50 Hours in International Business Class — Reader Success Story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Matan, who used points to book a round-the-world honeymoon trip. Here's what he had to say:
My wife and I live in Portland, OR, and for our honeymoon we wanted to experience both a classic, secluded beach setting, as well as something more adventurous and culturally/gastronomically stimulating. We decided on a visit to Seychelles followed by a whirlwind tour of Japan. At first I thought there was no way to do this on our points budget, but then I discovered ANA's round-the-world award. This flight has a lot of restrictions so it doesn't make sense in many cases, but it happened to be perfect for our itinerary.
After taking advantage of 100,000-point [welcome] bonuses* on the Platinum Card® from American Express, we each used 125,000 Membership Rewards points to travel around the world in international business class. That involved going from the US to Africa, Asia and back home: close to 50 hours of lie-flat travel. Flying from Portland would have cost 145,000 points each, so we saved by starting our trip out of Washington, D.C. instead. That lowered our total round-the-world mileage to below 22,000 miles and put us in the less expensive tier. I found one-way basic economy flights to Washington on United for $122 each, and we were able to negate most of the basic economy restrictions thanks to my United Explorer Card.
In Seychelles we stayed at one of the most stunning resorts I have ever seen: The Six Senses Zil Pasyon on Félicité Island. The price tag certainly matches the experience (the average price per night during our stay was $1,920), but we saved by taking advantage of a fifth night free promotion offered by the resort. I was able to piggyback on that deal with the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit, meaning we only paid for three of our five nights!
We spent six nights in Japan, and every one of them was paid for with points. For the first two, we stayed at the InterContinental Tokyo for 30,000 IHG points plus $115 per night. Then we transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for one night at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, two nights at the Hyatt Regency Osaka, and one night to finish our trip at the Andaz Tokyo. In total, we spent 60,000 IHG Rewards points and 69,000 Hyatt points for almost $2,700 worth of value in hotel stays. This trip was my points magnum opus; I feel like I knocked it out of the park, and as an avid TPG reader, I hope you agree!
*This offer is subject to change at any time. The standard offer on the Amex Platinum is 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Round-the-world awards are less prevalent than they once were; American, Delta and United all dumped their respective versions in the last five years, but a handful of airline programs still offer a way to circumnavigate the globe on one ticket. As Matan points out, round-the-world fares generally come with a lot of restrictions on variables like your routing, the number of stops you're allowed and how long you can travel. Despite that, they offer good value if you can find availability on the flights you want. Otherwise, building your own round-the-world itinerary with one-way awards may cost a bit more, but will give you greater flexibility.
American Express normally doesn't offer Membership Rewards points for sale, but you can buy them in conjunction with a partner transfer if you need extra for an award redemption like Matan's wife did. You'll pay $25 for 1,000 points (2.5 cents apiece), up to a maximum of 100,000 or 500,000 points annually depending on which Membership Rewards credit cards you have. You can only use this benefit when emptying your account so there's little opportunity to buy speculatively, and I wouldn't recommend buying at that price anyway. If you just need to top off your balance, keep in mind you can also ask to accelerate any pending points you've already earned, which is helpful since Amex takes an extra statement cycle to put them in your account.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Matan for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories 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. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!