Six Weeks in Europe on a Student Budget — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Drake, who used Ultimate Rewards points to cover a variety of inexpensive flights, hotel stays and more. Here's what he had to say:
This past summer I graduated from business school in Barcelona. To celebrate, I set out on a six-week European adventure to see as many places as possible, for as cheap as possible. I had earned 50,000-point bonuses from both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, [after meeting minimum spend requirements] and I used those points to book flights, hotels and more through the Chase Travel Portal.
I pooled the roughly 100,000 points into my Sapphire Reserve account so I could redeem them all at the higher rate of 1.5 cents per point. Thanks to the low-cost carriers and hostels offered by the Chase portal, that was enough to cover three flights, twelve hotel nights, four days of sightseeing passes (in London and Iceland), and an airport transfer in Paris. I also transferred points to British Airways to book two more flights, and I used the $300 Sapphire Reserve travel credit to cover eight more nights at hostels.
Altogether, those points took me to Lisbon, Paris, London, Prague, Minsk, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Stockholm and Reykjavik. With cheap hostels for the remaining nights and inexpensive bus transfers for other transportation, I didn't spend much at all on the rest of my trip. I also used my Priority Pass lounge access to help keep meal costs down at the various airports. Just goes to show that a ten-country adventure is in reach for those who are still in school (or recently graduated)!
One nice aspect of travel portals like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards is that you get access to flights and rooms you might otherwise be unable to book with points. As Drake pointed out, you can also book tours and other attractions at the same rate, so portals offer a way to plan and pay for a trip all from one account. That said, you'll generally get a better redemption value by transferring points to airline and hotel partners. I recommend saving your transferable points for more lucrative opportunities, and using fixed-value rewards (like Capital One Venture miles) to cover your miscellaneous travel expenses.
If you do decide to redeem directly through a portal, make sure to use points from the right account. Drake has two Ultimate Rewards credit cards, but only the Sapphire Reserve offers the elevated redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point — he would have paid 20% more to book awards through his Sapphire Preferred account, which offers just 1.25 cents per point. Chase makes it easy to combine points from different accounts (as does Citi), so you can take advantage of higher earning rates on one card and higher redemption rates on another to maximize your overall return on spending.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Drake 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 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!