Points Baby!!!

Today is a post from Jeff- Sarah is allowing me to post on her Blog! (Begrudgingly)- If you think CC points are boring this probably is not the post for you.

As many of Sarah’s readers may know, I enjoy dabbling in the credit card points game and I wanted to share with everyone how we were able to use points for an excellent Honeymoon experience!

Disclaimer before reading further on points- You truly cannot win at the points game unless you pay your credit cards off in full every month (I know pretty much everyone already knows that, but I like to repeat it to myself…)

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There are two parts to the points game- Gathering points and Redeeming points- It is BEST to break up those two items into separate buckets- The short of it: Gather points from multiple sources simultaneously and once you have gathered those points, know how to redeem them at the best values.

I’ll start with hotels and move into airfare:

Hotels:

First I will give you the value of the redemption, methodology is below the value:

Total Cost

Cotton Hotel Barcelona (http://www.hotelcottonhouse.com/en), Cost per night: EUR 550 * 1.12 = $616 Per Night

Stayed 5 Nights: $616 * 5 = $3,080

Opera Ambassador Hotel Paris (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/paroa-paris-marriott-opera-ambassador-hotel/), Cost per night: EUR 362 *1.12 = $405 Per Night

Stayed 5 Nights: $405 * 5 = $2,025

Total Cost Saved Using Points: $5,105

Value Per Point: $5,107/340,000 = $.015

 

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Sarah and I first stayed 5 nights at the Paris Opera Ambassador Hotel and then at the end of the trip we stayed 5 nights at the Cotton House Hotel in Barcelona. Both hotels were excellent and part of the Marriott brand. According to the blogs I follow- Europe in general has the best redemptions for the Marriott brand-

First Sarah and I had to gather the points. About a year ago Marriott offered a sign up bonus of 80,000 with an authorized user bonus of 7,500 after spending $3,000 with 3 months. Both Sarah and opened a card and boom we had 175,000 Points- With some strategic spending we were able to push that total to 200,000 points- To gather the remaining points we had to ask for a few donations from friends and family- luckily for us Sarah’s Dad Jon and my older brother Mark were able to spare some points- Mark belongs to SPG- fun fact since SPG and Marriott merged you are able to transfer at a 3:1 ratio from SPG to Marriott, so Mark donated 17K SPG points- Jon already had Marriott points so he was able to donate easily. At this point we had 300,000 Marriott points-

For the remaining balance we bought 20,000 points and received the final 20,000 from our friends Tovah and Drew to reach the magic number of 340,000 points-

Why was 340,000 the magic number? The two hotels we identified had redemptions of 40,000 points per night (Paris Ambassador) and 45,000 points per night (Cotton Hotel Barcelona). But I know you are thinking: 40,000 * 5 + 45,000 * 5 = 425,000, how were you able to book 10 nights for 340,000? Well the secret to maximizing Marriott points is that if you book 4 nights with reward points you get the 5th free, which is huge at their category 9 and 10 hotels.

The cherry on top is that we were able to book at Marriott Gold Elite Status, which at Marriott is a huge bonus because you get free breakfast, lounge access and an automatic room upgrade depending on availability. I know you are thinking: Big deal, but in Europe the lounge and breakfast are a different level. For instance, at the Paris Ambassador Hotel the lounge offers free wine, cocktails and snacks every day for free, also the lounge is on the top floor with unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower. Additionally, the breakfast is not the run-of-the-mill light breakfast. These are provided at the Hotel restaurant, which at category 9 & 10 is usually pretty damn good.

We were able to book at Gold elite because one of the perks of having a Platinum AMEX card (I signed up when they were offering a 100,000 point bonus) is that it guarantees gold status at SPG. Since SPG merged with Marriott that status carries over to Marriott when you link the accounts (Usually you have to have 50 qualifying nights to receive gold status).

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Airfare:

First I will give you the value of the redemption, methodology is below the value:

Total Cost:

Average Weekday Airfare Ticket from Denver to Paris (One-Way): $800 per person

Total Cost: $800 x 4 (2 People Round Trip) = $3,200

Total Cost Saved using Points: $3,200

Value per mile: $3,200/140,000 Miles = $.023

Disclaimer (If you have really flexible dates you can wait and find really cheap prices (cash) to Europe)

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Sarah and I flew from Denver to Paris Tuesday May 23rd on United- We gathered the points for the flight through an excellent sign up bonus about 18 months ago. The bonus was for 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of having the card open- Additionally there was an extra 5,000 mile bonus for having an authorized user- Both Sarah and I took out a card and boom we had accrued 130,000 miles.

United has one of the best Super Saver programs (aka mile redemption programs) on the market- Not only is it easy to redeem points through their system, but they have certain days that you can redeem at super saver redemption rates – hence why we flew out on Tuesday-

The super saver offer for flying into Paris on Tuesday May 23rd was 35,000 miles per person for economy- I booked Sarah and I using 70,000 miles leaving me 60,000 miles. Another pro tip: in my experience it is best to redeem an economy ticket with points and then upgrade with cash- for instance: we upgraded to economy plus for only an additional $139 per person for the entire reservation (one way)- it would have cost double the points if we just used points (If you want to avoid using cash there are ways to get great redemptions on business class, but you have to be extra flexible on the days you are planning to travel). On the way back we could have upgraded to first class for only an additional $199 per person (we did not, but it shows how waiting and upgrading can pay off with great rates).

For returning same situation: a super saver was offered for 35,000 miles per person from Barcelona to Denver. As you know, we had 60,000 miles remaining so I had to transfer 10,000 Chase UR points into United miles to give me the 70,000 needed (Chase UR points transfer to many programs (transfer to United Miles at a 1:1 ratio).

And that’s it Folks! In summation we saved a total of $8,300 using points (yes the saving is only compared to just booking straight-up)-

Congratulations if you are still awake!

2 thoughts on “Points Baby!!!

  1. That is awesome!! How can I teach Jon to spend points?? 🤗 Instead of hoarding them and then giving them away so others can have great vacations!! 😜

    Like

  2. Of course, you and Sarah must both know that I have no idea what you are talking about on your last blog (or whatever you call it). Points and the ins and outs of that are totally foreign to me. Maybe Kim will explain to me!

    Like

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