You Earned 125,000 Membership Rewards Points, Now What?!

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As Ben mentioned the other day, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN currently has a huge 100,000-point welcome bonus — and an even bigger minimum spend of $25,000. Technically, the bonus is divided into two parts:

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points after $10,000 in spend within 3 months
  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points after $15,000 in spend within the same 3 months

It’s a heavy lift but, if you can reach the minimum spend, you’ll find yourself with a nice stash of Membership Rewards points — at least 125,000, in fact.

Now, you just need to figure out how to use them! With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of some creative (or at least less-conventional) trips you can take thanks to this welcome bonus.

6 great ways to use the massive Amex Business Platinum bonus

Anyone who’s been around the miles and points world for even a minute already knows that Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable out there. The purpose of this list is just to show you how easily 125,000 Membership Rewards points can take you just about anywhere, and have some fun doing it.

Fly Singapore Suites to Singapore for 120,000 miles

Understandably, flying Singapore Suites is high on the list of inflight experiences for many who join the miles and points game. The impeccable service from the crew and meals such as lobster thermidor have made flying Singapore Suites a fan favorite.

Singapore Suites

It doesn’t hurt that they serve Dom Perignon and Krug champagne — why choose when you can have both?!

To book Singapore Suites from the U.S., you’ll need to fly out of New York (JFK). You could book the non-stop to Frankfurt (FRA) but at under 8 hours, is that really enough time to enjoy the experience? I don’t think so!

Consider transferring 120,000 Membership Rewards points to your Singapore KrisFlyer account so you can book Suites to Singapore. After a pitstop at Frankfurt, you can take advantage of another 12 hours of inflight fun.

Now, finding award space out of JFK isn’t always easy. If you really want to fly out of the U.S., I’d suggest starting your search 355 days in advance — when Singapore Airlines releases award space. Another option would be to return from a trip to Asia as award space is often better in that direction.

A business class adventure to Australia and New Zealand

If business class is more your style, you have a bunch of options to fly Singapore Airlines (and Star Alliance partners) to Australia and New Zealand.

If you fly out of JFK or Houston (IAH), you will need 118,000 KrisFlyer miles, while flying out of Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) will only require 110,000 miles.

Singapore Business Class A380

Since most of you probably don’t live in one of these 4 cities, you’re in luck. With Singapore KrisFlyer’s Star Alliance award chart, you can include a connection on United for a total of 117,000 miles for the trip. Saving 1,000 miles isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s great if you need to book a connection.

Once you’ve made it all the way to Australia, you might as well see New Zealand too! With the same award, you could catch a flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown or Wellington.

Now, stopovers with one-way Singapore KrisFlyer saver awards cost about $100 each but can be very useful. If you want to get creative you could book something like this for 117,000 miles:

  • New York JFK to Frankfurt on Singapore Airlines — stopover
  • Frankfurt to Singapore on Singapore Airlines — stopover
  • Singapore to Sydney on Singapore Airlines — stopover
  • Sydney to Queenstown on Air New Zealand — destination

Keep in mind that Singapore’s online search functionality isn’t always the best. In the example above, it was unable to provide any results. In this case, search for JFK to Sydney to find space on Singapore Airlines then run a search for Sydney to Queenstown.

Once you’ve found the needed award space, you can call Singapore Airlines (1-800-742-3333) to book. The phone reps are generally pretty good so it shouldn’t be too hard to provide the flight dates and flight numbers to get this book.

As this isn’t bookable online, make sure you aren’t charged the phone booking fee of $25. It’s also worth noting that sometimes KrisFlyer agents will have a slightly different view of space than you do. The easiest way to get on the same page is to ask the agent where they are based, and toggle your VPN to that country.

Just want to visit New Zealand? Book business class round-trip for 125k miles

While the one-way business class route with Singapore miles would certainly be a fun way to see Europe, Australia and New Zealand, you might just want to visit New Zealand.

If that’s the case, you can use 125,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Los Angeles or Houston — and Chicago O’Hare as of November 30, 2018 — to Auckland (AKL).

Air New Zealand 777

Now, if you want to visit other parts of New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will require more miles for each segment. Fortunately, domestic flights on Air New Zealand can be booked for only 7,500 Flying Club miles and you can easily get your hands on more by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex Membership Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points and SPG Starpoints.

Business class award space on Air New Zealand can be tough to find, but you can find the occasional spot here and there. If you’re lucky, they’ll release a bunch of space near your travel dates as we just saw recently.

Fly business class to Europe for 88,000 (and avoid steep surcharges)

Ever the popular destination, the one downside to booking premium cabin awards to Europe is the sometimes massive surcharges. While ANA Mileage Club will pass on the surcharges of many Star Alliance partners, it won’t for a few — and a few others are manageable.

Why book with ANA when United doesn’t tack on surcharges? Well, United charges 140,000 miles for a round-trip business class award while ANA only requires 88,000 miles. I don’t know about you but I’m happy to spend 52,000 less miles on the same flight, especially if you were going to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United to book.

What makes this redemption even better is if you book flights on Air Canada, SAS or United you won’t have to pay surcharges. If you book a business class award on Turkish Airlines, the surcharges will be a bit over $400 round-trip. On LOT, they’ll be less than $200. Not surcharge-free, but not egregious.

New South African Airways business class to South Africa for 104,000 miles

South Africa might not be the easiest country to visit for those of us in the U.S., but we have a great way to book business class. You can book a round-trip award for 120,000 Korean SkyPass miles and a boatload of surcharges, or 160,000 United MileagePlus miles without surcharges, or — even better if you have Membership Rewards points burning a hole in your pocket — through ANA Mileage Club.

Yes, ANA requires round-trip bookings on award tickets but you can book awards between North America and South Africa for only 104,000 Mileage Club miles.

You can book these flights on a Star Alliance partner through Europe (but watch out for steep surcharges), or a non-stop South African Airways’ A340 from JFK (though the product is outdated).

If I were to book this one right now, I’d try to get on the South African Airways flight out of Washington Dulles (IAD). It has a refueling stop in Dakar (DSS) but it’s on South African’s new Airbus A330-300 which has a 1-2-1 cabin layout with lie-flat seats.

Award space on this route isn’t the easiest to find and sometimes is operated by their older Airbus A330-200 with a 2-2-2 layout. So, make sure you check the aircraft type so you aren’t surprised!

South African Airways Business Class

For some, it would be more fun if you could still book Etihad business class and include a stopover in Abu Dhabi, but that connection with ANA is currently down.

Not only would you save a ton of Membership Rewards points, but you would also be able to use Abu Dhabi as a jumping off point to see other parts of the Middle East such as Petra, Jordan during your stopover.

Use a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club first class sweet spot to visit Tokyo

I feel like I’m always talking about this particular award. Maybe that’s just because I’m excited about my upcoming trip to Japan to see my brother when I’ll fly ANA first class to Tokyo.

ana first class 777

While ANA has superior redemption rates on a number of routes, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club should be your go-to if you want to book non-stop, roundtrip first class award on ANA from the U.S. From the central and eastern U.S., you can book for 120,000 ANA miles. From the west coast, it will only cost 110,000 ANA miles.

ANA operates flights with a first class cabin from the following airports:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD)

You can search for award space on United, then call Virgin Atlantic to place the award on hold. Once you’ve done that, transfer the necessary Membership Rewards points immediately.

Transfers generally process almost instantly so you’ll be able to call back and get the ticket issued the same day.

See the world in business class with an ANA Round the World award

I often piece together multiple awards that take me around the world, but ANA still has a pretty impressive distance-based Round the World award chart.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these awards will need to be booked over the phone with an ANA rep.

ANA Round the World Award Chart

With Round the World itineraries, you can put together some pretty sweet trips on Star Alliance partners. Let’s take a look at some of the rules that apply to these tickets:

  • Flights must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (once each)
  • Fly East-West or West-East (no backtracking)
  • 12 segments and 4 ground transfers allowed
    • Ground transfers do not add to the total basic sector mileage that determines award cost
  • 8 stopovers allowed
    • No more than 3 stopovers in Europe
    • No more than 4 stopovers in Japan
  • Trip must be at least 10 days from the time of your first international departure

As always, watch out for surcharges when booking with ANA. Flights on Asiana Airlines, Turkish Airlines, LOT and United are safe bets but don’t forget about departing from destinations that don’t allow surcharges — Hong Kong is famous for this.

If you put together an itinerary that is between 20,001 and 22,000 flight miles, you can book a Round the World business class award for 125,000 ANA Mileage Club miles. Here’s an example that is 20,923 flight miles:

  • Chicago ORD to Tokyo Haneda (HND) – stopover
  • HND to Seoul (ICN) – stopover
  • ICN to Taipei (TPE) – stopover
  • TPE to Bangkok (BKK) – stopover
  • BKK to Istanbul (IST) – stopover
  • IST to Warsaw (WAW) – stopover
  • VIE to Brussels (BRU) – stopover
  • BRU to Lisbon (LIS) – stopover
  • Lisbon to Newark (EWR) – layover
  • Newark (EWR) to Chicago (ORD)

ANA Round the World Business Class Example

In this example, you could fly with ANA, Asiana Airlines, EVA Air, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, LOT, TAP Air Portugal and United Airlines.

To search for award space on each segment, I would use United’s site as you’ll be able to search by month to get a better idea of award space on multiple dates. Keep a pad of paper with you so you can write down the dates and flight numbers of each segment. Once you’ve pieced it together, give ANA a call 1-800-235-9262).

There are plenty of other ways to put together one of the Round the World itineraries but this should help get you started.

Bottom line

It’s no surprise that there’s a lot of chatter about the new 100,000-point welcome bonus on the Amex Business Platinum card but, with such a hefty minimum spend requirement, I think it’s important to consider how you would use the Membership Rewards points once you earn them.

With 125,000 points in hand, you’ll have plenty of options for round-trip or one-way award bookings and economy, business and first class flights. Whatever your travel goals, I hope these options will provide you a with a little inspiration.

How would you use 125,000 Membership Rewards points?

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Comments

  1. I think we need a tool: enter origin, destination it lists all the redemption options across all alliances and a rough idea of surcharge.

    Bookmarking all these sweet spots is ridiculous.

  2. I believe Etihad redemption through ANA have been suspended since 12/18/17. Not sure if they resumed. Maybe you can update us on that. Thanks

  3. Spencer: you might want to fact-check which airlines to avoid when booking with ANA. AFAIK both Asiana and Turkish pass on YQ when booked through ANA.

    EVA, Thai, Singapore, SAS, and Air Canada are all great options for a RTW trip that don’t, however.

  4. Nice article. I have 140k amex plat points and 400k chase UR points. I need to get two tickets to fly to Bali in economy or business. Preferred stopover at either Seoul, Hong Kong, or Singapore. I can leave out of IAD, WAS, or BWI.

    Any good options? I am having tremendous difficulty with this… especially considering korean air’s horrible availability. Im searching late july / early august for departure. 3 week trip. Help me obi wan you’re my only hope.

  5. While it’s nice to write about all these fancy options
    snagging these first class Singapore awards are incredibly tough to redeem imho
    Let alone find saver premium cabin United awards to add to that joirney
    Sydney to Singapore reasonably so but onwards almost no other destination Europe North America etc did they have any premium cabins when I have looked
    I think many get sucked into the game to find out their miles will be sitting there
    Add to that Singapore miles expire
    I booked Emirates home and gave up!
    Cash back cards anyone or book last minute?
    It’s winning a mini lottery to get your seats even in the off season

  6. Spence, great post. Love these “sweet spot” posts. Shows me the ways I can actually use all these millions of miles I’ve accumulated. Keep up the good work.

  7. Seems when I searched for business class award availability on Singapore Airlines in the past, it always seems to say “Waitlist.” Is there a trick I don’t know about? I hesitate taking the chance of not getting business class on Singapore and maybe missing out on getting award biz seating on another airline.

  8. I get the enjoyment of flying first class, but with so many countries I want to see, I’d rather fly in economy and visit more! Working on getting the signup bonus for my business platinum. I should have about 270k MR to go with 100k Avios in the next few months.

  9. I am relatively new to all this. Could someone explain how the redeeming part works? If the space is visible on United but not on ANA – when I call ANA to book will they do it? Seems odd. Does this work the other way? I have a ton of miles with UA – If I find award space on ANA from Houston to Tokyo but not on the UA site…can I call UA and say “hey I know this is available so make it happen”? – if so, what information do I need regarding the specific flight I found on ANA? Thanks

  10. These are the kind of articles I LOVE! Ideas and realistic departures/destination combos with caveats and how many miles it will cost. This will be going to the top of my ‘bookmark’ list!!

  11. I hope this does not seem to critical, but I seem to be seeing more of these “Here’s are the top redemptions for your xx number of points!” type of posts. I know they have always been here on OMAAT, but has the frequency increased? Some are certainly useful, but I hope they do not become too common. In the three years I have been following points and miles blogs, I have watched another of my go-to-blogs decline in quality and how often I read it as the proportion of these types of articles have gone up there. OMAAT does a much better job than any of the blogs I read on deeper analysis, commercial aviation industry news and commentary in addition to practical tips. I just hope you guys keep that balance going forward. Keep up the good work!

  12. @John

    Thanks. I was thinking about that. However I think Scott is not happy with it yet? Anyway I was thinking something along the lines of wheretocredit, easy to use and mostly works. Though this problem for sure is more difficult. I think the service would be invaluable that the person would make back enough in advertising dollars.

  13. @Spencer they aren’t Lufthansa-bad, but they aren’t insignificant. On that BKK-IST route the YQ on TK is about $175. Asiana long-hauls will have a similar amount of YQ, in addition to whatever airport fees and taxes are charged.

    So they’re not bad if you need those routes, but if you can avoid them you can save some money. For example, SQ and TK both fly the SIN-IST route. The fees on the TK flight will exceed $200, while the fees on the SQ flight will be about $25.

    Earlier this year I actually booked a 21,964 mile RTW itinerary with ANA and the total fees came out to under $250, including the phone-booking fee. Unfortunately if I booked the same itinerary now, it would be more expensive since ANA has since increased the YQ they charge on their own flights. ANA redemptions are definitely one of my favorite MR uses!

  14. @Kbulo A RT business class itinerary using ANA miles from the west coast to Europe flying Swiss, Lufthansa, or Austrian metal can easily have fees over $1,000.

  15. My only complaint is that that the redemptions didn’t mention fees and taxes. Some of the carriers mentioned have insanely high fees associated with award tickets.

  16. @Jeremiah
    What tool do you use to calculate your RTW itinerary? Web flyer?

    @Spencer
    You have wrote:
    “If you put together an itinerary that is between 20,001 and 22,000 flight miles, you can book a Round the World business class award for 125,000 ANA Mileage Club miles. Here’s an example that is 20,923 flight miles:…”

    What is your tool to calculte to stay under 22,000 flight miles?

    Was always wondering where do you create those flight destination graphics?

    Thank you in advance for any hint.

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