Home Credit Cards Some of Our Favorite Points Redemptions of 2019

Some of Our Favorite Points Redemptions of 2019

How and where we redeemed points for maximum value.

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Apartment suite at Conrad Midtown, New York City. Courtesy of Conrad Midtown. Credit Mark Weinberg
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We write quite a bit about the power of earning and redeeming airline miles and credit card points, and we get that sometimes the information can seem rather abstract. While we always like to include real-life examples in our posts, there are none more real than these points redemptions made by Credit Card Pro’s principal author, yours truly. Here are some prime examples of how I spent my hard-earned points and miles in 2019.

A mini-moon at Conrad New York Midtown, New York City, USA

My sister got remarried and didn’t have the time (or funds) for a full-on honeymoon. As a wedding gift to my sister and brother-in-law, I booked them in a posh suite at Conrad New York Midtown in New York City (formerly The London NYC) for a weekend. The modern, all-suite property near Central Park was completely renovated in 2019 and flaunts guest rooms larger than most New York City apartments. It’s one of the Big Apple’s finest properties.

For the weekend of their mini-moon, rates began at $801 per night plus tax. But instead of paying $1,845 for the stay (two nights plus taxes of 14.75% per day plus $3.50 flat fee per day), I paid $0. I was successfully able to book two nights using the points and certificate I had recently obtained from a sign-up promo with Hilton Honors American Express Business Card ($95/year). That card’s introductory offer included 130,000 Hilton Honors points and one free weekend night certificate at any property in the Hilton portfolio (which includes coveted Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties) after spending $5,000 in the first four months of card membership. So, I booked one night for 95,000 Hilton points per night, and the other using a Free Weekend Certificate. On top of that, taxes and resort fees are already bundled into Hilton points redemption so those weren’t out of pocket, either. Impressive, I know!

A honeymoon night at Keemala, Phuket, Thailand

High in the rainforest-clad hilltops of Phuket, the tree houses at Keemala are exactly what honeymoon dreams are made of. All villas come with frills like a private pool and monsoon showers. Such ultra-luxury runs for $1,645 per night, but thanks to a new partnership with Small Leading Hotels of the World, of which Keemala is a member, this property can be booked with Hyatt points. And get this—just 30,000 Hyatt points.

Yes, it’s the deal of a century and one that isn’t likely to last. Lucky for one of my dearest friends going on a honeymoon in Thailand, I gifted him a night at Keemala using points instead of cutting a $250 check. He’s definitely not complaining!

Business-class tickets from the Seychelles to New York City

Admittedly, the Seychelles is not the easiest destination to reach from the United States, but those who embark on this road/flight less traveled are handsomely rewarded. The Seychelles beaches are arguably the best in the world and the granitic, mountainous backdrops are some of Earth’s most stunning. For an upcoming trip, I was able to score a one-way business-class seat between the Seychelles (SEZ) and New York City (JFK) for just 75,000 Flying Blue points (program of Air France and KLM) plus taxes on SkyTeam partner Kenya Airways. The flight has less than a three-hour layover, getting me from the Seychelles to Nairobi in a few hours and then Nairobi to JFK on Kenya Airways’ new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

To make things even more interesting I was able to get those 75,000 Flying Blue points from 60,000 Citi Thank You points as the company recently ran a promotion to transfer Thank You Points to Flying Blue points at a 1: 1.25 ratio. Nothing like getting that endless glass of Champagne and lie-flat seat for a mere fraction of what your fellow passengers paid!

One-way back from Barcelona in business class

Avios, the frequent flyer currency of British Airways and Iberia, is chock-full of sweet spots. This is because Avios bases the price of reward tickets on a distance-based award chart rather than a geographic- or regional-based award chart (e.g., North America to North America, North America to Europe). This has presented hundreds of excellent opportunities over the years for reward tickets available at rates far cheaper than they would be with other mileage programs.

Case in point: Just last week I was able to book a one-way business-class flight from Barcelona to Miami on Iberia for 51,500 Avios plus $244 in taxes. Similar to the example above, I had stockpiled some Avios points during a recent American Express promotion, in which Membership Rewards could be transferred to Avios at a rate of 1: 1.4. So, essentially, the 51,500 Avios cost me only 37,000 Membership Rewards. Huzzah!

Round-trip business-class tickets to China (with a free stopover)

I had to go to multiple cities in China for work and was hoping to have enough points to score business-class tickets round-trip. I was out of luck. But then Alaska Mileage Plan launched a mileage sale with a 50% bonus, selling miles for as low as 1.97 cents per mile. I decided to buy the miles to score business-class tickets on the cheap. How?

Well, Alaska Air charges only 50,000 miles one-way for a business-class ticket on its partner Hainan Airlines (China’s top-rated airline). The cheapest ticket I found for the round-trip I wanted between Boston and Beijing on Hainan was over $4,000. But with Alaska Mileage Plan miles, this ticket priced out at 100,000 miles round-trip plus $410 in taxes. Buying 100,000 Alaska Air points with the 50% promo cost $1,970. Add $1,970 and $410 to get $2,380. Compare $2,380 to $4,000. That’s a savings of more than $1,600. Not bad!

What’s more? Alaska Air’s generous stopover policy afforded me two free legs within China when booking (and also in business class). I could fly Boston to Beijing, spend time in Beijing, and then continue to Chengdu, all as part of my first one-way. For the return, I could begin in Chongqing, fly back to Beijing to spend a few days, and then fly back to the United States. These extra flights were valued at several hundred dollars, and I paid nothing to include them on the itinerary. I definitely got maximum value for my hard-earned (and purchased) miles. We hope you are inspired to do the same!

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.