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An all-star Seychelles redemption that wasn't meant to be — reader success story

June 28, 2020
6 min read
An all-star Seychelles redemption that wasn't meant to be — reader success story
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Editor's Note

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Editor's note: This post makes reference to a number of routes that are currently suspended but are expected to resume as travel picks up again.

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Matthew, whose advance planning and hard work allowed him to book an incredible luxury getaway to the Seychelles on points and miles. While COVID-19 ultimately forced his family to cancel the trip, there's still a lot to celebrate about this booking:

“Everyone uses their points a little differently. I am looking for premium cabin travel to beach destinations as far away as possible and I need it for my entire family — myself, my wife, and two now-teenage boys — which means I need longer lead times to acquire the miles and points and the right alignment of routes and hotels with wide-open availability.

In 2013, I put the entire family in Cathay Pacific first class for a wonderful inaugural trip to Bali. In 2016, we flew Star Alliance first class and visited Thailand and China. For the third and what may be the final installment (the kids are soon off to college), I was able to once again use miles and points to book a blockbuster summer 2020 trip to Seychelles.

My wife and I have held a few Citi and Barclays cards over the years in order to acquire the 600,000 American Airlines miles required to book the air part of the trip (75,000 miles one-way for business class USA-Africa). As a regular United Airlines flyer, in fact, I am not sure that I have ever earned an AAdvantage mile by actually flying on AA. I tracked award availability trends last summer, and I booked the flights at 331 days out (as allowed by AA policy).

For the outbound, I was able to secure a one-stop itinerary from my home airport on what TPG Awards recognized as the best international business class product – Qatar Airways’ Qsuite. I booked four seats via the American Airlines website, with the IAD-DOH-SEZ itinerary allowing enough time in Doha to plan for a layover tour. I was even able to get seats in one of the center “pods” for the family.

For the trip home, I found a one-stop itinerary through Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways (but not via the AA website). Etihad operates AUH-IAD using a 787-9 Dreamliner.

Seychelles is an amazing beach destination, but it has surprisingly few points hotels. My wife and I each picked up a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which offers a 150,000-point welcome bonus*. Using the fifth-night free perk, I was able to book two Garden Villas for five nights for 320,000 HH points each at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort. Other useful Aspire card benefits for this trip were Diamond status for my wife and I (free breakfast and other perks), plus a $250 Hilton Resort credit.

It was a dream trip but not meant to be: Due to COVID-19, Etihad canceled our SEZ-AUH flight. I called AA and canceled the others, and also the hotel reservations, with a full refund for all. I’ll be on standby to try my luck again for 2021.”

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*after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

It's sad when you have to cancel any trip, but my heart goes out to Matthew and his family who had to cancel what sounds like a picture-perfect vacation. While I'm impressed with the redemption he pulled together, I'm even more impressed with how he did it. Whether your goal is to fly in a premium cabin to a faraway beach or a short economy hop somewhere closer to home, there's a lot you can learn from Matthew's approach.

For starters, he clearly did his homework. He knew exactly what miles he would need years in advance and he even knew exactly what day the award calendar opened up so he'd be able to get first crack at it. This kind of timing is especially important if you're looking to score multiple award tickets or to fly in a coveted premium cabin — even more so if, like Matthew, you're doing both.

The legwork Matthew put in also helped him maximize his travel with the two airlines he chose, by knowing that Qatar's center-quad Qsuites configuration is perfect for a family of four and that a long layover would've let them explore Doha in the midst of their trip. Same goes for Etihad, where Matthew knew that he wouldn't find these awards on the AAdvantage website. But that didn't stop him from finding and booking the seats he wanted.

Instead of accruing points randomly with no plan in mind, Matthew built his credit card strategy around the specific points he needed for his trip, from racking up 600,000 AAdvantage miles with a series of Barclays and Citi cards to opening up two different Hilton Aspire cards (one for him and one for his wife) to get free hotel nights in an otherwise expensive destination. Not many people can be this flexible, changing their brand loyalty from one trip to another to suit their destination.

Further Reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! 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; due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees