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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Recently, I posted a success story from Katie, who used points and miles to make a long-distance marriage easier on her and her husband. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Mike, who redeemed Amex Membership Rewards on ANA and Singapore Airlines to explore Southeast Asia. Here’s what he had to say:
In October, I received a targeted offer for the Amex Platinum card with a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in three months. I knew benefits like the airline credit and Amex offers would help make up for the $450 annual fee, so I decided to go for it. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, I turned my attention to maximizing the sign-up bonus, which is where you really helped me out!
Having never been to Asia, I knew I wanted to use my points to travel there. Moreover, as a few of my friends live in Phuket, I set my sights on Thailand. However I also wanted to see as many other cities as possible to maximize my trip (and the award ticket).
Using TPG as my guide, I zeroed in on All Nippon Airways (ANA) award tickets. Although the airline recently devalued its award chart, there are still some very lucrative opportunities. Thailand falls under the “Asia 2” zone, which costs as much as 136,000 miles round-trip in business class from North America when you fly on a partner airline. However, the “Asia 1” zone (which constitutes Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines) is only 80,000 miles during the low season when you fly on ANA metal. Even better, the airline was running a promo that gave me a discount of 7,500 miles!
ANA allows one stopover and one open-jaw on award bookings, so I decided to book a round-trip flight from New York to Hong Kong with a four-day stopover in Tokyo. This allowed me to see both Hong Kong and Tokyo for 72,500 Membership Rewards points and $151 in taxes in ANA business class.
As my ultimate goal was to visit friends in Phuket, I explored options to get from Hong Kong to Thailand. While I could have booked a nonstop flight on Cathay Pacific in economy, I remembered that Singapore Airlines operates the A380 between Singapore and Hong Kong. For 31,875 Membership Rewards points and $28 I was able to experience Singapore Suites Class. I added two paid positioning flights (Hong Kong-Phuket and Phuket-Singapore), which were well worth the price!
In the end, my itinerary was as follows:
- New York-Tokyo (four-night stopover)-Hong Kong in ANA business class for 72,500 Membership Rewards points and $151
- Hong Kong-Phuket-Singapore in AirAsia economy for $125
- Singapore-Hong Kong on Singapore Airlines A380 suites class for 31,875 MR points and $28
- Hong Kong-Tokyo-New York in ANA business class
With your advice, I was able to go to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Phuket and Singapore in ANA business class and Singapore Suites Class for $304. If I had paid cash, this itinerary would have cost me $9,678! This was an unbelievable three-week adventure, and I’m already looking forward to planning my next trip. Thanks again!
Credit card sign-up bonuses are one of the best ways to boost your loyalty accounts, and Mike’s story is a great example of how far the best offers can take you. When you see an uncommonly high bonus or a targeted offer like the one he got for The Platinum Card from American Express, it’s worth jumping on even if you’re not sure yet how you’ll use it (assuming you can comfortably meet the spending requirements, of course). I list Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, so I’d value his sign-up bonus at $1,900. Even with the higher annual fee you find on a premium travel rewards card, that’s a no-brainer.
Mike did a great job maximizing his flights: ANA offers a quality product in its premium cabins, and 72,500 miles round-trip for a business-class flight to Asia is an excellent deal. He showed a lot of savvy in taking advantage of ANA’s routing rules to add a stopover in Hong Kong, and in recognizing when it made sense to pay cash for his positioning flights. Getting to experience the Singapore A380 Suites (even on a shorter flight) was just the cherry on top.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Mike for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course), and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). You’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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