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How I Traveled for Free: SPG Points to the Rescue After a Canceled Cruise

Jan. 18, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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When Patricia Chungsathaporn’s cruise was unexpectedly canceled, she decided to take a last-minute road trip from Miami to Key West, Florida. Her stash of SPG points helped her snag an overnight stay at a resort.

» Learn More: How to find the best travel insurance

The cardholder

Name: Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn
Age: 35
Occupation: Travel Advisor and Travel Writer
Home: New York
Credit card: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

The stay

Hotel: The Westin Key West Resort & Marina (now called Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina)
Dates: April 14 – 15, 2016
What kind of room: Garden View

Q: What amenities did you take advantage of?

A: Late check-out at 1:00 pm instead of noon.

Q: Did you travel alone or with someone?

A: I traveled with a friend. This was a last-minute trip to Key West because the cruise I was supposed to go on got canceled. If we didn’t go to Key West, we would have probably had to fly home from Miami right after the cancellation.

The credit card

Q: What card did you use to get a free stay?

A: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

Q: How long were you a cardholder at that time?

A: Two years.

Q: How long were you planning for this stay?

A: This was the first time I redeemed anything using points earned on this card. I wasn’t planning this trip at all, so it was really nice to have these points on hand.

Q: What’s your favorite perk of this card/program?

A: Free nights!

Redemption and booking

Q: Did you take advantage of promotions while earning points for this trip?

A: No.

Q: How did you book?

A: I booked through their online portal.

Q: How many points did this cost?

A: 20,000 Starpoints.

Q: Did you book in conjunction with a promotion or deal?

A: No.

Q: Any surprises or hassles?

A: We got the lowest category room so no upgrades, and we paid for parking.

What’s your next travel rewards goal?

Now that Marriott and Starwood have merged, there are going to be many more hotels that I can use SPG points for. My personal favorite is The Luxury Collection. I would love to save enough points to stay at some place totally insane like the Gritti Palace located along Venice’s Grand Canal. It usually goes for $1,300 a night. It’s incredibly historic — the hotel’s guests have included Ernest Hemingway and Peggy Guggenheim.

Photo via Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
How I flew for free: Miles to the rescue for a family emergency
Travel loyalty program reviews
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About the author