Flying to South Africa in Delta One — Reader Success Story

Jun 10, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Gavin, who took advantage of a sign-up bonus and transfer bonus to book a honeymoon flight:

After moving to the US three years ago, I began looking for a first credit card to build my credit history here. Moving from abroad (where points and miles aren’t really a thing), I was eager to learn how to earn and redeem for free travel. My fiancée and I have since taken out a number of credit cards, and we’ve used the sign-up bonuses to pay for the majority of our personal vacations, but we’ve never booked any first-class or business-class flights, as we wanted to stretch our rewards. Still, flying up front has always been a goal.

We want to visit South Africa for our honeymoon, and given the distance, we wanted to travel business or first class using points and miles with a nonstop flight. We researched the cards and sign-up bonus available and signed up for the Citi Premier® Card last year, as it appeared to be a well-rounded card with good transfer options. Using the sign-up bonus and the current Virgin Atlantic transfer bonus (as well as the ability to share ThankYou points), we were able to book a one-way flight in Delta One suites on a newly refurbished 777 from Atlanta to Johannesburg for only 47,000 points and $5.60 per person.

This is one of a few nonstop flights to South Africa. The cash cost was just under $11,000 per person, and if we had booked directly with Delta, it would have cost us 465,000 miles per person! We depart next April, and we’re hoping to save enough points for the same return journey. Otherwise we’ll have to return in economy, which might be difficult after experiencing almost 16 hours in Delta One.

One advantage of award travel is that you generally don’t pay a premium for one-way flights, so you can lock in part of your itinerary with no penalty if you don’t have enough rewards to book the whole thing. Gavin and his fiancée only had points to cover their outbound flights, but once they found Virgin Atlantic availability that fit their plans, they smartly jumped on it, knowing they could continue earning and book the return portion later. Note that the order wasn’t important; they could just as easily have booked return flights first. This approach is useful for booking premium awards even if you have plenty of points and miles on hand, since you may not find round-trip availability anyway. Just beware of the potential downside, like paying double the change fees if your plans go awry.

Credit cards can help you establish a credit history if you don’t already have one. However, people with a limited credit history may have trouble getting approved for new accounts in the first place, creating a bit of a Catch-22. One way around this is to be added as an authorized user to someone else’s account — even if you never actually use the card, it will show up on your report, providing data potential creditors can use to assess your credit worthiness. Just keep in mind that data can actually work against you if the primary cardholder misses payments, so make sure they’re managing their accounts responsibly before you request to be added.

Related: 6 Things to Do to Improve Your Credit in 2019

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 Gavin 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; 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, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

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

Featured photo by Richard van der Spuy / Shutterstock.

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