Neale Prior: Points pull this hack out of a prickly problem in Germany

Headshot of Neale Prior
Neale PriorThe West Australian
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Thanks to points, we’ll be cruising Germany in style, despite shelling out for a higher-than-expected service bill on our car at home.
Camera IconThanks to points, we’ll be cruising Germany in style, despite shelling out for a higher-than-expected service bill on our car at home. Credit: noelsch/Pixabay (user noelsch)

How about this for a First World problem? This underpaid, hardworking newspaper reporter endured a $900 blowout in the cost of servicing my Mercedes-Benz diesel pensioner wagon on May 31.

Even worse, this blowout had to be funded from money my equally struggling wife and I had stashed away to pay for the hire of a Mercedes C-Class during our short sojourn in Germany, Belgium and north-eastern France next month.

We were devastated. Gone were our plans to use RAC’s competitive car hire booking partner Driveaway to book the Merc from Hertz Cologne eight days into our trip and drop it off at Frankfurt Airport seven days later for our flight home.

Instead, we faced having to hire a Ford Fiesta or, Gott in Himmel, spending 15 days stuck in the fatherland getting around on its incredibly popular €9 Euro summer travel pass.

Your sympathy will become even greater when you realise we had cancelled this trip three times because of COVID-19 and our complimentary return tickets with Emirates are due to expire in November.

But then I checked on the American Express website for my June payments on the platinum card and I noticed we had accrued more than 160,000 membership rewards points over the past four or so years. Those points can be converted to the likes of Qantas Frequent Flyer. They can also be used for a variety of benefits and services on the Amex website, including its booking service for flights, hotels and car hire.

After putting Cologne and Frankfurt Airport into the query fields under car hire, Amex popped up a selection of cars that could be hired in any mix of competitive pricing and what looked to be reasonable points.

Sure, there was not a Mercedes C-Class available. But, crucially, for someone who prefers automatics in left-hand-drive cars and likes the safety of elite brands, Europcar had an acceptable Audi A3.

The A3 was 136,000 points for seven days and around $800 if I paid with my credit card (which was a no-go considering my May 31 trauma). If we took it for eight days, the headline price became 153,000 points.

After deciding to go ahead a day or so later, the eight-day price had crept out to 156,000 points. But I then noticed I had a $200 travel credit from Amex we could use. Converting the $200 credit into around 40,000 points, the Audi ended up costing me 116,000 points for eight days.

Sure an Audi ain’t as familiar as Merc but, hey, you’ve got to take your chances in life.

We want to hear how your family is managing soaring costs and the creative ways in which you’re keeping you household budget under control. Email us at yourmoney@wanews.com.au, or comment below.

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