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Flying on an award ticket or staying in a free hotel room is usually the end goal when you set out to collect points and miles. But have you ever wondered what else may be out there in exchange for your hard-earned loyalty program balances? I’m not talking about a free rental car, airport lounge access or a room upgrade. Rather, how about a trip to space (potentially), naming a star or free storage of your coat in Korea? Today, let’s look at 10 of the weirdest ways you can use your travel rewards.
1. Vegan Dinner and “Dice With Death” Traffic Experience
If you’re visiting Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, any time soon and think to yourself “wow, I could really go for some vegan cuisine after a few near-death motorbike experiences,” then you’re in luck. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem 3,744 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (slightly more or less if you only have a Freedom or Reserve card) for an evening city tour and vegan dish tasting experience.
You’ll visit several food stalls and restaurants around Ho Chi Minh while hopping from location to location on the back of a motorbike. The tour description really says it best: “The only thing that really stands between you and some awesome vegan food is the ‘daily-dice-with-death’ traffic situation which is often at ridiculous speeds.”
2. Name A Star
For just 6,700 Etihad miles, you can give someone the eternal gift of naming a star. I did a bit of research to see how official this would be and found there are quite a few commercial companies offering naming rights. So while I’m not 100% sure, I don’t think your loved one’s descendants will be able to call up NASA in a hundred years and confirm the star is named in accordance with the certificate that Etihad (i.e.: Etihad’s third party vendor) promises to send.
3. Buy a 100-Gram Gold Bar
If you happen to have 972,400 Etihad Guest miles lying around — or Citi ThankYou points or Amex Membership Rewards points — you can have your very own 100 gram 24k gold ingot engraved with the Roman goddess of fortune. Worth ~$4,400 with the current price of gold, this would be an absolutely terrible way to redeem that many miles or points, as that haul of Etihad miles is worth $13,613 based on TPG’s valuations.
4. Fly to Space
There are now two options to use miles for space travel. The first is to redeem 200,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for a 10% off voucher on your Virgin Galactic flight. The second is to enter the most expensive miles lottery in existence for your chance to fly Virgin Galactic into space for free. For just two million Virgin Atlantic miles — all of which must be earned by flying Virgin Atlantic — your name will be entered into a drawing for a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight once commercial operations begin. You won’t be charged when you enter; only if you win.
5. $50AUD to Liquorland
The Aussies have a reputation for enjoying their adult beverages, so perhaps it makes sense that Virgin Australia’s Velocity frequent flyer program offers up gift certificates to the Coles Group chain store Liquorland. But with a value of just 0.55 cents per point, it’s probably worth skipping the temptation and buying a cocktail the old fashioned way — with cash.
6.Take Your Kids to a Career Role Play Japanese Theme Park
7. Overcome Your Fear of Flying
You can redeem 40,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to take a one-day flying without fear course. Spend a morning in the classroom with a Virgin Atlantic captain and cabin crew trainer who debunk any myths you may have in your head about flying being unsafe. The day culminates with a narrated afternoon flight explaining “every movement, squeak and wobble.” It’s probably safe to assume most attendees earn the required 40,000 miles from the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard or by transferring points from a bank program like Ultimate Rewards rather than through flying.
8. Take Your Baby to a Spa
If you’ve got a little one in tow on your next trip to Hong Kong, Asia Miles has the perfect solution for some family rest and relaxation. For only 6,500 Asia Miles, your child will get the Baby Spa and Massage Experience, which consists of 10-30 minutes of baby swimming, baby bath with Tiddley Pom organic products and 15 minutes of Baby Massage (disposable swimming nappy, swimming floats, toys and towel are inclusive). I sure hope a similar picture to “baby in the head float” above is also included.
9. Get a Sockscription
7,500 Lufthansa Miles & More miles will get you three pairs of high-quality black socks sent to you “several times per year.” The socks come from the BLACKSOCKS company, which also offers underwear subscriptions available in black, white or petrol blue. Don’t worry if you’re short on Lufthansa miles or undergarments — you can transfer SPG points to Lufthansa or get the Miles & More Premier World MasterCard to boost your account and get yourself properly dressed. No carrier surcharges are assessed on this item as of this writing.
10. Store Your Coat In Korea
Korean SKYPASS members departing from the new Terminal 2 at Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN) can use any Hanjin Express location to store your coat for a cost of 400 miles per day, per coat. I imagine if it’s the dead of winter in Korea and you’re headed to Hawaii, you need your coat to get to the airport but certainly don’t want to lug it around Maui. Personally, I’d recommend having a friend drop you off at the train in Seoul and then running quickly run onboard sans coat in order to save your SKYPASS miles for otherwise more valuable redemptions.
I’d love to see the number of times people have actually redeemed miles for a continuing subscription for new socks, or how many miles have been wasted storing a coat. I, for one, will be avoiding the Vietnam motorbike/Vegan death trap. But in general, it’s probably worth sticking to award flights and hotel nights to get the most out of your travel rewards — or heading to programs like SPG Moments when you want to redeem for a great lifestyle experience.
Featured image by Tyler Richendollar / EyeEm via Getty Images.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel