Our Twitter reader Chris asked us for help with planning his upcoming 6-day/5-night trip from Washington DC to London in October with his girlfriend to celebrate his graduation from graduate school (Congrats, Chris!). I thought that this topic might be helpful to some of our other readers who might be considering a similar trip.
Chris has a few areas of concerns:
- Chris has two Chase cards (UA Explorer & Sapphire Preferred) and will have about 50,000 United miles + 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points; his girlfriend has the Sapphire Preferred Card and will have about 30,000 United miles + 50,000 Chase UR points. They would like to fly business class, but are considering outbound in business (50,000 miles) & inbound in economy (30 miles) on United flights.
- Chris is wondering what he can do to minimize spending on hotels.
- Chris and his girlfriend might be buying a home in two years, and are unsure of whether they should apply for multiple credit cards right now.
Before I address flights and hotels, I just want to quickly talk about Chris’ third question regarding credit. Assuming that Chris and his girlfriend both have credit scores of 720 or more and have not applied for another credit card in the past 3+ months, I would suggest that they do consider applying for more cards for their trip to London. The impact on their credit scores would not be an issue in two years.
Here are the cards I would consider applying on the same day (but select only one from each bank/issuer, except for Citi), and I will talk about the details later in this post. Again, I do NOT earn any commission, if you decide to apply for the cards using the links included in my various posts.
- Chase: United Explorer (50,000 bonus miles + $50 credit after 1st purchase), Hyatt Visa (2 free nights anywhere after 1st purchase), Priority Club Select Visa (80,000 bonus points after 1st purchase)
- Citi: American Airlines Visa + American Express (using two-browser trick to get 100,000 AA miles)
- Barclays: USAirways MasterCard (40,000 USAirways miles after 1st purchase)
Flights Using United Miles + Chase Points:
- United outbound: Washington Dulles (IAD) to London Heathrow (LHR), 50,000 miles + $2.50 in fees per person for business class.
- United inbound: LHR to IAD, 30,000 miles + ~$180 in taxes/fees for economy, and 50,000 miles + ~$280 for business.
- British Airways inbound (Chase UR points can also be transferred to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio): LHR to IAD, 40,000 points + ~$550 for business; or 20,000 points + ~$360 for economy.
- If you use British Airways for the return, you are paying $180 to save 10,000 points for economy, and $270 to save 10,000 points for business.
- For Chris & his girlfriend, if they want to fly business both ways, his girlfriend might need to apply for her own United Explorer card to receive another 50,000 miles (the public offer gives you only 25,000 bonus miles after 1st purchase, but if you log into your account at united.com first, and then click on this link you should be able to get 50,000 miles + $50 statement credit after first purchase). [Update (8:15am PST, 4/17/12): there is now a better offer - 55,000 miles + $50 credit if you add an authorized user and make one purchase on that additional card. Again, log in to your United account, and then copy and paste the following link directly into your browser to get the offer - https://www.theexplorercard.com/MPConsumer65k50AFWIC.aspx. You might have to hit refresh a few times! If you have applied for this card in the past 90 days, you can call or send a secured message through Chase.com to politely ask for a match.]
Other Flight Options:
- American Airlines: Off-peak (October 15 – May 15) one-way economy ticket between the US and Europe for 20,000 miles. See my post on AA off-peak redemption and how to easily receive 100,000 AA miles per person.
- USAirways: Off-peak (January 16 – February 28) round-trip ticket between the US and Europe for 30,000 miles in economy and 55,000 miles in business/first. See my post on USAirways off-peak redemption and how to receive 40,000 USAirways miles per person.
- For those of you interested, you can read OneMileAtATime’s recent post on how to use 25,000/50,000 British Airways Avios points for a round-trip ticket in economy/business between Boston and Ireland (Dublin or Shannon).
- For Chris and his girlfriend, if they are flexible on when they go on their trip or their destination, they can utilize some of the alternative flight options listed above. To avoid the hefty fees charged by London Heathrow airport, they could also consider flying back from Paris (a saving of at least $100 per person).
- As you can tell from my post on how we booked our hotels for our 2011 Italy trip, we really benefited from having the Hyatt Visa card. For Chris & his girlfriend, I have heard that the location of the top-tier Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill is not convenient, but free is free, right?
- Alternatively, Chris can consider buying some Choice points to get hotel stays in London for ~$30/night, as detailed in my post on Daily Getaways 2012.
- Also, Chris and his girlfriend can consider signing up for the Chase Priority Club Visa card, as mentioned here and here.