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Jetsetting with Jenn & Ken: Booking an Epic Trip Using “The Credit Card Game” {Part II}


So exactly how many points did it take to book a round trip flight to Asia on Business?  Singapore Airlines had two options to book for Los Angeles to Bangkok (Round Trip):

Saver- 160,000 miles

Standard – 240,000 miles

At first look, it may seem obvious to book the saver program flight.  The problem with using the saver option is you’ll most likely be stuck on a waitlist.  How long could the waitlist be, you ask?  You just never know!  In our case, Jenn and I booked our flight a mere 10 days prior to our planned departure!  We’ve been sitting on a wait list since December!!!  This was probably the most stressful part of planning because we honestly had NO idea if we were even going! Try planning a 3-week trip with NO plans for flights with ZERO confirmation until 10 days prior to leaving.  Thankfully, everything worked out OK, but man…this was extremely stressful for both Jenn and I.

At the time we joined the wait list, Singapore Airlines was offering a 20% discount on reward flights so it only cost us 136,000 miles each business class flight.  The taxes, although quite high, only cost $500 dollars/136 miles each. Given the retail cost for our ticket is $5,500 (EACH) we gladly paid the taxes. (Note: After March, there will be no discount on miles, BUT I heard taxes get significantly cheaper)

Overall, we really got a deal and we cannot WAIT to fly on Singapore airlines!

So how were we able to get so many miles?  The credit card game!

Like I mentioned in Part I, I’ve always been turned off by “high annual fee” cards.  Cards such as the AMEX Platinum has upwards of a $500 annual fee.  For most people, it just does not make any sense.  The key is breaking down which card will give you the biggest bang for your buck. In our case, I used 3 different cards to acquire enough miles for business class seats.

My AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card has an annual fee of $195.  It may seem high, but the bonus points I accumulated on travel (3x) and gas/groceries (2x) was a huge benefit.  The card gives you $100 back on any travel-related expenses (baggage fees, food on the plane, etc.) on a specific airline of your choice.  There are also ways to get a better benefit of those $100 dollars, like using it for gift certificates for future flights (although they have since cracked down on this option).

Citi Prestige has an annual fee of $450 – but it gives you a $200 airline credit on any airline-related purchases.  This is better than AMEX airline credit because they will refund $200 of any flight you book on the card.  Additionally, it gives you 3x points on travel, 2x on dining/entertainment, and 1x on everything else.  I was able to get this card for $350 a year (ask me if you want to know how I did it!), so the annual fee ended up actually only costing $150!  It also gave me access to Admiral Lounge (going away June 2017) as well as 3 free rounds of golf per year at select courses (going away June 2017 – Jenn’s probably happy J).  With all of those benefits, this card has more than paid for itself.  It also gave me a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (so long as I spent a certain dollar amount within the first 3 months).  The biggest feature of this card though is that they pay for your 4th night of any hotel booking booked using their concierge!  Prior to 2017, you were restricted to their portal and it was VERY hard to determine how much rates would be for your hotel stay.  Now, they just match whatever the hotel is offering!  I will go into GREAT depth about this later, and how it saved us over a thousand dollars on our trip!

Chase Sapphire Reserve – if you’re familiar with credit card points, you need to know this card. 3x points on travel and dining out.  If you are like Jenn and I, you spend quite a lot of time wining and dining with friends.  It is CRAZY how fast you can accumulate points with 3x on dining.  This card comes with a $450 annual fee, but they’ll refund ANY travel-related purchase up to $300.  I know this sounds similar to the Citi card above – but it’s not. Chase refunds all sorts of travel-related expenses, including taxis (yes, even Uber!), tolls, as well as flights and hotel bookings.  Chase also offered a 100k mile sign-up bonus if you spent $4k in 3 months of having the card!  Remember, it only was 136k miles to pay for each business class ticket we booked… so the 100k mile sign-up bonus took us nearly the whole way there!

We know have plenty of points, know where to go, know which airline to fly, and the next step was to just book the flight.  If we did not care about future travel, I would have chosen the standard booking (to avoid being wait listed) and blown through most of our points. Since we love to travel, however, I wanted us to hang on to some over our points. I can’t lie – booking the Saver option is where the painful, waiting, calling, hoping of getting a ticket began!

Here was the flight we had picked out with Singapore airlines.

Outbound

LAX – NAR (Tokyo)

NAR – Singapore

Singapore – Bangkok

Inbound

Bangkok – Singapore

Singapore – South Korea

South Korea – LAX

Any normal person would look at the itinerary and start cringing.  Jenn looked at me like I was crazy booking something with some many legs.  Unfortunately, Singapore has no direct routes to Bangkok, so this is our only option.  Let us be honest, in business class…this will be painless (Jenn still doesn’t believe me) J.

Singapore also offered an ‘extended layover’ option.  So in any of the outbound stops, we could extend our stay.  I love Japan.  Jenn loves Japan.  It’s cherry blossom season. Why not stop over for 6 nights?? It required no additional points and it would just make the trip that more epic!

Months and months, the painful waiting game became more and more stressful as time flew by.  A few weeks ago, I almost gave up and sacrificed the extra 60k points each to book our flights.  I called and called Singapore Airlines, talking to over 10 operators asking if there was any way of securing our reservation.  10 days prior to leaving…BAM…finally!!!  I get a text from Singapore Airlines that the last wait listed ticket has been confirmed!  I remember waking up and shaking Jenn telling her it’s official!  You would think…thank God!  The stress is finally over.  I wish that were true.

HOTELS!  The longer you wait…USUALLY… the more expensive hotels get. Since we’re entering into Japan’s cherry blossom season we were VERY limited with hotel choices.

If you have ever booked a vacation, you are already familiar with sites like booking.com, Travelocity, and Orbitz to name a few.  Asia has an equivalent – a site named Agoda – and we trolled it religiously.  There was no science to it.  Find great reviews, great ratings, and a good price. Unfortunately, with 10 days out prices were a huge factor.  The hotels we planned to book were insanely expensive.  Almost 20% more than we had found months prior!  It was demoralizing to think the hotels we dreamed of staying at wouldn’t fit within our budget any longer. Along came Citi Prestige!

Since we were planning on staying 4 nights in Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Koh Samui, Citi Prestige paid for the 4th consecutive night at each property.  The savings equated to well over a thousand dollars!! The process was painless too – a simple call to the Citi concierge and they took care of everything!  5 stars for the Citi Prestige concierge program!

Well friends, our flight and hotels are finally booked!  We’re officially ready for our vacation (although Jenn said I need to pack – I keep telling her we don’t leave for two more days J)!!!!

Thanks for following along on our Asian Adventure. Can’t wait to share with you Part 3 – The Singapore Airlines Experience.

Ken

 

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