get the same redemption value as if you had paid entirely with points — for Ultimate Rewards that’s as high as 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
Cash and points awards are also a useful feature of most hotel programs, since you can stretch your points further and still get a good return. The downside is that while you typically don’t have to pay taxes and fees on regular hotel awards, you may be on the hook for those charges when you book with a mix of cash and points. The extra expense doesn’t necessarily spoil the value of those awards, but it’s something to watch out for when weighing your options.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Lea 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 courtesy of Samantha T. Photography/Getty.
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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.
- 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