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Cleared for Takeoff: First class celebration in the Maldives and Singapore

Aug. 31, 2021
12 min read
Overwater bungalows in the Maldives
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In this week's installment of Cleared for Takeoff, we're helping another couple jet off to the Maldives — this time, with a twist. Reader Emily Murphy wants to celebrate various accomplishments with a trip to the Maldives and Singapore — here's what she said:

"My husband and I want to go to the Maldives (with possibly a stopover in Singapore or elsewhere for a few days) in Dec 2022/Jan 2023 as a post-masters degree/hopefully new job/wedding anniversary celebration. EWR is our main airport, but we could work with all NYC and PHL airports, as well as LAX depending on how close the trip falls to graduation.
Minimum business, with first-class at least 1 way. Originally, we were thinking of trying to do Singapore suites on the way there (with just a cheap hop from SIN to MLE) and Qsuites on the way back. But we are open to other options, especially with Singapore's availability being iffy now. And while we definitely want to splurge, we don't want to use all of our points in one go."

The couple has a sizeable points balance to work with that spans American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus. Let's take a closer look at how they can use their points to book this trip of a lifetime.

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Points stash

As discussed, the couple has no shortage of points to work with. Here are their combined projected balances for the end of 2021:

  • American Express Membership Rewards: 323,000
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: 240,000
  • American AAdvantage: 210,000
  • United MileagePlus: 130,000

This spread of points makes it easy to book high-end first and business class flights on top-notch carriers like Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific. Plus, their stash of Chase points means they can transfer to World of Hyatt for luxury hotel stays in their two destinations.

Related: The 6 best airline award chart sweet spots

Airfare to Singapore and the Maldives

Now, let's take a closer look at how the couple can use their points to book flights to Singapore and the Maldives.

New York-JFK to Singapore (SIN) via Hong Kong (HKG)

Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Let's start with the couple's flight to Singapore.

The couple noted that they would like to fly in Singapore Suites first class — that said, it's extremely hard to find award space for two on this route, and they'd have to fly through Frankfurt (FRA). Instead, I recommend the couple transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and book Cathay Pacific first class flights through Hong Kong (HKG).

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It's impossible to tell what first class award space will look like next winter, but the couple may find award space if they start looking early. It's in their best interest to set up an award alert with ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures) and be notified when award space is released. The program will automatically search for award space and notify them when it's available.

If the couple can only find one first class seat, they may want to book one business and one first class seat on the same flight. Then, they can keep an ExpertFlyer alert going for the second ticket and change their ticket when/if it opens up. This ensures they can travel and gives the couple a good shot at securing a second first class ticket.

A one-way Cathay Pacific first class ticket costs 125,000 points per person with minimal taxes and fees. This means the couple will use 250,000 points to book the ticket, which is a lot of points. That said, it often costs more than $10,000 to book a one-way ticket on this route, so it's more than worth the points for a special trip.

Cathay Pacific has an excellent first class product with top-notch food and a massive lie-flat seat that is sure to give them some relaxation time in the sky. Plus, the couple will have access to Cathay Pacific's incredible first-class lounges at HKG, assuming it reopens by the time they're set to travel.

Related: The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific first class

Singapore to Male (MLE)

Singapore Airlines 787-10 business class. (Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

The couple can book the one-way flight from Singapore (SIN) to Male (MLE) in Singapore Airlines business class for 39,000 Singapore Krisflyer miles per person. I recommend the couple transfer 78,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore to book this award so they can conserve their Chase Ultimate Rewards points for hotel redemptions.

(Screenshot courtesy of singaporeair.com)

If possible, the couple should book the frequency flown by Singapore's 787-10 aircraft. Business class on this plane features lie-flat seats and great service on the 4.5-hour flight to Male. The actual plane they fly could change closer to departure, but it gives them a great shot at sampling one of Singapore's newest planes.

Related: Here are 9 of our favorite ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

Male to New York-JFK via Doha (DOH)

Qatar Airways' Qsuite product folded into a bed. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On the way back, the couple can fly via Doha (DOH) in Qatar's famous Qsuites business class.

This is one of TPG's favorite business class products that now operates on all flights between Doha and JFK. The seats are ultra-luxurious and lie-flat into a double bed. Plus, the onboard catering and service are excellent, as is the Qatar Airways lounge at Doha.

This ticket costs just 70,000 American AAdvantage miles per person one-way, for a total of 140,000 AAdvantage miles spent. Taxes and fees are well under $100 per person. This is an excellent way to redeem AAdvantage miles — especially considering this flight is often prohibitively expensive for most.

Related: Your ultimate guide to American Airlines AAdvantage

How to book these awards with points

Each of these awards is bookable on their respective airlines' websites. That said, you should always find a bookable award on the airline's website and then transfer your points. Otherwise, you could be stuck with points you can't use and lose the flexibility you enjoy with transferable points.

One last note: it usually takes 24 hours for Membership Rewards points to transfer to Singapore.

Call Singapore Airlines to put your award ticket on hold before you transfer points. This quick process can save you a major headache since it prevents someone else from booking your ticket before your points transfer.

Related: Waiting to ticket an award hold — Reader Mistake Story

How to earn enough miles for these awards

Currently, Citi ThankYou points transfer to Asia Miles and Singapore Krisflyer. The Citi Premier® Card is offering a welcome offer of 80,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, which is more than enough for a one-way flight in Qsuites.

Consider opening this card if you're looking to emulate some of this trip. The Murphy's may want to consider opening this card to replenish their points balances after taking this trip, too. It will give them a nice head-start toward their next big trip -- no matter where it may be.

Related: Competitive perks, manageable annual fee: Citi Premier credit card review

Hotels in Singapore and the Maldives

The Murphy's don't have any hotel points directly available to them, but they can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards and World of Hyatt. I only recommend transferring to Hyatt, though, as this option is the most likely to give them outsized value for their points. Here are the properties I recommend the couple book to maximize their stash of 240,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Andaz Singapore on Hyatt points

The Andaz Singapore. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Singapore is home to two Hyatt properties: the Andaz Singapore and Grand Hyatt Singapore.

I recommend they go the Andaz route as this hotel is in a better location and stocked with high-end amenities, including an outdoor infinity pool. Plus, the rooms are well-designed and will be a great place to relax after a day in one of Asia's most bustling cities.

They can book this property for just 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per night transferred to the World of Hyatt. This is a solid deal when you consider that the property often costs over $250 per night on weekends and during peak times. They didn't give us a length for their stopover, but let's assume it's two nights, for a total of 40,000 points.

Related: This TPG reader has 30 million points and miles — we’re showing him how to use them

(Screenshot courtesy of hyatt.com)

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa

Park Hyatt Maldives. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

In the Maldives, the couple can stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa for 30,000 points per night. Their current points stash would allow them to book up to six nights at the property, which is an incredible deal given the property usually costs over $700 per night.

This property is located on a private island with access to pristine beach access, incredible dining options and dozens of on-site activities. This is a great place for the couple to recharge after graduation and celebrate their anniversary given how disconnected it is from the outside world.

Spending 30,000 points per night gets the couple a standard beach access villa. This ' standard room' is an entire villa that offers a private deck with beach chairs, sunbeds and even an outdoor shower area. Better yet, it has direct beach access, so there's no need to walk through the resort to catch some rays or go for a swim in the ocean.

One thing to note: this award doesn't cover the cost of getting from MLE to the Park Hyatt. The couple will need to book a ticket from MLE to Kooddoo (GKK) with Maldivian Airlines. Then, they'll take a speedboat from the airport to the hotel. The Park Hyatt Maldives charges $520 per adult for both the flight and the boat transfer.

Related: How to have a splurge-worthy Maldives honeymoon on a budget

How to book hotels with points

You can book World of Hyatt awards directly on the Hyatt website. Like award tickets, the couple should run searches before transferring Ultimate Rewards points to ensure that the award nights they want are available. Award nights at high-end properties like the Park Hyatt Maldives often sell out quickly.

Related: How to redeem points with the World of Hyatt program

How to earn hotel points

If the Murphy's want to extend their stay in Singapore or the Maldives, they may consider opening a World of Hyatt Credit Card to earn more World of Hyatt points. This card is currently offering 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Plus, they can earn up to 30,000 more points by earning 2x points in the first six months on all purchases that normally earn 1x, up to $15,000 spent. Not only that, but the card is helping new cardholders earn Globalist status faster than normal -- which could be super valuable if they hold that status on a stay like this.

Related: Where to stay in the Maldives using points and miles

Bottom line

Emily and her husband now have a great plan to book a trip to Singapore and the Maldives using points and miles. They will have enough points to cover flights and hotel nights but might consider signing up for a hotel credit card to cover a few more nights in Singapore or the Maldives. Regardless, they are in for an incredible trip with memories that will last a lifetime.

Have a destination in mind and need help figuring out your points strategy? Send us an email to be featured in the next installment of Cleared for Takeoff.

Feature photo by Lifestyle Travel Photo/Shutterstock.com.

Featured image by (Photo by Lifestyle Travel Photo / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
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 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
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

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
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

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more