How Free Miles Helped Me Save $450 — Reader Success Story

Jun 22, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Mark, who booked a last-minute flight with miles he earned from an Alaska Airlines promotion. Here’s what he had to say:

I wanted to thank you for helping me months before I knew I would ever need it! Last year, you posted an article about how Alaska was offering 10,000 miles essentially for free. I’m based in Washington, D.C. and mostly fly on the East Coast, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to have those miles. I’m also a hold of The Platinum Card® from American Express and saw your note about transferring Membership Rewards points to Alaska Airlines through Virgin America before the relationship ended. Following your advice, I took the opportunity to pad my new Mileage Plan account with a few thousand miles.

Fast forward to late May, when I needed to book a last-minute emergency flight to the West Coast. We had a death in the family (my grandmother was 96, so it wasn’t a complete shock), and as you can imagine, last-minute flights on Memorial Day weekend were outrageously expensive. Then I remembered I had 12,500 Alaska miles, and I was able to find an award flight to cover the return portion of my trip. That saved me over $450 that I would have had to pay out of pocket.

It just goes to show that claiming those easy miles can pay off even if you don’t need them right away. Thanks again for saving me money, and for helping your readers find these deals.

It’s not every day that you can score 10,000 miles just for linking two frequent flyer accounts, but opportunities to earn rewards with minimal effort do pop up from time to time. A few years ago, IHG Rewards famously offered tens of thousands of points for simply mailing in notecards. More recently, Marriott Rewards offered members 1,000 points per week during much of the 2017 NFL regular season for answering football trivia on Twitter, and Alaska Airlines offered 5,000 miles to California residents who signed up for Mileage Plan. As Mark’s story shows, these rewards are enough to be useful on their own, but even smaller bonuses (like 1,500 Aegean Airlines miles) can come in handy.

In addition to those easy (but only occasional) wins, there are more routine opportunities to boost your loyalty accounts that also take little work. Using a shopping portal to maximize online purchases and enrolling in a dining program to get a better return at restaurants will help you earn more points and miles from money you already spend. Remember to sign up for airline and hotel promotions (like double points at Hilton), and make sure to use a credit card that earns bonus points for spending in a given category. All this low-hanging fruit can add up quickly, so get in the habit of collecting it.

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

Feature image by 4kodiak / Getty Images.

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.

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