Churning A Trip To Japan
I mentioned in my introductory post how I have applied for a few cards already. Initially I had planned to just collect a few miles, until I learned more and saw what was possible. Now I intend to pay for the majority of my trip! Let’s look at how.
The three cards I picked up initially are the Citibank American Airlines Visa, the Citibank American Airlines American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express. Each of these three cards offered specific bonuses after a minimum spend. The two Citibank cards provided 50,000 AAdvantage miles each, after $2500 in 4 months, with the annual fee waived for the first year and two Admiral’s Club passes each. The Hilton Honors American Express card has no annual fee, provides Hilton Silver status and at the time offered 40,000 points after $750 and 25,000 more after $3000 within the first 6 months, for a total of 65,000 Hilton Honors points. It also qualifies the holder for Hilton’s AXON awards. These are reduced rate hotel rewards, where you can redeem 4 nights at a Category 7 Hilton hotel for 145,000 instead of 50,000 per night!
So after my first round of applications I had 100,000 American AAdvantage miles, and 65,000 Hilton Honors points. But in January I came across an offer I couldn’t decline…
50,000 American Express Membership Reward points for $1000 spent in the first 3 months with the Premier Rewards Gold Card. These points are useful in that they can be transfered to many airline and hotel partners. They can even be transferred to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio by first converting to Virgin Atlantic! That means my 50,000 American Express Rewards combined with the 65,000 Hilton Honors points is enough for the 145,000 required for a 4 night AXON award stay at the Conrad Tokyo! American Airlines offers off-peak award travel to Japan at reduced rates from October 1st to April 30th for 50,000 miles round trip in economy. So between 4 cards, I now covered roundtrip economy airfare for two and 4 nights at a Category 7 Hilton hotel – usually 50,000 points per night!
My ideal trip length for Japan is around 6 nights. I’m hoping that’s long enough to see a lot but short enough to not break the bank. That means I still need two nights hotel. I am applying for the Citibank Hilton Reserve in my next round of applications. This card provides two weekend night Hilton certificates, as well as Hilton Gold status for the first year (free internet and breakfast!). And while the two nights would cover the remaining two nights I desire, I have a better plan. In a few months I intend to sign up for Hyatt’s Diamond Challenge based on my Hilton Gold status (temporary Diamond status while you try to complete a certain number of stays). While that is underway, I will apply for the Chase Hyatt Visa, which if applied for as a Hyatt Diamond – gives two free nights in a suite! I’m hoping to use those two nights to complete the Japan trip at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in style! 🙂 Both of these cards have annual fees, but I feel the two free nights alone outweighs the cost as I would gladly pay $95 to stay at a fancy hotel anywhere for two nights! The Citi Reserve Hilton Card covers breakfast and internet as well!
The problem is, now I’m getting greedy. I’m pretty tall, and that’s a long flight to Japan. I’ve been of the mindset that cheap economy tickets are good redemption value. I’ve always figured I’d want another trip elsewhere over slightly upgraded comfort at twice the price. But I’ve also never been on that long of a flight and have now decided to try for business or first class instead. The 100,000 American Airlines miles are enough for two business class tickets one-way. So now the question becomes how do I churn another one-way business class flight for two? I’m thinking the answers are possibly in the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card – with possibly 50,000 miles, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points that convert 1:1 to United miles, and am working on how to come up with the remaining 30,000 required for a one-way business class award for two on United (120,000 points).
I was planning to use the American Express Membership Rewards points as Hilton Points. I am now wondering if there’s a better use. Stay tuned as I try to solve the puzzle…or feel free to comment if you have any suggestions! Check my Card Offers page if you want to learn more about the cards I’ve mentioned.