No matter how many guides you read it can still be hard to visualize using points and figuring out exactly what you can get from them.  Also, a lot of travel bloggers tend to write about lavish trips where they flew all around the world in first or business class and stayed at no less than 4-star hotels.  The trips listed here will be a bit more modest and a simple account of the points I used and how I acquired them.  

Click boxes below for trip information


Venice Beach, CA - August '17  


1 Round trip ticket from SFO-LGB (booked 2 months in advance)

  • 8,900 Jet Blue points transferred from Amex Membership Rewards

  • Ticket would have cost $147 if paid in cash

Usually you get 1 Jet Blue point for every 1.25 Amex point when transferring, but Amex was offering a bonus at the time and they thankfully transferred over at a 1:1 ratio. 


Trip Award Summary 

  • 1 Round-trip ticket from SFO-LGB

Cost using points: 7,340 points & $11 in fees

Cash Value: $136

Hawaii - March '17  




2 Round trip tickets from SFO-HNL

  • Virgin Atlantic Card (25,000 mile sign-up bonus)

  • Virgin America Visa Premium & Signature Cards (15,000 & 10,000 point sign-up bonuses)


Ticket 1: Before its merger with Alaska Airlines, Virgin America (VX) was a partner airline of Virgin Atlantic.  I called Virgin Atlantic and was able to cash in my 25,000 points for a round trip ticket on VX.


Ticket 2: Used 20,000 VX points online to redeem a round trip ticket on the same flight as Ticket 1.


If we paid cash it would have been $380 per person, $760 total.  Instead, it was 45,000 points and $22 in fees for both tickets.


We also decided to do a day trip from Oahu to Kauai; luckily, VX was still a partner with Hawaiian at the time. By calling VX, we were able to use our leftover points (6,000 per person) for round trip tickets between Honolulu and Lihue.  If you do the math above, we got 25,000 points with sign-up bonuses from the Virgin America cards but only used 20,000 for the flight from SFO to HNL.  This leaves 5,000 points, so where did we get the extra 7,000 needed for our flights to Kauai?  We racked up more points by everyday spending on things like car repairs, furniture, and medical expenses.


If we paid cash, the Kauai flight would have been $180 per person, $360 total.  Instead, it was 12,000 points and $12 in fees for both tickets.


Hotel: We paid cash for an Airbnb on Oahu (got 3 points per $1 spent with the Chase Sapphire Reserve because it codes as travel)


Car Rental


One weekly rental on Oahu 

  • 2,750 Hertz Gold Reward Points

  • $520 if paying cash


We racked up a ton of e-rewards by doing a lot of surveys and cashed them out for 2,750 Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. One thing to remember is that all your points need to be in one account when redeeming for a rental. We had the 2,750 split between accounts, but luckily Hertz lets you transfer points among family for free so it only took a quick phone call to consolidate our points.


If we paid cash the rental would have been $640 for the week.  Instead, it was 2,750 points and $120 in fees.


Trip Award Summary 

  • 2 Round-trip tickets from SFO-HNL

  • 2 Round-trip tickets from HNL-LIH (Kauai day-trip)

  • One week car rental on Oahu


Cost using points: 59,750 points & $154 in fees

Cash Value: $1,606 (I subtracted the fees since they still had to be paid)  














Charleston, SC - November '17  


2 Round trip ticket from SFO-CHS

  • 50,000 Flying Blue miles (booked 10 months in advance)

  • Tickets would have cost $403 each ($806 total) if paid in cash


We did a flight search and found the best route on Delta Airlines which is part of the SkyTeam alliance so you can buy your tickets through Flying Blue.  Their award ticket search engine is one of my favorites due to its accuracy and user friendliness.  Even better, you can transfer points to them from both Amex and Chase, we decided to do a little of both to spread it out a bit.

Car Rental


One premium weekly rental in Charleston 

  • 2,750 Hertz Gold Reward Points​

  • $502 if paying cash

The U.S. Travel Association recently brought back Daily Getaways, where you can purchase travel at a pretty good discount.  One of the offers that we chose was 13,200 Hertz points for $560, so each point is worth $0.042.


For the rental I can either pay entirely in cash for $502 or use 2,750 points + $72 in fees.  If you subtract the fees from the $502 cash value you get a $430 base price which I'm using 2,750 points for instead.  Remember, I paid $0.042 for each of those points, 2,750 x $0.042 = $115.50. So by taking advantage of the Daily Getaway offer I save $315 for this rental.   


Trip Award Summary  

  • 2 Round-trip ticket from SFO-CHS

  • One weekly rental in Charleston, SC

Cost using points: 52,750 points & $94 in fees

Cash Value: $1,214


Portland, OR - August '17  


1 Round trip ticket from SFO-PDX

  • 7,340 Southwest Rapid Reward points transferred from Chase

  • Ticket would have cost $138 if paid in cash  

Trip Award Summary 

  • 1 Round-trip ticket from SFO-PDX

Cost using points: 7,340 points & $11 in fees

Cash Value: $127