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This month’s marked with lots of travel. I just got back from a week in Japan. And tomorrow, I’m off to San Francisco and Portland!
I was tallying up my points totals and comparing what the retail costs would’ve been. This trip would’ve cost over $2,000 had I paid cash.
I should disclose ended up paying a little cash, in addition to my points. 30 whole cents. 😹
Here’s how I did it!
In This Post
5 days on the West Coast for under a buck
Alaska’s had some amazing fares from Dallas to San Francisco and Portland recently – around $200 round-trip.
I’ve been wanting to visit Portland forever by now. And it’s been years since I’ve been to San Fran. I think I was 19 the last time I was there?
So I cobbled together a multi-city itinerary that looked like this:
The final cost?
I planned this trip in January, and the $300 annual travel credit from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card had just reset. This credit, along with hotel points for the hotel stay, made my net cost exactly 30 cents.
In my recent post about the break even point of the Chase Sapphire cards, I did NOT include the travel credit. So depending on how you conceptualize this credit, I either paid $450 for the card, and got $300 toward a trip. Or, this credit reduced the annual fee to $150 because it’s a trip I wanted to take anyway.
Peeps think of their points, credits, and annual fees in various ways. Because I paid the annual fee back in September 2017, by the time January 2018 rolled around and the credit reset, it sure felt like I got those $300 flights for 30 cents.
Plus, I used Hyatt points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover 3 nights of hotels. I love this card!
3 nights in SFO
The nights we wanted were $274 plus taxes, which came to ~$957 total.
Instead, I used 45,000 Hyatt points. I already had some in my account. And transferred what I needed from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
In this case, each point was worth a bit over 2 cents each ($958 / 45,000) – which is what I always strive to get from these points.
2 nights in Portland
OK. Why are hotels in Portland so expensive? All the cash rates were insanely high. Early on, I knew I’d be burning some points.
And with that thought, wanted to get the best combination of price and location. I settled on the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront. It has decent reviews on TripAdvisor and the location looks incredible.
The 2 nights I wanted were ~$857.
Most of the Marriott hotels in Portland were 35,000 points per night (so was this one). And the only Starwood hotel in town (The Nines), wasn’t available. I didn’t want to use Hilton points (too expensive), and I’d just burned most of my IHG points to stay in Japan.
So, I dipped into my Starwood balance and transferred 21,000 points to Marriott to top up my account for the 70,000 Marriott points I’d need.
The 21,000 Starwood points became 63,000 Marriott points. And with that, I had enough to book the 2-night stay.
But I think of Marriott points as Starwood points (for now), because they’re still so valuable. So those 70,000 Marriott points were worth 23,000 Starwood points.
Which meant each point was worth nearly 4 cents each ($857 / 23,000) – a very good value. After this, I’m not using any more of my Starwood points until after the program changes in August 2018. But back in January, I was comfortable making the transfer and getting that value.
(Until August, I’m going to accumulate as many Starwood points as possible!)
By the numbers
Adding it up by retail value:
- Flights were $300
- 3 nights in SFO were $957
- 2 nights in PDX were $857
The total cash price would’ve been $2,114. But I paid:
- 30 cents for the flights
- 45,000 Hyatt points for 3 nights in SFO
- 70,000 Marriott points (23,000 Starwood points) for 2 nights in PDX
Hotel points got me 5 free nights in hotels. And because the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit kicked it, I paid 30 cents for the flights.
And now, I leave tomorrow – I’m so excited to go back to the West Coast!
This weekend, I’ll enjoy 3 nights in San Francisco at the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf and 2 nights at the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront. I’m flying there on Virgin America and back on Alaska. It’ll be interesting to compare them after the big merger.
My total out-of-pocket cost was 30 cents, for a trip that retails over $2,100. Stuff like this is why I love points & miles (and my Chase Sapphire Reserve card) so much.
Even cooler: I have $15 in Uber credits from my Amex Platinum Card, so I’ll only have to pay ~$10 to get to the airport. Plus I’m going with 2 friends and will take them to the Centurion Lounge @ DFW when we get back (we’re flying out of Love Field)!
The only thing I’ll really pay for is food and attractions this weekend, which is awesome. I’m also getting a new tattoo in Portland (!!!), so I’ll pay cash for that.
So now one last thing: anything cool I should check out in SFO or PDX? Cool breweries, fun local bars, great restaurants, or anything else unique to either city?
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