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Benji Stawski, Strategic Travel Reporter: My 10 favorite TPG stories of 2021

Dec. 24, 2021
6 min read
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2021 was a big year for country reopenings, credit card launches, loyalty program updates, new hotel openings and more. As we get ready to usher in the new year, the TPG team is taking a look back on our favorite stories of the last 12 months.

Today, Benji Stawski shares his 10 favorite posts of the year. Benji is a reporter for the site, covering everything from loyalty programs and credit cards to hotels, private aviation and more. Regardless of the topic he's covering, he always has one goal in mind: helping readers make more strategic decisions about their travels and spending.

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The golden age of travel isn’t over — it’s evolving

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

In this story, I explain why I’m a firm believer that we’re still living in the golden age of travel. Private and private-like travel experiences have become more accessible than ever, it’s gotten easier to redeem points and miles, pesky change fees are gone and travel credit cards are offering best-ever sign-up bonuses.

Read story: The golden age of travel isn’t over — it’s evolving

As close to private as it gets: Flying JSX’s new route to LAX

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Speaking of private-like experiences, earlier this year, I finally had the chance to fly on JSX. It operates as a hybrid between a commercial airline and a private jet charter service, offering flights on 30-seat regional jets out of private jet terminals. The entire experience was remarkably hassle-free.

Read story: As close to private as it gets: Flying JSX’s new route to LAX

The Aero experience: What it’s like flying on a semiprivate jet for under $1,000

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

I also tried out Aero's semiprivate jet service on its inaugural flight from Las Vegas to L.A. Between the more exclusive cabin configuration and more personalized service, the experience felt as close to flying private as it could get. This was definitely my most memorable flight this year.

Read story: The Aero experience: What it’s like flying on a semiprivate jet for under $1,000

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I booked New York’s newest $1,000 suite for the cost of a standard room, and you can too

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Here's one of my most valuable hotel redemptions of 2021: I took advantage of World of Hyatt's upgrades on paid nights feature to book an over-$1,000-per-night suite at the new Hyatt Regency JFK Airport at Resorts World New York for just $89 and 6,000 points.

Read story: I booked New York’s newest $1,000 suite for the cost of a standard room, and you can too

‘This is one of the best all-inclusives’: Jamaica’s Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

In the spring, I traveled to Jamaica to compare three all-inclusive resorts. Among them was the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. This was my first time staying at one of Hyatt's all-inclusive properties and it was one of my best all-inclusive experiences yet. Amenities were plentiful and the food and beverage offerings were top-notch.

Read story: ‘This is one of the best all-inclusives’: Jamaica’s Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall

This TPG reader has 30 million points and miles — we’re showing him how to use them

(Photo by yang haixiao/Getty Images)

This year, the points and miles team launched a new “1 million miles” series where we share how we'd each spend a million miles with various loyalty programs. However, for this story, we had to think even bigger, as we helped a TPG reader burn 32,194,000 points and miles on an epic adventure around the world.

Read story: This TPG reader has 30 million points and miles — we’re showing him how to use them

Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly lie-flat domestic business class for the price of coach

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

This year, one of my most-flown routes was New York-JFK to Miami (MIA), and I usually flew up front on American’s 777-300 with Flagship First seats. However, I didn't break the bank in doing so. This guide shows how I did it and how you can, too. This is definitely one of my favorite domestic award chart sweet spots.

Read story: Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly lie-flat domestic business class for the price of coach

How I’m using Amex’s transfer bonuses to book 3 premium trips

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

In September, American Express Membership Rewards offered a record number of transfer bonuses. Specifically, you were able to get up to a 40% bonus when transferring points to a whopping 12 partners, which was unheard of. While we usually discourage speculative transfers, I made some anyway and was able to book some terrific awards.

Read story: How I’m using Amex’s transfer bonuses to book 3 premium trips

How I Swipe: Strategic Travel Reporter Benji Stawski

(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

How did I earn all those credit card points and miles? Glad you asked. Earlier this year, a coworker interviewed me on my credit card strategy, covering everything from the first card I opened to my go-to card for everyday spend and what cards are in my wallet when I hit the road.

Read story: How I Swipe: Strategic Travel Reporter Benji Stawski

Not your average 737: This $80 million VIP jet has just 13 seats

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

In October, I attended my first National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas. I got to tour a ton of incredible private jets, but the most special had to be the Boeing Business Jets 737 demonstrator. I’ve been on plenty of 737s before, but this one was like no other, complete with multiple bedrooms, onboard showers, a bar and more.

Read story: Not your average 737: This $80 million VIP jet has just 13 seats

Featured image by (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more