Our “How To” series explains the best way to get to various destinations using credit card points, and tells you what card(s) you should sign up for in order to accrue the necessary points. This week’s destination: Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
The Credit Kids, for me, is a fun project all about creating helpful, actionable advice that someone can easily read and say to themselves, “Hey I can do that. If I just do the steps he says, I know I can do x or y vacation for free using credit card points.” The “How To” series is by far my favorite one to write, and I’m pretty excited about these next Honeymoon / Romantic getaway posts. I am going to write (at least to start) 5 “How To” Guides for dream destinations for honeymoons – so get excited!
- Part 1: Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand
- Part 2: Tahiti / Bora Bora (Thursday 4/27)
- Part 3: Greek Islands / Europe (Thursday 5/4)
- Part 4: Cancun / Caribbean (Thursday 5/11)
- Part 5: Bali / SE Asia (Thursday 5/18)
Part 1: Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand
Put anotha shrimp on the bahbie, eh mate?! Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji…three incredible places that most of us only
dream of going to one day. It’s so expensive, so far away, and plenty of other excuses as to why most of us could never make it there. But guess what – you can do all three in one amazing combined trip FOR FREE with points! In fact, Mary and I already have this amazing 3-country trip in the South Pacific planned for 2018 using these exact steps, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. This guide will show you how to get round trip flights to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and a 7 night stay at a 5-star resort, using only credit card points.
To preface this, if you haven’t read our Beginner’s Guide or the FAQ posts, then I recommend starting there before you read further. It might answer some questions that arise while reading. Now let’s get started!
Flights to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji typically hover around $1200-$1500 depending on location and dates, meaning that for 2 people you are looking at around $3000 for flights alone. Yikes. Ain’t nobody got money for that! How much would it be with points?
A normal round trip flight to Australia or New Zealand is around 80k points per person for most of the big airlines, including American Airlines, United, Delta, etc. Since they’re all around the same price, we turn to another factor to figure out which miles are best – who has the most award space and who allows for the best routes? My personal favorite is Alaska Airlines’ MileagePlus program, and here’s why:
Alaska allows you to do a “stopover” on one-way itineraries, which means that on your way to your final destination of Australia or New Zealand (or both) you can “stop” at a connecting city for as long as you want. Since Alaska Airlines has a partnership with Fiji Airways, you can use your Alaska miles to book a Fiji Airways flight. With that being the case, this means that you can take your “stopover” in Fiji! For the same price of a Los Angeles – Sydney trip, you could do Los Angeles – FIJI – Sydney. Pretty cool, right?
Fiji is sometimes overlooked in terms of an island vacation since it’s so close to Bora Bora and Tahiti, which are deservedly praised, but Fiji is actually equally stunning in my opinion. Besides the main island being filled with jungles, rivers, and incredible beaches, Fiji also has tons of little (sometimes private) islands off its coasts that can be reached by boat. One of our good friends stayed in a private island hut in the Yasawas Islands, a quick boat ride from Nadi (the airport city), and absolutely loved it. He actually is the one that inspired us to book this trip for ourselves for 2018! Especially once you see below where you can stay in Fiji for free, you’ll understand why this place should quickly move to the top of your bucket list.
I also feel obliged to say that if you do happen upon a cheap cash fare somehow, always try to book it with your Chase UR points in the Chase Travel Portal. If you find a $700 multi-city flight to Fiji or Australia, that would only be ~45k UR points in the portal – so it might be easier to just do that instead! They are almost impossible to find though, so I’ll focus on the Alaska flight for this instead. Always keep an eye out for cheap tickets though, and use your “flexible” points to book them!
In order to book this flight with Alaska miles, you’ll need to head to alaskaair.com and select “Use Miles” – you don’t need to have them yet, but that’s how you search for the available flights. I would search one-ways by segment (i.e. Los Angeles to Nadi first, then Nadi to Sydney/Auckland) so that you don’t run in to errors, and then write down the dates as you go. It helps a ton to check the “Use Award Calendar” box so that you can see all the available options by month and plan accordingly. Once you know the segments and itinerary you want, then select “All Search Options” so that you can build what’s called a “Multi-City” trip, putting in your stopover in Fiji. If you want, you can book it as two one-ways so that you can go Home – LAX – Fiji – Sydney, then come back Auckland – LAX – Home. Flights between Sydney and Auckland can be as low as $50 on Jetstar, so it’s easy to connect between the two.
You can book the whole itinerary online or call in and have a phone rep book it for you. There will be taxes and fees (non-U.S. airports always have airport taxes, you pay this whether it’s a cash fare or a points fare). It will likely be around $150 for the Fiji airport tax and the Sydney airport tax combined.
So now we know that 160k Alaska miles will get you $3000+ worth of flights to Fiji and Australia/New Zealand…but how in the world can you get that many Alaska miles? What about that 7 night stay at a 5 star resort that I was talking about? How much will that be? Aren’t hotels in Fiji really expensive? Simmer down and just keep reading, okay?!
If you haven’t read our Marriott Nights and Flights post, it might be worth a read. The Nights and Flights (N+F) package is seriously so incredible, and it’s going to save us/you for this trip. Since Alaska miles are notoriously hard to get (the credit card only offers 30k miles as a bonus), we are going to leverage the N+F program to get the miles we need to fly to Fiji and Australia and also get a 7-night stay at the brand new Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. If you would rather stay somewhere cheap in Fiji with cash and instead use your 7-night package in Australia, you could get 7 nights at the Sydney Harbour Marriott instead for the same cost in points. Your pick! For the sake of this post, I’m going to use Fiji as the example because of the possibility of an overwater bungalow (aka #1 thing on my bucket list).
The resort in Fiji is a Category 8, so it would cost you 240k Marriott points for just the hotel for 7 nights, or 360k Marriott Points to get the hotel plus 120k Alaska miles using the N+F package. Hopefully, now it’s starting to make sense. If you didn’t read our Marriott N+F post, basically Marriott allows you to get hotels and airline miles. Usually hotel to airline transfers are a bad idea, but in this case the miles are worth around 3x what your Mariott points are worth – so it’s an incredible deal that we have now used twice and highly recommend!
Here are some pictures of the resort from the Marriott website. The Marriott opened in April of this year and has its own lagoon, an amazing beach, and even overwater bungalows. You can’t reserve those bungalows directly with points, but if you happen to be on a honeymoon, anniversary trip, or have some sort of Marriott status through work, it’s likely you could score an upgrade to one of them at check-in! You also can pay a cash fee to upgrade rooms, so that might be worth it if an overwater bungalow is something you’ve always wanted to do.
If you’re like us, this is all sounding pretty incredible right now. You could stay there….for free?! You could actually do your dream trip to the South Pacific! It’s within your reach! Your itinerary would look something like this:
- Fly from any city in the U.S. to LAX (as part of your award flight)
- LAX to NAN (Nadi, Fiji airport) via Fiji Airways and stop there for as long as you want
- NAN to Sydney (your actual destination, so stop here for as long as you want)
- Pay $50 for a Jetstar (Australia’s low-cost carrier) flight from Sydney to Auckland (stay here as long as you want)
At this point, you’re in Auckland. If you want to add on something else (since you get a stopover on each one-way), you can use one of Alaska Airline’s other partners, Korean Air, and route Auckland – South Korea (stop) – LAX – home for 2.5k miles more, or you can just head on back to the U.S. using the same Fiji Airways route. Fiji Airways also flies to Honolulu, so you could technically do Auckland – Fiji – Honolulu (stop in Hawaii for awhile) – home. I’ll just show the rest of the itinerary heading home since I doubt most people have a full month off from work, but feel free to get creative (or email us with questions on how to do that!)
- Auckland-NAN-LAX (routes through Fiji, but no need to stop the second time)
- LAX back to your original departure city (still part of award flight)
You would have to either get other points for your stay in Australia/New Zealand or just do cheap AirBnbs, but the plan listed above will get you around $5000 worth of value including 7 nights at one of Fiji’s best resorts, plus flights all across the Pacific. Pretty incredible! If you do want more nights with points, see the “Bonus” section at the bottom of this post for other cool things you could get with cards in these places!
So what cards do I need to get to make this happen?
Since you need 360k Marriott points, this isn’t just a one-card trick. But with just 4 cards (2 per spouse, or if just one person is getting cards you can do the personal + business versions of each Marriott/SPG) you can actually book the nights and flights travel package! The travel package gets you one round trip to Fiji/Australia and a one-way (since it’s 120k miles for the package and two round trips is 160k), so you can either choose to pay cash for the other one-way ($300-$500) or you can get one more card to book that. I’ll assume most people will stop at 4 and just pay cash to round out their trip, so I’ll explain the four cards below. If this post is old, always remember to check our Best Credit Cards to know the best current method of getting the Marriott points needed for this trip. Remember that Starwood Hotel points (SPG) transfer to Marriott at a rate of 1:3, so we can use those to help us get to that huge required number of Marriott points. As always, if you are like us and can’t hit the spending requirements on all these cards, feel free to check out the FAQ where we talk about different methods of reaching it!
Marriott Rewards Card (Personal) #2 – 100k points. This one would be for your spouse/family member that is going on the trip with you. You can refer people with this card (usually ~6 months after getting it) but the referral bonus is not the 100k offer – so I would stick with the same application link above.
Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal) #1 – You can use our referral link here for 25k bonus points (75k Marriott) or try to find a 30k bonus link using an incognito browser. I haven’t been able to pull one up lately, but maybe you can!
Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal) #2 – this one would be for your spouse/family member. You can refer this person immediately from card #1 for an extra 5k SPG/15k Marriott.
If you are just doing this solo (or your spouse/SO/friend isn’t down to get cards), here are the links to the Marriott Business Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card:
Marriott Rewards Card (Business) – 80k points. Apply for the card at the Marriott website here.
Starwood Preferred Guest (Business) – 25k SPG/75k Marriott. You can use our referral link here or try to find a 30k bonus link using an incognito browser. I haven’t been able to pull one up lately for the Biz card either, but give it a shot!
After you hit the spending requirements on each of the cards, you will be at ~405k Marriott points. Pool them together, book your package, and you’ll still have around 40k Marriott points left over!
Getting to Australia and New Zealand isn’t cheap on its own. It would take you 3-4 airline cards to get enough points to for two round trip tickets, but using this guide you can get the flights AND a 7 night hotel stay at a 5-star resort for only four cards. It’s almost too good to be true!
We know that was a long guide, so let us know if you have any questions or if that didn’t make sense! And most importantly…enjoy the South Pacific!
If you find yourself really enjoying the points game and feel capable of hitting the minimum spend on more cards, what other cards would be good for this trip specifically?
Chase IHG Card
IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) is the parent company of Intercontinental (like a Ritz or JW), Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc. The sign-up bonus is 80k IHG points, but the real kicker of this card is that every year for a $49 annual fee you get a free night at any IHG property in the world. With their top-tier properties in Times Square, Paris, Hong Kong, and Fiji all qualifying, the annual benefits of the card are almost better than the sign-up bonus.
The Intercontinental Fiji is seriously gorgeous, and it’s only 40k IHG points per night. If you and a spouse/SO both get it, you’re looking at 4 free nights. If you wait over a year (so say get the cards now in April 2017 but visit in July 2018) then you would be able to do the two nights each from the sign-up bonus but ALSO one free annual night, for a total of 6 combined nights. The card isn’t under the 5/24 rule, so you can get it as one of your later ones if you want. Definitely one to consider!
If you can’t find an application link for the 80k offer, sign up for the 60k offer and use the “secure message” feature on Chase.com – tell them you know someone who just got an 80k offer (me!) and that you want to be matched to it. I’ve never known someone who has been denied the match for this particular card.
Chase Hyatt Card
I won’t review the card itself here since I already did a full review of the Hyatt card in the “Best Credit Cards” post, but…the Park Hyatt Sydney is one of the Top 5 nicest Hyatt properties in the world. The average nightly cost is $800+, and your room directly overlooks the Sydney Opera House. Getting to stay there 2 nights for free is an absolute dream, so something you might want to consider for a trip to Australia!