In this three-part series, Sydney-based Ricardo outlines how he accumulated points to book a premium cabin flight on Singapore Airlines and stay at five different hotels in Tokyo.

Ricardo’s case study

Part 1: About me and how I accumulate points
Part 2: How I used points for my Singapore Airlines flight
Part 3: How I redeemed points for my hotels in Tokyo

Why do I use points?

I’ve always dreamt of being able to travel the world in style and staying at luxury hotels but like most people, I just couldn’t afford it. That is, until I found out about the wonderful world of points and miles redemptions about three years ago.

Krug Champagne

Frequent flyer points, when used to maximum value, allow you to fly like this without breaking the bank

Since then I’ve been to 48 countries (and counting), enjoyed some of the most sought-after airline seats and stayed at some of the top hotel brands in the world, all for a fraction of the retail price.

‘Is it really possible?’, my stunned friends often ask me. Yes, it is, and I want to show you how.

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Trip planning

Tokyo is my favourite city in the world and growing up playing Japanese games and watching Samurai movies, I had always dreamed about visiting. And after watching Lost in Translation more times than I can count, I made it my life’s mission to one day stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, have a drink at that rooftop bar and swim in their rooftop pool à la Bill Murray.

Tokyo skyline

I’m obsessed with Tokyo’s skyline at night

And while I had the opportunity of visiting Japan once before a few years earlier as a broke student flying Economy Class and staying at bedbug-infested hostels, I promised myself that the next time I was in town, I’d stay in style.

With that in mind, I had two goals for this one-week trip: fly Singapore Airlines’ A380 fabled Suites Class and stay at both the Park Hyatt and the newer Andaz Tokyo.

Scene from movie Lost in Translation

The view I dreamed about having from my room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, thanks to Scarlett Johansson

However, since I’m a Hilton Diamond member and had saved a sizeable amount of Hilton Honors points, I decided I’d stay at and review the three major Hilton properties in Tokyo as well: Hilton Shinjuku, Conrad Tokyo and Hilton Tokyo Odaiba.

Being a Hilton Diamond member gets you free room upgrades and breakfast as well as lounge access and late check-outs.

My goal? To achieve all of this on a budget of less than US$1000 (~AU$1400).

Accumulating the points

As it’s often the case, credit card sign-up bonuses are the fastest way of accumulating points. Since I was based in the US at the time, I had access to a different portfolio of cards that are not all available in the Australian market, however, there are Australian equivalents which are sometimes offering much higher sign-up bonuses than their American counterparts—who said Aussies don’t have access to the best offers?

I used my American Express Platinum card sign-up bonus to pay for my flight

So I applied for the American Express Platinum Card, netting 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, enough to cover my flight and then some.

I could also transfer my American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors, which would cover a big portion of my Hilton stays.

I recommend people to carry cards that earn flexible points currencies such as the American Express Explorer and Citi Prestige, which don’t tie you to a single airline and are both transfer partners of Singapore’s KrisFlyer program, making premium class redemptions with them much easier and faster.

You can read our set of guide to the Krisflyer Miles program here.

Summing up

Planning a big trip with points and miles takes time and dedication but nothing gives me a more rewarding feeling than knowing I’m flying in a premium class for next to nothing!

In the next part, I’ll detail exactly how I went about researching and booking my flight.

Case study: How I did a luxury Tokyo trip of a lifetime for less than US$1000 (Part 1) was last modified: January 27th, 2022 by Ricardo Mansur