It’s time for the Reader Success Story for January 2020, which features Prince of Travel reader Jennie C., who shared with me her experience starting from scratch to collect enough points for an Aeroplan Mini-RTW to Asia in business class for her honeymoon.
Jennie’s story is a real inspiration, especially for those who are just starting out in Miles & Points. Read on to find out how Jennie was able to develop a strategy towards booking her dream honeymoon and then take action to make it a reality.
I wanted to share with you my first success story after discovering your blog back in December 2018. We just came back recently from our Aeroplan Mini-RTW honeymoon within Asia from Vancouver. I booked our flights on Aeroplan before they changed their stopover policy from two stopovers to one.
At that time, I just got engaged and since we have a wedding to pay for, I thought this would be the best time to maximize some points by signing up for a credit card or two to help fund our honeymoon to Bali.
The only previous experience I had was holding the personal Amex Gold back in 2015 for the signup bonus of 25,000 points and cancelling before the year was up. Other than that, I’ve been holding onto the TD First Class Travel for a few years. I didn’t realize the scale of this potential until a friend sent me some of your articles.
I had heard Aeroplan was changing in the summer of 2020, so I wanted to book business class trips for two people ASAP (also taking into account the fact that availability decreases as the days go on).
Going to Bali from Vancouver required 155,000 Aeroplan miles per person to fly business class. Therefore, my goal was 310,000 Aeroplan miles within four months, since we need to wait at least 90 days between the business card applications with Amex.
I never like to pay for annual fees (who does?) but after reading your credit card resource page, I decided to sign up for the Amex Business Platinum Card with the intent to refer my reluctant fiancé, who kept insisting, “Just this one credit card.”
I wonder what he thought, newly engaged and then suddenly asking him for his credit score and pressuring (or encouraging) him to sign up for credit cards. *red flag!*
I signed up through the Canada Post offer at the time, and then three weeks later, I referred my fiancé to get his own. I decided there is so much value with the signup bonuses and Priority Pass memberships that the intimidating annual fees of $399–$499 were easily worth it.
I was quite concerned about meeting the minimum spend, but eventually did so by prepaying our bills (i.e., mobile, internet, cable, etc.), paying for my family’s expenses (my mother bought a stove) and having them pay me back in cash, paying for group dinners and having them pay me back in cash, and of course the refundable hotel trick that allowed us to gain more time to meet the minimum spend.
In between the Business Platinum cards, we both signed up for the personal Gold Rewards Card for 25,000 points each, and after that, I referred my fiancé to the Business Gold Card for 40,000 points along with the 25,000 referral points from the Business Platinum.
Also, I already had the TD First Class Travel with 80,000 TD Rewards points and product-switched it to the TD Aeroplan with the signup bonus of 15,000 miles, while converting the 80,000 TD Rewards points to 20,000 Aeroplan miles. I used the TD Aeroplan card to pay for the taxes and fees associated with reward ticket with Aeroplan so that I will have flight insurance.
Finally, we had accumulated 310,000 points across both the MR program and Aeroplan, which was enough to book my trip!
The next step was to piece together my travel vision. I thought that collecting points and meeting the minimum spend was hard, until I tried actually putting together this trip. I followed your guides on how to book an Aeroplan Mini-RTW and maximizing stopovers and layovers, and I must’ve reread them so many times.
Since Bali was quite far from Vancouver, I knew I could try to maximize the potential and fit in two stops and as many layovers as the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) would allow.
I came up with about five different itineraries until one finally seemed to be the one. I originally wanted it to be an actual round-the-world trip by travelling from Vancouver to Asia to Europe and back, but ultimately decided against it since we only had three weeks.
I used FlightConnections to search which airlines flew to which countries to minimize the surcharges, and then searched each segment individually on Aeroplan for availability.
I knew I wanted to fly ANA and EVA Air, as your previous reviews raved highly of them. The hardest part was adding in the layovers, trying to maximize it as close to 24 hours as possible by rearranging the order the countries/cities to maximize enough time.
This was our itinerary all in business class except for two segments:
Vancouver–Tokyo–Osaka, stopover for four days, on ANA business class
Osaka–Seoul, layover for 22 hours, on ANA economy class
Seoul–Hong Kong, layover for 23 hours, on Asiana Airlines economy class
Hong Kong–Taipei, layover for 22.5 hours, on EVA Air business class
Taipei–Denpasar, destination for seven days, on EVA Air business class
Denpasar–Singapore, layover for 18 hours, on Singapore Airlines business class
Singapore–Ho Chi Minh City, stopover for four days, on Singapore Airlines business class
Ho Chi Minh City–Seoul–Los Angeles–Vancouver to go home, on Asiana Airlines and Air Canada business class
I ended up putting together the itinerary by calling into Aeroplan and feeding each segment to the agent, and it took about 40 minutes.
The trip ended up costing 310,000 Aeroplan miles and about $600 in taxes and fees per person. It was more than I hoped to pay, and the surcharges mostly originated from the flights on ANA and Asiana Airlines.
When I was researching the flights, I wanted to fly EVA Air back from Taipei to Vancouver in business class since they also have low surcharges, but there was no availability. So I decided to fly with Asiana on their A380 from Seoul to Los Angeles instead. With much regret, now I know that EVA Air’s business class seats were almost guaranteed to open up a few days prior to departure! Regardless, the total price of our flights would’ve been close to $21,000, and we only paid about $1,200 for both of us!
I never thought I would ever be able to fly business class. I thought I would have to be rich, but even then, would I want to spend thousands of dollars on a flight? Every time I flew in economy I always daydreamed what it would be like to lie down and sleep on a long-haul flight, especially since I have some back pain.
So thank you Ricky for making my dreams come true and allowing us to encounter the biggest first-world problem of being too full when flying! We would eat in the lounges before we flew, then eat on the flight, and then we would be too full to eat to our maximum potential during our layovers (especially in Taipei… I will come back for you, night markets!)
Suffice to say, my fiancé has now given me ongoing permission to sign up for as many credit cards as I want. 😉
I think Jennie’s story is an excellent example of how someone can start from scratch in Miles & Points and achieve results very quickly by following the recommended procedure of thinking about one’s travel goals, developing a credit card strategy to earn the points needed for that goal, and then taking action on that strategy, in that order.
Too often, I see newcomers who get somewhat overawed by all the possibilities out there and apply for cards left, right, and centre, without having one eye on the redemption side of the equation and redeeming their miles less effectively as a result. It’s important to start with a specific travel goal or redemption sweet spot in mind, and then systematically work your way towards that goal.
I was impressed by a few of the moves that Jennie made along the way. For example, asking those around you to put their expenses on your card and pay you back in cash is a great way to leverage the general population’s relative lack of interest in this stuff to help you meet your minimum spends.
In addition, since the TD First Class Travel was Jennie’s oldest card, it wouldn’t be in her best interest to cancel it even after she realized that TD Rewards points are relatively weak compared to the more valuable points currencies out there. She was therefore quite astute in product-switching this card to the TD Aeroplan instead, keeping the long credit history on this card active while also earning an additional sum of Aeroplan miles on the product switch.
(Also, the ability to convert TD Rewards points from the First Class Travel card into Aeroplan miles at a 4:1 ratio isn’t discussed too often, but if you didn’t know about that, now you know.)
On the redemption side, Jennie’s itinerary is a great example of how East Asia and South East Asia are particularly amenable to long layovers, due to the high frequency of flights within the region, the relatively good transportation links into the city, and the sheer variety and energy that you’ll find in every city.
As she mentions, because EVA Air tends to release their unsold business class seats as last-minute awards quite reliably, she could’ve also looked into making a last-minute change to her itinerary to get on EVA Air’s excellent transpacific product and also save a good chunk of Asiana Airlines fuel surcharges (although it’s worth noting that, as of recently, Asiana also no longer levies fuel surcharges on Aeroplan redemption.)
Regardless, this is a very impressive Aeroplan redemption, and full marks goes to Jennie for studying the Aeroplan Mini-RTW guides and successfully making her dream trip a reality.
Lastly, I also thought that Jennie’s experiences convincing her fiancé to play the game in two-player mode were quite amusing. This happens with almost every couple who earns and redeems points as a household – one person is typically much more enthusiastic about it than the other, and as we’ve all discovered, the only way to fully convince your partner to come onboard is by bringing them on a fancy flight and showing them that it’s real!
Thanks for sharing, Jennie, and I’ll be sending you 5,000 Aeroplan miles as a reward to get you closer towards the next big trip.
And if you’d like your story to be featured too, send me an email with “[Success Story]” in the subject line for a chance to be selected for the February edition!