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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!
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:
- Waiheke Island
- Franz Josef
- Te Anu
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 Cost||Miles & Points Used||Booking 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 4||70,000 United Airlines miles per person or 280,000 United Airlines miles total||Transferred 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 total||IHG 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 total||Booked 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 total||IHG 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 total||Booked 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 total||Booked 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 total||IHG points|
|3 rooms at the Park Hyatt Sydney for 2 nights||~$900 per night or ~$3,600 total||4 Hyatt free night certificates and 60,000 Hyatt points||Transferred 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 total||70,000 United Airlines miles per person or 420,000 United Airlines miles total||Transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points|
|TOTAL||~$65,960 worth of travel||700,000 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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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: