The big miles post: comparing what we paid for what we would have paid

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I truly love finding a great miles/points deal. So when my wife and I started planning our honeymoon I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime to use our points to maximize our enjoyment of flights and hotels wherever possible. While we couldn’t use them all over the places we visited (specifically, in Indonesia) we received such benefit that our honeymoon was that much better and that much cheaper.

This all started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the miles/points game. We started signing up for credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Plus, and Chase Ink Cash. Each had a lucrative bonus of Ultimate Rewards points that we stored away for safekeeping. I also signed up for the Citibank American Airlines cards (both personal and business) in order to get 100,000 AA miles to supplement some I had from before the US Airways merger. I added the CitiBank ThankYou Premier card as well as Citi Prestige to get 100,000 ThankYou points as well. Finally, we signed up for a few hotel-based cards: We got the Starwood Personal and Business cards when the bonuses were 30,000 and 35,000 instead of the base level of 25,000 and we also both got the Chase Marriott cards. Sufficed to say, we had a lot of points to spend.

So, in this post I want to analyze the difference between what we paid and what we should have paid if we hadn’t used any points.

The first use of our points was our flights from New York-JFK to Denpasar, Bali. We decided to use Korean Airlines because they are a transfer partner of Chase as long as you have either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus. We took two flights to get there: one from New York to Seoul and another from Seoul to Bali. We decided to take a one day layover in Seoul so the flights below are not entirely accurate.

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The total cost using miles was 190,000 points + $166 in taxes. 

If we bought the tickets outright, the cost would have been significantly higher.

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As you can see, the tickets from New York to Seoul alone would have been $20,063.60 in total. For some reason I can’t seem to price out the Seoul->Bali ticket right now, but it likely would have been at least $2,000 each.

For our next major journey on miles we flew from Singapore to London on British Airways. We used American Airlines miles to purchase these tickets before the big devaluation it actually cost us less than quoted below: only 70,000 American Airlines miles each.

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With taxes and fees, the total cost was 140,000 miles + $588.40 in taxes and fees.

Running total: 330,000 miles + $754.40.

The actual cost would have been much more (although less than Korean Air):

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Total cost for this flight with two people: $13,057.60.

Running total: $33,121.20

The last major flight was our return home from Frankfurt to New York-JFK with Singapore Airlines. Our two tickets used quite a few miles because the saver award was not available. I had two transfer over 100,000 Citi ThankYou points and Chase points to get it, but it was well worth it.

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With conversion from the date of purchase, the total cost was 221,000 miles + $621.62.

Final total for flights: 551,000 miles + $1,376.03.

From the example below our flight cost would have been $10,183.12.

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Final total for flights: $43,304.32.

One major aspect of this travel I am not including in cost was all the lounges we visited. As a first class passenger we had access to a number of lounges at each airport and with the Citi Prestige we had access to even more through the Priority Pass network. Even in Lombok Airport – a tiny blip on the screen in Indonesia – there was a Sheraton Lounge that took it. We must have saved a few hundred dollars on food and time due to this benefit.


Now we can start discussing the hotels we stayed in because they were also heavily discounted. The first use of points was at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Singapore. As it is a newly rebranded hotel there was a discount in the price although we used our points anyway. We booked to stay for 3 nights on points instead of paying the full price.

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Total hotel points used: 30,000

If we had paid for it outright, the cost would have been around $120/night, totalling $360.

Next, we stayed at a wonderful Sheraton property in London called the Park Lane Hotel. It is a beautiful old world hotel that has been converted to a Sheraton but retains much of its charm. Since we decided to stay in London for five nights we benefited from Starwood’s 4 nights + 1 free promotion when redeeming points. Normally the hotel is 20,000 points/night but it averaged to 16,000/night due to this deal.

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Total hotel points used here: 80,000. Running total of hotel points: 110,000.

Had we booked our room and paid fully, each night would have been a whopping GBP £218. Based on when we booked the hotel (i.e. before the Brexit), that would have been $316/night. Total cost would have been: $1,580. Running total: $1,940.

In Paris we switched gears a bit and stayed at a Marriott Hotel instead since we had all those points to use. I found a great location with the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. It was conveniently located to many restaurants, museums, and right on public transit lines. We stayed four nights there at a cost of 40,000 points/night.

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Total was 160,000. Running total is: 270,000 points. At this point it is important to mentioned that not all points are created equal, especially when it comes to hotels. Obviously Marriott properties require more points than Starwood ones. Just keep that in mind for the future.

Had we stayed there paying outright, the room would have been 243 Euro/night, translating to $275/night. Total cost: $1,100. Running total: $3,040.

For our last night we stayed at the Hilton City Centre Frankfurt. I had accumulated many Hilton points and even had Gold Status due to the Surpass Card I had signed up for two months prior. While the standard room rate is 50,000 points I actually found a discounted Deluxe Park View room for even less!

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So the total amount of points spent overall for 13 free hotel nights was 311,157 points.

Had we paid out-of-pocket for that room it would have cost 139 Euro, or $157/night. Total cost of hotels would have been: $3,197.


This was a truly amazing trip. The sites we saw were fantastic (and more blog posts to come in that regard). The transportation we took was lovely and speedy. And the places we stayed were welcoming and enticing. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!

Review: Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel and London

As you can probably tell I’ve started the school year again in earnest. If you are interested at all in education-related issues, check out my other blog called Making the Grade. I’ll make sure to post here but not as frequently as the past two weeks.


Upon arrival in London we quickly got a cab to our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel. It is right near Hyde Park and has direct access to a number of Tube lines that can get you anywhere in the city quite quickly. The hotel is a beautiful old building that is still undergoing some renovation but has amazing charm. The oddest thing to me was that the check-in counters were actually around the back of the hotel for some reason. We had booked this hotel using points and since we booked four nights we actually go the fifth night free. So, instead of 20,000 points/night (as shown below) it averaged to 16,000/night.

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The room itself was small but had some nice amenities. The bed was super-duper comfortable! An interesting perk they added: a cell phone for use while in London. We didn’t need to because we had purchased SIM cards for ourselves at the airport, but it is a very interesting idea.

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We had a small issue when we checked in because they said we did not have access to the Sheraton Club Lounge even though I knew it was a benefit of the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card that I had. After a brief twitter exchange with @spgassist our room was called and keys fixed to give us access.

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It had a wonderful breakfast spread every day that we used to supplement lunch fixings as well.

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We did a variety of activities while in London: from visiting the London Transport Museum, to watching buskers in Covent Garden, to exploring the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace, viewing the sky from the London Eye, seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, to having afternoon tea at the Dorchester Hotel. London is a beautiful place to go visit and we will definitely return!

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Starwood’s More For You Promotion earns you points quickly

My wife and I returned from our honeymoon last Sunday so expect some posts soon on our travels. Photos and reviews coming soon!

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a success and opportunity for you from Starwood’s More For You promotion that is upcoming. If you are a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program like I am you have the opportunity to earn more points than usual if you stay at one of their properties.

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Before September 12, however, you have the opportunity to win a whole bunch of Starpoints very quickly. 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000 points are up for grabs! According to The Points Guy’s most recent valuation, that is worth $25, $125, or $250 dollars just for clicking on some links!

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I’ve been inputting my wife’s and my SPG number daily and was lucky enough this morning to win 5,000!

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You never know what you can win and these points will help us get either a hotel or flight to our next travel destination. Start clicking!

Big things for Starwood right now

For those who have been under a rock for the past two days, Starwood is offering its biggest sign-up bonus ever for their American Express credit cards – 35,000 each Starpoints for the personal and business accounts. Since these points can be transferred to 34 airline partners, these are some of the most lucrative points out there. Yes, there was recently a devaluation in how to use the points for hotels, but imagine the possibilities (Dan from Dansdeals.com has done that).

I recently got each of the cards for 30K Starpoints each which is their regular annual deal. This bonus is incredible and you can even refer others for it to get 5K more points for yourself.

In addition to that current deal, The Points Guy reports that Starwood has an annual promotion with Major League Baseball where you can play daily and potentially receive prizes like thousands of Starpoints and/or tickets to the World Series games in 2016. You don’t have to have the credit cards to enter but why not get them anyway?

It’s been a while; trying to post more often

I know it has been a while but when you get bogged down with other work it takes some time to get back in the habit of blogging. So, here it goes again.

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Here are some important news items that have taken place recently:

  1. Many bloggers are pointing out that Chase has a special 50,000 point bonus promotion right now. Since the norm is 40,000 that is a 25% increase! With an extra 10,000 points you could get a hotel stay at a lower-tier hotel in Hyatt or IHG; or you could transfer those points to Southwest for a free one-way ticket on one of their cheaper routes. It’s incredible what you can do with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you would like to be referred for one of these cards, let me know!
  2. I received an email today from the Starwood Preferred Guest program announcing that Marriott is to acquire Starwood hotels, so the programs will be merging in the future. Some speculate this could be horrible since SPG points are worth more than Marriott, but others say it could remain a separate entity. Only time will tell the outcome for frequent travelers.
  3. A little bit older is news that Hyatt is finally allowing award redemptions for Points + Cash, allowing you to spread your points a bit farther. Oftentimes these redemptions are cheaper per point even with the cash purchase. So, if you can spend some cash on a hotel to extend your points, go for it!

That’s all I’ve got for now.

 

Starwood card sign-up bonuses and adding a new transfer partner

One thought that is always considered in the miles+points game is to diversify your portfolio. Arguments can be made to focus on one or another airline to get elite status but for the average user this is probably not going to happen quickly. So, having cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that have myriad of transfer partners is a very good idea.

Every August, one of these cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card increase their Starpoints bonuses, which have numerous transfer partners to choose from. In fact, they recently added Korean Air to the list.

Each card is available for a $95 annual fee (waived in the first year) with bonuses of 30,000 points for each card after reaching the purchase threshold. You can also get referral credit of up to 55,000 points if someone you refer gets the card also.

The bonuses will stop soon so if you do not have either of these cards, now is the time.