How we booked a trip to Bali for free (using points)

It’s June 2019, and by this time last year, I was already on my 3rd trip of the year. By June 2018, we had gone on the following trips:

But in 2019, we’ve only got two trips that were booked:

So I have this bug to want to travel. Nancy and I have been discussing many options, and just haven’t had a chance to really decide where else to go where our miles and points could take us. We’re hoping to pull off a last-minute getaway somewhere in August, and perhaps another trip sometime in the fall. Do we have any place in mind? Not really. However, going somewhere new, somewhere different was definitely a key criteria.

But, as luck would have it, on June 18, I came across this deal to Bali from Los Angeles. I’ve seen deals to Bali in the $400 range, but what caught my attention with this deal was its timing and the vessel that would get us to and from Los Angeles to Bali.The deal was for $599 (if paying in cash), and it was flying Singapore Airlines, ranked #1 in the world’s best airlines in 2018.

How did we pay $0 for our tickets?

I always get asked how I shop for airfares. My method is not the best method, but this is what I go through. Whenever I see an airfare deal that’s posted with a certain dollar amount, I cross reference and check three different websites – some kind of a sanity check.

Google Flights

I always tell my readers that Google Flight is my best friend. It’s quite simple to use. Key in the airports, the dates, and you’ll see the results. I can go and scroll to different months and see what rates are available in other months. For this booking, I wanted to check if the $599 deal was available in November. Since I was looking specifically for Singapore Airlines, I chose that airline alone when I went to the Airlines dropdown. By doing some random checking with my dates, I found the rate and flights that work for me. I jotted the dates down. Google Flights gave me a result of $599 roundtrip in economy with Singapore Airlines. So that’s my benchmark. If you’re not using miles/points to fly, you can then decide if paying cash for the flight is worth it for you, and if it is, proceed with your purchase then. Google Flights will give you options how to proceed with your purchase, sometimes purchasing it directly with the airlines, or at times, linking you to a travel site such as Priceline.

AwardHacker

Since my intention is to find out how I can pay for this using miles or points, I have another route to go to. The next website I check is AwardHacker.com. It’s a website that gives you an idea how many points or miles are needed for certain itinerary. In this case, let’s search for Los Angeles (LAX) to Bali, Indonesia (DPS) round trip in economy. I’m especially interested in what it would normally cost if I were to fly with Singapore Airlines. These were the top results that showed up:

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My plan was to use my points with Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), so I clicked the dropdown under Frequent Flyer Programs, and chose Chase. If you look at the examples above, off to the right side, you’ll see the transferrable programs – MR for American Express Membership Rewards. UR for Chase Ultimate Rewards, TYP for Citi Thank You Points, and SPG for the Starwood Program. It also gave me six different options where the points with Chase URs could be transferred to – United, Air France, British Airways, and Singapore Airlines. You will see that if I were to transfer my points  with Chase to Singapore Airlines, it’s telling me that I would need at least 110,000 points per person in order for me to fly via Singapore economy. In my mind, that’s quite pricey. But this is just a guide. If I choose other airline partners such as United it would cost me at least 80K URs. But I really want to fly with Singapore and just didn’t want to transfer 110K URs per person. Imagine if I get 2 tickets x 110K URs – that would’ve been 220K URs. While I do have the points, that’s very steep for me.

I decided to check Singapore Airlines’ website directly and was surprised to see that the per ticket charge from LA to Bali roundtrip was at 76,000 miles + $79.92 in fees. If I were to get 2 tickets, that would’ve been 152,000 miles + $160 in fees. Still quite steep in my books.

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Image courtesy of Singapore Air

Chase Travel Portal

The next thing I then checked was the Chase Travel Portal. If you have credit cards with Chase that earn Ultimate Rewards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve – you can use those points by booking directly with Chase (online) or with a Chase travel rep on the phone.

Since I’ve booked with Chase online many times in the past, I decided to check it out for myself. I logged in to my Chase account using my points with Chase Sapphire Reserve, and found the flight with Singapore Airlines, and sure enough, the Chase Travel Portal had the same flights available that Google Flights showed me earlier. I had an option to pay for the flight using a credit card and pay out of pocket $598.62 (see below), or I can use my URs for the flight and only us 39,908 URs vs the 110K amount AwardHacker was quoting,  or the 79.9K miles Singapore Air website was charging.

Screen Shot 2019-06-19 at 9.45.13 AM

That’s exactly what I did. I got us tickets to Bali and only used 39.9K URs, and we will be flying Singapore Airlines. For me and Nancy, we used a total of 79,816 URs and no other fees out of pocket. It really boiled down to the fact that we’d be using less points vs. transferring our Chase URs to Singapore Airlines.

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So there! I guess we’re finally going to Bali and we are beyond excited!!! More to come when I begin blogging about our trip. For now, some of you may ask, how did we pull this off again?

Which credit cards made this booking possible

If we were to pay in cash for two tickets, it would cost us $1,200. But I had enough points to make this happen and not spend an extra dime. To earn points with Chase, you would need credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

How can I begin earning points to travel for nearly free?

You have an option to begin flying for nearly free, but you will need miles and points. There was always one card that stood out, perfect for a lot of those who are getting into the game.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here) is a perfect starter card. With its current 60,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, have gotten us to many countries and cities in Europe and Asia, just as an example. The sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel.

– 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after $4,000 in spend in the first three months
– Points are transferable to:

  • Hotel Partners
    • Hyatt
    • Marriott
    • IHG
    • Ritz-Carlton
  • Airline travel partners
    • JetBlue
    • United Airlines
    • British Airways
    • Southwest Airlines
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Flying Blue
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Aer Lingus
    • Iberia

– Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
– Primary rental car collision damage waiver
– Earn 2X points on all travel and dining
– $95 annual fee

If I were just starting out in earning miles and points, I suggest starting out with this card,  the Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here). We have two upcoming trips in 2019 and we’re very excited.

I wrote different entries on How We Travel for Nearly Free, and most recently, I updated my favorite travel credit cards. I’ve also written this recently:

To apply for my favorite Top Travel credit cards that I use most, click here

Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.

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