I must admit, for someone who has a large~ish bank of points, it is hard to pay cash for flights or hotels. Over the last year I’ve been getting better, but I still find it difficult to use cash rather than points, even when it should make sense.
The Golden Rule
Every blogger has their golden rule, mine is simple: Don’t redeem points for the sake of redeeming points
I have close friends and family who use their airline miles for gift card redemptions at .75 cents a piece, it makes my skin crawl! Everyone has their priorities, I get it.
I needed to get to Asia
We just wrapped up our around-the-world-trip-2 of 2017, stay tuned for the write-ups. The trip started with a JAL economy flight, which impressed me, from LAX to Singapore via Tokyo. That flight itinerary was three months in length with the return from Singapore in November. I was able to snag a cheap round-trip from LAX to Singapore for $324 with JAL.
The first leg to Singapore was in September, the start of our #2 around-the-world-trip. The return leg from Singapore to LAX is in November, but here I sit in California. Basically, I have a way home from Singapore in November, I just need get to SE Asia to utilize it.
Looking at some one-way options to Asia near the end of November had me frustrated. As usual, Cathay Pacific had ZERO business class award space from the West Coast on my dates. JAL had some business class space but they require 60k Alaska miles plus fees for a one-way, a bit steep for my precious Alaska miles (Cathay requires just 50k AS miles).
I did consider spending 40k United miles for a economy one-way since they partner with EVA Air for the LAX to TPE leg, they are a great airline. Still, 40k for a one-way is about $500 worth of points, too much for me. The exact flight we ultimately booked as a round-trip, read on, would have cost 40k United miles for JUST A ONE-WAY!
30,000 Points Round-trip?
Yep, we booked using 30,000 points a round-trip on All Nippon Airways economy, but not with typical airline miles. I spotted a dirt-cheap open-jaw “round-trip” from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, returning from Shanghai to Los Angeles. I put the return flight from Shanghai in the Spring time, so I guess we’ll be heading to China in six months! I’ll remind you, ANA is a 5 star rated airline for the last 5 years, one of the best in the business.
This open-jaw itinerary with ANA was only $373 per person when paying cash. That is incredibly cheap for a 5 star SKYTRAX airline to SE Asia, returning from China. Not the mention the flight from LAX to Singapore is within a few days of Thanksgiving.
How it was Booked
I used 29,820 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person for this open-jaw round-trip. An open-jaw flight is one that departs and returns to the same location, but the destination cities differ. We’ll fly LAX > KUL then PVG > LAX on the same itinerary. In other words, you have to get yourself a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai. For us, we’ll get to Shanghai another way since the legs are five months apart.
I was going to fork out 40k United miles for a one-way +$19 in fees. By paying with Chase Ultimate Rewards, each direction it was slightly under 15,000 points a piece plus no award fees.
When redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards through their travel portal you’ll receive 1.25 cents per point. That means a $100 flight will only require 8,000 UR rewards points to redeem.
You can definitely get better than 1.25 cents per point when transferring your Ultimate Rewards to partners for business class flights. Since J class award space was hard to find near Thanksgiving, we booked in economy. At 15,000 points each way to fly on ANA, you absolutely can’t beat it. There are no additional fees and I’ll likely earn a few FF miles after flying ANA.
We have not been to Malaysia so I am excited about that. You can catch $20 flights from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, so getting to SIN for our flight home around Thanksgiving will be cake (they have buses that are $12 one-way too).
I am not sure how we will get to Shanghai in the Spring to catch the return leg of the ANA open-jaw to Los Angeles. I may end up using 50,000 Alaska miles to fly on Cathay Pacific business class since I will have time to find award space.
Tip: Shanghai, and soon to be Beijing, allows you to visit the city for 144 hours if you are “in transit” to a third region. This means you can fly from Thailand to Shanghai, stay 144 hours, and fly home to the USA without paying for a tourist visa. Again, you must transit to a third region, you CANNOT book a round-trip to China and visit visa free. This is a huge perk that we will be taking advantage of, saving $140 per person. We like to save money if you haven’t noticed.