Reader Javier asked recently in the comments on this article: “Keith turned me on to your site on Facebook. I wanted a little direction. I have the Capital one Venture card with 2x per dollar spent. I crunched the numbers for last month and if I switched to the Chase card I would be down about 3200 points/miles. Capital One doesn’t necessarily use the miles redeem system, they just reimburse you for the travel based on the amount of the ticket. How would I be able to utilize your system with Capital One?”
I started writing a quick reply but it quickly got more involved with examples so I wanted to make this into a more comprehensive post that I could refer people to in the future since this is a common question. This is a long post, but read and digest it slowly because it is an important one. If you don’t want all the details, skip to the bottom to the Conclusion TLDR section.
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.
Update October 27, 2014: None of this has changed since I published this article in January so I am reposting it again for anyone who might want to go.
By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the BPM Festival. This 10 day music festival brings all the best DJs from around the world into a beachfront community about an hour South of Cancun for day and night parties. I’ll start out with the Diynamic party with Solomun, then the Circo Loco party on Friday daytime, the Innervisions party on Friday night, All Day I Dream with Lee Burridge during the day, Music On during the night, then the closing parties on Sunday.
Now that I have made you interested here are 5 things you can do now to get to BPM Festival for Free like I am this year:
Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and transfer 9,000 of the 40,000 Ultimate Reward sign up bonus to British Airways Avios and just pay the international taxes of $72. This is exactly how I got here this year and is truly the best use of your points if you are traveling from Miami. Check out our Full Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card here and find out why it is our #1 travel card for people who want to get started with already established credit.
Apply for the Barclaycard Arrival card and use the 40,000 Mile sign on bonus (worth $400 in travel expenses) to pay for a ticket. This has the benefit of earning you miles for the flight as well since you are in essence paying for the ticket using the miles. The better use of this bonus would be for the hotel portion of your trip. Some friends and I are staying at the Fusion Hotel which is right in the middle of everything for 3 nights for around $400 total. This could be fully paid for with this sign up bonus!
Get the Citibank American Airlines Platinum Personal Mastercard and use 35,000 of the 50,000 sign up bonus to book an American Award seat from anywhere in the US to Mexico. This option obviously pales in comparison to numbers 2 and 3 since you have to use 35,000 miles for the exact same award seat that you could get for 9,000 Avios, but it might make sense for people who aren’t in Miami. For example, British Airways if you fly from Seattle to Cancun via Phoenix costs 35,000 miles. This is exactly the same amount as if you booked with American Airlines miles. So if you are a long way from Cancun, then this option might be equal to the Avios option.
Shop online with the British Airways online mall. If you have read our article about How to Make Mega Miles with Shopping Portals, then you know how just by shopping online you can earn miles. You just need to earn 9000 Avios to have enough for a round trip ticket from Miami. Here is a chart of some of the merchants they work with (but there are a bunch more!)$1125 at Shoes.com, $1125 at 1-800-Petmeds or $750 in flowers or Rosetta Stone can get you enough Avios to go to BPM!
There you go, 5 things you can do now to go to BPM next year.Next year, this could be you!
As always, reply with any questions and follow me on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss any great info! And don’t forget to share this article with anyone who might be interested using the handy social share buttons right below this post!
American Airlines site has a very easy to use award booking engine, but it only shows a couple of the OneWorld Alliance Airlines (American, British Airways, Finnair, Qantas and Royal Jordanian) and a few that they have shared flights with (called codeshares) but aren’t in OneWorld (Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines). But when I am looking for a quick way to search for American flights, say to go from Miami to Cancun for the BPM Festival, it works perfectly. It is also a great way to check domestic award availability on American. Today I am going to show you how to book a flight with American Miles.
Go to AA.com and put in your origin, destination, dates and select the checkbox for Redeem Miles and click Search.
The next screen shows you the dates and miles prices that are available for a week at a time. You are looking for the green dates which will be the cheapest mile dates. For a month at a time select the Show Full Calendar option.
Select the dates you want where there is green availability and then select continue.
Then you can see which flights are available for what prices for both the departure and the return.
Select the flights you want and hit continue then it will take you to a payment screen where you can see a summary of how many miles and what taxes you will have to pay.