How Points Saved Me $2,000 at the Final Four — Reader Success Story
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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 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!