Miles and Points – A Real-World Example

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2013-07-07-09.42.25Earlier I wrote a post titled “How to Travel More for Less” in which I introduced the concept of acquiring airline miles and hotel points through credit card sign-up bonuses to travel for little to no money. I also discussed some hurdles associated with Miles and Points (needing a fairly high FICO score and not participating if you might be applying for a significant loan in the next year or two).

Now I’d like, as I teased in that last post, to give an overview of a trip my wife and I took and how using Miles and Points greatly cut our overall expenditures.

Our destination was Boca Grande, Florida, a small “island” just north of Ft. Myers, Florida. We’d never been to this part of Florida before, which was the main reason it was chosen…something different.

 

For this trip, we decided to rent a condo rather than go the hotel route. Renting a condo can be a much more economical option – over paying for a hotel room – and considering there weren’t any oceanfront hotels for which we could have used points to stay free, a condo it was.

Now we needed to find a flight to get us somewhat close to our destination. After looking at our miles balances, thinking through our future travel desires and researching which flight options would be the best, we decided upon Southwest Airlines.

My wife had recently applied for the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card, been approved, met the minimum spend, and had a cool 50,000 Rapid Rewards points deposited into her account.

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Using Southwest’s booking site, we found a non-stop flight into Ft. Myers for 16,680 points per ticket. As is common with award redemptions, you still have to pay taxes and fees on the award booking. For this flight, taxes and fees totaled $10.00 per ticket.  Since this trip, the taxes/fees have increased to $5.60 per segment, so now the total would be $11.20 per ticket.

An aside – normally when you’re referring to airline awards, they are called miles, it just so happens Southwest Airlines calls their awards, points.

So, for two airline tickets to Ft. Myers, Florida, we “paid” 33,360 points and $20.00 ($22.40 in today’s taxes/fees schedule).

What would we have paid if we had purchased those tickets instead of using points? Our total tab for airfare would have been $680. Subtract the taxes/fees of $20.00 and we saved $660 by using Rapid Rewards points for our airline tickets.

My wife also has a Chase Hyatt Visa that she applied for a few years ago. One of the perks of the card is a free night (limited to certain categories of hotels) on her card’s anniversary date. This benefit alone, more than makes up for the card’s annual fee – if you use it that is.

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The free night she received on her last anniversary was about to expire, so we decided to head to Florida a day early and use her free night to check out the inland Ft. Myers area before heading to the condo and the beach.

We stayed in one of Hyatt’s limited service hotels, Hyatt Place. We’ve always been extremely happy with the service (free breakfast and Internet) and accommodations (large, clean rooms) at all of the Hyatt Places we’ve stayed – Hyatt hotels in general for that matter – and this one was no exception.

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So, how much did our Hyatt credit card anniversary night save us? Approximately $100 plus the fact that we got a free breakfast the next morning. And the nice thing about most hotel award redemptions (points and anniversary nights) is you do not pay taxes or fees. Free means completely free.

Another card my wife has in her arsenal is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This is an outstanding card for earning points after receiving the initial bonus, the specifics of which I’ll discuss at a later date.

sapphire_preferred_card

The points earned via the Sapphire Preferred are called Ultimate Rewards points, and can be used in a variety of ways to satisfy your traveling needs.

Having the Sapphire Preferred card also allows you access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall where you can earn extra points for online purchases as well as book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

An important point – you can only use this site if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card from Chase.

A while back, a Miles and Points blogger that I follow did an outstanding comparison of rental car booking sites and which sites give the best prices. Turns out, the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel site was the winner more often than not…sometimes by significant amounts.

Which is exactly what we found when we did our own search for this Florida trip. We chose an Intermediate car from Enterprise, which priced out at 1 point and $291.58 for the total trip.

An explanation – when using the Ultimate Rewards travel site, you can pay using points only or a combination of points and dollars. You cannot pay using only dollars for your booking, thus our use of 1 point. Think of it as a points “buy-in” to get the better price.

We could have used only points for our rental car, thus, getting the car rental for free. But, for us, it would not have been an economical use of extremely versatile and valuable Ultimate Rewards points.

So, how much did we save using the Ultimate Rewards travel site to book our rental car? Based on a check of the Enterprise car rental website as well as Expedia.com, we saved over $190.00 booking through the Ultimate Rewards site.

Remember, to take advantage of the Ultimate Rewards site you must have, and use to purchase/book, a credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, and use at least one Ultimate Reward point during the booking process.

So there you have it. Adding up all the savings we obtained from using Miles and Points, or the benefits associated with Miles and Points earning credit cards, we saved about $1,000 on this trip.

Not bad for doing nothing more than signing up for credit cards and putting our everyday spending on them – the balances of which are paid off in full every month – to get the sign-up bonuses.

In future posts, I’ll talk more specifically about the various Miles and Points earning credit cards, the benefits associated with individual cards, as well as how to get started playing the Miles and Points game.

Until then, happy saving and happy travels.

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