How I used factors and miles to guide my dream journey to Europe

Welcome to the sixth installment of a yearlong collection the place Tarah Chieffi, TPG’s household journey reporter, shares her expertise utilizing numerous factors, advantages, credit and entry from her first premium rewards bank card, The Platinum Card® from American Categorical.

Earlier installments:

Now that I’ve traveled to Europe and again utilizing factors and miles, I assume I will should retire my self-dubbed “beginner” standing pretty quickly. However, earlier than I graduate by way of the ranks of my factors and miles schooling (I actually would not name myself an knowledgeable … but), I need to go away you with the end result of my learnings since signing up for The Platinum Card® from American Categorical earlier this 12 months: a one-week romp by way of Germany and Belgium that I used to be capable of pay for utilizing largely factors and miles.

A 12 months in the past, that by no means would have been potential as a result of I knew subsequent to nothing about utilizing bank card spending (responsibly) to maximise factors incomes. With a bit assist from TPG’s deep properly of informational articles — and quite a bit of assist from my co-workers — I made leaps and bounds in my understanding of incomes and redeeming factors and miles.

As with all our factors and miles private tales at TPG, it is my hope that relating precisely how I made this journey occur will assist my fellow newbies really feel much less overwhelmed by the world of reward journey and encourage them to present it a strive for themselves.

Reserving a flight to Europe with factors

I’ve written fairly extensively about how I used factors to get my husband and myself to Europe utilizing American Categorical Membership Rewards factors, so I will not spend an excessive amount of time explaining it intimately. What I’ll say is that I did a few issues that helped stretch my factors a bit additional than if I had simply hopped on the Amex Journey portal and booked my flights on a whim.

However first, let’s speak a bit about how I earned these factors.

First, whenever you apply for many bank cards, together with the Amex Platinum card, you obtain a welcome bonus whenever you hit a minimal spending stage inside an allotted period of time. On the time I utilized for this card, I wanted to achieve a $6,000 spending threshold within the first six months of card membership to earn 100,000 bonus American Categorical Membership Rewards factors.

The remainder of my factors I earned by way of on a regular basis spending like groceries, procuring and eating out. When the cardboard arrived within the mail, I shifted most of my purchases and recurring payments to this card.

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The very first thing I did that acquired me a 25% factors bonus was to attend (nevertheless impatiently) for a switch bonus to an Amex Membership Rewards switch companion. I knew primarily based on my dates and airports that I might be flying KLM, a member of the Flying Blue program, together with Air France. Amex Membership Rewards factors sometimes switch 1 to 1 for Flying Blue miles.


For instance, 1,000 Membership Rewards factors would equal 1,000 Flying Blue miles. Amex usually runs promotions with their lodge and airline companion packages, nevertheless, and I waited till a promotion with Flying Blue banked me 1,250 Flying Blue miles for each 1,000 Membership Rewards factors. I used to be capable of convert 269,000 Amex Membership Rewards factors to 336,250 Flying Blue miles. That was sufficient to cowl business-class flights to and from Europe for me and my husband, minus the considerably exorbitant gasoline surcharges handed on by Air France and KLM (don’t be concerned, most airways aren’t as unhealthy).

Throughout our journey, we bounced from Munich and Dortmund, Germany to Brussels (with just a few day journeys blended in), driving or taking a practice between most of our locations. The drive from Munich to Dortmund takes over six hours, nevertheless, so a brief, cheap flight was rather more interesting.


I first checked Google Flights to get an concept of the routes and costs for economic system tickets between Munich and Dortmund earlier than checking the costs on the Amex Journey Portal. This comparability could be my second piece of recommendation when redeeming Amex Membership Rewards factors for flights or resorts.

Typically the worth you see by way of Amex will not be essentially the very best worth, however on this case it matched what I used to be seeing on Google Flights. I did not have fairly sufficient factors to cowl each of our flights, which got here out to $339 with taxes and charges, however Amex offers you the choice to pay with factors and money when reserving by way of its journey portal. I held onto these factors particularly for this journey so I did not thoughts blowing by way of my factors stability, and in order that’s simply what I did.

I used what was left of my stability to cowl a portion of the flights and paid money for the remaining. Spending $187.93 for 2 aircraft tickets was a lot simpler than parting with the total $339.


Lounge entry was one other enormous perk of utilizing our Amex Membership Rewards factors to guide business-class flights. Though neither of us holds standing with KLM or Air France, we had been capable of entry the KLM Crown Lounge and the Air France Lounge as a result of we had been flying enterprise class. It gave us a spot to seize breakfast after we arrived in Europe and a light-weight meal (and pre-departure cocktail) earlier than we flew house on the finish of our journey.

Amex Journey Portal fundamentals

The Amex Journey Portal is a platform the place you’ll be able to guide journey in the event you maintain one of many following playing cards: The Platinum Card® from American Categorical, The Enterprise Platinum Card® from American Categorical or American Categorical® Gold Card. You possibly can pay with money, American Categorical Membership Rewards factors or a mixture of each.

The Amex Journey Portal is handled as a third-party reserving web site, so it is not at all times essentially the very best worth over transferring factors to an airline or lodge companion. Nevertheless, there are different perks to contemplate just like the American Categorical Membership Rewards factors you’ll be able to earn and whether or not the lodge is a part of Amex Nice Motels + Resorts or The Resort Assortment.

Utilizing factors for resorts in Europe

I had constructed up sufficient of a factors stability to cowl our lodge stays in Europe, as properly. I did this with a mixture of Amex Membership Rewards factors and Marriott Bonvoy free evening certificates. I earned 5 free nights valued at 50,000 factors per evening after I signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit score Card earlier this 12 months and hit the $5,000 minimal spending stage throughout the first three months of account opening. The cardboard’s annual price is simply $95 — a fraction of the worth you will get from these 5 free nights, together with the cardboard’s different perks.

For our lodge in Munich, I booked by way of the Amex Journey portal and paid utilizing Membership Reward factors. I may have booked our room at Roomers Munich instantly by way of Marriott utilizing my free evening certificates, however there was a bonus to reserving by way of Amex.


Roomers Munich is a part of the Resort Assortment, a choice of resorts on the Amex Journey portal that include perks like complimentary room upgrades (when obtainable) and a $100 on-site credit score to make use of for eating and different experiences for stays of two nights or extra. I used to be capable of reap the benefits of that and I nonetheless earned Marriott Bonvoy factors for my keep, which is not at all times the case whenever you guide by way of the Resort Assortment (learn: your mileage could range). We didn’t obtain an improve, however I used to be proud of the room I booked in order that wasn’t a giant deal to me.


For our one evening in Dortmund (to see Borussia Dortmund tackle FC Bayern in soccer), I depleted my Amex Membership Rewards factors stability additional by paying with factors for our keep at Resort der Lennhof by way of the Amex Journey Portal.


The lodge was past charming and our fee included breakfast, which actually made it really feel like a steal. It’s value noting that whenever you pay money for flights and resorts by way of the Amex Journey Portal, you’re required to pre-pay. Be sure to pay shut consideration to the cancellation coverage earlier than reserving simply in case your plans change.


The ultimate cease of our journey was in Brussels. I had depleted my stash of Amex factors so I used two of the Marriott Bonvoy free evening certificates I had earned for 2 nights on the Marriott Grand Place in Brussels. The situation couldn’t have been higher — we had been inside straightforward strolling distance of practice and subway stations, eating and procuring and Grote Market (or Grand Place), Brussel’s central sq..

The one price I used to be chargeable for was lower than $10 in taxes and I obtained perks for being a Marriott Bonvoy Gold member, a standing I obtained simply by being an Amex Platinum cardholder. I earned bonus factors, had entry to late checkout and enhanced high-speed web.

Marriott Bonvoy lodge evening redemption fundamentals

Marriott Bonvoy makes use of a dynamic pricing mannequin for award charges. Primarily, it’s possible you’ll want extra factors for a similar room relying on the lodge’s money charges and occupancy ranges. You should utilize free evening certificates, like those I earned by signing up for the Bonvoy Boundless Card, for any lodge evening priced at 50,000 factors or much less.

Some welcome presents present factors relatively than free evening certificates and it’s also possible to earn factors by way of spending. You possibly can redeem these factors for award evening stays and you will not be beholden to the 50,000-points-per-night restrict.

You can even redeem factors for upgraded rooms or pay a portion of your room with factors and the remaining with money. These choices aren’t obtainable in any respect properties, however they need to show if you end up trying to find availability.

Backside line

Would a factors and miles knowledgeable be capable to choose aside the failings in my plan the place I may have saved much more cash? Positive. I’ve mentioned this earlier than and I will say it once more, however all of us have to start out someplace. My objective with reserving this journey was to make the most of factors and miles for comfy flights and distinctive lodge stays in the course of the motion. I acquired precisely that.

The one issues we paid money for (aside from these pesky gasoline surcharges) had been practice and subway tickets, meals, beer (which was surprisingly low-cost in Germany) and some souvenirs.

Do not let the worry of not getting it precisely “proper” cease you from giving it a strive.

Learn up on which bank cards is perhaps greatest for you and learn how to maximize the factors and miles you earn — after which put that data into apply by reserving a visit. Like me, with every reserving you may be taught a bit extra and be properly in your technique to knowledgeable standing.

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