Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Mountains

First Use of the Amex Business Platinum 50% Points Rebate

Back in February I decided to pull the trigger on applying for the Business Platinum card from American Express. This was the first premium card that I had ever applied for, and deciding to swallow the $450 annual fee took some careful consideration. But with a $200 offset (I was able to cash out the airline incidental credit as gift cards and sell them), it seemed worth it. Plus the card was offering a bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points.

One of the biggest perks of the Business Platinum card is that it gives a 50% rebate on flights when you use the “Pay with Points” option. This has recently been decreased to 35%, but I have a year to use the benefit due to when I got my card (SEE: Reminder – Last day to sign up and get the 50% points rebate on the Amex Business Platinum). By paying with points, you don’t have to worry about award space. You just use points to pay for a cash ticket.

Normally, you only get 1.0 cent per point out of your MR points using the “pay with points” option. But the 50% rebate perk of the Amex Business Platinum card essentially gets you 2.0 cents per point. This makes booking revenue flights with “pay with points” a much better deal.

Note that you do only get to pick one airline each year for which you can use this perk on economy flights, but the benefit works on all premium cabin flights.

Visit Montana? I think yes

With barely 48 hours of mulling the idea over, I pitched a Montana trip idea to my brother-in-law. We have a friend who is interning in Kalispell this summer, and more who live near Missoula. I figured we could fly to Kalispell for several days, visit them, and see Glacier National Park. Award space was basically nonexistent, so I used “pay with points” option. This allowed the plane tickets to be completely free, plus it gave me a solid redemption value for my MR points.

Less than a day after that, the entire trip was all booked. Flights are 100% covered, and the hotels are 90% covered (I booked one points & cash night).

To top things off, I got a fantastic deal on a rental car using Autoslash, plus I can use Arrival miles to cover the majority of that cost. My brother-in-law will cover the cost of driving to Medford and parking at the airport, so all said and done we’re down to maybe $70 each plus food. It’ll be a super cheap 5 day vacation.

What to do in Kalispell

We obviously want to visit our friend Sage while we’re there. We also hope to spend 2 days in Glacier National Park. He has the weekends off, so hopefully we can see the park for a couple days. I’ve heard only good things about Glacier National Park, and I cannot wait to visit!

On Sunday or Monday we’ll visit our friends near Missoula. For various reasons we need to play things by ear, but that is a-ok by me. Tuesday we’ll fly back to Medford, and then drive the 4 hours home.

Conclusion

I hadn’t planned on taking another vacation so soon, but hey, that is one of the beauties of using points and miles. Even last-minute travel in the height of summer can be made affordable. If I didn’t have a stash of points, we’d be paying about $2,500 out of pocket for the 5 night trip. Now we’re looking at $400 or so, split between two of us.

Banff, Alberta in 14 Photos

I have plenty to write after this trip, but I’d figured I’d start with some photos and let the beauty of Banff speak for itself. Without words, that is.




Why Yosemite Should Be On Your Must-See List

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Words cannot describe Yosemite National Park. You must see it for yourself. I have been there fewer times than I would like to admit as a California native, and my wife hasn’t ever visited, so a trip really is in order. Maybe we can even make it back this year.

The valley floor of the Park is truly majestic. Granite walls over 2,000 feet high tower over you on both sides. El Capitan looms high as you enter, and sometimes you can see climbers inching their way up it sheer face. Across the valley are the Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls. Further down the valley, Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park, tumbles a total of 2,425 feet to the valley floor. Then the unmistakable form of Half Dome comes into view as you make your way around the bend. It takes your breath away. This is how I imagine a person’s first time in the park.

In addition to the amazing valley floor, there are many hiking opportunities, including options for both day hikes as well as multi-day backcountry treks. I have yet to do one of the latter, but I would love to someday. There are amazing vista points as well, including the Glacier Point and Tunnel View lookouts. You could easily spend a week in the park and still have more to see.

Near the end of March, my dad’s extended family made the last-minute decision to have a birthday get-together for my grandma, and her idea of a perfect 80th birthday was a picnic in the Yosemite Valley. Over her 80 years, she has raised seven kids, who in turn gave her 15 grandchildren, and now the number of great-grandchildren is steadily growing. She is a wonderful woman, and it was great to get to spend the day with her and my other relatives in one of the most beautiful places in the world. My dad and I managed to make it down with only a few days notice.

On Friday one of my aunts treated my grandma to dinner at the famous and historic Ahwahnee Hotel (which has been horribly renamed) and a night at the Yosemite Lodge. They were out early enough the next day to snag a couple picnic tables for our Saturday picnic. The location provided a great view of Yosemite Falls. One thing to keep in mind if traveling to the Yosemite National Park is how quickly it fills up. We arrived fairly early on Saturday, and most of the other tables were already taken at the location we chose. During this trip my dad likened the park to Disneyland, and it really isn’t a bad comparison. The valley floor can be extremely crowded, especially during the peak summer season. Traffic can get backed up for miles. Supposedly ours was a rather light Saturday, since it is early in the season, but I honestly couldn’t tell. Remind me to head back midweek while school is in session.

Our day was perfect. The morning was crisp, but it warmed up nicely by the middle of the day. We all ate our fill of potluck food, took a walk to the bottom of Yosemite Falls, and had an absolutely fantastic experience.