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Real Redemptions Part 8: LA to Tokyo & Singapore, Last Minute to Scottsdale, and Around the World in Biz Class

Erin Miller's image
Erin Miller
Erin Miller's image

Erin Miller

Content Contributor

188 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 26U.S. States Visited: 28

An experienced points hacker, Erin is Alex’s partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points with in-depth guides and relationship management. Erin’s work has been cited in multiple major publicat...
Edited by: Kellie Jez
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Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

6 Published Articles 1185 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 10U.S. States Visited: 20

Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s c...

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Hello, All! Let me tell you right now—this installment of Real Redemptions is a doozy!

If you’ve been wondering how to use your points/miles for awesome redemptions, these contributors sure have some great insights!

We’re sharing a fantastic redemption trip to Singapore and Tokyo. We’ve got a last-minute adventure to Scottsdale with Southwest and Hyatt. And last but certainly not least, read about a killer around the world trip in business class!

LA to Tokyo & Singapore

Michelle comes to us from the blog Live Like It’s the Weekend. In addition to blogging, she also works by day to provide freelance digital marketing and social media consulting for lifestyle brands.

Michelle calls her blog “A travel site for the creative soul’s incurable case of wanderlust.” She says she’s just a normal girl traveling the world and a relentless researcher of cheap/free airline tickets.

With this mindset, it’s easy to see why Michelle’s such a great fit for our Real Redemptions series!

Michelle’s favorite redemption took her from Los Angeles to Tokyo for 6 days and then on to Singapore for another 3!

Real Redemptions - Live Like It's the Weekend  Real Redemptions - Live Like It's the Weekend

The points for this one-way redemption were earned through her Chase Ink Plus Business card in order to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. But it wasn’t easy! Michelle tells us that’s probably why this redemption is her favorite—because she pulled it off!

Hot Tip: The Chase Ink Business Plus card is no longer available for application. However, its new version is the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

First, Michelle researched flights from LA to Singapore and found that Singapore Airlines had a lot of options providing layovers in Tokyo. She also knew Singapore Airlines allows one-way stopovers, so her goal was to book a 6-day stopover to explore Japan on her way to Singapore!

Real Redemptions - Live Like It's the Weekend

However, an annoyance presented itself: many Singapore Airlines awards are subject to a waitlist, meaning you can’t book on the spot. AND, you have to have the adequate number of points in your account to even get on the waitlist.

So, Michelle took the risk and transferred 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore’s KrisFlyer Program without having a guaranteed redemption. Then, over a number of days, she spoke with several different agents for assistance in waitlisting the stopover redemption since it’s not available to book online.

Finally, a week before her intended departure, Michelle received confirmation for her economy flights LAX>NRT>SIN with a 6-day stopover in Tokyo. Her total cost was 30,000 miles and $205 in cash to cover taxes and fees.

Real Redemptions - Live Like It's the Weekend

Michelle was relatively new to the travel hacking/points world at this stage, and she had only done fairly straightforward redemptions up until this trip. Again, that’s why it’s one of her favorites—because she pulled it off! This was Michelle’s first complex redemption, and with the stopover in Tokyo she loved feeling like she got 2 trips out of 1! Nice job, Michelle!

While she doesn’t currently have any future points trips planned, Michelle’s got her eye on using some Alaska miles for a quick trip to Hawaii.

We can’t wait to see where the world of points takes you, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing this total score of a redemption with our readers!

A Last Minute Adventure to Scottsdale

Katie is the blogger behind Zen Life & Travel. She’s also a stay-at-home mom to her 3.5-year-old daughter, Ellie. Katie is one mom who’s pretty travel obsessed, and on a journey to live a happy and healthy life!

The redemption Katie has chosen to share involves a last-minute trip to Scottsdale, AZ. While she admits this isn’t the most exotic way to redeem points, it still tops her list because it was spur of the moment, straightforward, and saved her a ton of cash!

Real Redemptions - Zen Life & Travel

Katie loves earning Chase points, simply because they’re so versatile. She uses a combination of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Credit Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all of her purchases. (Unless, of course, she’s trying to reach a minimum spend bonus on a new card.)

Since this trip was fairly straightforward, the booking part was pretty simple. Katie transferred her Chase Ultimate Rewards points over to Southwest Airlines and Hyatt, then booked directly through those companies.

Katie tells us she loves Southwest as an airline since their points are easy to use, you can change your ticket without a fee, there are no baggage fees, and their customer service is great. Katie also earned the Southwest Companion Pass thanks to points and miles, so she only had to pay for 1 plane ticket when booking this redemption.

Real Redemptions - Zen Life & Travel

For accommodations, Katie chose the Hyatt House Scottsdale Old Town. Again, she states it wasn’t a fancy redemption location, but it was a great use of points.

The hotel is located within walking distance to the popular Old Town area of Scottsdale where there are tons of restaurants, shops, and things to do. Katie tells us each room there is a suite and includes breakfast, which is a great perk! She also only paid 24,000 World of Hyatt points for 3 nights…you can’t beat that!

Katie reiterates that while this wasn’t the most luxurious redemption, it’s still one of her favorites. She had plenty of Chase points from her Chase Sapphire Reserve welcome offer, so she thought, “Why not?”

For 2 round-trip flights and 3 nights in a hotel, this trip cost Katie a total of 49,401 points and $22.40 in taxes and fees. If she had paid for this out of pocket, it would have cost almost $1,300. Instead, points and miles gave her the opportunity to take a quick last-minute adventure for about $22, which Katie deems pretty incredible (we do too!).

Real Redemptions - Zen Life & Travel

Katie’s always earning points and miles, so she’s also always planning future trips! What’s up next? Trips to Las Vegas, Ft. Lauderdale, Denver for a wedding, Ft. Lauderdale again to embark on a cruise, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, then the Miraval Resort in Arizona where Katie’s got 2 free nights thanks to her Chase Hyatt Free Night Certificates!

Katie, we love sharing redemptions like yours, especially since many of our readers are also in the points game for simple, domestic travel. This is a great opportunity to show them just how easy and rewarding it can be, so thank you!

Around the World in Business Class

Suzanne is an accountant working in finance who also has a serious love for travel. In fact, she loves to travel so much that she runs the blog PhilaTravelGirl – Flying by the Seat of My Points and created a Global Business Travel Manager role at her last firm to manage an employee travel program. This married finance and travel for the company to save money and make employee travel less stressful.

The redemption story Suzanne chose to share is pretty ridiculous! She calls this an advanced redemption, even for her!

Real Redemptions - photo credit Suzanne Wolko - PhilaTravelGirl

When the USAirways/American Airlines merger was announced in February 2013, Suzanne had just over 110,000 points with USAirways. She’d earned these from a mix of flights over the years, buying points (since USAirways used to sell miles for a low rate with bonus), her USAirways Mastercard points, and promotions.

Suzanne knew this would be her last opportunity for a Star Alliance award with the points. She had a limited time to book the trip and knew she wanted it to be BIG with memorable experiences.

Then, Suzanne won a free 2-night stay at the Pullman Sydney via a Twitter contest. Now, most people don’t plan a massive ’round the world journey to Australia just for a free $400 hotel stay…but with her USAirways points burning a hole in her pocket, she figured — why not?

It took Suzanne about 18 hours to research and map out 3 separate flight plans: Australia via Europe, Australia via Asia, and Australia via South America. She searched segment by segment on Expert Flyer to find the business class availability and plane styles she preferred. When it was all said and done, she had determined 3 different options for each segment of her trip as a back-up in case her preferred award seat was gone when she called to book.

So what was the result? She decided to go to Australia via Asia with a stop in Paris on the way home. Based in Philadelphia, Suzanne initially planned to fly from Philly to Frankfurt and then on to Singapore, but that route wasn’t available. Neither were any other Star Alliance alternatives to anywhere in Asia. So, she pivoted and booked Philly to Singapore via Seoul as the award seats were more abundant.

Interestingly enough, Suzanne tells us that her return trip home was harder despite the many options from Australia, so she decided to spend Thanksgiving in Paris and experience an A380 flight from Bangkok.

Her call with the booking agent went smoothly since Suzanne had done all her research, even including back ups for her back ups!

So how did her full itinerary end up? The booking looked something like this:


Within Australia, Suzanne utilized some British Airways Avios and cash to get from MEL > SYD, and she then used cash to get between both cities and Hobart, Tasmania.

 Real Redemptions - photo credit Suzanne Wolko - PhilaTravelGirl

What products did she fly? It’s enough to make any points junkie jealous: Suzanne took business class throughout the trip on all her airlines, including USAirways, Asiana, Singapore, and Thai Airways (the A380).

Suzanne was scheduled to fly Lufthansa Business as well, but when she arrived in Paris she received notice of a strike action for Air France. Lufthansa decided to participate in a sympathy strike, which canceled a weekend of flights (including hers).

She spent hours on the phone with a USAirways supervisor to secure a reissue for a flight home on USAirways in business. Suzanne knew the flight existed and was adamant that it was her preferred flight home and the only way to justify the canceled Lufthansa business route.

What about accommodations? Suzanne used Starwood points earned on her Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express for stays in Melbourne and Sydney (returning to one of her favorite hotels, The Westin Sydney). She paid cash for her overnight stay at the Hyatt Seoul, Sofitel Melbourne, and Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania. She was able to stay with a friend in Paris.

WHEW! What a Trek!

Suzanne tells us this was her favorite trip since she got to experience a crazy around the world adventure as her final “hurrah!” to USAirways and the Star Alliance. While her trip was marred by rain for 16 of the 23 days away, she got to visit friends in Melbourne, Sydney, and Paris, and spend her birthday dinner at the Park Hyatt Sydney looking out over the Opera House.

Additionally, Seoul & Singapore offer free city tours from the airport for layovers.  So Suzanne used the Singapore free tour during her 9-hour layover then spent the rest of her time in the amazing Singapore Airlines lounge and exploring the Changi airport.

What’s on her plate in the near future? Suzanne is headed to Edinburgh on British Airways to retain her Silver Status for the next year. This will allow her to enjoy Oneworld benefits here in the U.S. including boarding advantages, lounge access, etc.

After that, she’s off on an Alaskan cruise! She hasn’t quite figured out how to hack down the single supplement, so she plans to credit the American Airlines flight to BA in order to help with her New Year tier points hurdle.

Suzanne, you’ve completely outdone yourself with this Real Redemptions story, and we’re so pleased to be able to share it with our readers! We’re sure some others are keen to use points on an amazing around the world trip too!

*all images for ‘Around The World in Business Class’ courtesy of Suzanne Wolko – PhilaTravelGirl

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About Erin Miller

An experienced points hacker, Erin is Alex’s partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points with in-depth guides and relationship management. Erin’s work has been cited in multiple major publications.

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