Author Topic: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!  (Read 1756 times)

Megma

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Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« on: March 03, 2017, 08:47:46 AM »
My fiancť and I are planning a trip to Thailand for our honeymoon in December and I am trying to develop a plan now for maximizing our points and accumulating more to keep the costs low. Unfortunately we are going at peak time for Thailand tourism but itís the only time we can arrange to be away from our jobs for an extended period.

Current points assets:
54,000 Chase Ultimate rewards pts (I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus but he hasnít. I need to use/transfer these by the beginning of 2018 to cancel the card.)
46,000 American Express Membership rewards pts (I applied for the Amex Gold bonus but he hasnít. I need to use/transfer these by end of 2017 to cancel the card.)
~50,000 Delta pts for each of us (we both applied for the Delta card in the fall)
~25,000 AA pts (me, he has some too but not very many Ė I applied for the AA bonus ~1 year ago but he hasnít.)
$100 in Delta gift cards
$200 in American gift cards

This is my current plan:
I will refer my fiancť for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, receiving 10k pts and he will get a bonus of 50k pts after spending 4k in 3 months + 4k pts from the spending. This will give us 118k pts with chase (+ any additional spending we do in their 2x categories). We will transfer all of the points to one of our chase accounts (so we can book our flights together) and book the flights through their portal for a 25% bonus. This will give us $1475 in travel, or about 1 flight (economy flights are around $1700 now but itís 9 months away). Weíll pay for the other flight but also use our chase cards over the next months in their 2x pts categories where possible to get a little more.

I considered using the Amex pts for our hotels but the redemption values are horrible, so I plan to just harvest those for gift cards and pay for our hotels. In looking at flights using Delta points we needed well over 100,000/person to get a free flight, I am hoping we can book on delta via Chase and then use points for an upgrade maybe.

I have excellent credit and my fiancťís is good, he might not be automatically approved for the top tier cards. I do NOT want to pay any annual fees and want to avoid manufacturing spending (Iíll do it but prefer not to, and would like to keep it below $500).

Are there other optimizations that you can recommend? Thank you for your suggestions!

MrGville

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2017, 09:00:52 AM »
Do you mind sharing what airport you will be departing from?  This will help people provide better answers.  Also, instead of cancelling the CSP, I would simply downgrade it to the Chase Freedom card (no annual fee).

Paul der Krake

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2017, 09:12:03 AM »
Congratulations on the upcoming marriage!

Yeah your main problem is going to be finding seats in December for Thailand from RDU that doesn't have that many routes. Availability should have already opened up for December, so I'd start looking now to see if there are any seats that aren't horrible.

geekette

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2017, 09:14:33 AM »
Chase Sapphire Reserve has a 50% travel bonus through their portal. It's $450/year, but you'd also get $300 off on your travel this year & next, so it's still a net positive.

MrGville

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2017, 09:24:18 AM »
There are a few dates in December with Delta flights that are 40k points (one way).  I selected one of these and it would cost ~$1,000 if paying cash, so thats a very good redemption.  If your husband got the amex card, then you could both transfer your amex points to delta and each have enough for a round trip tickets.  I'm not sure how flexible your travel dates are, so it may not be possible to get the 80k round trip delta tickets. 

I've learned that it is often a more valuable redemption to transfer your Chase points to one of their transfer partners instead of booking travel through their rewards portal.  This can especially be true for hotel redemptions. For instance...three nights at the Grand Hyatt Bangkok would cost ~$700 in December after taxes, fees, etc.  So using the Chase portal, this would be about 56k points.  However, if you transfer Chase points to Hyatt (a chase transfer partner), you'd only need to use 45k points.

JoJo

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2017, 10:20:34 AM »
Have you considered an alternative airport?  If you drove to Washington DC, there are flights in december on turkish air for $1300.  Might require fewer points too?

December is a rough time to get deals.  November is a fine time to travel internationally but it seems you wedding date is set.

Megma

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2017, 11:17:38 AM »
@JoJo and MrGville - unfortunately our dates are pretty inflexible since it will be a long vacation, we need to maximize the dates we already have off for the holidays. This means we cannot (likely) take advantage of cheaper flight on alternative day. I have looked at some alternative airports, including DC (Dulles) and saw those $1300 Turkish airline flights (also fewer 1 connections than our home airport - RDU). So we'll definitely shop around other airports when we're gonna book (also Charlotte probably, maybe NYC as we have friends there). Thanks for the suggestions :-) We'll have to keep in mind costs to drive or take buses to the other airports, from house it's like a $15 uber ride to RDU.

MrGville - thanks for suggesting transferring the points for better redemption, I had not considered this. I wasn't planning on using any for the hotels because the redemption was so bad. I also already have the Chase freedom card so can't really downgrade my sapphire preferred, my freedom card also has some chase pts on it (not many) that I can use too. And I will transfer any "extra" chase pts there before I cancel.

@geekette - thanks I did not realize we'd also get a higher travel redemption thanks for pointing that out. This will be a hard sell to the fiance maybe because of the annual fee, even though it's a net positive but I'll look at it more and bring it up to him. We could maybe use that $300 toward some hotels or further flight subsidizing. I might be over the limit on new applications though (5 in 2 years, I think? I'm probably over that) and I'm not sure my fiance will qualify for this one.

@PDK - thanks! I hope you and your wife are enjoying your new local, we'll miss you at the Triangle area meetups.

Thanks everyone for all the great feedback! There are so many things to consider when travel planning with points and it's something I'm pretty new at, I appreciate your ideas!

Edited: corrected error, minor addition to comments on chase reserve card
« Last Edit: March 03, 2017, 11:20:45 AM by Megma »

therethere

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2017, 11:37:10 AM »
Why not use miles for the flights? I find miles are the best value for last minute and/or holiday timed flights. I went to Thailand this past December because we had to travel around the holidays to maximize time. We used United Miles (transferred from Chase Ultimate rewards) to book the flights. 160k miles total for two. Availability was okay and that was booking it in November. You might just need to be flexible on your departure airport from the states and get a cheap flight from wherever you are to a different departure airport.

Also, have your fiance go get the Chase Reserve before Mar 12 and then you can get a 100k bonus versus the 60k you are planning. Pay your taxes with the card or something to get the min. spend.

Megma

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2017, 11:40:22 AM »
I am confirmed over the 5 in 24 months rule until July but my fiance should be fine, any new chase cards will have to be under his name or applied for after July.

bacchi

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2017, 12:21:08 PM »
Downgrade the CSP to the Freedom Unlimited if ya want to keep that account active.

The good reward seats are probably already taken by now but you could take United over there and Delta back, for example. This is also where having a United card comes in handy -- having an MPX card opens up more rewards seats.

Chase Hyatt for the fiance after the CSP? Two nights at any Hyatt for $25 the first year ($75 af - $50 credit).

You could apply for the Barclay Arrival+ and charge $500 for hotels on that.

Mgmny

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2017, 12:36:41 PM »
Not sure of where you plan on staying in thailand, but you can both apply for the SPG card (1 refers the other), and end up with 225k marriot points, or 75k SPG points. This could pay for a lot of your nights in Thailand. Thailand isn't the greatest redemption, but if you want to go for free, that will help.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Expert travel hackers - tell me what you think of my plan!
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2017, 07:34:19 AM »
Downgrade the CSP to the Freedom Unlimited if ya want to keep that account active.

You can also simply downgrade to no fee Chase Sapphire (from Chase Sapphire Preferred). That's what I did. Or yes, if you already have Freedom, just transfer your CSP points there and cancel if preferred. Either should work!

Anyway, congrats on upcoming honeymoon!
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 07:37:21 AM by step-in-time »