10 high-end redemptions I can’t wait to make when travel resumes
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I've felt like a caged bird during the coronavirus pandemic. I had a slew of travel plans this year and nearly all of them were disrupted. My mileage balances grow with my everyday credit card spending, but having no way to use them in the immediate future is a harsh reality to face.
That said, travel will eventually return to normal. Sure, things may be a little different, but I'm confident that this too shall pass and that we'll be back on the road before we know it. So with that in mind, I want to show you ten points and miles redemptions I can't wait to make once "normal" travel resumes, whenever that may be.
Let's dive in!
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Airline redemptions I'm itching to make
First and business class airfare has long been my favorite way to redeem points and miles. I love exploring new countries and cities, and getting there in style makes it even more special. Plus, I need to add to my amenity kit collection somehow, right?
Here's a look at seven awesome airline redemptions I plan on making in the years following the coronavirus outbreak.
Singapore suites to Frankfurt and Singapore
Sure, this one sounds a little cliche, but Singapore Suites has long been on my list of first-class products to fly. I plan on taking the "long way" to Singapore from New York City by flying from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) to Singapore (SIN) on the airline's famous A380. The tentative plan is to spend a few days in Germany before making my first-ever visit to Singapore.
This product is one of the most luxurious in the sky with top-notch service and dining options. Plus, it has a full-featured suite with a door, bed and massive in-flight entertainment screen. If I'm lucky, the JFK route will be upgraded to the new Suites product by the time travel resumes. This product has a separate bed and seat, which looks especially awesome.
That said, airlines around the world are ditching the A380 in droves. I really hope that Singapore restores this route when travel resumes so I can finally make this dream a reality.
If it resumes, I plan to book this trip by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore Krisflyer. This redemption costs 132,000 miles and roughly $30 in taxes and fees. Further, the stopover in Frankfurt would tack on an additional $100 charge, but I think it's worthwhile for a few days in Europe.
Emirates first class with Alaska Mileage Plan
Continuing with the cliches, I also really want to try Emirates' first-class. I've never flown Emirates in a premium cabin, so I'd like to fly New York-JFK to Dubai (DXB), spend a few days in Dubai, and continue to Hong Kong (HKG), one of my favorite cities in the world. Unfortunately, the airline's A380 isn't returning to the U.S. any time soon, but the 777 product still looks really nice.
The plan is to book this flight with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. While I could book using Emirates Skywards without fuel surcharges, it's most cost-effective to book with Alaska miles as I can add a free stopover in Dubai. This costs 180,000 miles and roughly $30 in taxes and fees.
Air Serbia business class with Etihad Guest
Let's take a step back from ultra-luxury for a second. Another redemption I've long had on my radar is Air Serbia business class. Sure, it's not the most luxurious redemption, but I've always had a fascination with both Eastern Europe and obscure airlines. Serbia has been on the top of my list for a while now, so I'd like to fly New York-JFK to Belgrade (BEG) with the airline.
This is Air Serbia's only long-haul route. Its single A330 has a modest cabin that's outfitted with old Virgin Atlantic business class seats. Interestingly enough, my first long-haul business class flight was on a Virgin Atlantic plane equipped with these, so it will be a nice throwback to my early days of solo travel.
The best way to book Air Serbia business class is by transferring Citi ThankYou, Capital One Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest. You can book this route for 64,082 each way in business class, which is a solid price.
Etihad first class with AAdvantage miles
Speaking of Etihad, I've never actually flown with the airline, but I planned to this past summer. I have a small stash of AAdvantage miles that I want to use to book Etihad Apartments first class between New York-JFK and Abu Dhabi (AUH) when travel resumes.
This excellent first-class product feels more like a room than an airline suite, hence the name Apartments. You'll enjoy great dining and have access to a shower in the sky. From everything I've heard, the shower itself is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can't be missed.
As discussed, you can book this seat with American Airlines AAdvantage miles. This flight costs 115,000 miles with minimal taxes and fees, making it a great redemption. This is especially true when you consider the flight can cost over $10,000 one-way.
Delta One suites with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Delta One suites are widely considered the best U.S. business-class product. I've never flown it, and it's been at the top of my list for a while now. Ideally, I'd like to try the product on Delta's A350 flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN) for a quick stopover on my way to Mongolia.
On top of being enclosed suites, the product reportedly has good food and drink options. It's no Emirates first per se, but a recent TPG review gave the service a nice 17/20. Plus, I can book the flight for just 60,000 Virgin Atlantic points, which is an excellent deal for a flight from the U.S. to Asia — especially on such a long flight. You can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club from American Express, Capital One, Citi and Chase.
ANA first class with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
I've wanted to fly ANA first class for a while now, especially after reading TPG writer Ethan Steinberg's 2019 review. He notes that the seat is great and that there are only eight in the cabin. Even better, the food and drinks look incredible, with both Western and Japanese meals offered. Steinberg also noted an excellent selection of Champagne and Japanese whiskey onboard.
Plus, it's possible to fly the product on the cheap. ANA and Virgin Atlantic have a non-alliance partnership that lets Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members book round-trip ANA first-class flights for just 120,000 miles round-trip. ANA recently removed fuel surcharges, so you're only responsible for paying associated taxes.
Round-the-world with ANA Mileage Club
ANA's own Mileage Club program is pretty excellent too. It adds fuel surcharges to some partner tickets but offers an incredible deal for round-the-world tickets. I recently planned a mid-2021 round-the-world trip with ANA Mileage Club that spans ten cities for just 170,000 Mileage Club miles in business class.
Some of the business class products I booked include United Polaris, ANA "The Room" business class and Turkish Airlines business class. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited for this trip.
You can read the specifics of my trip in this post dedicated to booking the trip. Here, I discuss finding award space and actually booking the ticket since you can't book ANA round the world trips online. It was a bit of work, but I saved a ton of points over booking each segment individually.
In terms of earning ANA Mileage Club miles, I transferred 170,000 points from American Express Membership Rewards to ANA. This is by far the easiest way to earn ANA Mileage Club miles.
Three hotels I can't wait to stay in
The only thing I like as much as a great first or business class seat is a great hotel room. I've focused on earning as many hotel points as possible during the pandemic, largely because I can use them on road trips too. That said, I'm keeping a reserve of points to book these three international hotels once travel resumes — here's a look.
Park Hyatt Sydney with World of Hyatt
I've never been to Australia, but I cannot wait to finally go there. Sydney is a stop on my round-the-world booking and — so long as the country opens up — I plan on staying at the Park Hyatt Sydney.
This hotel is located right outside of downtown Sydney off the Sydney Harbour Bridge, offering sweeping views of the harbor and the Sydney Opera House in premium rooms. It seems like the perfect place to spend my first night in the city.
But here's the thing: a weekend night at the hotel costs roughly $850 next year. This is way out of my price range, so I'll opt to spend some of my World of Hyatt points instead. You can book the hotel for 30,000 points per night — an excellent deal at 2.83 cents per point. I plan to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt to make this redemption.
JW Marriott Hong Kong with Marriott Bonvoy
As discussed earlier, Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world. There's something about the energy, incredibly diverse culture and modern architecture that keeps me coming back for more. I've stayed at numerous hotels in the city over the years, but have my sights set on the JW Marriott for my next trip out.
I usually opt to stay in Kowloon and rarely stay on Hong Kong Island. To change things up a bit, the JW Marriott is located off Victoria Harbour near Central and SoHo. This puts it in the center of the action and within walking distance of a ferry that can take me to Kowloon.
The hotel costs just 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. That, plus my Marriott Platinum status, should make for a cheap and comfortable stay in one of the newest luxury hotels in Hong Kong. I have an existing stash of Marriott points, but you can transfer them in from American Express and Chase or earn with a cobranded credit card.
Related: Beginner's guide to Marriott Bonvoy
Conrad London St. James with Hilton Honors
My girlfriend has family in London and we planned to visit them this past summer. This didn't work out for obvious reasons, but we plan to take the trip once the U.K. opens to U.S. citizens (without quarantine). Once there, we'll stay at the Conrad London St. James using Hilton Honors points.
The hotel is located in Central London near St. Jame's Park and Buckingham Palace. This puts us close to all that Central London has to offer, and within an easy Tube connection to elsewhere in the city. The hotel itself is pretty nice too — it has modern rooms and an executive lounge that we can access with my Hilton Diamond status.
Hilton Honors employs dynamic pricing, but you can book rooms in mid-2021 for just 55,000 points per night. You can transfer American Express points to Hilton Honors and earn them with Hilton cobranded credit cards.
Earning miles to book these trips
The bulk of the trips mentioned here can be booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. If you're new to the points and miles world, it's in your best interest to check out TPG's beginner's guide before picking a card.
That said, I'll give you a quick overview of the best cards for racking up these points here. I prefer Amex points to Chase points, but I recommend starting with Chase credit cards. This because of Chase's unfortunate 5/24 rule. Under this rule, Chase won't approve you for a new card if you have opened five new cards in the last 24 months. Plus, Chase points are the only points that transfer to World of Hyatt, United and Southwest.
Once you're over 5/24, it's time to start racking up American Express Membership Rewards points. Personally, I think these are more powerful and give you more redemption options since you can transfer them to ANA Mileage Club, Etihad Guest and others. Capital One Rewards has its own interesting suite of transfer partners too.
Here's a quick look at five of the best transferrable points cards if you're just starting out.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x on all travel and 3x on dining purchases. Thankfully, Chase defines these categories broadly, so you'll earn bonus points on more purchases than you think. TPG values its 60,000 point welcome bonus at a $1,200 in value, and you can use it to book many of the redemptions listed here.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee: $550
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a supercharged version of the Preferred. It offers lounge access, a Silvercar discount and an annual $300 travel credit credits. Plus, you'll earn 3x on all travel and dining purchases. Do keep in mind that this card does charge a high $550 annual fee, so it's only worthwhile for those who travel frequently and can use all of its benefits.
American Express® Green Card
Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases in your first six months of card membership.
The American Express Green Card is Amex's best starter card. It earns 3x points per dollar spent on travel (including flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services) and dining at restaurants worldwide, so you can rack up serious points for your everyday expenses. Plus, the card includes other interesting benefits like an up to $100 LoungeBuddy credit and an up to $100 Clear membership credit for a more enjoyable airport experience.
The information for the Amex Green 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.
Related: American Express Green Card review
American Express® Gold Card
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $4,000 in purchases in your first six months of account opening. Some applicants may be targeted for a 75,000-point offer by checking the CardMatch Tool. Targeted offers are subject to change at any time.
The American Express Gold card is one of my favorite travel cards of all time. It earns 4x points per dollar on dining at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x) and 3x points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or on Amex Travel. Plus, it has an up to $10 monthly dining credit (up to $120 credit per calendar year).
Related: American Express Gold Card review
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
The Capital One Venture Card earns 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases, so it's a good bet for everyday spending. You can transfer these miles to travel partners at a 2:1.5 or 2:1 transfer ratio (depending on partner) or use the miles to cover other travel expenses. The card also offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application credit (up to $100).
Like you, I can't wait for "normal" travel to resume in (hopefully) the coming months. These 10 redemptions are the brainchild of months of staying inside and not traveling, and I'm extremely excited to make these new redemptions in the near future. Each is new to me and makes me extremely excited to get back in the sky.
That said, there's no telling exactly when travel resume, so I'll keep dreaming of these redemptions for now. Here's hoping that they can become reality sooner than later. Once we have the OK, you can bet I'll book a handful of these ASAP.
Feature photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
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