Editor’s Note: The Bindel is not getting paid (yet) by any of the blogs or credit cards that we endorse.
I just got back from a trip of a lifetime to Thailand with my best friend Giselle. We managed to fly first class drinking vintage champagne and stayed at villas that retailed for over $1,000 per night. In order to do it, I leased my home for a month on The Bindel while I was away to earn extra cash, and cashed in the credit card points I had been saving for a year. Everyone can do what we did—you don’t need to be a millionaire or a genius. Here’s how…
The trick to getting the most out of credit card points is knowing when to transfer the points to one of the credit card’s partners, and when to book directly through the credit card company’s website. The one credit card I absolutely swear by and needed to make this trip a reality was the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The reason is your Chase points are worth 50% more when you use your points on travel and book through Chase.com. They also recently partnered with Expedia, so they have a lot of hotel options abroad and it’s very easy to use.
The other card I used was The Hilton Honors American Express Card because they were offering a 100,000-point sign up bonus if you spent $3,000 in the first three months. The card’s annual fee is also a nominal $95. One hundred thousand points translates literally to $1,000 if you want to cash them out. The points are worth more, however, if you use them on travel. I found this card by running a Google search for “best travel rewards cards” and this card popped up on The Points Guy’s site. Checkout TPG— it’s an awesome travel resource!
The first step is leasing your home to earn spending money while you’re gone. I earned $2,000 for the month while I was in Thailand by leasing my fully-furnished apartment on TheBindel.com. I decided to use The Bindel because they specialize in leasing properties for 1-month and longer to professionals. They charge a really low 3.5% service fee and my tenant was awesome, so I’d highly recommend.
Next, we need business class tickets. Because, honestly, who the [email protected]#* wants to be cramped in economy for a 14-hour plane ride when you could be living your best life in business or first. There are times to economize, and then there are times to read this blog.
The blogs I read really seem to overcomplicate the matter when it comes to purchasing business class tickets with credit card points. The rule for buying flights with credit card points is simple: transfer your credit card points to one of the credit card company’s partner airlines.
If you’re set on traveling business or first class, the award travel on the best carriers often doesn’t open up until 1-2 weeks before the date you want to travel. If you’re Type-A like Giselle and I, you’re going to want to book a fully refundable “worst case scenario” premium economy ticket to get there. That’s exactly what we did. To do so, use your points on Chase.com to book a fully refundable ticket (the reason is tickets bought with points are non-refundable). Also, side note— “fully refundable” actually means $150 to refund. Remember: we’re holding out for the business class tickets!
Cool, so now you have a ticket, but hopefully it’s not your ticket! Most business class tickets range between $3,500+ on the best carriers, which unless you’re Rockefeller is probably out of the question. Thankfully, we’re using points.
To purchase your business class ticket, you’re going to be paying in airline miles, not dollars. United Airlines is a travel partner of Chase, and Aeroplan is a travel partner of Amex. I know what you’re thinking—who the heck is Aeroplan?! Because, same.
Both United and Aeroplan are apart of Star Alliance, so they have similar award travel—but Aeroplan usually requires less points than United. I was able to transfer 77,500 points from Amex to Aeroplan to buy my one-way ticket on EVA Airways there. It cost me 90,000 points on United Airlines to get back. To find these tickets, make sure you’re viewing fares in miles and not dollars (i.e. click “book with miles” on United.com).
Business class award travel for a 1-way ticket typically set you back between 75,000-90,000 points plus a couple of bucks in taxes and fees e.g. $15-$150. The vacation begins the second you step on the plane, so totally worth it.
If you don’t care about flying business class, then leave now. Kidding— transfer your points to one of the card’s transfer airline partners when you see flights around 40,000 miles or less one-way (80,000 miles round trip). Don’t purchase the fully-refundable ticket on Chase because it’s easier to find economy seats farther in advance. Plus, the “fully-refundable” ticket actually costs $150 to refund.
If you’re wondering which business class products are the best and which ones you should avoid, my two personal favorite blogs are The Points Guy and One Mile at a Time. As a general rule, check the airline’s “house” Champagne- it’s a good indication as to how the rest of the food, beverage, and over all flight will be. If they’re serving you juice and not champagne pre-takeoff—keep looking!
Whew, ok, so now flights are done. Now comes the fun and easy part. Go to Chase.com and use your remaining points to book hotel accommodations. Don’t rely on American Expresses website to book hotels. Amex points are good for transferring to partner airlines. They have fewer hotel options and their points aren’t worth more when booked on hotels whereas Chase points are worth 50% more when booked on hotels.
Now I’d like to take this time for A HUGE shout out to: Nakamanda Resort and Spa. If you can make this place happen when you’re in Thailand, you should. The food was incredible, the staff was friendly and kind, and that was by far our favorite resort.
To get there, take a ferry to Railay Beach in Krabi and stay at Railay Beach for the night. Railay Beach is beautiful and a bit off the beaten tourist path. Then, take a water taxi (and tuk-tuk) to get to Nakamanda. We flew out from the airport near Nakamanda to Koh Samui and ferried to Koh Phangan. The best part was it was only 11,000 points or $160.00 per night (great breakfast spread included). Stay safe and enjoy your travels 🙂
The blogs we relied on to plan our trip that were spot on were: