How We Saved 25,000 Points on Flights to Europe — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Ian, who used Ultimate Rewards transfer partners for a trip to Scotland and Ireland. Here’s what he had to say:
My girlfriend and I have been avid TPG readers for the past several years. One of our favorite ways to travel is to get off the tourist track and tackle long-distance hiking routes around the globe. This summer we attended a wedding in Ireland, and decided to combine it with hiking the West Highland Way through Scotland. We had both signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and met the minimum spending requirement, so with our end goal of booking award flights into Scotland and out of Ireland, we got to work planning out how to best use our miles and points.
Our home airport in Denver is a United hub, so we knew United would likely have the best availability for the first leg of our trip from Denver to Edinburgh. After a quick search on United’s website, we were able to find a date with the award availability we needed. However, instead of booking the flight using 30,000 United miles each (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards), we instead booked the exact same flight using 27,500 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles per person! This saved us 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
On the way home, we took advantage of one of the best ways to use British Airways Avios: a non-stop Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Boston for just 20,000 points (again transferred from Chase) and about $85 in taxes and fees per person. We then booked a cheap Southwest flight to get home from Boston to Denver. Knowing how to utilize Chase travel partners allowed us to book about $2,300 worth of travel for just 47,500 Ultimate Rewards points per person. Compared to the typical 60,000 miles required for a round-trip award to Europe, we saved a combined 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points!
One fundamental concept of award travel is that the airline you fly isn’t necessarily the one you use to book your ticket. Each airline has its own award pricing with distinct strengths and weaknesses and its own set of airline partnerships you can exploit. Learning the sweet spots in each program will help you maximize your miles like Ian did on his flight to Europe. Apart from transatlantic service, KrisFlyer miles are also advantageous for booking domestic business class awards for 40,000 miles round-trip and economy awards to Hawaii for 35,000 miles round-trip on United. Singapore Airlines doesn’t add surcharges to United flights, so the miles you save aren’t offset by another expense.
When you’re assessing the value of an award, make sure to account for any related costs. Your calculation should incorporate not only taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges but also other travel expenses you incur as a result of your itinerary. Unless Ian and his girlfriend intended to stop in Boston, then the claim that they saved 10,000 points each on their return flights paints an incomplete picture. They may still have gotten a good deal (especially if they bought during a fare sale), but the cost of their Southwest flight back to Denver should be included.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Ian for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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, 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!
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