A graduation trip to Paris, Australia and New Zealand — reader success story

Jan 15, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Jay, who saved up transferable points and airline miles to book a long international vacation:

I finished graduate school this past year, and with some time off before starting my full-time job, I planned a three-week trip to Paris, Australia and New Zealand to reward my hard work after graduation. I knew that award availability to Australia and New Zealand could be difficult to find, but I was determined to make it the trip of a lifetime.

While TPG has taught me that earning and burning miles is the best method, I have been hoarding points for years so I could fly in first and business class for the first time. I’ve accumulated mostly Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase quadfecta of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cards. I also signed up for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® to accumulate AAdvantage miles. 

First, I redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point for a flight to Paris. I then found first-class award availability on Etihad from Paris to Sydney for 115,000 AAdvantage miles. This was my first time flying in first class, and it was amazing — there is nothing quite like showering on a plane! Next, I transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book my stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, and to Virgin Atlantic to book my flight home. I was able to find business-class availability on Air New Zealand from Auckland to Los Angeles for only 62,500 miles and about $15!

I never thought I would be flying around the world in first/business class and staying in five-star hotels, let alone for little to no out-of-pocket cost! The points and miles I’ve obtained through credit card bonuses, spending and airline shopping portals have made traveling in such an incredible manner possible.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Points and miles make a poor long-term investment due to the likelihood of eventual devaluation, so you should avoid hoarding rewards with no plan to use them. However, hoarding can make sense when you’re targeting an aspirational award (like a long honeymoon) that requires saving extensively. I aim to keep on hand only what airline miles and hotel points I think I’ll use in the next 12 to 18 months (plus a bit extra for emergencies). But you can push your own redemption horizon as far back as needed, so long as you’re realistic about the threat of devaluation and plan accordingly. If you’re eyeing an award more than two years out, I recommend adjusting your goal upward to provide a buffer in case award rates increase in the interim.

The conventional wisdom around hoarding rewards is more relaxed for transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. These points may still fluctuate in value as partner programs are added, dropped or undergo their own changes, but they’re less likely to devalue massively in a short period. Because of that relative stability, I (like Jay) put most of my spending on credit cards that earn transferable points, and I reserve my airline and hotel-specific cards for situations that offer an outsized return or address a specific need (like topping up for an impending award). Given the choice between transferable points and airline miles or hotel points of equal value, I’ll take the transferable points almost every time.

Related: The best business cards that earn transferable points

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Jay a 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, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Paula May/Unsplash.

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