Skip to content

How Points and Miles Helped Us Pay for Our Trip Around the World

Sept. 03, 2018
7 min read
How Points and Miles Helped Us Pay for Our Trip Around the World
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

The idea of quitting my job and traveling the world with my partner, Trey, was often only a daydream that would come to me during the sixth conference call of a hectic workday.

But like many people, 2016 turned out to be a year of serious contemplation for us both.

Politics aside, we had already spent much of that year in reflection since Starwood, where Trey led brand communications, had been acquired. As we carefully considered options for our future, we kept returning to that dream, making list after list of destinations, itineraries and budgets — including an assessment of loyalty points and miles on hand.

While I had backpacked and volunteered on organic farms around the world in my 20s, traveling long-term was a new concept for Trey. After many late nights reviewing spreadsheets and discussing what life on the road might look like, the real decision came as Trey was literally on the road — only stuck sitting in traffic on Sixth Avenue in New York City.

He realized that no one was ever going to give either of us permission to step away and take the leap. That was the day our journey began.

Preparing With Points and Miles

Even before deciding to take our trip around the world, Trey and I were accruing points and miles we could redeem for travel. Working for a company with one of the world’s most admired loyalty programs had given Trey a world-class education in the power of allegiance (and the rewards that come with it). And anyone who knows me knows that I just love a good travel deal.

As we began thinking about our trip, we took advantage of some incredible credit card welcome bonus deals that were being offered at the time, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. In the span of approximately a year, we managed to rack up — responsibly, of course — more than half a million points and miles between us. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Other pluses for these cards included travel-friendly benefits, such as no foreign transaction fees — which can certainly add up over the course of a year — limited trip insurance (which should never replace comprehensive trip insurance) and car rental insurance.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

As we strapped on our backpacks and headed for our first flight, the Sapphire Reserve became our preferred card, given that it earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel and dining — basically, all of our expenses during a year abroad!

During our year of travel, miles brought us to the highest of highs, including the summit of Annapurna in Nepal.
During our year of travel, miles brought us to the highest of highs, including Thorong La Pass in Nepal.

The Journey to Redemption

Making the most of our points and miles required some thoughtful planning and organization as we built our dream itinerary. For instance, once we had a general sense of our travels, we booked all of our long-haul flights for the year in advance and, given the flexibility that comes with a year of travel, we were able to select off-peak flight days, such as New Year’s Eve — both of which typically mean better redemption value.

By redeeming AAdvantage miles, for example, we were able to fly the atypical routing from Madrid (MAD) to Kathmandu (KTM) via Doha (DOH) with American's Oneworld alliance partner Qatar Airways for what was at the time just 38,250 miles for a one-way business class ticket — a real treat before our time trekking in the Himalayas.

We also traveled from Newark (EWR) to Auckland (AKL) via Beijing (PEK) for 80,000 miles in business class with United Airlines, a deal we were quite happy with considering award tickets for the 36 hours of flying were both limited and more expensive when we first began our search.

From New Zealand, we made our way over to Australia and up to Southeast Asia, where we spent nearly half our year exploring the beaches, jungles, temples and waterfalls of this exotic part of the world. While we booked our main long-haul flights with miles, we chose to use economical local carriers, such as Air Asia and Scoot, to move about the region.

Since these low-cost regional flights don’t often have affiliations with our preferred airlines, we sometimes had to forgo the opportunity to earn miles. However, points buffs can breathe easy because we were able to purchase our flights using the CSR, earning us 3x points per dollar, which we were then able to transfer to United MileagePlus miles and refill our miles’ coffers.

Traveling as flash-packers, the majority of our accommodations were booked in local Airbnb residences, family guesthouses or small boutique hotels, which don’t offer loyalty or affiliation programs. (Although in the scorching northern Thai heat, we did opt to redeem what few SPG points Trey had in his account to splash out at the beautiful Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort.)

We ended our year-long trip as we began it: by flying on New Year's Eve to New Zealand, where we decided to spend a bit of time resting and reflecting after our incredible year on the road. We were fortunate to find business class seats for 80,000 Delta SkyMiles each on China Eastern from Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) via Shanghai (PVG).

A year of traveling together not only merged our lives - but also our points!
A year of traveling together not only merged our lives, but also our points!

Traveling around the world with my partner taught us many important lessons and brought us so much closer together in our relationship. The old axiom “if you can travel well with someone, marry him,” rang especially true for us. At the end of our year of travel together, while in the Maldives for a much-needed beach week of post-India relaxation, Trey asked me to marry him, committing us to the ultimate journey: the merging of miles. Oh, and the rest of our lives.

All photos courtesy of the author.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.