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In the miles and points world, it pays to have your “favorite” programs you primarily focus on building miles and points in, but then to diversify into at least a couple of other secondary programs as well. For one, there are usually some pretty easy opportunities to get healthy numbers of miles in other programs via credit card sign-up bonuses and similar, but also because no one program is going to always have the best award at the best price.
Here’s a story I was emailed this week by an awesome Mommy Points reader of how diversification helped his family not only get where they wanted to be for much less, but have a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a result! I really loved this story as it showed how to put various pieces of the miles and points puzzle together to get huge value out of a domestic redemption.
I’m pretty proud of a trip I was able to book this week, and although it wasn’t anything exotic or particularly complicated it definitely qualifies as a trip that I wouldn’t have ordinarily chosen to make without leveraging points. And, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have known the best way to make it happen without having read your blog and others like it. In particular, it reminds me of the story you wrote about earlier this year when your husband and his family were able to attend the World Series in Kansas City on the cheap.
Although I live in the San Francisco Bay area now, I grew up in Ohio and most of my extended family are lifelong Ohio State football fans. As you may know, they are one of the teams lucky enough to be playing in the inaugural NCAA Championship playoff finals at AT&T Stadium near Dallas this coming Monday. It always crosses my mind at times like these that I’d like to attend, but rarely do I justify the expense relative to watching it at home. So, I didn’t really even strongly consider attending this one.
However, late Wednesday night my uncle, who lives in North Carolina, called me to let me know that he unexpectedly bought two tickets to the game. Long story short, he was already committed to buying two tickets at face value ($450 each, and these are the “cheap seats”!) and was desperately looking to sell them to recoup his cost. He too didn’t think he’d be able to swing the travel costs, especially last minute and on top of already pricey seats.
I poked around a bit on Thursday morning for takers, but didn’t have much luck. The folks I talked to were already going, or weren’t in a position to go. For kicks, I checked flight prices and award ticket availability on my preferred carrier, United, but looked like it would cost me $800 or at 50K miles r/t plus fees. There were a few cheaper flights on other carriers, but I would be left with finding someone to go with and still spending more than I wanted to. THEN IT HIT ME…
About a year ago, somewhat through your encouragement, I took advantage of a targeted 100,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus for an American Express Platinum Catd. Thus far, I’ve already been happy with the card having used my $200 airline credit in 2014, signed up for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check, visited various lounges including the new SFO Centurion lounge a few times, along with upgraded status with SPG, National Car rental, and with about $100 worth of Amex offers rebates. However, I had not yet found an opportunistic time to use any of the 106,000 Membership Reward points that I’d accumulated through the sign up bonus and occasional spend….UNTIL YESTERDAY.
With the game being in Dallas, a notable American Airlines hub, I did a bit of research and figured out how to book American flights through British Airways using Avios. I haven’t flown American in years and never had an BA account, but went ahead and signed up for one to allow me to check award flight availability. With their generous distance based award ticket pricing, I was thrilled to find out that I could get an award ticket for myself from SFO-DFW for 20K round trip Avios and one for my uncle from RDU-DFW for 15K Avios round trip.
The icing on the cake was the current 40% transfer bonus for MR transfers to Avios. So, in the end, I was able to book round trip flights for me AND my uncle for a sum total of 25,000 total MR points and $22 in booking fees! The flight times aren’t perfect, but they’ll comfortably get us there and back with time to enjoy the festivities. Further, I was lucky enough to find a Courtyard by Marriott near DFW with availability and cashed in 30K Marriott points for a two night stay.
My uncle agreed to my proposal that he cover the game tickets if I covered our travel “costs”, which for me turned out to be $22 plus a relatively modest point outlay. Not a bad deal for either of us!
Even if the Buckeyes don’t beat the Ducks on Monday, I certainly consider this a travel victory!
Thank you so much to this Mommy Points reader for sharing his story. I loved hearing about how all the pieces of earning and using miles and points came together to make this memorable trip possible without breaking the bank. I hope the game is amazing, and the time with your uncle is even better!