NOTE: Please read my disclaimer.
Aloha!!! There’s no question that my family loves to go to Hawaii. We’ve been going to Hawaii at least once a year. Many friends and family have asked me, “how in the world do you go to Hawaii and only pay $11? Did you win the lotto?” The answer is NO. I don’t blame them for asking. After all, I did send twenty one of us to Hawaii this past summer. Imagine that? Twenty one of us only paid $11 out of pocket. Don’t believe me? Ask my twenty one friends and family, and they’ll tell you. Twenty one which included four big families, a honeymooner, and two other newlyweds.
Okay fine, Jason! Tell me!
So I decided to write a little series as to how to get this done. Before I got in to the points earning hobby, I would shop for airfare deals via Beat of Hawaii, Priceline, Hotwire, Travelzoo, and Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. I followed different Twitter accounts for a chance to score Hawaii deals when they pop up. On average, a round trip airfare to Hawaii in the heart of the summer (or during a high season) is around $800/person. Ouch. So if you do the math with my party of six, that’s close to $5,000. Ouch again!
There were a couple of times when flying out of LAX was just impossible for my wallet, or shall I say, I wasn’t crazy enough to pay $5,000 to go to Hawaii. A few years ago, I found a last minute deal for $200/person round trip to Kauai. The catch? We had to fly out of San Francisco. We paid $1,200 to fly six of us out of SFO. That was a steal vs. paying close to $5,000 if we flew out of LAX. We made a road trip vacation out of it. Stayed with family friends in the Bay Area for one night, and flew to Kauai the next day. But that all changed in 2014. I have learned new ways of getting ourselves to Hawaii.
Let me give you a 30,000 foot level view of what I believe someone will need to do to make this happen:
- Check your inventory of points earning credit cards. Don’t have any? Go to #2.
- Sign-up for points-earning credit cards (i.e. Chase Sapphire Preferred (click for more info) or, get the Chase Sapphire Reserve (click here)
- Meet the minimum spend on the credit card and get your points awarded to you.
- Use your points by booking a trip with an airline
- Go on your trip and enjoy!
- Treat yourself in Hawaii. Heck, you only paid $11 for your airfare!!!
First of all, let’s debunk this myth:
You have to be a frequent traveler to earn LOTS of airline miles.
Totally untrue! Yes, there are many folks out
there who travel a lot and earn a gazillion miles. But what about those who don’t travel that much? Well, there are other ways for someone like me and you to earn miles without being a frequent flyer.
What do you mean apply for points-earning credit cards?
Yes, that’s what you could do to get started. Not all credit cards are created equal. You may already have a credit card or two. Find out what benefits you have with your cards. If you don’t have any points-earning potential, points that will allow you to travel, then you need to find a program that will give you this potential. My favorite card for beginners?
Before I tell you why it’s a favorite of mine, let me tell you a funny, but true story. One of my dear family friends, Michelle, saw my Facebook post in the summer when I shared that I was able to book trips to Hawaii for $11. She asked how. I gave her a call, and told her about the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that’s the card that I highly recommended. She stopped. “Wait, I think I have that card!” Lo and behold, she just applied for that card a few months ago. We checked her account and realized that she had enough points to get three tickets to Hawaii and only pay $11. Michelle didn’t even realize she had all those points. So what’s the takeaway here? If you’re already a Chase cardholder, you might want to double check your Chase Ultimate Rewards balance. Remember, if you have 25,000 points, that’s good enough to fly you to Hawaii round trip, or almost anywhere in the US.
Why is Chase Sapphire Preferred a favorite?
For my trips to Hawaii, I’ve seen a great deal of value using my points earned with Chase. I do have other points earned with American Express, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, and Citibank, but I’m here to share my experience in getting the biggest bang for my buck, my Chase Ultimate Rewards points. When you sign up and meet the minimum spend, this is what you get:
- 50,000 bonus points
- 5,000 bonus points if you add an additional user who makes a purchase within the first three months
- $95 annual fee waived ($0)during the 1st year
- Earn 2 points per dollar on dining and travel,
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- Minimum spend to earn bonus points: $4,000 within three months
- Transfer opportunity to multiple travel partners (air, hotel, rail)
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
So what? What does that mean to you?
I like using Hawaii as an example because it quickly translates as an opportunity to vacation. The 50,000 bonus points is good enough for 2 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii ( 0r, almost anywhere in the US). Depending on your location or your home airport in the US, in my case, LAX is the closest major airport to me. All I need is 25,000 miles. I could fly roundtrip from LAX to any of the four major Hawaiian islands and only pay $11 out of pocket.
But Jason, I need more than two tickets to Hawaii
There’s a workaround, and again, please read my disclaimer. Let’s say there are four of you in the family. Using the example I used above where one roundtrip ticket will cost you 25,000 points + $11 fees, with a party of four, you will need 100,000 points and pay only $44 in fees. A quick workaround is for two people in your party to sign up for two separate Chase Sapphire Preferred accounts. This is not unusual. If you sign up and meet the minimum spend, you will get the 50,000 bonus points. If another person in your family or party signs up for a separate account and also meets the minimum spend, he or she will also get another 50,000 bonus points. Just remember that by signing up for two separate cards, that means that each cardholder account will have to meet the $4,000 minimum spend within three months.
Are you kidding me? How the heck does one spend $4,000 or $8,000 within three months?
This will all depend on your situation. I do NOT advocate using your card by doing frivolous, thoughtless spending. Just think of all the time that you use cash.
- Instead of using cash, use your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
- Instead of using your debit card, use your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
- Pay your utility bills, cell phone bill, Netflix, insurance etc. Check with your provider and see if you can pay your bills with a credit card (and preferably with no additional fees).
- When you go out to eat with a group, offer to pay with your credit card while everyone pays you in cash.
- Use your credit card to pay for big ticket item purchases
- Costco now accepts Visa, and if you’re a big Costco shopper like us, when you’re about to pay at the register or gas station, swipe your Costco card first, and then pay with your Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Just remember, this is NOT to encourage you to buy things left and right and only pay the minimum amount due. Be responsible and pay for your purchases in FULL once the statement comes.
Will I get my 50,000 bonus points if I don’t meet the minimum spend?
No, you won’t. Some people are able to meet the $4,000 minimum spend quickly. Others could take time. You need to make sure you MEET the minimum spend within three months. There’s no recourse.
When will I get my 50,000 bonus points?
Let’s say you’re given a closing statement date or end of your billing period of the 10th of each month. According to an article by one of my favorite bloggers, Million Mile Secrets, if you complete “the minimum spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card at least ~7 days before the end of the billing period, the points should post“ to your account after your statement closes.
Once the points are deposited, you can then begin planning your trip. I will write a new entry and show you a couple of ways I’ve successfully booked our trips to Hawaii using British Airways and Korean Airlines.
What? British Airways and Korean Airlines don’t fly to Hawaii.
Exactly, but I’ll show you how! Wait for it.
For now, here’s your homework.
Check your inventory of credit cards, especially if you have a Chase credit card.
If you have access to Chase Ultimate rewards, check your rewards balance
If you don’t have access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, and would like to explore this possibility of changing the way you travel, consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred for starters.
This is all for now. Mahalo!