Experiences on Points

Previously I said that our cash expenses on vacations are primarily food and the occasional experience because you can’t use points for those.  Well I figured out you sure can!  I was hoping this article would be one where I could say look what I won, but unfortunately I was outbid.

Introduction to Auctions

Instead of using your hotel points or airline miles for hotels and airlines, it is possible to get something unique.  Some items are fancy meals while others are trips around the world or tickets for a sports match.  You can even meet Mariah Carey.  This can work out great because you may have a pile of points and would prefer an experience to a hotel stay.  Don’t get carried away, it can be tough to win, but if you do there can be some great value.  Let’s look at some examples.

My case

First, there was a trip for two to Japan with 7 nights at a 5-star hotel and a 4-day guided tour with business class flights.  The price for the tour alone was $4,000 per person.  All together I estimated the trip was around $12,000.  It ended up going for 651,000 United miles.  Close to 2 cents a point is not a bad use of miles.

Next, there was a trip to Telluride that included two pairs of custom skis.  The skis were worth $3,500 and the lift tickets another $1,000.  Add in hotel, flights, and car and this package was around $8,000.  That sold a bit higher than all the miles we have at 400,000 United miles.  Again, they are getting around 2 cents a point.  That’s not to say there aren’t even better deals.

The process

Depending on what point currency you have, take a look at their auction sites.

Some packages may seem great, but make sure not to get carried away.  If you aren’t getting at least a cent per point then it is likely you could simply buy the package (if possible) for a better deal.  There are rules of each site, generally you can only bid up to have the number of points in your account.  There are a limited number of packages you can win in a period.  Also, not all are auctions, sometimes there is a fixed price.

Example of a good deal

One package that just sold was a cooking class with a chef, a fancy Michelin starred meal, and a 3-night stay at the Ritz in the Canary Islands.  It sold for 82,500 Marriott points.  The hotel costs 50,000 points per night, so this would be a great deal even if you ditched the €200/person meal (please don’t).

Conclusion

You can expect me to bid on more auctions.  It is unfortunate that American Airlines doesn’t have auctions because we have over 500,000 of them.  I hope this post was useful to you and I hope we have different tastes so we don’t even up in a bidding war.

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