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bora bora boat ride

The Weirdest (& Coolest) Things We’ve Done with Points & Miles

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Earning points and miles is one of the best ways to book flights or hotel stays for free (or nearly free). 

But points and miles can be redeemed for more than just flights and hotels. Take it from us, the so-called points and miles experts. While we've maximized the value of our points to book ultra-luxe business class (and even first class!) flights abroad, we've also used them to cover everything from baseball tickets to boat rides to golf trips. 

We might sound like a broken record, but the best value for your points is always going to be for something you may not otherwise have purchased. In our eyes, if it can help you save at least a little, it's worth it. 

These are a few of the weirdest things we've redeemed our points and miles on. 


Lower-Level MLB Tickets 

Have a Capital One card in your wallet like the *venture x* or the *capital one venture card*? Thanks to Capital One's partnership with Major League Baseball, cardholders can snag lower-level, dugout box seats for select MLB games for just 5,000 miles apiece! 


Buying lower-level MLB tickets with Capital One miles


Several members of the Thrifty Traveler team have redeemed their Capital One miles this way. Reporter and Flight Deal Analyst Gunnar Olson recently redeemed 10,000 miles on two seats to see his beloved Chicago White Sox play at the Minnesota Twins. The seats were just a few rows behind the Sox dugout and included their own concessions and restrooms away from the main concourse. 


target field baseball stadium


By comparison, tickets in the same section were going for over $200 each for this game! That's a massive savings on a ticket he otherwise would never have purchased. 


Champagne at the Delta Sky Club

Sure, you can use all those hard-earned Delta SkyMiles to book flights … but these days, it's not always easy to get good value for them unless you're taking advantage of a SkyMiles flash sale. 

But you know what's always a good deal? Redeeming your SkyMiles for a glass of bubbly in the Delta Sky Club. 


delta sky club champagne


Every SkyMile is worth 1.5 cents when buying drinks in the Sky Club – more value than you get when redeeming SkyMiles on many flights or cabin upgrades. That exchange rate means you can buy a $90 bottle of nice champagne for 6,000 SkyMiles and kick off your trip with some nice bubbly without forking over a bunch of cash.

There's nothing more fun than popping a bottle of champagne (or several) in the airport lounge before a trip. Just look at this photo if you don't believe us. 


delta skymiles champagne

Read more: How to Buy Champagne with SkyMiles in the Delta Sky Club 


A Boat Ride … in Bora Bora

We'll let a picture speak for itself. 


bora bora boat ride


Yes, we booked that with credit card points, and it’s easily one of our favorite points and miles redemptions of all time.

Let us explain. 

Ahead of Executive Editor Kyle Potter's trip to Bora Bora in French Polynesia and a dreamy stay at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui this past winter, he discovered a shop on the main island called La Plage Bora Bora, which allows you to rent your own boat and cruise around the island. Incredibly, you don't even need a boat license! 

At under $200 for a four-hour rental, it's reasonable enough … but he didn't want reasonable: He wanted free.

That's where Capital One miles come in. While you're largely restricted to booking flights or hotels with points from other banks like Chase or American Express, Capital One has an ace in the hole: You can cover virtually any travel expense using miles. Just charge it to your Capital One card like the *venture x* or *capital one venture card*, go back to your account a few days later, and wipe the expense from your statement.

That's some unparalleled versatility you won't find with any other points program. It's why many of us on the Thrifty Traveler team have come to think of Capital One miles as a travel slush fund: Where other credit card points fall short, Venture Miles can cover just about anything. Boat rental? No problem. Parking fees? Sure, why not. Airbnb or VRBO rental? Of course.

But rather than booking straight with the rental company, Kyle booked the La Plage boat rental through Viator.com, a travel site he was 100% sure would code as travel – the key to covering that cost with Capital One miles.

Sure enough, it worked. Rather than paying $192 and change, he paid for the boat ride using 19,000-some miles from Capital One. It was one of the highlights of the entire trip to French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Australia. 


bora bora boat rental


Using this method, every Capital One mile is worth a flat, 1 cent toward travel. Could we have squeezed more money out of those miles by sending them to a Capital One transfer partner like Turkish Airlines or Avianca LifeMiles? Sure. Do we care? Not in the slightest.

The entire purpose of using points and miles is for experiences. And nothing will top the four hours Kyle and his wife spent chasing stingrays around the bay of Bora Bora, finding a small sandbar for a picnic, and soaking in the view of the mighty Mount Otemanu – all on their own. 


bora bora boat rental


Home Improvement Projects

A chainsaw and patio pavers are hardly things you'd think to spend your points and miles on – what do they have to do with travel? But you have to understand that this was a different time. 

Chase introduced its Pay Yourself Back benefit back in May 2020 to give travelers stuck at home during the pandemic lockdowns more ways to redeem their Ultimate Rewards points. You could use Chase points to pay yourself back for purchases at grocery stores, home improvement stores, restaurants and delivery platforms like DoorDash and Uber Eats, and even Target. Better yet, your points had the same value as they did redeeming them through the Chase Travel℠ portal, meaning those with the *chase sapphire preferred* could use their points at a rate of 1.25 cents each (25% more), while *chase sapphire reserve* cardholders can redeem points for 1.5 cents each (50% more).

That's exactly what Thrifty Traveler CEO and co-founder Jared did, buying a Stihl chainsaw from a home improvement store and covering it with his stash of Chase points. Chief Flight Deal Analyst Jon also took advantage, using Chase Pay Yourself Back to reimburse himself for patio pavers at Home Depot. 


Screen Shot 2020 10 19 at 11.39.30 AM


Chase has since gutted its Pay Yourself Back benefit for Sapphire cardholders so now each point is only worth 1 cent when redeeming them this way. But it was fun while it lasted, and better than letting those points languish in our accounts at a time when many of us weren't traveling. 


Bottom Line 

There are a myriad of ways to redeem your points and miles beyond just flights and hotels. Points and. miles are meant to be used, not hoarded, and we've sure used ours in some unexpected ways. 


Executive Editor Kyle Potter contributed to this story

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 Responses

  • Here is mine: A hot dog at MSP Terminal 2. My favorite metro hot dog, THE Sonora Dog, was on the happy hour menu at Barrio in downtown St. Paul; I used to go once a week. When they took it off the menu I wept and gnashed my teeth. However, the dog is on the menu at Barrio at MSP Terminal 2. Now I can book a Southwest flight, go through security with my boarding pass, cancel my flight, and enjoy my favorite hot dog! My family calls these my hot dog flights!

    • I’ve heard of people booking refundable tickets to use a lounge but this one takes the cake … I mean, hot dog. I love it!

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