Edit 10/26/14: The public offer of 50K has expired but you may still be able to get it! The trick is you need to log into your United MileagePlus account FIRST and then click on the above banner to see your signup offer. Let us know in the comments if this works for you!
This is the first in a series of articles called TWM Take Me Away! where I will pick a destination a reader wants to go to and show you how to get there for free with miles!
A reader contacted me recently:
“I am taking the time to message you right now because I want to go to Bali at the end of August for my birthday and I’m trying to figure out how much to save to have. And also around what months should l look into buying a flight ticket.”
Bali is definitely on my bucket list due to the amazing culture , beautiful scenery and friendly people.
I priced out a ticket around those dates on Kayak.com and the cheapest I could find was $1401 on Delta for JFK to DPS (the airport in Bali) via LAX and TPE which seemed like a decent price since you are flying halfway around the world. Business class was over $6,000! But the name of this site is Traveling With Miles not Traveling with Cash, so lets see how we can get there for free.
1. Use 70,000 or 110,000 American AAdvantage Miles to book OneWorld flights.
According to the American Airlines OneWorld chart on this page, you can go from North America to 70,000 Miles round trip in economy class and 110,000 Miles Round trip in business class. I checked and there is some availability on Cathay Pacific which has a great business class product if you can be flexible on dates throughout August.
It is a 15 hour flight from JFK to HKG so I would definitely recommend business class. As a general rule, for any flight 5 hours or more, I try to do business class if I have the miles because it makes the experience much more pleasant.
2. Use 65,000 or 120,000 United miles to book on Star Alliance
This price will change drastically on February 1 when United changes their award chart so if you happen to want to book this trip, do it now. I just did a search and found a coach flight departing from EWR to DPS via TPE on EVA and then returning from DPS to EWR via TPE and LAX (on EVA and United on the way back).There was also business class availability for 120,000 and $25!
Note that these prices will be going up to 80,000 for coach and 160,000 for business after February 1.
If you can find availability on Korean Air flights (which you could book with either type of mile) for JFK to DPS via ICN (Seoul), then you should be able to get the above pricing if you are flexible about your travel dates.
To get these miles you could get 30-50,000 Skymiles by getting the Delta Amex card at this link. But I would recommend getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for 40,000 Ultimate Reward Points, then getting the Chase Ink Bold for 50,000 more.
For hotels, it looks like the best values are either the Grand Hyatt property or use cash and points at one of the SPG properties.1. For 12,000 Hyatt Gold Points per night you can stay at the Grand Hyatt Bali
2. For 10,000 SPG points + $180 cash a night you can stay at the W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak. This can be especially rewarding if you have Platinum status with SPG and could possibly get upgraded to a suite.
5. Another good option might be to get the Barclays Arrival card and then use the $400 sign up bonus (40,000 points you can redeem for $400 in travel expenses) just pay cash for a reasonably priced hotel or hostel or bed and breakfast you find there.
Whew! That was a lot of information! But I hope that this shows you how you can get to Bali for free with a little planning.
The way to maximize this is to buy the physical gift cards today using a Plink optimized amount of $50 per gift card. Since the gift cards purchased at Sears are issued by KMart (they have the same parent company), you will need to have KMart in your Plink wallet. By the way I get 100 Plink points (worth $1!) if you sign up for Plink using this link 🙂 so thanks!
So an overview of how this would work if you wanted to get $1000 of gift cards would be.
For each purchase, you would get 12X$50 = 600 united miles and 300 Plink points.
So if you bought 20 gift cards you would get 12,000 United Miles and 6,000 Plink points (worth $60 in gift cards).
This is in addition to whatever miles or points you would get from the credit card you use.
Once you get the gift cards you can go back through the shopping portal again and will get more miles when you use the cards for merchandise!
So what to do with the gift cards if you don’t actually need anything from Sears? What I do is buy and sell tablet PCs. I can usually buy and sell them for about the same amount. I have had really good luck with the new Nexus 7 model from Asus.
Then follow the guidance above to get started. Start with just one $50 purchase if you want so you can see how the process works and buy something you need at Sears (they sell a ton of stuff). Then next time you will have all the accounts set up so you can swing for the fences and get a ton of miles!