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How I used 75,000 Chase points to fly business class to New Zealand

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When I first started at The Points Guy all the way back in 2011, it wasn’t unusual for me to spot a mileage deal, grab my suitcase and hop on a plane at the drop of a hat. These days, however, I’m more likely to plan ahead and plot out each trip I take moment by moment well in advance (mainly so I don’t annoy my partner with the frequent disappearing acts!).

However, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take up some of my old ways last month when my colleagues at TPG presented me with the challenge of using 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to maximum effect.

Why 75,000 Chase points, you might ask?

Well, two of the best travel rewards credit cards are currently offering just that number of welcome bonus points at the moment. For a limited time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (which I carry) are both offering new applicants 75,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points after they spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Katie Genter leveraged Chase’s valuable airline and hotel transfer partners and used her passel of 75,000 points for a last-minute all-inclusive Mexico getaway, and Tanner Saunders stretched his 75,000 points for a weekend jaunt to Greece, thanks to transfers to Emirates and Hyatt.

For me, I decided on one huge points splurge for my fly-by-night adventure, not to overcomplicate a very short, very spontaneous trip.

Here’s my take on using 75,000 points to hop down to New Zealand for an incredible weekend of wine, hiking and big-city fun in Auckland.

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Picking a destination

One of the conditions of using 75,000 Chase points for this challenge was deciding on a trip and then taking it … all within a matter of about 10 days. Even so, thanks to Chase’s many airline and hotel transfer partners, I almost had too many options.

I could have transferred points to Virgin Atlantic to book a quick round-trip to the U.K. (in economy, premium economy or Upper Class — though I was wary of high taxes and fees) on Virgin itself, or to Rome on its partner, ITA Airways.

I also considered converting the Chase points to Flying Blue miles and flying Air France or KLM to various cities in Europe, including Prague and Budapest. I briefly considered transferring them to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and using the miles to tag on a business-class flight from New York to Frankfurt after some business meetings on the East Coast.

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But then I came across a rare award ticket that was just too hard to pass up.

Transferring Chase points to Aeroplan for an Air New Zealand award

While determinedly searching through possible destinations, I stumbled upon a veritable treasure trove of Air New Zealand business-class award availability from both Los Angeles and San Francisco to Auckland in April. Return tickets were also available, but because of some previously made plans and the number of points I had at my disposal, I was only considering a one-way ticket.

Thanks to Chase’s specific transfer partners, I had two main options, but only one would work with the parameters of this particular challenge.

Air New Zealand is a member of the Star Alliance, so two of the best options for booking awards via Chase transfer partners on Air New Zealand-operated flights are using either United Airlines MileagePlus miles or Air Canada Aeroplan points.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

In this particular case, a one-way Air New Zealand award ticket from San Francisco to Auckland on the day I wanted to fly would have cost either 110,000 United miles plus $43 in taxes and fees or 75,000 Air Canada points plus 129 Canadian dollars ($93) in taxes and fees. So for just $50 more in cash outlay, I was saving myself 35,000 points … and staying within the budget of 75,000 Chase points.

AIRCANADA.COM

TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.05 cents apiece, so redeeming 75,000 of them was the equivalent of paying around $1,537.50 for my ticket, if you want to look at it that way. By contrast, airfare for the flight I took was over $6,000! So by using points, I was getting my trip at a significant discount … and getting about 8 cents per Chase point in value. Talk about maximizing them.

Flying Air New Zealand to Auckland

On the day of my flight, I arrived at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) about four hours before my 9 p.m. departure time. Not only did I want to have some time at the airport to wrap up a few assignments before my flight, but my Air New Zealand business-class ticket also entitled me to access the swanky United Polaris lounge.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

I’ve previously been lucky enough to spend several long layovers at this particular lounge, which sprawls across two levels and is over 28,000 square feet, so I knew the treats that were in store. First, I spent some time in the quiet section on the lower level, wrapping up my work for the day.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Then, I headed upstairs to have a glass of wine at the buzzing cocktail bar before perusing the dishes laid out along the buffet.

Ultimately, I decided to sit in the more formal dining room instead and have a light preflight meal of crabcakes with remoulade and green pea-asparagus soup with fried leeks and creme fraiche along with a splash of Hanna Winery sauvignon blanc.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Time was getting short, so I went back downstairs for a refreshing shower in one of the lounge’s shower suites, which are currently stocked with Therabody hair care and skin care products, and then it was time to board my flight.

Now, Air New Zealand doesn’t have the most cutting-edge business class out there. In fact, it’s pretty outdated at this point if you want to get picky about it. The seats are old-school herringbone-style fixtures angled away from the windows that were all the rage about a decade ago, but which have since been phased out by a lot of airlines in favor of more private, suite-style installations like Delta One Suites and Qatar Airways’ Qsuite.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for this product, dubbed Business Premier, since I covered its introduction back in 2013. That made my flight a little trip down nostalgia lane. And let’s be serious, it’s still a mighty fine way to head all the way to New Zealand.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Aside from the seats, though, part of why I have always enjoyed flying Air New Zealand is the range of soft products passengers get to enjoy on board. Though simple, the amenity kit contained Aotea skincare products infused with soothing harakeke seed oil.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

The menu included New Zealand flavors like smoked salmon with green-olive tapenade and slow-cooked lamb shank with balsamic glaze, roasted sweet potatoes, minted peas and lingonberry compote — not to mention fabulous wines like Wither Hills Benmorven chardonnay and Te Kairanga pinot noir to pair with the dishes.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

After dinner, the flight attendants flipped my seat over to perform their signature turndown service, and dressed the lie-flat bed with a breathable fitted sheet, a mattress pad, a duvet and a large pillow. I dozed off until breakfast service began about eight hours later.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

I tucked into smoked salmon Benedict, fresh fruit and a fortifying cappuccino, and by the time we landed just after 5 a.m., I was ready to tackle my first day in Auckland.

Auckland and Waiheke Island

I’d burned through all my allotted Chase points for a restful flight over in Air New Zealand business class, but that meant I could budget a little more for lodging and activities during my quick trip. Ever a sucker for a new hotel, I booked a room at the InterContinental Auckland, which just opened in January. My room was even ready when I arrived just before 7 a.m.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Contemporary and sleek, the InterContinental Auckland is a great choice for business travelers since it’s in the city’s central business district near many of the main office towers.

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However, leisure travelers will enjoy it as well since it sits at the end of Queen Street near the historic Ferry Building and a quick walk from the trendy boutiques and restaurants of Britomart in one direction, and the happening bars and cafes of Viaduct Harbour and the Wynyard Quarter in the other. It’s also attached to the Commercial Bay shopping center, which has a lot of upscale shops and a food court with plenty of stalls serving everything from Vietnamese and Korean to Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisine.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Although I’ve been to Auckland many times before, I’ve never ascended its iconic Sky Tower, which was just a 15-minute walk away. So, around midmorning, I headed there to take in the stunning panoramic views of the city and its harbor.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

After, I popped by the classic cafe Melba for a hearty lunch of halloumi salad and then browsed souvenir shops and galleries along Queen Street for small gifts.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

I found the hotel’s location to be particularly convenient because the next day, I could simply walk across the street to the Ferry Building, purchase a ticket and hop on the boat to Waiheke Island, a scenic 40-minute journey away.

Although I could have hired a car or taxi to explore the island, everything I wanted to do was within walking or hiking distance. First, I stopped in the adorable, beachy hamlet of Oneroa for a coffee and a quiet moment on its expansive beach.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Then, I walked across a narrow part of the island to Huruhi Bay, then up along tree-shaded paths to the Allpress olive oil boutique for a tasting of oils and olives before a glass of pinot gris at Cable Bay, which has sweeping views of Waitemata Harbour and Auckland in the distance.

A short stroll from there brought me to Mudbrick Vineyard, whose breezy restaurant is my favorite spot for a sun-splashed lunch on the island. I ordered the Hauraki snapper with curried mussels and a fennel-grapefruit salad, which was ultrafresh and tasty, especially with a chilled glass of the winery’s reserve chardonnay.

After lunch, it was time to catch the late-afternoon ferry back to the city so I could meet a dear old friend for dinner at a chic new restaurant in the neighborhood of Epsom called The Emerald.

I spent the next morning walking around Te Komititanga Plaza next to the hotel since there was a fair of sorts going on, with folks selling everything from handmade jewelry to homemade pastries (of which I ate far too many).

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the airport for the next leg of my journey, a previously planned work trip to Hong Kong.

Was my trip to New Zealand worth it?

I realize this type of trip is not everyone’s cup of tea — redeeming a big stash of points for an over-the-top one-way award ticket.

After all, you’ve got to get home (or to your next destination) somehow, too. Flying 12 hours in each direction for a short getaway is probably not in the cards for most folks, either. Honestly, it’s not typical for me at this point. I prefer to stretch my points to their ultimate elasticity, stringing out trips for as long as possible … with a touch of luxury thrown in, if I’m able.

However, this is the type of trip that reminds me why I got into points and miles in the first place: to say yes to the world’s adventures.

The ability to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice and visit a place you never thought you would get to — or revisit one that holds wonderful memories — perfectly encapsulates the value I’ve been able to find in points and miles in my career as a travel writer and editor.

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Plus, I might have used all my points on my business-class ticket, but saving that money on airfare meant I had a bigger budget for my hotel, activities and dining so that I could make the most of my short time on the ground and chalk up another memorable trip to one of my favorite destinations.

Even if you wouldn’t use 75,000 points like I did, hopefully this highlights one of the ways you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for fantastic value — and it’s just one of many, many avenues for doing so, thanks to the program’s phenomenal airline and hotel transfer partners.

The current limited-time 75,000-point welcome offers for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are truly worth considering whether you’re new to the world of travel rewards or looking to get to the next level of your travel strategy.

And while I redeemed the full value of the bonus on a fun, last-minute airline ticket to New Zealand, the bonus is just the beginning. Take advantage of these cards’ tremendous earning potential to boost your points balance even higher in no time, and then take advantage of their comprehensive travel protections to make sure you’re covered when you finally get out in the world to enjoy all the travel opportunities Chase points can unlock.



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