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Testimonial: Marie-Noel and Pierre-Luc in Louisiana with their points

To the point Marie-Noel and Pierre-Luc, readers of milesopedia, used their points & miles to save a lot of money on their trip to Louisiana. Find out how through their testimonial!

Who are Marie-Noel and Pierre-Luc

Pierre-Luc and Marie-Noël shared with us their testimony of earning and using points during a trip to Louisiana.All of this was made possible thanks to the advice found on milesopedia and its community!

Pierre-Luc: follow the guide!

A 34-year-old tourist graduate, Pierre-Luc is a former tour guide for tourist groups in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Quebec City.

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He has visited more than 50 countries, most of them by backpacking (youth hostels, camping and couchsurfing) and via working visa stays, studies, hitchhiking adventures and, more recently, via professional conferences.

For many years, he was a self-employed worker and micro-entrepreneur with uneven incomes. He works in economic development in Quebec (North Shore, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean). He has less free time for long trips, but a more robust financial situation.

Always on the lookout for bargains and discount tickets, the tips for finding the best prices and generating alerts no longer hold any secrets for him. His greatest success story? Montreal – Tokyo – Seoul for less than C$500 in 2017.

Marie-Noel: the spouse

38 years old, recently graduated from university after returning to school after several careers, Marie-Noël is curious to discover the world, but with limited income and credits.

She has only recently been able to follow Pierre-Luc on his adventures. She participates when she can in the collection of points through the joint spending offered by additional cards.

This is a typical couple situation: one of them is interested in travel hacking.

This person demonstrates to the other the usefulness of points & miles (often during a first trip: access to airport lounges, “free” hotel rooms, business class airline tickets…).

The other spouse then decides to take part in the point hunt!

Goals with points and miles

Pierre-Luc knew different points systems, but never believed in their potential.

It wasn’t until early 2018, after seeing an American travel hacker report on social media, that he discovered the milesopedia page.

Since then, he reads all the articles and analyzes his best options according to HIS needs.

For this trip as a duo, Pierre-Luc single-handedly earned the necessary points… enough to convince Marie-Noël to embark on an adventure!

Pierre-Luc’s main objectives:

  • Follow the good advice of milesopedia members
  • No specific plan except to visit the United States, a destination that was perceived to be more expensive considering the cost of accommodation, transportation and the exchange rate.
  • Earning points by himself for this trip: the objective was to have as many nights in hotels as possible… for as few points as possible!
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Earning strategy

Between March 2018 and February 2019, Pierre-Luc earned all the points needed to complete this trip as a couple to Louisiana.

American Express Membership Rewards Points Earning

In March 2018, Pierre-Luc first subscribed to the American Express Cobalt Card in order to earn Membership Rewards points, which are extremely flexible.

His goal was to transfer Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points in order to finance his hotel stays.

The essential card

Summary of earned points

After a year, Pierre-Luc was able to earn:

  • 30,000 Membership Rewards (2,500 points/month after $500 of purchases)
  • 150,000 Membership Rewards through regular expenses

In order to maximize the earning of Membership Rewards points through the 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar category (grocery stores, restaurant-bars, convenience stores), Pierre-Luc used the gift card technique.

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Earning Marriott Bonvoy points

The essential card

The Marriott Bonvoy American ExpressMD card is probably the best credit card to earn many hotel points in Canada.

These points can be used for free nights at more than 7,000 hotels worldwide that are members of the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Here are the main characteristics of the current offer on the Marriott Bonvoy American ExpressMD card:

There is also a card that is easily accessible to self-employed workers/SME owners: the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card. Enough to earn a lot of Marriott Bonvoy points!

Summary of earned points

In January 2019, through the welcome bonus and current spending on the Marriott Bonvoy American ExpressMD card, Pierre-Luc earned 53,208 Marriott Bonvoy points.

He also transferred Membership Rewards points from his American Express Cobalt™ Card and earned Marriott Bonvoy points via a hotel stay for work (2200 points) and via Marriott contests (2800 points).

Score: 148,828 Marriott Bonvoy points.

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Earning Best Western Rewards points

The essential card

The Best Western Rewards® Mastercard is the card with the easiest bonus: you get it from the first purchase.

In addition, this card has no annual fee, year after year.

Here are the main features of the current Best Western Rewards® Mastercard offer:

All point & mile hunters have had the Best Western Rewards® Mastercard credit card in their wallet at least once! To apply now, it’s this way!

Summary of earned points

In November 2018, Pierre-Luc earned 20,000 Best Western Rewards points, enough to get one night (or two nights depending on promotions).

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The trip to Louisiana

History lovers, Pierre-Luc and Marie-Noël dreamed of visiting this region of the world which was at the same time a French and Spanish colony and an American territory.

In addition to being the cradle of the blues, its history of slavery deserves to be known. It offers an encounter with the Cajun culture of the bayous and the descendants of deportees from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the Great Upheaval.

So they went to visit Louisiana from March 18 to 28, 2019.

Booking

Airfares

On a whim, Pierre-Luc bought 2 tickets on the AmextravelUS website for a flight from Montreal (YUL) to New Orleans (MYS) with a stopover in Charlotte, North Carolina for US$500, taxes included for 2 round-trip tickets.

Approximately CA$700 + 1,408 AMEX Membership Rewards points. The flights were in small regional aircraft with only economy class. However, it was possible to request a new seat on the emergency exit side to have more legroom.

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Car rental

On the car rental side, Expedia had a promotion with the DOLLAR company.

It was a long, slow service at the counter. The proposed vehicle was a Chevrolet Equinox for the price of a sedan.

The rate was CA$335, taxes included for 6 days and 670 Cobalt points. The American Express Cobalt™ Card covered the damage insurance on the vehicle, so it was a savings of US$20$ per day.

In addition, they used a portion of the Membership Rewards points from the American Express Cobalt™ Card to pay for this rental (10,000 Membership Rewards points = $100).

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Hotels

The trip lasted 9 nights and the planned itinerary was about 1000 km.

Savings and location related to the route were the main selection criteria.

For the 9 nights, they used 101,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for a value of US$851 or CA$1,137. That’s a value of $0.0112 CAD per Bonvoy point. A little above the value estimated by milesopedia.

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The stay

New Orleans

The first 4 nights in New-Orleans were in the TownePlace Suites New Orleans Harvey/West Bank.

The chain offers functional mini-condos that are mainly intended for workers.

The rate was 12,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night while the overnight stay was valued at US$114 or US$0.009 per Marriott Bonvoy point. Even more in Canadian dollars, if you add the savings on breakfast for 2 people and the availability of a fully equipped mini kitchen.

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Credit: TownePlace Suites New Orleans Harvey/West Bank

They were aware that it would have been possible to have a 5th free night, it was however time to leave for other places and visit the rest of the state. Public transportation is easy in New Orleans. Their vehicle was only needed to explore the backcountry and small towns.

During their stay in New Orleans, they had planned to go on guided tours and wanting to kill two birds with one stone, the Marriott Moment site was most useful.

marriott bonvoy new orleans activities

Different options are offered for several activities to different destinations around the world.

Their choice ended on a themed minibus tour in different parts of the city. 750 Marriott Bonvoy points were awarded for a total expense of US$70 for 2 people.

By using the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card to book these packages, 400 Bonvoy Marriott Bonvoy points were added as an expense at one of the chain’s establishments.

Tip: use the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card when you spend money at Marriott Bonvoy establishments (hotels, restaurants…) or at travel services provided by Marriott (such as here the reservation of excursions). It’s a way to earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (in addition to the points you could earn through your status).

Houma

Direction Houma for 1 night.

The Courtyard Houma is conveniently located on the road near the bayous in the center of a region known for its alligator-infested waters and is at the heart of Cajun culture.

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Credit: Courtyard Houma

There was a “Golf Club” ambiance, with an outdoor swimming pool and spa, and rooms overlooking the inner courtyard. Nice welcome and good concierge service for activity recommendations.

7,500 Marriott Bonvoy points instead of US$107, i.e. US$0.0142/point.

Lafayette

They stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Lafayette South which had an excellent breakfast.

They were entitled to a suite with 2 bedrooms (living room and king bed) instead of a room with a double bed because they had written in the reservation email that it was their anniversary as a couple.

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Credit: Fairfield Inn and Suites Lafayette South

12,500 Marriott Bonvoy points instead of US$106 per night. They stayed there two nights.

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Credit: Fairfield Inn and Suites Lafayette South

Baton Rouge

They stayed at SpringHill Suites Baton Rouge North/Airport.

Late arrival, basic room. However, the hotel offered them a glass of wine and a snack (almost enough for a meal) of rice and stew.

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Credit: SPRINGHILL SUITES OF RED/RED/AIRPORT

Well located, close to the airport. We enjoyed the pool.

7,500 Marriott Bonvoy points instead of US$87.

After this stay, they stayed at the SpringHill Suites Baton Rouge Gonzales.

They had selected this hotel simply for its location between Baton Rouge and the main sugar cane plantations they wanted to visit.

The “retro American motel experience” and the fluo carpets and colours were authentic.

11,000 Marriott Bonvoy points instead of US$90.

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Credit: SPRINGHILL SUITES BATON ROUGE GONZALES

The last night was short, a consequence of the city’s nightlife and the return by plane, around 5AM.

The airport is quite small and had only one lounge, the Delta Lounge. They had neither the time to take advantage of it, or the cards to access it.

N.B.: The American Express PlatinumMD card offers access to Delta lounges only if you have a flight on Delta Airlines.

What they learned

Cost avoidance... or not

Complimentary Breakfast

To save money, having only the Marriott Silver status, they chose hotels with breakfast included.

TownePlace, Fairfield and SpringHill Suites offer this continental breakfast option… and that’s why they chose these hotels!

Withdrawals of US dollars

We want to avoid paying cash at all costs, however, it is wise to have a small amount of cash on hand when traveling.

They have saved a lot of fees by putting funds in advance on the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card and then withdrawing the amount at a Scotiabank ATM while avoiding being in a “cash advance” situation.

This allowed them to have foreign currency and to pay cash where there was no credit card terminal, without paying too much in exchange fees, transaction fees, etc.

Tip: There are credit cards that do not charge conversion fees for all transactions in foreign currencies.

This is the case of the excellent Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card, of which the current offer is very interesting.

Insurance not included

The American Express Cobalt™ Card card has insurance that covers damage and collision for rental cars. However, as with all credit cards, civil liability is not included.

You will have to add this one either through the rental agency or through your private insurance in Canada.

Other expenses

A few remarks by Pierre-Luc:

  • Booking on the Amex Voyages USA website involved a booking fee of US$22. This does not appear to be the case on the Amex Travel Canada site.
  • Hold baggage charges were not included (which is the case with most North American airlines). (CA$30 per person, each way).

Transfer only out of necessity

Today, Pierre-Luc still has 48,000 Marriott Bonvoy points left. Not having any short-term travel plan, he expressed his regret at having transferred so many Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy.

Membership Rewards points are more flexible and could have been used for other purposes (such as travel credits for expenses paid directly to the American Express Cobalt™ Card).

Morale: transfer your points ONLY when you are ready to use them!

Conclusion

Many thanks to Pierre-Luc and Marie-Noël for sharing this very complete testimonial, showing that in less than a year, it is possible for a single person to earn enough points for a beautiful trip like this one!

Imagine the savings… and the possible travels when a couple embarks on a full adventure!

Would you like to send us a testimonial? Don’t hesitate to write us at temoignage@milesopedia.com

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