The year 2019 started quite mellow when it came to our travels. I started this year with just two trips booked. To some, two trips is better than one trip or no trip at all. Here’s how my year started.
Japan in April
Kauai in July
I felt like I just couldn’t find the right booking for the next trip. Well, that all changed. In a matter of 4-6 weeks since the end of June. I had booked us 3 new trips. Of course, all of these trips were courtesy of the points we earned with our credit cards. Thanks to these points, we are traveling for free or nearly free.
Timing is key
Now, just last weekend, I booked another trip….a family trip to Costa Rica. A typical roundtrip ticket to Costa Rica from Los Angeles could be had starting at $400. But every now and then, we’d see the price drop. I came across a deal where Costa Rica was under $300. This was flying with Interjet Airlines. But knowing that I have credit card points to use, I wanted to make sure I assess all of my options. I’d rather not pay cash if there was a way to pay with points.
How did we pay $0 for our tickets?
After seeing the LAX to SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica) deal in the $300 range, I checked if it was going to work for me on the dates that I had in mind.
I always tell my readers that Google Flights 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 under $300 deal was available in February. For the first time ever, our kids have a one week break in February which we will call “ski week” – and I figured, I want us to do something around that time.
Since I was looking specifically for Interjet 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 $272 roundtrip in economy with Interjet 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.
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. It tells you where to look for certain awards. It gives you a ballpark figure or best case scenario for your points. You’ve got work to do by checking the airline websites and the award space availability. This is where reality begins.
In this case, let’s search for Los Angeles (LAX) to Costa Rica (SJO) round trip in economy using AwardHacker. 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:
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
- SPG for the Starwood Program
So if you have points from any of these programs, this will tell you that you could use those points and book something if you find an award space.
It also gave me six different options where the points with Chase URs could be transferred to – Singapore Airlines, British Airways, United Air France, Virgin Atlantic. 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 24,000 points per person in order for me to fly via Singapore economy. But this is just a guide. If I choose other airline partners such as United it would cost me at least 35K URs.
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, Chase Ink– you can use those points by booking directly with Chase (online) or with a Chase travel rep on the phone.
Another advantage of booking via the Chase Portal, you will not need to “transfer” points to other airlines. You can book directly with Chase, and all fees will be included and factored in.
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 Interjet, 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 of $334 per ticket (see below), or I can use my URs for the flight and only use 22,236 Chase Ultimate Rewards per person.
During the course of booking, I saw the flight pricing change. I actually had trouble booking it online. By the time I completed the transaction, it would come back and say that the flight was no longer available or the pricing had gone up. Fortunately, I had an option to call Chase directly and book the entire trip with them on the phone at no extra charge.
So there! I guess we’re finally going to Costa Rica. Oh and you might have noticed, wait! “You only bought 5 tickets?” That’s right, it’s for me and my wife, and 3 of our 4 kids. Our eldest is now in college and he’ll have classes around that time. He won’t be joining us in Costa Rica. But not to worry, he’ll be spending two weeks with us in the Philippines. Here’s what I wrote how we booked a total of 7 tickets for free to the Philippines.
How again are we flying for nearly free
For our trip to Hawaii this summer (click here) where we only paid $11 per person, and our trip to Japan next year where we used points for us to fly first class (valued over $35,000) – click here we used our points with American Express. We took advantage of the transfer bonus which extended the value of our points.
For this trip to the Philippines, it’s all about our good ol’ Chase Ultimate Rewards. We didn’t have to transfer to any airline partners, we were able to shop within the Chase Travel Portal, and we didn’t have to pay any other taxes and fees in cash – it was all included in the final price using points.
There are many credit cards out there. The points earned with Chase have been my favorite for many years. These Ultimate Rewards points could be used for airfare, hotel, car rentals. Here are the Chase Cards that I, myself, use on a regular basis which can earn you these Ultimate Rewards.
a. Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here)– earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred 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
- Airline travel partners
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Flying Blue
- Virgin Atlantic
- Aer Lingus
– 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
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). Here’s a write up that I wrote on both Sapphire cards.
c. Chase Ink Business Preferred– earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, perfect for those with small business.
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.
For other cards that have helped us travel for nearly free, I recently I updated my favorite travel credit cards. I’ve also written this recently:
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Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.
- The Yamaguchi’s European Holiday Vacation
- Stephen & Fiona’s Aspirational Trip to Japan
- $80 Trip to Costa Rica for 2 – Vanessa’s Tale
- Traveling is not just for the rich – Iza’s $11 Trip to Hawaii
- Last-minute trip to Hawaii – Bryan & Emily’s Tale
- The Smith Sisters conquer New York City – Gina’s Tale
- Seeing the world through my children’s eyes – Maricar’s tale