Award Challenge: Use Miles to Get to Japan
There are so many destinations to go, it’s hard to choose. It’s even harder to collect those miles for your certain destination as there are so many airlines and cards to choose from. Here is an award challenge on how to get to Japan by using miles and get there the cheapest way. This challenge comes from a friend of mine who plans to go to Japan during April, one of the best times to view cherry blossoms, so I will show you how you too can get there. I will breakdown which is the least amount of miles to focus on when going to Japan.
Round-trip route: North America – Japan
Here is a listing of the most popular airlines and how many miles it takes to fly economy from North America to Japan:
- American Airlines – 50,000 Roundtrip (Off-peak) or 70,000 (Peak-time)
- British Airways – 50,000 Roundtrip (West Coast) or 75,000 Roundtrip (East Coast)
- Delta – 70,000 Roundtrip
- United – 70,000 Roundtrip
- US Airways – 60,000 Roundtrip
The clear winner here is American Airlines during the off-peak. The off-peak months for AA is actually October 1 – April 30 so that’s 7 months out of the calendar year you can get a roundtrip flight to Japan for only 50k miles. For our challenge this falls in line with the off-peak month. The reason why I didn’t choose British Airways is because BA is associated with fuel surcharges if flying on BA metal which would increase our cost out of pocket. AA has no fuel surcharge on their own AA/US Air flights.
Airfare: American Airlines
Points Earning: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
- Sign up Bonus: 50,000 points after meeting $3,000 within 3 months.
- Annual fee: $95 but waived the first year
- Other benefits: 2 Admirals Club One-Day Passes, first free checked bag, group 1 boarding, Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back
Points Earning: Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
- Sign up Bonus: 50,000 points after meeting $5,000 within 3 months.
- Annual fee: $450
- Other benefits: Admirals club member, no foreign transaction, first checked bag free
I would recommend the platinum over the executive merely because of the annual fee on the executive is too hefty. Plus the benefits on that card is not worth $450 a year which is also not waived the first year. Additionally, one great bonus of the platinum card is the 10% miles back. So for our route example below we will redeem 50,000 miles to book our flight but at the end of the year we will get back 5,000 miles. So essentially our flight only costed us 45,000 points instead of 50,000 points.
Outbound: LAX – NRT on April 17, 2015
Inbound: HND – LAX on April 26, 2015
Retail Cost: $3,645 Round-trip (Same flight itinerary)
Our Cost: 50,000 AA miles + $50.40 cash
Newark (EWR) – Tokyo; Narita Airport (NRT)
Outbound date: April 10, 2015
Inbound date: April 20, 2015
Retail Cost: $1,435 Roundtrip (Same flight itinerary)
Cost: 50,000 AA miles + $50.80 cash
It’s clear whether you’re traveling from the east coast or west coast you’ll get the same miles for the same cost. However, the clear difference here is the savings from paying from retail cost vs award cost, $3,595 from west coast and $1,385 from east cost. Who can say no to savings of that much?
Grand Total Retail Cost: $1,435 – $3,645
Out-of-Pocket Cost: 50,000 AA miles + ~$50 cash
Savings: At least over $1,385!
While this is an award challenge I know some may be interested in the lodging aspect of this trip. You have many choices in Tokyo. There are many brand name hotels that you can chose from. Here is a listing of all a majority of the hotels and a breakdown of how many points it takes to stay a night.
- Best Western Shinjuku Astina: 28,000 points per night
- Best Western Tokyo Nishikasai: 20,000 points per night
- Comfort Hotel Tokyo Kiyosumi Shirakawa: 8,000 points per night
- Comfort Hotel Tokyo Kanda Tokyo: 8,000 points per night
- Comfort Hotel Tokyo Hagashi Nihombashi: 8,000 points per night
- Conrad Tokyo: 70,000 to 95,0000 points per night
- Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel: 50,000 to 80,000 points per night
- Park Hyatt Tokyo: 30,000 points per night
- Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills: 25,000 points per night
- Grand Hyatt Tokyo: 25,000 points per night
- Hyatt Regency Tokyo: 12,000 points per night
- Intercontinental The Strings: 50,000 points per night
- Intercontinental Tokyo: 45,000 points per night
- Intercontinental Tokyo Bay: 35,000 points per night
- The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo: 60,000 to 70,000 points per night
- The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo (Autograph Collection): 35,000 – 40,000 points per night
- Tokyo Marriott Hotel: 35,000 to 40,000 points per night
- Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel: 30,000 to 35,000 points per night
- Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station: 25,000 to 30,000 points per night
- The Westin Tokyo: 12,000 to 16,000 SPG points per night
- Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay: 12,000 to 16,000 SPG points per night
- Sheraton Miyako Hotel: 10,000 SPG points per night
I love to stretch out my points. So my favorite type of redemption would be cash and points. The two best cash and points option are either Hyatt or Starwood. Another great option is Marriott because if you redeem 4 nights the 5th night is free. My philosophy is always calculate which one works out in you’re favor and if you have to do a paid stay then I highly suggest Airbnb over a hotel as you can get more bang for your buck.
Let me know if you have a travel destination in mind and would like me to do an award challenge to see what is your best and cheapest options on getting there.