In the year of 2016, we optimized our spending and coordinated multiple credit card applications to maximize our travel rewards. Over the year, we applied for multiple TD cards, each a CIBC card, multiple American Express cards (including two Starwood Preferred Guest cards to stay at hotels for free), and an MBNA Alaska Airline card each. (Using these affiliate links will give you a bigger welcome bonus or cash back. )
All in all, we accumulated over 250,000 Aeroplan points, over 10 free hotel nights, and over 50,000 Alaska Miles.
With a rough estimate, we can value Aeroplan points at 3.22¢ each but they can go for as low as 1.3¢ per point depending on your redemption. This brings our 250,000 points we accumulated this year to a total worth to anywhere between $3,200 and $8,050.
The 10 free nights we accumulated are worth anywhere from $150 to 250$ per night without counting the possible upgrades we can get from our Gold status with SPG and Marriot (more on that later).
Our Alaska Miles are worth 1.8¢ each on the lower end to over 6¢ each (explained below) for a total of $900 to $3,000.
This brings us to a grand total of $5,600 up to $13,550! In terms of redemptions, we only booked two trips including two free hotel nights for this year.
A good night’s sleep is even better when it’s free
When we were on our honeymoon, we booked two free nights and got one upgrade because of our Gold status. We booked a night at the Dallas Sheraton and our reservation was for a regular King bedroom (worth about $250 per night) but upon arrival, we got upgraded to the Dallas Suite (worth about $450 per night) just because we were preferred guests. 🙂
Later on, when we stopped in Miami for a layover, we booked a free night at the Sheraton worth $275 but the hotel was full so we did not get a free upgrade that time around. However, we still got our stay for free and you can do the same by applying to the SPG cards and enjoying about 5 free nights worth over $1,000 just from the welcome bonus!
Traveling the world, priceless
For this summer, we booked a flight to Los Angeles for $101 per person + 25,000 Aeroplan points. For this redemption, we got a rate of 2.8896¢ per point. The great thing about most reward flights is that they offer free stopovers and in some case (like Aeroplan) free stops within a reward zone. For those a bit less familiar with the flight jargon, here are the main terms to qualify a stop;
- Connections are a brief transit between flights. Those are usually less than 4h but can go up to 24h for international flights. We try to avoid these and most of the time, the extra cost for a non-stop flight is worth much more than the hours wasted at the airport.
- Stopovers are connections where you can stop for many hours or days. We used that on our honeymoon to visit Dallas and Miami while saving on the flight cost.
- Open jaw tickets are a multi-stop trip where you continue your journey through another airport than the one you arrived at. These can be tricky to plan and only booked over the phone.
For our Los Angeles trip, we chose to fly multi-stop direct flights with Aeroplan and we were only charged 25,000 points since they were both Canada/USA Long-haul flights. With the chart below, you can see the different zones and the mileage cost for each.
We booked direct flights from Canada to LA then LA to San Francisco, and then back home. The best thing is that all of this was for the same price as a single flight. To calculate the value of this point redemption, we searched for the cheapest flights on Expedia and found out that it would cost us $823.40 each if we were paying for the flights out of pocket. By subtracting the taxes we paid on our Aeroplan flights ($101) we saved a total of $722.4 with our 25,000 points. This comes out to a total value per point of 2.8896₵.
The other trip we booked this winter was our trip to British Columbia in February. We visited family in Victoria and brought our skis to hit the slopes while we were there. Another great benefit of premium credit cards is the travel insurance they usually provide. The American Express Card, for example, offers emergency medical insurance, trip interruption insurance, car rental theft and damage insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, and other complimentary travel insurance benefits. This can represent huge savings when comparing to private travel insurance.
Even when booking this trip well in advance, both Canadian airlines charged $999.46 for the flight. With Aeroplan, we paid only $125 plus 25,000 points. If we count the difference, we saved $874.46 using our rewards. This redemption came out to a great rate of 3.4978₵ per mile.
For this year, these are the only three trips we are planning but for 2018, we are planning a trip to Thailand. The cheapest flight on Expedia (with approximated dates since we did not book this one yet) is $1,399.45 for a 2 stop flight or $1,792.10 for a single connection flight. Using the Aeroplan, only a 2 stop flight would be available and would cost $100 plus 90,000 points. This brings the total redemption rate at a measly 1.4438₵ per mile. However, if we book this flight with our Alaska Miles, we can book a single stop flight for $120 plus 25,000 Alaska Miles! This brings up the redemption rate to 6.6884¢ per mile.
We plan on visiting Thailand for the same price as a month of Starbucks! This only goes to show how you can control your spending and choose how to spend your hard-earned cash. You have control over your financial wellbeing, you can travel the world if you wish to without breaking the bank.
We “made” over 13 thousand dollars in tax-free rewards through various credit card travel points in 2016 and we are aiming even higher for 2017! Best of luck in your travels, Xyz.