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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Premier Card, The World Of Hyatt Credit Card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michelle, who used a variety of points to save on a trip to Europe. Here’s what she had to say:
I wanted to share the trip my husband and I booked to Europe in April, which took us to Paris and London for barely any money. I have gotten a lot of free travel using points, but I think this is one of my better deals.
We booked our flight to Paris on XL Airways using the Citi Travel Center. The one-way cost for both of us was $112.90 and 67,112 points, which we had earned from the sign-up bonus and spending on our Citi Premier Card. I also ended up paying another $50 for incidentals.
We used Marriott Rewards points to book a room at the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche. My husband had earned a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points on his Marriott Card, plus a referral bonus of 10,000 points and more from spending on the card. That gave us enough for a three-night stay, which cost 105,000 points and was otherwise completely free.
We took the train to London, which cost us $156 total. I got the Hyatt Credit Card back when the welcome bonus was two free nights at any class of hotel, so we used those for two nights at The Churchill. Unfortunately, that deal isn’t available anymore since Hyatt changed the terms.
Our flight home was the most expensive part. We paid $780.60 for a nonstop on Norwegian, and added checked bags, seat reservations and a meal. I was able to offset a good portion of this using the points I had earned through the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Between the 40,000 bonus points and other points from spending, I applied a travel credit of about $500 to the flight purchase.
Our travel and hotel expenses came to around $600, and I was pretty proud of booking a multi-city European trip for that amount. We had a great time and are trying to plan a longer version of this trip for next summer. I’ve had fun with points over the years and still try to get every deal I can, though even with a credit score of over 800, I’m having trouble getting great credit card deals because of too many open accounts. I consider myself the queen of credit card points, but I know I still have a long way to go!
Credit card portals like the Citi ThankYou Travel Center allow you to redeem directly for travel purchases without transferring to airline and hotel partners. This isn’t the best way to maximize your points, since the redemption value is below average — Michelle got just 1.25 cents per point, and may have been better off booking her flight to Paris through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. But one virtue of redeeming through Citi is that you don’t need to cover the entire amount — you can use however many points you want and make up the remainder with cash. Other loyalty programs have points + cash options, but few of them offer the same degree of flexibility. That’s worth keeping in mind if you’re just trying to lower your out-of-pocket costs.
Hyatt’s co-branded card no longer comes with two free nights, but the current sign-up bonus can be even more valuable. The World of Hyatt Credit Card now offers 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, plus another 20,000 points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening. That’s enough for two nights at any Hyatt property if you earn the full 60,000 points, or it could cover more than two free nights if you redeem at lower-tier properties. The spending requirement for the full bonus is now much higher, but the offer remains strong, especially if you’re partial to Hyatt.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Michelle for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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!
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