I’ll be upfront and preface that the exact methods I used to secure two roundtrip tickets to Japan in first class will not be available for everyone, but the same process will work for those of you earning or preparing to earn American Express Membership Rewards points.
Targeted Offer for the Amex Platinum Business Card:
About a year ago, my brother received a targeted offer in the mail from American Express for their Platinum Business Card. The terms stated that if he signed up and spent $20,000 in 3 months, he would receive 150,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. Talk about a lucrative offer! Although the offer was addressed to his personal business, Amex allows you to change the name on the application as long as you have the same permanent address…indeed we did. Since he didn’t want the offer, I went ahead and applied and was instantly approved! Since then, there are still targeted offers upwards of 100,000 points for the Platinum Business Card, and if you find one in the mail, I highly suggest grabbing it while you can.
Meeting the Spend:
As someone who doesn’t spend anywhere near $20,000 in 3 months, I had to improvise. I took advantage of buying the My PayPal gift cards in $500 increments at CVS while they were still around. I was also planning a wedding and the timing was perfect to pay for some of the high expenses that were incurred. Some of the more recent targeted offers from Amex no longer require such a high spend so keep your eye out for one of those. After completing the spend, I found myself with a total of 170,000 Membership Rewards points!
Booking Two Roundtrip Flights in First Class on ANA:
The perfect storm hit back in November when the $450 annual fee was coming up again for the Platinum card. At that time, there also happened to be a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. My wife had expressed a strong interest to visit Japan, and although I’d visited before, I really enjoyed my time there and was more than willing to make another trip. Virgin Atlantic is pretty well known for their flights to London and charging a massive surcharge on their award bookings, but after doing some digging on their award chart, I found a sweet spot where I could book a partner award ticket in ANA first class for only 110,000 points roundtrip from LA to Tokyo!
Sure enough, my 170,000 Membership Rewards points earned from the Platinum Card plus the 30% transfer bonus netted me a total of 221,000 points; just enough for two roundtrip tickets in first class to Japan!
The hardest part of this exercise is finding two tickets in first class for both legs around the dates I wanted. Luckily enough, after perusing United’s award calendar, I found two tickets roundtrip from Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda at the end of August. Keep in mind that you cannot redeem the points for a one way ticket. I called Virgin Atlantic and spoke to a highly competent agent who knew exactly how to book the award for me. He confirmed the availability over the phone and completed the booking for 220,000 Flying Club points and $170. I added an additional leg on the return from Osaka to Haneda for 15,000 points, 7.5k for the each of us, and was told that I couldn’t add the leg as part of the itinerary. Thus, I transferred 15,000 Chase points to Virgin Atlantic to complete the booking.
A quick search for a first class roundtrip ticket on ANA for those same dates runs just north of $16,000! Just like that, one credit card bonus allowed my wife and I to take advantage of $32,000 in travel and will hopefully provide us with a trip we’ll never forget. This is why I love learning and sharing about the world of points and hopefully helping others do the same.
I know many of you won’t be receiving targeted offers from American Express for 150,000 point sign up bonuses, however, if you have or are earning Membership Rewards points and are looking for a steal on a first class trip to Asia, look no further than utilizing Virgin Atlantic to book ANA first class. Amex often offers bonuses when transferring points to airline partners, so keep an eye out for the next one!