Maximizing Distance-Based Awards: TPG Reader Success Story

May 20, 2015

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives: the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.

Moving forward, I want to share these success stories with all of you more often, to help inspire you the way you inspire me! So every other week or so I’ll select a story that catches my eye and post it here for everyone to enjoy. Two weeks ago I posted a story from TPG reader Chandler, who got good value on a business class flight to Europe after learning how to take advantage of international frequent flyer programs.

Today I want to share a story from TPG Reader Brad, who was able to (inexpensively) help his wife make it to an important family event by transferring Starpoints to British Airways. Here’s what he had to say:

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are only 300 miles from New York, but flights from nearby Norfolk can be expensive! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Sometimes a great redemption isn’t particularly aspirational, but is great anyway.

Months ago my wife and I booked a house to rent with our family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in August. A few weeks ago we found out that her uncle was getting married on Long Island in the middle of our vacation.

We decided she would fly up by herself for the wedding, but when looking into flights to the New York area from Norfolk (the closest airport to the outer banks), we were shocked at the prices. The only nonstop flights were on American, and were pricing out at $900 round-trip. Award flights were pricing out at 25,000 AAdvantage miles, which was certainly more reasonable, but seemed like a lot for a flight that’s only about 300 miles each way.

Then it dawned on me that I could transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to British Airways and take advantage of the distance-based award chart to book the ticket. My wife was skeptical that we could transfer hotel points to British Airways in order to fly on American Airlines, but I had done my TPG homework and told her to trust me. 9,000 points and $11 later she had her ticket, and we had a redemption value of 10 cents per point!

I realize it’s not the most exciting award, but if it weren’t for following this blog and knowing that I could transfer Starpoints to British Airways for a short-haul flight, I would have ended up redeeming 25,000 AAdvantage miles for the same ticket. Thanks for the tips!

We all have different travel goals; ultimately what matters is that you learn how to earn and redeem points and miles for the travel you want. An economy flight from Norfolk to New York isn’t flashy, but Brad was able to help get his wife where she needed to be, and got to flex his award-booking muscles in the process.

I often preach the importance of earning travel rewards in flexible programs such as SPG and Chase Ultimate Rewards, because those points open up more possibilities, and allow you to book award travel more efficiently. Brad and his wife could have redeemed 25,000 AAdvantage miles, which would have been a great value for a $900 ticket. However, thanks to Brad’s diversified approach to his loyalty programs, they were able to knock this award out of the park. By taking advantage of Oneworld Alliance partners American Airlines and British Airways, he trimmed the mileage requirement for his wife’s ticket by more than 60 percent!

Transferable points programs such as Starwood Preferred Guest give you greater flexibility to redeem for the awards you want.

I love this story, and I want to hear more like it! To thank Brad for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.

If the tips and strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me (and the whole TPG team) with your own award travel success stories by emailing and putting “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, and a gift card to jump-start your next adventure (purchased from Office Depot with my Ink Plus Business Card, of course).

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

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.