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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how points and miles have helped them get where they want to go. Each week I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own award travel success story, email it 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. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Kyle, who treated his wife to a European vacation using points and credit card benefits. Here’s what he had to say:
When my wife applied to grad school two years ago, I knew I wanted to take her to Europe as a graduation gift. Working with one income and student loans, I decided to rack up Ultimate Rewards and Starpoints for transfers to Hyatt and Marriott, since both those brands have excellent coverage throughout Europe.
I started with the 35,000-point sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest card (no longer available), which I gave to my wife to use for everyday spending. I then went for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for the mega 100,000-point bonus, followed by the Hyatt Credit Card to get the two free nights. I rounded out my points run with Chase Freedom 5x categories, Marriott social media points giveaways, and a healthy dose of airline dining rewards.
With close to 200,000 Ultimate Rewards and 50,000 Starpoints to burn, I booked an incredible Air France Premium Economy flight to Amsterdam for 25,000 miles each, followed by a return flight from Rome for 30,000 miles apiece on United. I booked excellent stays at the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam (15,000 points per night) and Hyatt Regency Nice for 25,000 points per night), plus the Marriott Grand Hotel in Rome for 45,000 points per night.
The highlight, however, was the two free nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, which was running for $800+ a night. I had to fill in a gap in Barcelona with a hostel, but overall I couldn’t be happier with our route and how far my points took us. The full price for our trip would have been $15,432, but with points it was just $522. Thanks, TPG!
Kyle paved the way for his trip by scoring several lucrative sign-up bonuses, but the other strategies he used were also key in earning the rewards he and his wife needed. He maximized purchases by taking advantage of 5x bonus categories, and picked a lot of low-hanging fruit with Marriott’s ongoing social media campaigns and airline dining programs. Credit card bonuses may be the fastest way to boost your loyalty accounts, but don’t ignore the many other opportunities out there!
If you want to book a hotel with Ultimate Rewards points and can’t find any good transfer options, consider booking directly through the Chase Travel Portal. You can redeem points for up to 1.5 cents apiece toward a wide selection of hotels, including many properties that don’t belong to any loyalty program. I think that redemption value is below average, but it’s a useful way to fill in the gaps on an award trip if you want to save cash.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Kyle for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the 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 by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions at the top of this post). Feel free to also submit stories of your most egregious travel mistakes. In either case, you’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Featured Image courtesy of Dan Bowen Photography via Getty Images.
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