Jaguars in London: Pulling the Trigger

Jaguars in London: Pulling the Trigger
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Image courtesy: Hyatt Hotels
 

Jaguars In London: Step by Step

Introduction: A Football Game Taught Me How to Travel for Pennies
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: 5-Star Stays for Free
Part 3: “But Can I Do It?”
Part 4: Game-Planning
Part 5: Pulling the Trigger

Applications Ahoy!

At this point, I’d found a way to reduce the cost of roundtrip airfare from Jacksonville to London for the NFL International Series from $1,077 to just $197.60, discovered how to stay at a 5-star hotel that cost $700+ per night for free, allayed my fears about the impact of the credit card sign-ups that would make this possible and expanded the trip to take not only myself but also my family throughout the south of England and over to France. It was now time to pull the trigger on our plan, and begin to quickly accumulate the points and miles needed to turn this dream into reality.

Citi AAdvantage Cards

We first all applied for the Citi AAdvantage cards, two a piece thanks to the two browser trick that worked at the time. This would net us not only the miles necessary for not just this trip but also another trip in the future.

We were more concerned about availability drying up for flights than we were about the hotel, so this was priority. Several Hyatt locations were available in both London and Paris, and though we had a preferred location in each, the alternative was certainly no slouch.

In each case, approvals came back right away for the first card. However, two of our second card applications came back as pending. Perhaps we wouldn’t be able to nab double miles, after all!

I quickly called Citi’s application status line at 866.606.2787 to speak with a representative and see if they could help me push the application through. Although the representative saw not just one but both applications on my account, he was happy to approve my application after answering a few simple questions verifying income. The same held true for my dad.

I was over the moon. As far as I was concerned, this was already a stunning success, but we were just getting started. Nabbing the miles for two transatlantic roundtrip flights in just a few minutes, to be powered by purchases I already had to make, was still a little unbelievable. Even if we weren’t successful with the hotel segment of the trip, I’d already found very reasonable cash accommodations we were willing to settle on. Everything moving forward was a wonderful bonus, but we were just getting started.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Round two: we applied next for Sapphire Preferred. We chose this over the Hyatt cards as the Ultimate Rewards points could be used toward stays at other hotels via 1:1 transfer to IHG or Marriott, or by booking travel and paying with points at a 20% discount. if Hyatt’s availability was gone in London or Paris by the time we were ready to move forward with our reservations, we’d have other options. My brother sat this round out, in order to minimize his minimum spend requirement.

My mom was approved instantly for her application. My dad’s application came back pending, but was quickly approved after calling Chase at 888.245.0625. Chase has a cap on the total amount of credit they will issue to a person, so they reduced the limit on his pre-existing Marriott Visa a bit in order to make room for the Sapphire Preferred on his account. The exact same process unfolded for me, with my application being approved over the phone after reducing the limit on my longest-held card, an Amazon.com Visa by Chase.

It’s worth taking a second to note that filing the applications online and then speaking to a representative if necessary is the correct method to follow. You can’t be guaranteed to receive your sign-up bonus if you apply by phone, but once it’s been submitted online, you can speak with a representative to secure approval if needed.

Chase Hyatt Visa

We were now entering the final turn of this marathon of applications. I sat this round out, with my brother applying for this card instead of the Sapphire Preferred due to its lower minimum spend requirement. His application, and those of both of my parents, sailed through without issue.

I coached each of them through this application, showing them how a link on Hyatt’s booking page offered up not only the free nights but also a $100 statement credit that more than offset the $75 annual fee that, unlike with the other cards, was not waived for the first year.

The Race Is On

With the final results in, we’d achieved 100% success in all applications! Now, the game was afoot: once each card arrived, the plan was to meet the minimum spend requirement as quickly as possible, wait for the miles and points to be deposited to our accounts and then complete booking as quickly as possible.

Sign-up bonuses merit total spending focus until completed. Even if another card might in other circumstances offer a better category bonus, it will surely pale in comparison to the sign-up bonus, so that should be the primary target.

We all began with a Citi AAdvantage card, as we wanted to lock in the flights as soon as possible. My parents used one card a piece when shopping separately, but focused any joint spending first on one of my mom’s AAdvantage cards until the minimum spending threshold was reached, then on one of my dad’s AAdvantage cards, then followed the same process for their other cards.

My car insurance and a major auto service appointment were both in my immediate future, and I’d waited to pay each of these until the new cards arrived so that I could use them to help meet one of my card minimums. My brother simply focused on one card at a time, charging all of his regular spending without making any purchases he wouldn’t have otherwise made without the new cards. Overall, we each followed these easy steps for meeting minimum spend requirements quickly and managed to do so for all of our cards within just two months.

Trust But Verify

By using our online accounts, it was easy to see how much we had spent on each card over time, so we had a good idea when we would exceed the minimum spend requirements for each. However, we still made sure to call and verify each bonus once we believed the minimum threshold had been reached.

For my parents and brother, this went swimmingly. However, I had made a mistake in pioneering these card applications! It turns out the link I had used for the Citi AAdvantage American Express paid its bonus not after $1,000 of spending, but after $5,000 of spending! In return, I received a few extra miles and a $100 statement credit, but this was distressing news, nonetheless.

I was eventually able to meet this limit, but had I not called after reaching $1,000 in spending and learned of my mistake, I likely would have been unable to meet the minimum spend requirement within the three month time window because I would have shifted spending to a different card. So, always double-check!

Points Inbound

Once we met our minimum spend requirements, the points and miles associated with each sign-up bonus began to post to our accounts. AAdvantage miles appeared just a few days after the first statement after clearing the minimum spend. [quote_left]In no case did it take more than about a week for points to post to an account once a monthly statement had posted after meeting minimum spend requirements.[/quote_left]We didn’t focus in earnest on meeting the Sapphire Preferred or Hyatt spend requirements until after finishing off the AAdvantage cards, so they followed suit the following month.

In no case did it take more than about a week for points to post to the correct account after receiving a monthly statement after meeting the spending threshold.

As the pioneer of this plan, I fell victim to the regular statement cycle I was already on with Citi, and received my first statement when I was just shy of the minimum spend requirement. While I eventually received all of my points, we decided to move forward right away by using AAdvantage miles from my mom’s second card to cover my flight. I’ll spot her back in the future!

Time to Book!

Flights

We went to lock in our flight first. Sadly, the specific itinerary we’d selected was no longer showing availability, though plenty of others were. The original flight schedule would let us leave Thursday evening; the new ones required a connection earlier in the day. This wasn’t practical for my brother or dad, who would need to take at least an additional half day off of work in order to make an earlier flight work.

Rather than doing that, I was able to devise another solution: with a little investigating, it became clear that the only flight causing the itinerary we wanted to be unavailable was the connection leaving Orlando for New York. We could connect in New York, Miami or Dallas for our transatlantic hop. Heading to Dallas seemed silly and availability was much better out of New York than Miami, so I created a new, multi-city itinerary that went from New York to London (direct) and Paris to Orlando (via Miami).

The transatlantic departure we’d initially wanted was still available this way, since only the flight from Orlando to New York was constrained. I was able to find a one-way fare on JetBlue to JFK from Orlando for only $101.90 per person that would get us to the airport with enough time to comfortably make the connection in New York. Rather than settling for an itinerary that caused an additional vacation day to be needed, we decided it was better to pay the $101.90 a piece to make it work.

Just like that, we pulled the trigger on all four transatlantic award tickets and the connecting segment on JetBlue getting us to New York at the start of the trip.

The taxes and fees actually fell from our initial planning, so the total cost for JFK->LHR/CDG->MCO was just $92.40. Adding the $101.90 to that brought the total flight cost to $194.30 per person.

It’s still almost impossible to believe, considering the cheapest cash fare available at the time was $1,077. All four of us are flying for less than the cash cost of one passenger.

Hotels

We called Hyatt to confirm availability for two rooms for three nights in London at The Churchill and two rooms for two nights in Paris at the Hyatt Paris Vendome. Happily, there was plenty of availability at both locations for the dates we requested!

We thanked the representative, hung up and shifted Ultimate Rewards points from my account and my dad’s account to my mom’s Ultimate Rewards account in order to fairly split the burden of booking amongst all three of our accounts. We then moved 66,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my mom’s account to her Hyatt Gold Passport account, and 22,000 from my dad’s Ultimate Rewards account to Hyatt. These points showed up in each of their Hyatt accounts within about 5 minutes of submitting the transfer.

We called Hyatt back and first booked Paris using my brother and mom’s free award nights. Then, we booked London. We handled the first room with my dad’s 2 award nights and an additional 22,000 points transferred minutes earlier from Ultimate Rewards for a third night. The second room was booked with the 66,000 points we’d transferred into my mom’s account a few minutes prior.

It may sound a bit complex, but we actually were able to confirm availability, shift and transfer points and make the bookings in less than 30 minutes. We were even able to request early check-in and connecting rooms!

This booking was an incredible value. The cash rate for these rooms would come to a jaw-dropping $3,701.91. By using award nights and points our total for 10 nights at 5-star locations came to $0.

Away We Go

We’re in the process of filling in the details for our trip using traditional travel savvy, looking for good deals and fun opportunities. Rather than staying at hotels where points can be used, we’re opting for affordable bed and breakfasts when in the English and French countryside. By taking an overnight ferry across the Channel, we’re saving the cost of two rooms for a night and paying about the same as airfare would otherwise mandate.

We’ll be renting cars in each country, and though we’ll have to pay drop fees for the one-way journeys we’ve planned for both cars, they’ll provide us with the flexibility we need to explore outside of London and Paris.

By leveraging points and miles, we’ve saved an astounding $7,232 between our flights and stays in London and Paris, taking a trip out of the realm of fantasy into reality. As for our tickets to the game? They’re on order with the Jaguars, so you know where we’ll be at kickoff time on a Sunday in late October!

Now that I’ve shared my story, won’t you let me pay forward this great gift? Submit your trip today for free, and I’ll help you figure out how to make it possible!

Happy travels!

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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