1.1 MILLION Miles & Points for Nearly $66,000 Worth of Travel to New Zealand and Sydney!

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1.1 MILLION Miles & Points for Nearly $66,000 Worth of Travel to New Zealand and Sydney!

Million Mile Secrets1.1 MILLION Miles & Points for Nearly $66,000 Worth of Travel to New Zealand and Sydney!Million Mile Secrets Team

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Imagine redeeming more than 1 MILLION miles & points for the trip of a lifetime!  That’s what team member Keith recently did!

He recently shared how he used miles to book 6 Business Class award seats home from Sydney!  But that wasn’t the only Big Travel with Small Money highlight from his trip to New Zealand and Australia.  I’ll let him tell you how he got ~$66,000 worth of travel for a fraction of the cost using miles & points!

Keith:   New Zealand and Sydney were at the top of my travel bucket list.  So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel there with my wife, in-laws, and family friends.  Here’s a video with some highlights from our trip!


Besides unforgettable memories, this trip reminded me how amazing it is set a travel goal and achieve it using miles & points.

The indescribable beauty, friendly residents, and phenomenal food also make New Zealand a place I’d love to live.  But I’ll save those thoughts for another post!

Here are the miles & points highlights from our trip!

14-Day Road Trip Adventure in New Zealand and Australia

Due to work schedules, we only had 2 weeks to explore the North and South Islands in New Zealand.  A lot of reviews we read while planning our trip recommended spending at least 3 weeks in New Zealand.  An extra week would have allowed us to relax more along the way, but we still felt the vacation was amazing!

Our trip included stops in:

  • Auckland
  • Waiheke Island
  • Rotorua
  • Napier
  • Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anu
  • Sydney
Visit New Zealand Using Miles Points
The Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Hike Was Definitely One of the Highlights From Our Trip

We used miles & points for many parts of our trip, including all flights and most hotel stays.  My in-laws were extremely generous and covered the cost of any hotels and excursions we couldn’t book with points.  Here’s a summary of the miles & points parts of our trip:

 Retail CostMiles & Points UsedBooking Method or Sources of Miles & Points
4 one-way Business Class tickets from Los Angeles to Auckland on Air New Zealand~$3,500 per person or ~$14,000 for 470,000 United Airlines miles per person or 280,000 United Airlines miles totalTransferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points
2 rooms at the Crowne Plaza Auckland for 1 night~$200 per night per room or ~$400 total 30,000 IHG points per room or 60,000 IHG points totalIHG points
2 rooms at the Holiday Inn Rotorua for 2 nights~$160 per night per room or ~$640 total ~11,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per night or ~44,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points totalBooked through the Chase travel portal
2 rooms at the InterContinental Wellington for 1 night~$250 per night per room or ~$500 total 35,000 IHG points per room or 70,000 IHG points totalIHG points
2 rooms at the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier for 1 night~$242 per night per room or ~$484 total 16,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per room or 32,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points totalBooked through the Chase travel portal
2 rooms at the Rutherford Hotel Nelson for 1 night~$168 per night per room or ~$336 total 11,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per room or 22,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points totalBooked through the Chase travel portal
2 rooms at the Crowne Plaza Queenstown for 2 nights~$250 per night or ~$1,000 total 40,000 IHG points per night or 160,000 IHG points totalIHG points
3 rooms at the Park Hyatt Sydney for 2 nights~$900 per night or ~$3,600 total4 Hyatt free night certificates and 60,000 Hyatt pointsTransferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points
6 one-way Business Class tickets from Sydney to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand~$7,500 per person or ~$45,000 total70,000 United Airlines miles per person or 420,000 United Airlines miles totalTransferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points
TOTAL~$65,960 worth of travel700,000 United Airlines miles, 290,000 IHG points, 98,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 60,000 Hyatt points, and 4 Hyatt free night certificates


It took a team effort to collect enough miles & points for this trip.  My wife and I, along with my father-in-law, each took advantage of some of these lucrative card offers:

Card Name Sign-Up Bonus
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $800 in cash back or $1,000 in travel) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 in cash back or $625 in travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Note:   The above table shows the current sign-up bonuses.  Some of the offers were different when we applied for the cards.  For example, we took advantage of the Chase Hyatt card offer when the sign-up bonus included 2 free night certificates.

Here are a few takeaways after using miles & points to save money for our adventure!

1.   You Can Never Have Enough Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly valuable for folks looking to get Big Travel with Small Money.  With these points, you have the flexibility to transfer them directly to airline and hotel partners.  Or you can redeem points for travel and avoid blackout dates by booking travel through the Chase portal.

We used points both ways for our trip.  For example, we transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.  Then, booked Business Class award seats on an Air New Zealand flight.  Both airlines are part of the Star Alliance, which is why you can redeem miles on one airline for flights on another.

In New Zealand, there are lots of wonderful boutique and independent hotels.  So booking stays through the Chase travel portal can be an excellent way to avoid any out-of-pocket expenses for hotel stays.

Visit New Zealand Using Miles Points
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Through the Chase Portal Got Us a 1 Night Stay at the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Remember, points are worth more if you have certain cards and book through the travel portal.  I usually book with points in my Chase Sapphire Reserve account because points linked to this card are worth 1.5 cents each.

Besides earning lucrative sign-up bonuses, don’t forget you can boost your points balance by making online purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.  This is such an easy way to earn points for purchases you’re already planning.

2.   Plan Your Credit Card Strategy to Take Advantage of the Best Offers

Link:   Best Card Strategy for Beginners

Folks outside of the miles & points hobby are usually in disbelief when I share how we use credit card rewards to book international trips, like the one to New Zealand and Sydney.  But really anyone can book the same type of trip with some planning and the right credit card strategy.

Visit New Zealand Using Miles Points
Match the Right Card Strategy With Your Travel Goals and You Too Could Be Overlooking Beautiful Scenery in Destinations Like Waiheke Island!

The fastest way to get Big Travel is by earning credit card sign-up bonuses.  But some banks have rules that can make it difficult to get their cards if you’re not strategic.

For example, Chase has strict application rules, which make it difficult to get approved for many of their cards if you apply for other cards first.  As I shared earlier, our trip was made possible by earning rewards with 5 different Chase cards.  This shows how valuable their cards can be!

Be sure to check out our post with 11 credit card myths.  For many folks, it’s surprising to see how you can keep an excellent credit score (750+) while applying for lots of cards.

Keep in mind, you should only use credit cards to collect miles & points if you:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Have a credit score of 700+
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Track your credit card balances

Paying interest or late fees will easily offset the value of miles & points you earn.  So it’s important to stay organized!

3.   Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

If you’re planning family award travel, it can seem overwhelming at first figuring out how you could earn enough miles & points for a big vacation.

The trick is to involve other family members in the hobby.  For example, my wife and I each submit separate applications for cards, so we can both earn sign-up bonuses.  And we usually send each other referral links to earn easy extra bonus points!

Visit New Zealand Using Miles Points
This Is How We Celebrate When We’re Each Approved for a New Card!

And remember there are no right or wrong ways to use the miles & points you earn!  I know lots of folks who would likely stretch the 1.1 million miles & points we redeemed to book multiple vacations.  For us, this was a once-in-a-life time adventure and we were happy to have the rewards to make the dream trip a reality!

Bottom Line

Team member Keith recently used miles & points to travel to New Zealand and Sydney with his wife, in-laws, and family friends.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so Keith and his wife splurged and redeemed more than 1 million miles & points to book Business Class award flights and hotel stays in 7 cities!

Chase Ultimate Rewards points were key to making the trip possible.  Because Keith was able to transfer points to Chase travel partner United Airlines to book award flights.  And to book stays at independent hotel chains in New Zealand, Keith redeemed points through the Chase travel portal.

He and his family members earned most of the points for the trip with these cards:

You can book a dream vacation too by setting your travel goals and planning ahead with the right card strategy!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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There’s something so, so classy about travelling with your wife and her parents on a plane while she wears a Mile High Club T-Shirt.

I know that shirt – that back says “I’m so high I could eat a star” —

I know that top … the back of the shirt reads “I’m so high I could eat a star” …

absolutely – first thing I thought … definitely see that article with a different mindset


if you weren’t ashamed…why you take down pic?

No pictures were taken down. It’s the feature image shown on the home page and on social media.

Great redemption and beautiful trip. Congrats

I know someone who flies ONLY first class international, has an insane number of points, and has figured how to do manufactured spend to the tune of about 5M points per year.
Great hobby this is….

Love this article!

We have quite a few points building up. I recently just booked a flight for the two of us in 1st class to use some of our points. We have a manufactured spend process to earn 500K miles per year, and we pay $110K in timeshare maintenance fees for our rental business. We are building 830K + our regular spend (since we use our credit cards for everything).

All of the above miles are transferred to the Chase Sapphire Reserve portal for the 1.5 X toward travel.

I recently started buying Simon Mall Visa cards with our Starwood Amex and have quite a few of those built as well. I hope to transfer those to Amtrak and to various airlines, but not to United because the transfer rate is not favorable.

Getting two tickets to Europe with points in business or first looks very difficult. I need to get two for us. That is going to be tough. It’s not like that second ticket is even close to affordable.

I have people asking me all of the time how we fly free and travel 12 weeks a year. We also get car rentals without paying, and we get hotel rooms without paying. But we have credit cards that are no longer being offered.

We each have a Chase Ink card that gets 5X on office supplies. We buy gift cards and get 5X. This makes our MS points $6 for 1,000 points. Then we transfer them to the Reserve and get 1.5 X. So we are enjoying a car rental this week in Carmel, CA, that is ridiculously cheap at 8,022 points/ 7 nights, even at $6 per thousand. It includes taxes, too.

I am still considering that Amex Platinum for business. I wonder if I can get 3X for our MF’s with that card, since you are automatically Gold, and many of our fees are for a resort in the Starwood system. 3X Starwood points = 9X with Marriott. Does anyone know? Any help would be appreciated. I love the Sapphire Reserve so much, I don’t know that a new system is the answer.

Timeshare is a great way to travel in the US, and that is how we travel as much as we do. But for Europe, it doesn’t work all that well. I can possibly book a week in the middle of a ~4-week European trip after finding award seats that are comfortable. We are in our 60’s and like taking our time.

People here are rude, but it’s really just pure green envy. Remember what your mommy always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Who reads a blog and doesn’t get any good info from it and only criticizes someone’s clothes. That is a purely rhetorical question.

We did similar for family of 5 for 3.5 weeks to Oz and Tahiti. Posted trip report here

5 in business TPA-IAH-SFO-SYD using 400k United miles $24,000
2 rooms at the Westin Sydney for 6 nights using SPG points. Club level upgrade $4000
5 seats on flights to Sydney to Melbourne using BA avios on Qantas $900
2 rooms/4 nights at Melbourne Hyatt using anniversary nights and points. Club level from status $2200
5 seats on flights to Melbourne to Alice Springs on Qantas using BA avios $1500
Hilton in Alice Springs using Hilton Points for 2 nights/2 rooms $1000
5 seats on flights to Alice Springs to Cairns using avios on Qantas $1800
6 nights in condo in Cairns using 120k AA miles, $1900
flights Cairns to Sydney to Auckland to Tahiti and then LAX (2 business, 3 economy) using AA miles with a 12 hour stopover in Auckland and 4 nights layover in Tahiti $22,000
1 night/2 rooms in Auckland using IHG points $500
1 night Tahiti, 4 nights Moorea using IHG anniversary nights and points. Garden view room upgraded to pool/ocean view due to Ambassador status $3000
LAX to RSW using AA miles $1900
Total saved over $64k conservatively


pics here

Our original flights out were United metal biz to AKL and the Air new Zealand economy had tight connection in SFO and when United changed the outbound to SFO it made the connection impossible and they put us on the direct to Sydney. There are advantages to booking tight connection times and waiting on them to get fouled up to use the leverage to get better flights

Very impressive!

I’d be interested in hearing a summary of any annual fees and booking fees that were charged as well.

Thanks for the post!

Keith, sounds like an amazing trip. A/NZ is on our bucket list as well. Question: did you know you were going to stay in Hyatt and IHG properties on this trip and target those cards, or was it the reverse where you decided to get the cards and since you had them, targeted those properties for redeeming those points?

We really wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, so applied for the Chase Hyatt card when the sign-up bonus was 2 free night certificates. And we just happened to have a lot of IHG points, which worked out in New Zealand because there didn’t seem to be many other large chain hotels in certain areas.

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