This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Mitch, whose rewards helped him avoid sky-high hotel rates during this year’s NCAA tournament. Here’s what he had to say:

I started learning about credit card points when I got the initial 100,000-point bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Since then I added a few more cards, and I’ve been stockpiling points to spend them on an amazing vacation. However, a rare opportunity popped up recently with little warning.

I’m a Michigan fan, and the basketball team made this year’s Final Four in San Antonio! I decided to go, and wanted to stay downtown on the River Walk so we could easily explore the area, but hotel rates nearby were greatly increased because of the tournament. The Hyatt Place I had my eye on normally costs around $150 per night, but the standard rate that weekend was over $500 per night.

Thankfully I thought to look at the “book with points” option, because that hotel is a category 3 property, which means it only costs 12,000 points per night! I had 40,000 points from the sign-up bonus on my Hyatt Credit Card, so I transferred the remaining points I needed from Ultimate Rewards and booked what would have been an almost $2,100 stay for 48,000 points. That’s a redemption value of almost 4.4 cents per point! Until then I hadn’t thought about saving points for when hotel rates go up during special events, but it seems like a good way to use them.

One of the virtues of award travel is that prices are less tied to demand than they are when you pay cash. That makes points and miles a great asset when you’re headed to a popular destination like a major sporting event. I’ve heard success stories from readers who used rewards to keep costs down at events like the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals, the Kentucky Derby and more, but the same goes for other events like the 2017 solar eclipse or New Year’s Eve in New York. Naturally, award availability tends to be more scarce when demand is high, so you’ll have better luck finding space when you plan ahead.

Mitch had already earned enough points to cover his Hyatt award, but even if you don’t have what you need on hand, you may still be able to save by buying rewards outright. As I write this, Hyatt is offering a 40% bonus for purchases of 10,000 points or more. For $840, you could buy 35,000 points with a 14,000-point bonus to get 49,000 total (enough for four nights at the Hyatt Place in San Antonio). That’s more than you’d typically at that property, but it’s still a deep discount from the inflated prices Mitch saw during the Final Four. Just be sure to check for award availability before you buy, and be mindful that it can disappear quickly.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Mitch 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 info@thepointsguy.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 photo: Villanova’s Eric Paschall (4) shoots over Michigan’s Zavier Simpson during the second half in the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 2, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.