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Stepping Up My Credit Card Game — Reader Success Story

April 27, 2018
4 min read
Stepping Up My Credit Card Game — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Winston, who earned miles for a premium award to South Korea. Here's what he had to say:

My partner and I took an awesome trip to South Korea last summer, and I scored a relatively sweet $3,500 fare in Delta One (on the 777 before suites) with non-stop flights between Atlanta and Seoul. When I came home, my SkyMiles balance was much fatter from those flights, along with other miles that had slowly accrued over the years. Unfortunately, my credit card game was weak, and I knew it was time for an overhaul. Some web searches led me to TPG, and I dove in.

After hours of reading I had a much better understanding of how this game works. Your articles on how to use SkyMiles and Amex Membership Rewards were incredibly useful, and helped me weigh the pros and cons of all the different cards out there for Delta flyers.

I settled on the co-branded Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which came with bonuses of 50,000 miles and 60,000 points, respectively (no longer available). I love that Amex waives the annual fee on those two cards for the first year, and between the free checked bag, Sky Club discount, $100 credit toward airline incidentals, and discounts and points from Amex offers, I'll come out ahead once the annual fees do kick in. Also, both cards waive foreign transaction fees, so they're good for international travel.

The big payoff: 190,000 points round-trip for my non-stop flights this July in Korean Air business class on the 747-8. Based on the cash price of that one fare at the time of booking, my SkyMiles were worth around 2.8 cents each. I covered the $80 in taxes and fees with my incidentals credit, so my only out-of-pocket cost was the small fee to transfer Amex points to Delta. I’m going back to Korea for free and in style, and it’s all thanks to TPG!

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I regularly take inventory of my credit cards to make sure I'm maximizing my spending and benefits, and to check whether anything in my portfolio has outlived its usefulness. As someone who has 20 or so active accounts, that process helps me stay organized, and I recommend looking at the big picture even if you're just applying for your first card. Winston earned substantial bonuses, but he also got cards that offer him valuable ongoing benefits. When you can land that combination, it's an easy win.

That said, I think Winston could do even better. The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great fit for Delta flyers and hub captives, since you get complimentary Sky Club access when you're on a same-day Delta flight. The $550 annual fee might seem imposing, but you should always weigh annual fees against the value you get in return. The $200 airline fee credit and $200 in Uber credits offset much of the cost, and you get plenty of other lucrative benefits that should more than make up the difference. In Winston's case, I think the expense is justified.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Winston 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!

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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