And while every day is a great day to have frequent flyer miles, there are certain times when I’m reminded by just how much they’ve changed my life.
Today is one of those days.
And so, I want to take a moment to simply list the amazing places that my family and I have been able to fly to.
This isn’t mean to brag.
Instead, it’s meant to INSPIRE you to keep earning using your miles.
I don’t think I’m special because I’ve been able to do these things.
In fact, anyone, especially Americans, can do exactly the same thing.
If you want to know how, sign up below for my newsletter and get a free copy of the Become a Frequent Flyer Millionaire series.
Trip #1: Homeward Bound
August 2011: Japan-America-Japan
My first trip with frequent flyer miles was in August 2011 and it was for Heather and I to come home for a visit to America after we’d been living in Japan for a year.
We attended a few Phillies games, hung out with friends and family, and enjoyed being able to speak the same language as everyone.
I even flew back to Japan in business class and felt like a king.
Trip #2: Christmas Down Under
Dec 2011/Jan 2012: Japan-Australia-Japan
That Christmas, we were able to fly from Japan to Australia for a 17 day vacation through the Land Down Under.
Christmas in Melbourne, New Year’s in Sydney, and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. As you can imagine, it was awesome.
Trip #3: The Parents Come to Japan
July 2012: America-Japan-America
In July 2012, my family got to benefit from frequent flyer miles for the first time when my parents flew to Japan to visit us for two wonderful weeks. And every parent needs spoiling, so they even flew home first class.
Trip #4: My Sister Moves to Spain…but First Goes Around the World!
June 2012/July 2012: America-New Zealand-Japan-Spain
My twin sister also joined them in Japan, but going straight there and back was much too easy (she is my twin, after all).
Instead, she spent two weeks prior to Japan in New Zealand visiting friends and taking in beautiful vistas,
then came to Japan and spent 2 immersing herself in the local culture,
before finally heading to Spain, where she currently lives.
Moving from Philadelphia to Spain by going the long route and first visiting New Zealand and Japan…who does that?
Someone with frequent flyer miles!
Trip #5: One Last Asian Escapade (3 vacations in 1)
August 2012: Japan-Singapore-Bali-India-Japan
In August 2012, Heather and I decided to take one last adventure in Asia before going back Stateside. So what’d we do?
Three vacations in one!
We spent a wonderful two days in Singapore visiting friends and sipping on Singapore Slings.
We explored the beautiful beaches and amazing rice terraces of Bali for a week.
And then, we headed off to India for three weeks, riding camels, seeing amazing palaces, and having our senses completely overloaded with sights, smells and tastes that we’d never imagined.
Three destinations for less than $100?
Only possible with frequent flyer miles!
Trip #6: Homeward Bound for Good
Sept 2012: Japan-America
While my company then paid for my one-way ticket back to the US from Japan, Heather’s didn’t. No biggie.
We simply used our miles to get her on the same flight home, an awesome direct flight from Tokyo to New York.
But before leaving, we snuck in one last photo op!
After a few months of getting reacclimated to life back in Philadelphia, seeing friends and family, and eating as many cheesesteaks as possible, we got antsy again.
And after so much international travel, it was time to start seeing our home country.
Enter Southwest and their amazing Companion Pass!
Trip #7: Greetings, San Fran!
January 2013: Philadelphia-San Francisco-Philadelphia
In January, we were able to fly for free to San Francisco for the first time and spend a week enjoying the city and driving the Pacific Coast Highway, almost a year to the day that we had driven on the Australia’s equivalent, the Great Ocean Road.
Trip #8: Rocky Mountain High
May 2013: Philadelphia-Denver-Philadelphia
Just as the spring began and we were getting restless again, we were able to head out to Denver for 5 days, seeing Colorado Springs, enjoying unseasonably hot temperatures in Denver, and checking out Rocky Mountain National Park.
Trip #9: Back out West
July 2013: Philadelphia-Portland-Philadelphia
In three weeks, we’ll be heading back to the west coast to see Portland for the first time, enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and drinking as much craft beer as we can.
Trip #10: Canadian Rockies, Here We Come
August 2013: Philadelphia-Edmonton, Seattle-Philadelphia
Shortly after that, we’ll be welcoming our British friends to Philadelphia and flying out to Edmonton.
Then, we’ll all pile in a van to drive across the Canadian Rockies, stopping in Vancouver for a week before heading down to Seattle and flying back to Philadelphia.
Of course, all our flights will be free.
Trip #11: Did Someone Say New Orleans?
September 2013: Philadelphia-New Orleans-Philadelphia
Then, I’ll be switching over my Southwest Companion Pass to my best friend since 2nd grade, so I can fly him down to New Orleans for free with me for his bachelor party in September.
I’m looking forward to gaining 10 pounds in 4 days.
Trip #12: The Emerald Isle
October 2013: America-Ireland-???-America
And finally, in October, Heather and I will be heading to Ireland for a bit, courtesy of our British Airway Avios points.
Lots of green pastures, old castles, funny accents, and sheep will fill our days.
But the main reason I’m reminded about how amazing frequent flyer miles are today is because I just booked my twin sister a flight home for this coming Christmas and New Year’s.
Since I was in Japan for two years and she’s been in Spain now for a year, we haven’t had a Christmas together for four years, which feels pretty strange considering we grew up doing everything together.
For some reason, having Christmas over Skype just doesn’t really cut it.
The Total Costs
The total cost for all those trips, taking in to account my parents’ first class tickets, my business class ticket, and my sister’s around the world business class ticket, would have been well over $70,000.
The amount that we paid out of pocket for all the above trips?
Less than $1,000.
So thank you, frequent flyer miles, for allowing me the wonderful opportunities to travel that I’ve had in the last 2 years, and for the many wonderful opportunities I’ll have in the future.
None of this would have been possible without you!
What have frequent flyer miles allowed you to do in your life? What great trips have you booked that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise?
If you’re new to frequent flyer miles and would like to learn how to earn and use them to travel around the world for free, make sure to sign up for my newsletter and check out the Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles.
Want to go to Hawaii, London, or Tokyo using frequent flyer miles? No sweat. All the alliances fly there, and fly there often. In fact, you’ll most likely have your pick of partners.
But what about trying to get to a more remote destination, like the Maldives?
This is where using frequent flyer miles can take a bit of work and planning.
And while it might be a bit of a pain, I’m guessing it will all be worth it once you see this:
I’ll be using the Maldives, one of the world’s hardest spots to travel to, as an example. However, this step by step process can be used for any destination you wish to travel to.
Step 1: Use Wikipedia to Find Out What Airlines Fly in To The Airport
We all know Wikipedia is an invaluable resource for basically anything, and it doesn’t disappoint here. If I’m not familiar with an airport and what airlines fly there, I always first turn to Wikipedia.
Here is the list for airlines flying in and out of Male International Airport (MLE), the main airport in the Maldives.
Step 2: Figure Out Which Airlines You Can Use
Most of the airlines on the list above aren’t of interest to us because they aren’t part of an airline alliance.
What you’ll need to do is figure out which airlines are part of one of the three major alliances: OneWorld, Star Alliance, and Skyteam.
Here are the airlines flying in to Male, broken down by alliance:
OneWorld: British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar (joining late 2013), SriLankan Airlines (joining late 2013)
Star Alliance: Austrian, Singapore Airlines, Turkish
Skyteam: Aeroflot, China Eastern Air, China Southern, KoreanAir
Step 3: Determine How Many Frequent Flyer Miles it Will Cost
This step is easy. Simply head to milez.biz and plug in your starting point and your destination.
Check to see if any of the carriers happen to be cheaper than the others.
For Philadelphia (PHL) to Male (MLE), United, USAirways and Delta costs 80k roundtrip in economy or 120k in business, whereas American Airlines costs 90k and 135k.
Step 4: Take Inventory of Your Points and Consider Transfer Partners
Now that you know how much it costs for each airline to fly to your destination, you’ve got to figure out if you have enough points to get there.
Don’t forget to consider points, such as Chase, American Express, or Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG), that you can transfer to airlines.
Here’s a sweet infographic about what points transfer to what airlines:
(courtesy of idoru at Flyertalk)
Since I’m looking at flying using United, USAirways, AA, or Delta miles, I have the following transfer options:
Chase points –> United.
American Express points —> Delta or USAirways (if you use a work-around).
SPG points —> AA, Delta, USAirways
After considering transfers, determine which airlines you’ll have enough miles in.
Step 5: Check for Flight Availability
Now, for the (sometimes) hard part. Luckily, there are some good tools out there to make it easier.
The first place to start is Award Nexus, you can get a free login by using your Flyertalk login on this page. This site is great because it allows you to search across all three alliances, but it can be a bit complicated to use
Of course, there will be plenty of times where you won’t find availability right away.
If you are not finding availability with Award Nexus, here are a few tricks to try:
2. For more complicated itineraries, such as PHL to MLE, you may need to search in segments. The computer systems may not be able to handle a request with so many layovers.
In this case, if I was looking for OneWorld flights, I’d search from PHL to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), since I know Malaysia Airlines flies from KUL to MLE. Then, I’d search separately for the KUL to MLE route.
3. Look for routes from other close airports. For example, I may choose to look for flights from New York (JFK, EWR, LGA) since there are many more international flights from those airports than PHL.
Check the bigger airports in your area, as they will often have a lot more availability, especially for long international flights.
Step 6: Book Your Tickets
After finding the flights you want, write down all the information, including times, flights numbers, and the airports you are flying from and going to.
Most likely, you won’t be able to recreate the tickets on the airline’s website whose miles you are using, so you’ll have to call the airline directly and spoonfeed them the information you’ve found.
For example, the two flights I found on AwardTravelr above from PHL-MLE would not show up when I searched for them on USAirways or United’s websites. Depending on what miles I decided to use, I’d have to call up that airline and book the tickets over the phone.
While I usually fly economy class, I would consider splurging and flying business for this trip. With 28+ hours of total flying plus numerous layovers, the extra comfort and lounge access during the layovers would probably be worth it.
Using frequent flyer miles to get to some destinations, especially remote places like the Maldives, can sometimes be difficult.
However, if you follow the six steps above, you should be able to use your frequent flyer miles for any dream destination you have, no matter how far away it is.
What are some of the tricks you have for using frequent flyer miles to get to remote destinations? What are some of the more obscure places you have traveled to? Inspire us in the comments below!
Earning frequent flyer miles for big, recurring monthly bills, such as a mortgage, rent, or student loan payment, has been the holy grail of frequent flyers for years. They’ve searched high and low for ways to do it, but to no avail…
Let me show you, step by step, just how to earn frequent flyer miles for paying your big monthly bills.
The real value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points comes from their ability to transfer to multiple travel partners. Transferring your UR points to a partner is BY FAR the best value you’ll get out of your Ultimate Rewards points.
First, let’s take a look at all the transfer partners and then talk about the two specific partners that you’ll get the most value from.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to the following airlines:
and the following hotels:
In addition, points can be transferred to Amtrak (although I don’t know anyone who has done this).
The two most valuable transfer partners for most people will be United and Hyatt. Of course, in certain circumstances, you may want to transfer to other programs (discussed below), but United and Hyatt are generally your two best options.
United are some of the most valuable airline miles out there, so having them as a transfer partner is quite the coup for Chase.
Basically, if you want to fly internationally, you’ll always want to transfer to United (with a few exceptions when BA might be better).
The only time United might not make the most sense is if you are going to fly domestically, in which case you’d want to look at BA and Southwest to compare which would be cheaper.
Hyatt is the first place to consider when looking to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a hotel because they give you the best bang for your buck. Let’s compare:
The top category Hyatt costs 22k points a night
The top category Marriott costs 40k/night
The top category Priority Club (Intercontinentals) costs 50k/night.
Since all hotels transfer 1:1, your UR points will go much further when transferred to Hyatt than to Marriott or Priority Club. You’ll get 2 nights in a top category Hyatt for every one night in an Intercontinental!
The only problem with Hyatt is that they are not near as plentiful as Marriott or Priority Club (which includes Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza among others). So while transferring to Hyatt may give you the best bang for your buck, make sure to look at where you are headed first and see what hotels are available in the area.
If there isn’t a Hyatt, or if there is a cheaper end Marriott or Priority Club, than consider transferring to one of the other chains.
My suggestion would be to hold off transferring you UR points to a hotel until you know for sure where you are going and what is available. Since transfers happen instantly, there is not point to make the transfer until you need to, and the worst thing you can do is get stuck with points in a hotel chain that you don’t need!
Some Other Good Options
While United and Hyatt will probably be your go-to transfer partners for airlines and hotels, respectively, other partners can also offer some great value in more specific situations:
Transferring to British Airways will offer really good value if you are taking any of these 5 specific trips (because you won’t pay a fuel surcharge).
If flying domestic, consider transferring to Southwest. Every 1 Southwest point is worth 1.6 cents in Wanna Get Away Fares, so if the ticket is a cheap one to buy on their website, it will be cheap in points as well!
Luckily, the transfer process is super easy. How easy? I show you exactly how to do it in the video tutorial in UNDER 2 MINUTES!
A Few Rules About All Chase Ultimate Reward Transfers
All points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that 1,000 Chase points will get you 1,000 points in ANY of the above programs.
All transfer must be done in increments of 1,000.
All transfers are supposed to occur instantly. Sometimes, there may be a few hour lag, but most of the time, the transfer is very quick. This is a huge perk, especially if you are trying to get something done last minute! (Compare this to American Express and SPG, whose transfers can take days!)
Only “premium” Ultimate Rewards Points can be transferred to travel partners. “Limited” Ultimate Rewards Points can not be! If you’re unsure about what is premium and what is limited, check out the first post in the series. To find out how to turn limited points in to premium points, check out my awesome video tutorial in post 3.
It’s official that I love United, but what’s your favorite Ultimate Rewards transfer partner? How have you used UR points to take dream vacations? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
To briefly recap, “limited” points are only allowed to be used as cash for purchasing travel through Chase (at 1.2 cents per point) or as cash-back (at 1 cent a point). They are NOT allowed to be transferred to travel partners like United, Hyatt, Southwest, etc.
“Premium” points are much more valuable because they ARE allowed to be transferred to travel partners like United, Hyatt, and Southwest. This opens up tons of possibilities, and if you’re good, you can make each Chase premium point worth 2 cents or more!
So, the goal is to turn “limited” points in to “premium” points, which amazingly, can be done…and done quickly and easily!
Combining Points from a “Limited” Account and “Premium” Account
Most people who are earning large amounts of “limited” points are doing so by using the Chase Freedom, but the Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink Classic, and Chase Ink Cash also earn “limited” points.
To turn these “limited” points to “premium” points, you’ll need to have one card that earns “premium” Ultimate Rewards points. These cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (my review), Chase Ink Bold (my review), or Chase Ink Plus (my review).
If you have one of those cards, it is very simple to transfer your “limited” points to “premium” points. All you’ll have to do is sign in to to your Ultimate Rewards account and combine your points. Just make sure you are transferring your points FROM the “limited” account TO the “premium” account.
Voila….you’ve got all “premium” Ultimate Rewards points.
Don’t believe it’s that easy? Watch me do it in less that 2 minutes WHILE explaining exactly how to do it!
Ok, so that’s great for people who have a “premium” UR account, but what if you only have a “limited” account? Fear not!
Transferring Points From One Person To Another
Another awesome benefit: Chase allows you to combine points between people! And get this…the people don’t even have to be related.
You can transfer points from your account to ANYONE!
The real benefit of this comes when one person DOES NOT have a “premium” account but wants to transfer their “limited” points to a travel partner.
They can use someone else who has a “premium” account as a middleman!
This exact situation happened a few days ago with an EPoP reader. Jason had earned “limited” UR points from his Chase Freedom card and had no other Chase accounts.
Jason wanted to turn transfer his points to Hyatt, but because they were “limited” UR points, he wasn’t allowed.
Instead, I offered to allow him to transfer his “limited” points to my Ultimate Reward account that was tied to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and therefore, a “premium” account. All he needed was my account number and my full name. After putting that in, the points arrived in my account in less than a minute.
Since the points were now in my “premium” account, they could be transferred to Hyatt. I simply used Jason’s Hyatt number and full name when transferring the points to Hyatt, and within a few minutes, they were in his account.
All told, it took less than 5 minutes for Jason to turn his “limited” points in to Hyatt points.
Just follow these easy steps:
1. Transfer your limited points to a friend who has a premium account. You’ll need that person’s premium UR account number and full name.
2. Have your friend transfer the points, which are now premium points, to the travel partner you want. They’ll need YOUR full name and membership number.
If you don’t have a “premium” card yet, you should definitely consider getting one! You’ll be earning one of the best currencies of points out there AND you’ll be able to turn your “limited” points in to more valuable ones! You don’t have to involve anyone else, and it takes less than 2 minutes.
If you’re not able to get a “premium” card, find a friend or family member who does and ask them to act as the middleman.
You should NEVER keep your Ultimate Rewards points as “limited” points since they are FAR LESS valuable than “premium” points. Since Chase makes it so easy to upgrade your points from “limited” to “premium”, you’ve got no excuses!
How do you change your “limited” points to “premium” points? What’s your favorite Chase card? Let me know below!
If that was the case, then I probably wouldn’t be writing this post, right?
In fact, there are a few other ways to earn large amounts of UR points AFTER you get your credit card sign up bonus. Today, I’m going to teach you about the most under appreciated and overlooked way to earn Chase UR points.
In fact, I’m continually stunned that 90% of people fail use this method that I use to earn TENS OF THOUSANDS of Ultimate Rewards points every year. Yes, TENS OF THOUSANDS!
That’s like getting a free roundtrip ticket to Europe every year!
Ready for it?
Before you think “I don’t know how to do that” or “eh, that’s too hard and complicated” and close this window, hear me out for one minute.
Truth: I ABSOLUTELY HATE SHOPPING (my wife enjoys it enough for the both of us).
As much as I love frequent flyer miles, I hate shopping equally as much (want proof? I’m currently wearing my high school’s tennis t-shirt that I got as a senior…12 years ago!)
If this was hard or difficult in the slightest way, I wouldn’t do it.
So if I do it, you know it must be a cinch!
And, it gets even better. To make things even easier for you, I’ve created a video (only 3 minutes) to show you EXACTLY how to use the best online shopping portal of them all, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall!
How the Online Shopping Portal Works
No pushing around a too-full cart when shopping online!
Every time you shop through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, you’ll be earning Chase UR points. The reason this can be so lucrative is because many merchants will offer bonuses (sometimes really big ones) for you to shop at their store if you route through the Ultimate Rewards Mall first.
Let’s look at J. Crew (Heather’s favorite store) as an example:
If you go directly to J. Crew’s website, either through Google or by typing in jcrew.com, you’ll only receive 1 Chase UR point if you use a Chase credit card (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred orInk Plus), exactly the same way you would if you went to the store.
However, if you take the 2 minutes or less to sign in to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall and THEN redirect to J. Crew’s website (which is exactly the same one you would have went to if you went to it directly), they will offer you bonus UR points for each dollar you spend. Currently, the bonus is 5x at J. Crew.
So, in addition to the regular 1 UR points you’ll get for using your Chase credit card for shopping, you’ll get an ADDITIONAL 5 UR points for every $1 you spend.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that by routing through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, that $200 you spend will earn you 1,200 UR points instead of a measly 200. And it only takes an extra 2 minutes (max) to sign in to the UR Mall and then redirect to your favorite store!
1,000 points for 2 minutes? If you’re time is that valuable, what are you doing wasting time reading my blog!
I could give you example after example of times I’ve used the Ultimate Rewards Mall to score big points, but I’ll just leave you with the one that got me to go all-in on using shopping portals (a decision that has earned me tens of thousands of points).
A Personal Example (or How the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall Gave Me a Very Merry Christmas)
Rewind to pre-Christmas, 2011. My siblings and I wanted to get my parents something special and so my sister suggested a hot air balloon ride. We all thought that was great, so she started searching around and found one on Groupon for $300.
Luckily, I had just gotten an email about Groupon offering 30x Chase UR points for every $1 spent. I checked it twice to make sure I read it correctly.
Yep, 30 Chase UR points for every $1! Un freaking believable!
I called my sister immediately (not an easy thing to do when your in Australia and she’s in America) and walked her through exactly how to purchase the balloon ride through the Chase UR mall (luckily for you, I’ve created a video that will explain it much quicker)!
Just like that, I was 9,000 Chase points richer!
From that day, I was a convert, and I haven’t looked back since!
I’ve never lead you astray before, have I? Take 3 minutes, check out the video, and start watching those UR points pour in in droves!
If you’re gung-ho about online shopping (and you should be!), check out my partner post, which also has a 3 minute video.
It explains how to use Evreward, an awesome website that shows you which online shopping portal gives you the best deal for every store you can think of! It’s not always the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, so learn to use this tool!
Of course, if you have any questions I don’t answer here, feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly.
If you’re serious about earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, don’t rely solely on signup bonuses. If you aren’t using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall for buying products, especially large ticket items like a computer, tv, etc. than you are leaving THOUSANDS of points on the table.
Even if you’re a complete newbie to online shopping, I implore you to give it a shot. Try buying one item and see how it goes. At the very least, you won’t have to drive to the store, and you’ll be earning extra points for sitting on your butt!
What are you feelings on online shopping? If you’re a convert, share the reasons why. Did you have an “A-HA” moment like I did with the hot air balloon ride? If you haven’t committed yet, what reservations do you have? Share, share, share below folks!