Does this plan for business tickets to Japan make sense?

Hi everyone,

I’m a points newbie (only one card and never have redeemed any points) and for the past few month’s I’ve been trying to find a way to use points to travel business from Perth to Tokyo for me and my wife.

I seem to have found a relatively cheap way, but I’m afraid I might be missing some additional fees or T&C’s that would destroy my plan.

  1. I currently have an Explorer Amex card. I got 100k signup bonus and after almost a year using it I’m currently at 165k points.

  2. I was thinking for me and my wife to sign up for the DJ Amex Card to get 50k each if we go via a referral. My wife doesn’t earn enough to meet the Explorer criteria and apparently I could still get the bonus points even if I already have an Explorer card.

  3. I would need to transfer my wife’s 50k to my account at a cost of $250 ($5 per every thousand points) and that would bring my total to 265k points.

  4. Use 180k points to get the Marriot Hotel + Airline Travel package as per this guide

  5. That would leave me with 85k Amex points, 120k AA Miles and the 7 nights Marriot voucher.

  6. Business tickets to Tokyo are 40k AA miles each way (160k for return tickets for two). At this point I’m 40k aa miles short. I can transfer 80k Amex points to SPG for 40k SPG points which I can then turn into 50K AA miles to get me to 170k AA miles.

  7. There are no Category 5 Marriott hotels in Tokyo but there is a Category 6. According to this table I would need 30k Marriot points to upgrade. I could get that with 10k SPG points which I can get from 20k Amex points. At this point I would only have 5k Amex points left, so I was thinking of buying the other 15k for 1c per point at some Classifieds website. That would be $150 total.

In the end, I would be spending:

  • $99 fee for the DJ Amex Card x 2 = $198
  • Transfer fee to get my wife’s points = $250
  • Buying 15k points at 1c per point = $150
  • Transfer fee for the 15k points = $75
  • Taxes for the AA flights = around $400

Total: ~$1100

Considering that economy return flights to Tokyo are around $600 each when on sale, this seems like a decent deal since I’m getting business tickets and a hotel for a week for $100 less.

Some of the things that worry me is that the Explorer points are Gateway ones, so I don’t know if that would affect me. Also, the 40k miles per ticket seems to be for the MileSAAver program and I don’t know if I need to get a specific card in order to be considered.

Anyway, it’s quite a long post, so any help would be greatly appreciated.



Firstly, I commend you for doing such an ‘advanced’ plan for a ‘beginner’ (as you have mentioned you have only had 1 card and zero redemption experience). Great job so far. Your plan sounds pretty good so far. My BIL and myself have done similar redemptions to Tokyo too on separate occasions.

Marriott Travel Packages are a great deal. So it is a great steal, in my books at least.

Here are some comments I have after reading your question.

  1. Best to double check with Amex on signup bonus eligibility before applying. Get it in writing or note down the name of the agent over the phone in case you don’t get the signup bonus.
    Amex income criterion is usually household income (i.e. combination of yours and wife’s) so her lower income isn’t a problem.
    So you could even refer your wife for amex explorer. Get 30k for yourself and 100k for your wife. This gets you up to 295k MRG. That should give you a bit more points to play with.

  2. You could save yourself the amex transfer fee as you are planning to transfer to SPG by transferring your wife’s amex points to her SPG account and then you can transfer from her SPG account to yours for free (need to have shared the same home address for 30 days).

Be careful on buying points from classified, online websites, etc. If discovered, it may void the T&C. Worst case is, your account gets frozen. May not happen. But be wary. If it’s from family, its less of a risk.

You don’t need to be a member or hold a card to redeem Milesaver. It just means there are less of these seats available because it costs less points. If you are flexible with the travel dates, this shouldnt be much of a problem.

Good luck.

SPG is quite strict in regards to accounts must share the same address for 30 days. If you’re going down that path, I suggest you and your wife create an SPG account straightaway. However I read it somewhere that Marriott lets you pool account with your spouse/other to redeem the Air+Stay package if your account don’t have enough points, need to further research as I’m not 100% sure.

Well good luck with your redemption as I’ve recently just redeemed two pax return flights in business from Melbourne to Phnom Penh for this coming December with United Mileage Plus. Very excited as this is my first redemption ever and so glad I found out about Marriott air+stay package as this is the best value redemption for me.