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TPG Readers’ Best Tips for Visiting China on Points and Miles

July 08, 2018
7 min read
Beijing Zhengyang gate Jianlou at night in Qianmen street in Beijing city, China.
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Whether you're a foodie, a history buff or just want to be part of the hustle and bustle of some of the world's most vibrant cities, there’s nothing quite like China. It’s a country full of impressive temples, historic sites and incredible natural scenery once you leave the big cities behind.

We recently asked our TPG Lounge readers to share their best tips and go-to ways for traveling to China on points and miles. Here’s what they had to say. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

Bragging Rights

Scoring a good deal with points and miles is definitely something to be proud of. Here's a look at some of the ways TPG readers have redeemed travel rewards for flights to China.

"Using Delta Skymiles to fly HKG to JFK [Hong Kong to New York] on Delta One through SEA [Seattle]!" — Nicholas C.

"Just used Alaska miles for business class from SEA to PEK [Beijing] on Hainan. There are lie-flat beds, complete with pajamas! The service was top-notch." — Barb S.

"I've used points for Marriott, JW Marriott and Renaissance Hotels in major cities that run 10,000 to 20,000 for 4-5 star hotels. I've used Delta Skymiles to book first-class flights on China Southern for 15,000 on the A380. Also, last year, I had to get last-minute flights for my wife and two kids. Paying 210,000 United miles for three round-trip tickets was much better than paying $4,500 in cash. It was during the summer when last-minute tickets are very expensive." — Rui W.

"Going from IAH [Houston] to HKG in November and since it's a rather long flight, I splurged to get me and the boyfriend in business class via miles. Saver awards were available on EVA when I booked through United's website. I've never flown EVA before, but I've read good things about it." — Cora C.

EVA Air offers a great business class seat on its 777-300ER. (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)

"Korean Air First Class for 80,000 Chase UR [Ultimate Rewards] points one-way. We leave August 31. I called Korean Air but I don’t know if that made any difference. We are doing the northern root of the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul in 49 days." — George W.

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"Korean Air first class. Surprisingly, there's a first-class cabin from Seoul (ICN) to Xi'an (XIY). Transfer UR points to SkyPass and it's 160,000 round-trip per person." — Carl C.

Book With Partner Airlines

A big part of the points and miles game is paying attention to airline alliances and knowing which travel credit cards work with which airline (and hotel) transfer partners, so you can make the most of your trip.

"I use Alaska miles to fly to Hong Kong, then take a connecting CX [Cathay Pacific Airways] or KA [Cathay Dragon] flight to China." — Brian W.

"[Transfer] Amex Membership Rewards points to Asia Miles to Cathay Pacific. [Amex MR points] for Singapore Airlines, too." — Meg G.

"Emirates First Class. Off season can be cheaper with a Amex MR and SPG Starpoints transfer." — Alan H.

"We just transferred Amex MR points to ANA at 1:1!" — Gloria L.

"Korean Air business class from Las Vegas to Incheon to Shanghai." — Sisi Su

Don't Forget About Hotel Points

Points and miles go hand in hand, and while most TPG Lounge members wrote about the ways they've used miles to fly to China, others mentioned the perks of using points to book epic hotel stays.

"Save your points for the hotels (which go extremely far there). Pay cash for flights, as they’re incredibly affordable these days, in my opinion." — Timothy B.

"This is a big thing outside Shanghai or Beijing — a lot of the Chinese hotels are the lower tiers for most major chains — so you can get some pretty nice redemptions." — Kevin B.

"Even in some bigger cities like Chengdu or Xi'an, I’ve gotten amazing value at hotels." — Timothy B.

"I agree with using points for hotels. Last September, we used SPG points to stay at The St. Regis Lhasa Resort and The St. Regis Chengdu, both excellent hotels." — Don B.

Take a relaxing dip in the Golden Energy Pool at the St. Regis Lhasa Resort.
Take a relaxing dip in the Golden Energy Pool at the St. Regis Lhasa Resort.

"Marriott points go a long way since most locations are category 1, 2 or 3." — Kristine J.

"We just booked five nights at the Courtyard Shanghai, within walking distance of Shanghai Disneyland, for 40,000 Marriott Rewards points." — Rob S.

Just Pay Cash

Of course, if you've been paying any attention to our TPG Deal Alerts lately, you'd know that flights from the US to Asia can be really affordable, a fact that led several TPG Lounge members to advocate not using miles to fly to China at all.

"Buy the ticket. China is cheap. Don’t waste the miles." — Anthony S.

"Inexpensive flights to China and Hong Kong can be found. Find the least expensive entry city, then look for in-country flights to your final destination. Air travel is cheap in China and from my experience, it’s not bad. All my domestic flights in China have been as good as or better than domestic flights in the US. The actual departure from the airport can be a challenge. The airports are huge and can be crowded at times. Allow enough time." — Lawrence G.

"Flights to China have been dirt cheap lately, at least in economy, so using points would seem to be a waste. If I were to use points, I would probably just use the Chase portal. From Seattle, the going rate has been $400-$450 or about 26,000-29,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I recently booked SEA–PVG–NRT–SEA [Seattle-Shanghai-Tokyo-Seattle] through American Airlines for $625. I was hoping to use points but unfortunately Chase could not recreate the trip itinerary from for less than 2,000 UR points a person, so I just used cash." — Kevin B.

"As Kevin B. said, flights have been so cheap even from the East Coast. If you have a bunch of points, use them for business class or to go to on a trip where tickets are normally super high." — Adam J.

Flights to Shanghai are so cheap you might not even want to use points and miles at all. (Photo by shanghaiface / Getty Images.)
Flights to Shanghai are so cheap you might not even want to use points and miles at all. (Photo by shanghaiface / Getty Images)

"Even open-jaw Philadelphia to Shanghai to Tokyo was less than $800 per person. Maybe will upgrade but definitely shelling out the cash for Asia trips." — Billy S.

"Agreed. Our last few trips from IAD [Washington, DC] have been under $500." — Bevin C.

"Agreed that flights to China have been so affordable lately, even from medium-sized East Coast airports like RDU [Raleigh-Durham], that it’d probably only make sense to use cash or the Chase portal for 1.5x redemption. Got tickets back in December for $500 on Hainan flying the polar route from RDU to CAN [Guangzhou] via BOS [Boston] and PEK." — Teng T.

Featured image by Getty Images