Over the last couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to earn a bunch of points/miles and take a couple of great trips, with a few more trips on the way. All while spending little to no money on traveling and stays for our trips. Although it is awesome to use the points for myself and my wife, It is really nice to use our points/miles to travel with family as well.
Last year, my wife and I decided we were going to take our mom’s on a surprise trip to someplace warm. I knew I could plan the whole trip on points/miles and it would be even better to treat them to a great vacation (Plus, I loved the challenge to get it for no money out of pocket). So, where are we taking them…..
First let’s start off with, how did I earn my points/miles?
The first card was the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite. At the time, Citi was offer 100,000 American Airline bonus miles for a $10,000 spending requirement. There was an annual fee of $450, but I received a statement credit of $200, making the fee $250. After meeting the spending requirement, I had 110,000 American Airline miles.
The other card I opened was the Barclay US Airways Premier. The US Airways card had a bonus of 40,000 US Airway miles after my first purchase and paying the $89 annual fee. So, I bought a cup of coffee, threw the card in the drawer and got my bonus.
When I opened these cards, US Airways and American Airlines were in the process of merging and their points were going to merge as well. I intentionally opened both of these cards with the idea of sitting on those miles until the companies merged (also, hoping for no devaluation would occur!). The accounts have now merged and I have 155,000 American Airline miles.
I recently opened a Citi Premier, this got us another 53,000 points (including spending requirement) for a total of $3,000 spend. This had the annual fee waived for the first year. These points were going to be transferred to Singapore Airlines for flights on United Airlines.
I opened an American Express Premier Gold Reward with 50,000 Membership Reward points after $1,000 spending requirement. I used 17,000 points to top off my Singapore Airline account for our flight.
Also I decided to use my Membership Reward points for an Airbnb gift card. We decided to use Airbnb because we wanted a whole house, not a hotel room. Using my Membership Reward points, I was able to use 25,000 points to get a $250 gift certificate to Airbnb. Is it the best value for a redemption? No, but it is just what I needed for this trip. This also had the annual fee waived for the first year
In opening 4 cards, I accumulated 254,000 points/miles (including spending requirements). If you’re keeping track, I also spent $339 in annual fees. That’s a lot of fees right? You’ll soon see why paying an annual fee might be worth it and I thought this was well worth it.
Where are we going?
We decided that since we wanted to plan a special trip, we thought taking our mom’s to Honolulu, Hawaii would be a great trip! Living in New England, who wouldn’t want to go to Hawaii in the middle of winter?
Booking the tickets:
This became more complicated as we waited for my wife’s vacation to be approved. But, I was able to find a way and it works out really well for us!
Flying from Boston to Honolulu:
I initially wanted to use my American Airline miles for the whole trip, but that didn’t work out, so I started to look at United Airlines. Sometimes, it is better to book 2 one-way tickers rather than a round trip ticket. Which is exactly what I did. We would fly United Airlines there and American Airlines back.
It would cost 90,000 United miles, but I didn’t have 90,000 United miles (well I had enough Ultimate Reward points, but there was a better way). I did have Singapore Airline miles. This is important because both of these airlines are Star Alliance airlines. Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner with Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and Thank You points.
I was able to book with Singapore Airline miles on United Airlines, but I had to find a Saver Award, which I did. To make it even better, it only cost 17,500 miles per person one way instead of United’s charge of 22,500 miles per person one way. Total cost was 70,000 miles plus $22.40, this also saved me 20,000 points not booking directly with United. I was able to get a value of 7.2 cents per mile using Singapore miles. This is way better than the $5,060 it would have cost if we paid for these tickets.
*I tried booking business class, but all were mixed cabins. There were 3 different segments and all of them included 2 flights in coach, including the flight to Honolulu. Charging business price for a third of the flights in business is ridiculous. Also, Singapore Airlines had amazing customer service while they assisted in booking these flights over the phone.*
Flying from Honolulu to Manchester:
I was able to finally use my American Airline miles, for a one way flight for back home.
Flying into Manchester instead of Boston was a great option, since it is much closer to my house. Since I have 155,000 American Airline miles, I decided to look for business/first class awards. I was actually able to find an entire flight flying from Honolulu back to Manchester all in first class (my first time in first class!). This cost 37,500 miles per person plus $5.60. Total cost was 150,000 miles plus $22.40.
To make this even better, since I have a Barclaycard AAvantage Aviator Red Mastercard, I actually receive a 10% rebate (up to 10,000 miles per year). So, this will actually cost 140,000 miles plus $22.40. I was able to get a value of 3.9 cents per mile on our flight home. I still have enough American Airline miles for a domestic one way ticket :-).
This was the closest flight to our reward flight, it would have cost $5,532.64! Talk about expensive.
Total cost for airfare:
If we were to pay for both flights it would have cost a total of $10,592.64, but with a few credit cards, were were able to fly for 210,000 miles plus $44.80. Since I like to know the value of my points for trips, I was able to get a total value of 5 cents per miles! I think that is a FANTASTIC value!
Where are we staying?
Since we did not want to stay in a hotel, we opted for Airbnb. I was able to get a $250 Airbnb gift certificate for 25,000 Membership Reward points. I am fully aware I can get more than 1 cent per point with Membership Rewards, but this was my goal and there’s no wrong way to use your points:-).
I ended up finding our Airbnb and for a week it cost $1432 . Using the Airbnb gift certificate, it drops the price to $1182 for a week.
Total cost of entire Trip:
If we were to have paid for the entire trip, it would have cost $12,024.64! But the total trip cost was $1,565.80, which is just 13% of the actual cost!
To make this even better…..
Earlier this year I wrote about my strategy for 2015 and I had that strategy with this trip in mind. Since I have been able to maximize my cash back credit cards and shopping portals, I have earned enough cash back that we won’t pay a penny for this trip.
This is going to be a great trip and surprising our mom’s makes it that much better. A little planning can go a long way in this game. Maximizing your credit card rewards can really help you travel for pennies on the dollar.
If you have any recommendations on things we should do, please leave a comment! Also, if you have been, what was your favorite part of your trip?