How Rewards Fueled Our Dream Trip to Kauai — Reader Success Story

Nov 2, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Gabriel, who took advantage of a key credit card benefit:

Witnessing the lush mountains off the Nā Pali Coast and the abundant marine life of Hawaii’s garden island was a long-time travel goal for my boyfriend and me. Last winter, he completed a status match from United to Alaska Airlines to earn MVP Gold status, and applied for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, which offers a companion fare to anywhere Alaska flies. With that (and some helpful tips from TPG), we decided to plan our dream trip, which turned out to be the most exciting award redemption either of us had ever completed.

First, we were able to get two tickets for the price of one using the companion fare, and because my boyfriend had MVP Gold status, we were able to upgrade at booking. Since Alaska treats companion tickets like any purchased ticket, that instant upgrade put us both into a higher fare class, so we earned 125% of mileage flown. Amazingly, I will be an Alaska MVP by the end of the year, which I never would have anticipated from only flying them a couple times per year to visit family.

We were also able to take advantage of Alaska’s generous stopover policy and squeezed a short trip to Seattle and Olympic National Park into our itinerary without increasing the cost of our tickets. Finally, we booked our hotel stay at the wonderful Kauai Marriott Resort using Marriott’s old Hotel+ Air package. While that award no longer offers nearly as much value as of August, it allowed us to book a week long stay at a fair rate, while also earning my boyfriend some extra United miles. These redemption opportunities helped us have an unforgettable trip, and now we’re onto planning our next adventure.

A lot of rewards credit cards grab attention with huge sign-up bonuses, while others stand out for their ongoing benefits; the Alaska Visa card fits squarely into the second category. To be fair, the standard 30,000-mile bonus (after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening) and the recent targeted 40,000-mile offer are better than they sound, because Mileage Plan miles are more valuable than most. But as one of the least restrictive companion tickets available, Alaska’s companion fare is an equally compelling reason to apply. I suggest reading up on it if Alaska Airlines is among your options for an upcoming flight.

Award travel sweet spots come and go, and as Gabriel alluded to, Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages have gone sour. Under the old system, these awards effectively allowed you to swap Marriott points evenly for airline miles — a bargain in most cases. Now the prices have been hugely inflated, and there’s little value to be gained. This change is among the worst aspects of the combined Marriott and SPG program; unfortunately, there’s little we can do as members but voice our disapproval and vote with our dollars. Devaluations are part of the game, so plan for the worst and revel in the high-value awards while they last.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! As thanks for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Gabriel 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, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. 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 by Matt Anderson Photography/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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