Booking a Points Experience in NYC — Reader Success Story

Nov 26, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Vanessa, who planned a quick trip to New York for a concert:

My husband and I were on a date night a few weeks back, and he was telling me how he had just discovered a great musician named Leon Bridges. As we listened to Leon in the car, I decided to look up his tour dates, but he wasn’t stopping anytime soon near our home in Tampa, Florida, so I gave up the hunt.

A few days later, I was browsing the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and came across the Experiences tab, where I saw the Leon Bridges Chase Experience. For 36,000 points, that included tickets for two to see him in concert at Radio City Music Hall, plus an intimate acoustic session before the show. My husband plays guitar, so I knew he would be thrilled and I had to make it happen.

We needed to get to New York the morning of the show and back home to Tampa early the next morning before our son’s baseball game — a quick 24-hour trip, but we thought the experience would be well worth it. I found a Southwest flight arriving at New York-LaGuardia (LGA) at 11:15 am for $337.80 per person one-way, and I was able to book it for 19,373 Rapid Rewards points total using our Southwest Companion Pass. All we paid out of pocket was $11.20 in security fees.

To get home, I booked a JetBlue flight out of Newark (EWR) that got us back to Tampa in time for the baseball game. The tickets would have cost $380.44 for the two of us, but I had a stash of TrueBlue points I had been sitting on for a while, and was able to book them for 26,200 points plus the same $11.20 in fees. For lodging, we redeemed one of our free nights on Hotels.com, which was worth $236.74 toward our stay. We paid the remaining $71.12, taking us to a total of $93.52 out of pocket for our airfare and hotel.

We had an amazing experience! If you’re planning a trip to New York City, I recommend checking out the Chase Experiences to see what’s available. You never know what you’ll find. 

The major transferable points programs all offer access to special events or experience-based awards, such as Marriott / SPG Moments and Citi Private Pass. These awards don’t offer the best redemption value, but you can find unique options that may be sold out or unavailable to the public. In addition to Chase Experiences, you can use the Ultimate Rewards portal to book a lot of other activities with a lower profile, like tours and tickets to local attractions — just look at “Things to Do” under the Travel tab. You can search by date and location, and if nothing else, the results may give you ideas about things to do even if you decide not to pay with points.

I often see people make a subtle mistake in redeeming Hotels.com Rewards: when they have multiple free nights available, they’ll use one that fully covers the nightly rate in order to wipe out the room charge completely. The problem with that approach is you lose any value your free night has beyond the cost of your room, since the residual amount just disappears. To get full value, the better option is to do what Vanessa did: redeem a free night that’s worth less than the cost of your room and pay the difference. You’ll end up with higher out-of-pocket costs, but you won’t be leaving rewards on the table.

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 Vanessa 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 LoozrBoy/Flickr 

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