Burning nearly a million points for 2.5 Weeks in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan



Australia and New Zealand have been on my bucket list for over 10+ years now ever since Lord of the Rings came out.  I just wanted to see the beautiful New Zealand landscape in person.  I also wanted to visit Australia to see the Sydney Opera House, see some kangaroos and koala bears, and maybe visit the Great Barrier Reef.  Well it turns out my wife doesn’t like to scuba, so the reef was out of the picture.  Thus, we stuck to land-based things.

In hindsight, we should have saved Tokyo for another time and spent all the time in Australia and New Zealand. The reason for that is because we were thinking of doing a separate trip to Japan/Korea,and so the time spent in Tokyo could have been spent in Melbourne or somewhere else in Australia.


2 Business class tickets from Seattle to Sydney

  • Retail Cost – $4,000 per ticket so $8,000 total
  • Realistic Cost – I probably would have paid like $1000 in coach per person
  • Cash Cost – $47 (MR -> DL xfer) + $56 (airport taxes) = $103 total
  • Points Used – 80K Delta miles x 2 = 160K total

I initially wrote about how I booked this flight back in January of 2015.  I don’t know how availability looks these days, but it’s really one of the best uses of your Delta Skymiles.  I earned those MR points through AMEX Platinum signup bonuses, so those miles were essentially free.  I did have to pay $47 to convert those MR points to Skymiles and then pay 80K miles + $28 per person.


 2 nights at Park Hyatt Sydney

  • Retail Cost – $769 x 2 = $1,538
  • Realistic Cost – $150 x 2 = $300
  • Cash Cost – $0
  • Points Used – 2 free award nights

My wife had never signed up for the Chase Hyatt card, so I made sure to wait for a good use of those 2 free nights before applying for the card.  The Park Hyatt Sydney is renowned to be the best hotel in Sydney and one of the top 5 Hyatt redemptions worldwide.


2 coach tickets from Sydney to Queenstown

  • Retail Cost – $260 x 2 = $520
  • Points Used – 52K Arrival points
  • Manufactured Cost – $118

So expensive for a 3 hour flight.  I made the mistake of not booking earlier else it would have been less than $200 per person.  I used my Arrival points from all my USBuxx and NWBuxx loads, so the MS cost was $118.


3 nights at Hilton Queenstown

  • Retail Cost – $201 x 3 = $603
  • Realistic Cost – $100 x 3 = $300
  • Cash Cost – $115 x 3 = $345 * 90% = $310
  • Points Used – 20K x 3 = 60K

The normal points rate is 50K HH points a night, but the points and cash was 20K pts + $115.  I decided to do the points and cash redemption since I was running low on HH points and my Citi TY Premier had a 10% off promo at Hilton.


2 coach tickets from Queenstown to Auckland

  • Retail Cost – $146 x 2 = $292
  • Points Used – 29K Arrival points
  • Manufactured Cost – $66

Another short 2 hour flight paid for using my Arrival points.


1 AirBnB night in Hamilton New Zealand

  • Retail Cost – $150 + $66 (for upgrade) = $216
  • Realistic Cost – $100
  • Cash Used – $75 + $66 (for upgrade) = $141

Used my 50% AMEX Offer for AirBnB.  Couldn’t use AirBnB GC for the upgrade however.


2 nights at Hilton Auckland

  • Retail Cost – $211 x 2 = $422
  • Realistic Cost – $100 x 2 = $200
  • Cash Cost – $0
  • Points Used – 60K x 2 = 120K
  • Manufactured Cost – $235

Not that great of a points redemption (0.35 per HH,) but it was my last 120K HH points.  I had manufactured these points a long time ago using the AMEX HH Surpass at 6X groceries.  I’m down to only 5K HH points, so I don’t think I’ll be staying at any Hiltons in a long time.


2 First class tickets from Auckland to Abu Dhabi to Tokyo

  • Retail Cost – $6,500 per ticket to AUH + $5800 to NRT so $12,300 pp x 2 = $24,600
  • Realistic Cost – I probably would have paid like $500 in coach per person direct from AKL to NRT
  • Cash Cost – $71 x 2 = $142
  • Points Used – 60K + 45k = $105K x 2 = 210K total

This was a RIDICULOUS routing. The only reason I did it was to experience Etihad’s First Aparments.  Now that I’ve experienced it, I won’t make this kind of detour again.  Even the AMEX Centurion lounge guy in Sydney asked, “Why are you flying to AUH to get to NRT?”  I was too embarrassed to answer him truthfully.  I got the 210K AA miles from the 100K Citi AA Exec days (was able to bang out 7 of those for wife and I,) so anytime I can burn AA miles, I’m all for it.


4 nights at Park Hyatt Tokyo

  • Retail Cost – $433 x 4 = $1732
  • Realistic Cost – $100 x 4 = $400
  • Cash Cost – $0
  • Points Used – 30K x 4 = 120K
  • Manufactured Cost – $806

This manufactured cost is a bit inflated since I’ve been using my Ink elsewhere besides an office supply store, but let’s just assume it cost me that much.


2 Singapore Suites First class tickets from Tokyo to Los Angeles

  • Retail Cost – $4,500 per ticket x 2 = $9,000
  • Realistic Cost – I probably would have paid like $1,000 in coach per person
  • Cash Cost – $272 x 2 = $544
  • Points Used – 74,375 x 2 = 148,750K total

This was the 2nd flight I booked after booking the outbound trip to Australia, just because I wanted to experience Singapore Suites class.  You know the one with the Asian dude in the double beds.  I earned the 150K points from the AMEX Platinum signups, so let’s call them free although they weren’t technically free.


2 coach tickets from Los Angeles to Seattle

  • Retail Cost – $82 x 2 = $164
  • Cash Cost – $114 (I had a $50 discount code from my BoA Alaska Visa)

Hey, I had to get back to Seattle somehow, right?  I was going to use my Arrival+ card, but I used my Alaska Visa instead.



Total Retail cost – $46,923

Realistic cost – $7,112

Cash + Manufactured Cost – $1,764

Total Points redeemed – 930K Total points (160K Delta, 210K AA, 149K Singapore, 210K HH, 120K Hyatt, 81K Arrival +)


Wow so close to a million points used.  Remember, not all points are created equal, so going around saying I used a million points is misleading.  If I had used points at the PH Sydney and used A+ points for the last flight, it might have hit a million though.  Then again, some of those tours did count as an A+ redemption.  I didn’t include my car rentals, Ubers, or shuttles, which I should have since those were probably an additional ~$500.  Food costs definitely not included.  Let me know if you have questions.

  • Noah @ Money Metagame

    Great recap, I love seeing the point and cash cost breakdown for big trips like this!

  • Hey Vinh, did you receive credit from Amex for the Airbnb Amex Offer yet? I’m still waiting after purchasing gift cards.

    • Miles per Day

      Nope. Still haven’t. People are doing secure chat to get it done. I did that for my Biz Gold before I cancelled it. Credited in 3 days. I’m going to have to do that for my Plat card before I cancel it too. What a mess.

      • No kidding. I did a chat back in Nov/Dec and rep told me to wait the 90 days written in terms. Love the blog btw.

  • Andy

    So EY or SQ?

    • Miles per Day

      I’ll have separate posts on each later, but you really can’t go wrong with either. They are different experiences; if you forced my hand, I’d say EY.