All of our Sunday Success Stories serve as a living example that all of us average Americans can, indeed, see the world at prices we all can afford. We can do this by working together and sharing our stories. Send your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your first name and last initial, along with your occupation and a photo, if you wish. - Rick
Over the years my wife and I had picked up a few cash-rewards credit cards ($100 each for a Sony card and around $700 total for targeted Gold AmEx cards), but nothing serious. That changed when the British Airways 100K and the American Airlines 75K cards came out within a short time of each other. We got 1 BA, 2 personal AA, and one business AA card each … and suddenly we had banked a combined 550,000 airline miles! That really got my attention. Not long after we banked those miles, the Capital One “Match Your Miles” program came out, so my wife and I each earned 100K with them based on our balances in the AA accounts. Now I was hooked and looking for more. I found the FlyerTalk website, and that led me to Frugal Travel Guy. I read all of your posts for newbies, and found out how to do App-O-Ramas. I’ve just received the cards from my second App-O-Rama and I’m working through the minimum spends. It’s cost a few hundred dollars since several cards didn’t waive the first-year fee, but it’s worth it to me.
Now, on to the fun part. So far our family of five has flown free for a vacation to California (LA, Sequioia National Park, Yosemite, and San Francisco – Yosemite was amazing). We’ve also flown free for a vacation to Salt Lake City / Yellowstone (with most of the lodging paid for with Capital One points). By the way – Yellowstone was freezing cold in June. Yosemite was much better in my opinion. And this past Spring Break we all went to Hawaii, with 4 days in Maui and 3 in Oahu (but we paid for our own hotels because we didn’t have enough hotel points banked yet). The whole family liked Maui a lot more than Oahu. It was, simply put, a lot more relaxing. And the locals were also more relaxed (island style) whereas the people in Oahu had a more mainland feel to them. We went to one public beach in Maui (away from the touristy areas) on a Tuesday night, and came across several local families barbecuing on the beach. Picture being on an amazing beach in the late evening, palm trees, the sun setting behing the island of Moloka’i across the water and starting to light up the clouds with sunset colors, sipping wine and grilling up an amazing-smelling gourmet meal, while the kids are surfing a short distance away waiting for their dinner to be ready. And that wasn’t a special occasion, it was just a regular Tuesday night. That’s island style. We stayed at the Hyatt on Ka’Anapali Beach, and it was amazing. On Oahu we stayed at the Hilton Grand Vacations, and although I couldn’t really complain about that experience, I liked the Hyatt much better.
We’ve also flown my mother to Colorado, and my in-laws to Las Vegas / the Grand Canyon.
After all of that travel, we’re still sitting on a combined 355K miles (BA, AA, and Southwest) plus 46K Capital One points and 145K Hawaiian miles that I’m planning to convert to Hilton points. For hotel points we have 125K Marriott, 120K Hilton, and about 48K Club Carlson from the recent “stay one get one” promotion. After I convert the Hawaiian to Hilton and get the bonuses from this second round, I’ll bump our Hilton accounts to a total of 750K points, plus earn 80K US Air miles and 4 club passes. If I’m lucky, I’ll also have four nights in any Hyatt worldwide (Chase initially denied both of us for having too many cards with them but I will call the reconsideration line).
I’ve been working for those Hilton points lately because they’re easy to get and, although they’re not worth a lot on lower-tier hotels, they’re not bad for higher-end stays, especially with the Axon. After this second App-O-Rama, using Axon / VIP rewards, we will be able to stay 20 nights in any Category 7 property, or up to 40 nights in a Category 3. Who knows – we may go back to Maui? 10 nights in the Grand Waileia sounds pretty relaxing right about now.
Todd, great story and glad to see your family really traveling at prices that we can all afford. - Rick