How one immunocompromised TPG reader upgraded her home during the pandemic — and is looking forward to traveling again

Nov 18, 2021

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Here at The Points Guy, we’re consistently looking for ways to maximize our travel rewards. Whether it’s for premium-class flights or luxury hotel rooms, the world of points and miles can unlock some fantastic experiences and value — especially if you create an effective strategy for earning those points and miles.

Of course, the last 18 months have created some notable difficulties in traveling for many readers, who instead prioritized the earning side of the equation in hopes of hitting the road again in the future.

Today, as part of our series of reader submissions here at the 2021 TPG Awards, we want to tell the story of an immunocompromised individual who opted to upgrade her home environment during the pandemic — and earned points for a upcoming getaway.

Read more: Check out our reader stories from Airlines Week and Travel Week

In This Post

Early days of the pandemic

When the pandemic hit, travel ground to a near standstill, and despite the implementation of mask requirements on U.S. flights in mid-2020, readers with compromised immune systems understandably still weren’t comfortable taking to the skies.

Those were the circumstances facing Marie Edwards, a TPG reader from Frisco, Texas.

“The past year or two have been challenging for obvious reasons,” Marie told TPG. “As an immunocompromised individual, traveling was out of question.”

So instead of hitting the road, Marie opted to lean into home renovations. After all, being mostly stuck around her house didn’t mean she had to feel trapped. And she knew that travel would ultimately be back on the table with the development of COVID-19 vaccines and the eventual end of the pandemic — so she wanted to be ready for when she was able to take trips again.

The before photo of TPG reader Marie Edwards' pergola
Photo courtesy of Marie Edwards

Upgrading her at-home oasis

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Marie built a pergola at her house, using her Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card to earn points on the expenses she incurred. At the time, the roof only consisted of slats — so it was essentially unusable during inclement weather. She had purchased furniture through Habitat for Humanity but was forced to cover it when not in use so as to protect it from the elements.

This wasn’t a major concern in normal times, as Marie still had the option to leave her house for a variety of reasons.

And then, COVID-19 arrived.

“Once the pandemic hit and we were pretty much confined to home, the patio became an obvious choice to get out and enjoy fresh air,” she said. “So we took on the chore of upgrading the patio to make it our outdoor oasis.”

She used her Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for a roof on the pergola, which gave her the ability to ditch the furniture covers. She also opted to add plants to enliven the ambiance (and deter the mosquitos), and redid the fence around the patio to enhance the view. Finally, since the furniture was second-hand, they swiped the card to refinish it — making sure that it would withstand the increased day-to-day use.

The end result? A patio that they can enjoy year round.

“Now, when it rains or snows, we can still sit out and enjoy the outdoors,” Marie said.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

What about those points?

During her time at home, Marie wanted to bank her points toward future, post-pandemic trips. And that’s exactly what she did with the purchases for the patio renovation.

“Thanks to points obtained from our … patio, we were able to pay for airfare and the pre-cruise hotel for our upcoming trip,” she told us.

Her cruise is a seven-day journey from California down the Mexican Riviera, and she redeemed roughly 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Travel portal for flights. In addition, she used a pair of free-night Marriott certificates from her Bonvoy Brilliant card to cover two nights in San Diego.

She also has another cruise booked for next year — and while she hasn’t confirmed her flights and pre-departure hotel reservations, she’s again planning to put her Chase and Marriott points to use.

Marie’s story is an important lesson about having a strategy when earning rewards. When she was initially building the pergola, she was focused on building up her balance of Marriott points. And even when she knew that travel was out of the question during the pandemic as an immunocompromised individual, she nevertheless recognized that it would eventually return and leveraged her expenses to build her rewards balances up for future trips.

Related: An ultimate guide to the best credit card pairings

It also helps that she did so with a transferable point currency. These programs offer incredible flexibility — whether you want to book your travel directly or transfer the rewards to an airline or hotel loyalty program. And Marie’s choice of Chase Ultimate Rewards points was a solid one, as this program took home this year’s TPG Award for best transferable point currency out there.

Bottom line

Just about everyone’s travel habits were suddenly interrupted the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and for some, it took longer to get back on the road. For Marie, she made the most of her time at home by upgrading her outdoor space, all while saving her Marriott and Chase points for that first post-pandemic getaway.

Now, she can enjoy her patio throughout the year — and put the rewards she earned to great use.

As you look ahead to next year, be sure to consider your own credit card strategy and whether it will successfully get you to your travel goals for 2022.

Featured photo courtesy of Marie Edwards.

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