James P. wrote and asked the following: “I will be needing to get three round trip tickets to Japan… We have family and friends we will stay with for most nights, but [for] two nights [we] will need to be at hotels. We will need $1,000 in train tickets – I would like to cover with credit card cash back. Fuel surcharges to Japan are ridiculous and I would like to cover that with credit card cash back as well.”
James didn’t provide his credit score or monthly spend, but we’re figuring on a score in the mid-700s and a combined spend between him and his wife of $3,500 per month. Though we usually like to get these challenges done in one batch of applications, we recommend two for this.
See how we can get James to Japan for only $438:
Note: The main reason these applications need to be broken up is because James needs multiple Chase cards. We only recommend applying for one personal card and one business card from each issuer each time.
ITINERARY OVERVIEW: As we don’t know James’ desired itinerary we chose the following: fly out of Chicago (we just chose Chicago as we don’t know where James lives) to Tokyo on October 14, 2013, arriving on October 15. Stay at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo from October 15 through check-out on October 19 – though James only needed two nights, we’re giving him four. From Tokyo, the $1,000 train journey begins to stay with friends and relatives. Lastly, we chose a return-date of October 29. (Hopefully, James can amend our recommendations to his actual itinerary.)
TOTAL TRIP VALUE: $8,736
HERE’S HOW JAMES DOES IT:
October 14 – Round-Trip: Chicago, Ill. – Tokyo, Japan
Cost: $5,796 ($1,932 per person)
Method: American AAdvantage
- Citi AAdvantage Cards– 228,000 AAdvantage miles
- Using the two-browser trick, James and his wife can each apply for the Citi AAdvantage American Express and the Citi AAdvantage Visa.
- They will each earn 40,000 AAdvantage miles after each spending $2,000 within four months on the Amex card. This totals 80,000 miles.
- They will each earn 40,000 AAdvantage miles after each spending $2,000 within four months on the Visa card. This totals 80,000 miles.
- They will each earn 10,000 AAdvantage miles after each spending $5,000 within 12 months on the Amex card. This totals 20,000 miles.
- They will each earn 10,000 AAdvantage miles after each spending $5,000 within 12 months on the Visa card. This totals 20,000 miles.
- They will each earn 7,000 AAdvantage miles by each spending $7,000 on the Amex at one mile per dollar spent. This totals 14,000 miles.
- They will each earn 7,000 AAdvantage miles by each spending $7,000 on the Visa at one mile per dollar spent. This totals 14,000 miles.
Explanation: A one-way ticket from anywhere in the continental U.S. to Japan costs 32,500 miles for a MileSAAver Peak ticket. The total number of miles needed for three is 195,000, which James easily has. The fees for three round-trip tickets are $588. We’ll deal with statement credits below.
Out of Pocket Cost: $0 (see below for how we handle the $588)
October 15-19 – Grand Hyatt Tokyo
Cost: $1,940 ($485 per night)
Method: Hyatt Free Nights
- Hyatt Visa
- James will receive two free nights at any Hyatt after spending $1,000 in the first three month.
- James’ wife will also receive two free nights at any Hyatt after spending $1,000 on her card in the first three months.
Explanation: These cards are picked up in the second batch of applications, which begins 91 days after the first. The $2,000 can be spent after James clears the Citi spend. With their four free nights, they can use them at any Hyatt property. Alternately, there’s also a very nice Park Hyatt om Tokyo.
Out of Pocket Cost: $150 ($75 fee per card)
Train Fare and Plane Taxes
Cost: $1,588 ($1,000 for the train and $588 for the airfare taxes)
Method: Ultimate Rewards Statement Credits
- Chase Sapphire Preferred– 86,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- James and his wife will each earn 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $3,000 of spend in the first three months. This totals 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
- They will each earn 3,000 Ultimate Rewards points for their spend with a minimum of one dollar per point. This total 6,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
- Chase Ink Plus Business Card– 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- James and his wife each receive 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points after first purchase. This total 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
Explanation: As we’ve said before, using Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits isn’t the best way to use them. That’s because as a statement credit, they redeem at one cent per point. We value Ultimate Rewards points at about 1.9 cents each and they can be worth as much as 5.5 cents. So to spend them at only a penny each isn’t a great redemption. But it is an option. The 136,000 Ultimate Rewards points will therefore be worth $1,360 in statement credits.
To cover the full amount, James would need an additional 22,800 points. The spend, however, won’t allow it, so this will have to be covered out of pocket.
Out of Pocket Cost: $288
Next week … well, what would you like to see folks?