Holiday Gift Idea: Use Miles & Points for Experiences, Exclusive Events, and More!

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Most of us like to use our miles and points for travel, but did you know there are ways to redeem them for unique experiences?

I’ve written about using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for activities and experiences.  While you won’t get the most value from your points, if you don’t want to redeem for travel, this could be a good way to use them.

And there are other sites where you can use miles and points for some very interesting adventures (some of which you could never buy outright).  Some charge a flat rate, while others put experiences up for auction and the highest bidder wins.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Have a Million Hilton Points to Burn? You Could Be a Formula 1 Driver for a Day!

If you’re searching for the perfect gift for folks who have everything, you might find what you’re looking for using miles and points!

You’ll usually get a better deal by redeeming miles and points for travel.  But if you have a lot of points that are about to expire, or can’t think of any other use for them, this could be an alternative for you.

Where Can You Shop for Experiences?

Chase, Starwood, Delta, United Airlines, and Hilton all offer experiences or special events for miles and points.  Some are inexpensive, and other times you’ll pay hundreds of thousands of points for the experience of a lifetime.

Often these are NOT a good deal if you’re just considering the cash value of the points.  But if you splurge on an unforgettable experience, it might not matter to you.

Let’s see what you can get!

1.   Chase Events

Link:   Chase Events

If you’re a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, you can use points (or pay) for special events through the Chase Events website.

For example, you could attend an exclusive dinner at the St. Regis Deer Valley Wine Vault for 22,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or $225.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Are You a Foodie? You Could Sit at the Chef’s Table for a 7-Course Gourmet Meal for 22,500 Points

In this case, you’re getting a value of 1 cent each for your points.  Keep in mind you’ll almost always get more value from your Chase Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to airline, hotel, and rail partners.

Any time you only get 1 cent per Chase Ultimate Rewards point, it’s usually better to swipe your card.  You’ll earn 1 point per $1 spent and you can always use those points for a statement credit later, transfer them to travel partners, or use the points you earned to save 20% on airfare through the Chase Travel Portal. 

But if this is an event that interests you, it might be worth it!

2.   SPG Moments

Link:   SPG Moments

Through SPG Moments, you can use Starwood points to buy or bid on (via auction) concert and sporting event tickets, VIP events, and more.

Some experiences have a fixed point value.  Others will be sold to the highest bidder!

For example, there’s an auction to attend the Grand Opening of the St. Regis Chengdu, China.  You’ll get 2 nights in a deluxe room, and get to attend a full day of events including food, wine, and a gala.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Heading to China? You Could Attend a Hotel Grand Opening If You Place the Highest Bid

The current high bid is 20,000 Starwood points.  I checked the Starwood site to find out what the usual rate is for award nights, but the information isn’t yet available.

Again, this is probably not for most folks, but it could be a very special deal for the right person!  And because it’s NOT something you could buy otherwise, experiences like this might be worth the points.

3.   Delta

Link:   Skymiles Experiences (Log-In Required)

Delta SkyMiles members can bid on sporting events, concerts, unique trips, and dining through SkyMiles Experiences.

These are purely auctions, so the experience gets awarded to the highest bidder.

If you’re a country music fan, you could bid on 2 tickets to the Martina McBride concert in Atlanta, and have your photo taken with her.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Here’s an Opportunity You Can’t Normally Pay for – Meeting Martina McBride at Her Concert

As some folks jokingly refer to Delta SkyMiles as SkyPesos (because they can sometimes be difficult to redeem), this could be a very good way of using Delta miles.

Keep in mind there are other, non-miles and points auction sites that occasionally offer experiences like this.  For example, CharityBuzz recently auctioned off a similar Martina McBride package.  So definitely shop around before you commit to burning your miles!

4.   United Airlines

Link:   United Airlines Auctions

United Airlines frequent flyers can buy or bid on experiences and events with United MileagePlus Auctions.

Many of the experiences don’t come cheap, but some are very exclusive.

For example, there’s a high bid of 196,000 miles right now for a trip to the Academy Awards.  You’ll get airfare for 2, a 3-night hotel stay, tickets to the Oscars dress rehearsal, red carpet access, and official viewing party (read: not the actual Oscars), meals, and more.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Use United Airlines Miles to Attend Academy Award Events & Walk the Red Carpet

This isn’t really my cup of tea, but it might be yours (if you have a lot of United Airlines miles!).

Keep in mind that 196,000 United Airlines miles is almost enough for 2 round-trip, First Class tickets to Hawaii.  I’d much rather use my miles for flights (but if you’re really into the Academy Awards, you might disagree!).

5.   Hilton

Link:   Hilton Golden Moments

Are you a thrill-seeker?  Hilton has probably some of the most interesting adventures to offer, but most of them are located in Europe.

Through Hilton’s Golden Moments program, you can spend Hilton points on skydiving, aerobatic flights, race car driving, sailing, and more.

Holiday Gift Idea Use Miles Points For Experiences Exclusive Events And More

Horse Enthusiasts Could Own a Racehorse for a Day for ~101,000 Hilton Points

This isn’t a very good deal at all, because you could buy the same package for 160 British pounds (~$251).  So you’re only getting a value of 0.25 cents per point.

I think I’d rather be a Formula 1 driver for a day, but I don’t think Emily would let me (and I don’t have a million Hilton points!).  Plus, you can buy the same experience for 1,144 British pounds (~$1,800).

But then again if I had a million Hilton points I probably earned them very cheaply! 

Folks with a lot of Hilton points will still get the most value by using them for hotel stays.  But if you can’t use them for travel, or absolutely do NOT want to pay cash for your day as a Formula 1 driver, this could be an option for you.

Bottom Line

Folks looking for a unique gift (for themselves or others) could consider using their miles and points to buy or bid on experiences and adventures.

You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood, Delta, United Airlines, or Hilton miles or points for these adventures.  And while you will NOT generally get the most value from redeeming them this way, some of the deals you can get are very exclusive.

Have you used miles and points for experiences?  Please share your stories in the comments!

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