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How we booked six FREE tickets to Hawaii for the 4th of July (worth over $4000)

Early in 2019, I found myself in a very strange position. How so? I only had one trip booked. I have shared that 19 members of my family went to Japan in April (12 of us used miles and points and $0 cash out of pocket – click here).

To be perfectly honest, as of this writing, we have not even completed booking our Japan accommodations. But, I’ve been looking far ahead in to the summer. We’ve got many family events that’s preventing us to go on certain weeks and we had to work around those dates. I decided to take a break from planning our trip to Japan and ventured over to planning our summer.

Crazy summer airfare rates to Hawaii

I’ve seen fares to Hawaii go up. Most recently, this was the going rate that I found on Google Flights. When you multiply this with a party of six, clearly, going to Hawaii will not be cheap for my family. 

Image courtesy of Google Flights

Why Kauai?

The last time we as a family were in Hawaii was in April 2018.

Big Island, Hawaii – March/April 2018


Since then, we’ve continued to travel around the world:

Machu Picchu
Madison and I in London
Barcelona Arc de Triomf
Cathay Pacific LAX Airport counter prior to our flight to Hong Kong

All, and I mean all, as in ALL of those trips required lots and lots of exploration. We walked, we hiked, we crawled – what have you! I remember during our last couple of days in Hong Kong, Nancy and I were so tired from our exploration, and we just decided to rest back in the hotel. Our trip to Japan was exactly like that….it was fun, but tiring. So we need a change of pace.

Kauai is the solution. I’ve actually lost count. We must’ve visited Kauai over 7 times, and we keep coming back. We know our way around, and we love just being able to go to the beaches and eat local food. It was part of the kids’ sentiment – “let’s go to Kauai” – and so I booked it.

What’s the difference with this booking

In the past, I’ve mainly used my points with Chase Ultimate Rewards and had transferred them to Korean Airlines and British Airways. I’ve also used my Hawaiian Airline miles and booked our flights to Hawaii. For this trip, these were the components of the booking I had to do:

a. Find flight availability via British Airways website, or via American Airlines site

b. Transfer Membership Rewards (MRs) from American Express to British

c. Book the flights via British Airways website*

  • Or, call British Airways directly to complete the booking

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there was a bit of work involved. First of all, having booked with British Airways many times, I knew that it would cost us 25,000 British Airways Avios  points per person + $11.20 in fees. (Since booking this in January, the points required to go to Hawaii now increased to 26,000 points round trip). Therefore, I would need 150,000 British Avios points + $67.20 in order to book this airfare. (Now, it would cost me 156,000 points = 26,000 x 6).

What credit cards have gotten me free tickets to Hawaii

There are many credit cards out there. But when it comes to Hawaii, I can share with you the cards that have gotten me and my family free tickets simply by using the points earned with these credit cards. These points could be used for airfare, hotel, car rentals. These points could get you  2 roundtrip tickets up to 3 roundtrip tickets (depending on the card you apply for) to Hawaii, and could also be used for other global destinations. It will all vary by the way you choose to redeem your points.

a. Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here)– earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.

b. Chase Sapphire Reserve – earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (I don’t have an active link at the time this was published, feel free to search on the net for a recent link, or check with me).

c. Chase Ink Business Preferred (click here) – earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I value my points earned with Chase. Here’s a write-up I wrote last year as to how we travel for nearly free (click here) with points earned with these credit cards.

Why I chose to use points with American Express instead

With this most recent booking to Kauai, I used points earned with American Express. I’ve gotten so comfortable using my Chase Ultimate Rewards and have not had a need to use my Amex points for Hawaii. So this was a first for me. To transfer points to British Airways Avios, there’s a 1:1 transfer ratio from Chase or from American Express. Meaning, I would need to transfer a total of 150K Chase Ultimate  Rewards or 150K American Express MRs to British. However, what drove me in using my points with American Express? Amex offered 40% transfer bonus to British Airways back in the fall.

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 3.52.20 PM
Image courtesy of American Express

I knew that I needed 150,000 worth of Avios, so to get that along with the 40% transfer bonus, I only needed to transfer 107,000 Amex MRs. It worked like this:

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 3.04.49 PM

I had another 300 Avios points in my account. I used 200 of my existing Avios points and added that to the 149,800. That’s how I got to the 150,000 Avios points needed for this flight.

(with the latest change in points of 26,000 required, I would now need 112,000 to get to the 156K points needed)

I had trouble booking this directly using the British Airways website. It’s happened before and all it took was a phone call directly to British Airways. I called 1-800-247-9297, and Jen from the BA Avios team assisted me. There’s usually a booking fee when you book with a live rep, but since the trouble was with their website, Jen waived the fee. After 10-15 minutes, we sealed the deal. Kauai here we come!

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 3.44.43 PM

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 3.46.37 PM

Transferring points without any concrete plans – yes or no?

The 40% transfer bonus promotion ended in November 2018. I had no specific concrete plans then. In fact, I remember just getting back from Taiwan and Hong Kong when I decided to do the points transfer.

I took a risk with the transfer. Remember that once the points are transferred from American Express to another transfer partner, there’s no turning back. But I had faith that I’d be using the Avios points. The Avios site had served me well in the past. Besides our many bookings to Hawaii, I’ve also used them with the following trips:

Due to my previous experience with booking with British, I just knew that I’d be booking with them again. It was only a matter of time.

Sydney Opera House
Seeing the Sydney Opera House was a childhood dream come true

Which American Express cards earn Membership Rewards to Hawaii

We also have quite a few American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points. These points could be used to get you free tickets anywhere around the world, including hotel stays. There are lots of American Express cards out there, but these are the ones that we have:

a. American Express Platinum (personal) and Business Platinum (click here) – earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points, to as much 75,000 points once you meet the required spend.

b. American Blue Business Plus (click here) – This is one my favorite card since it earns 2 points per dollar every time I used this card.  Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 the first 3 months. Another great offer with this card is 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.

c. American Express Everyday Preferred – earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months. Excellent card. Excellent use at grocery stores, and earn an additional 20% bonus when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period.

d. American Express Business Gold – Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in qualifying purchases within 3 months. You also have a choice to earn 4x (choose from shipping, restaurants, gas stations, advertising, and technology providers. The 4x earnings with this Amex Business Gold makes it very attractive.

Make sure to check for details on the card offers, including annual fee (if any). Also, these offers do change over time, and the earnings posted could be different during the time you apply for the card.

Maui’s Makena Beach 2016

My takeaways

So there! After our trip to Japan, our next escapade is a return trip to Kauai. I’m going to keep an eye on future bonus transfer offers from American Express. If I could see myself using the offer, you could guarantee that I’ll be transferring my points for additional bonus.

For a listing of my other favorite travel credit cards, click here:

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Sunrise in Kapaa – Kauai.


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