This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CardRatings.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. What is written in the article is the editor's opinion.
Oh my purness, I cannot wait to get back to Japan right meow. 😻
I’ll be back in early April – just in time to catch the end of cherry blossom season (!) according to the forecast.
I’ll fly there and back in American Airlines Business Class, Dallas nonstop to Tokyo. (I reviewed the First Class cabin last time).
I’ll be at the Hilton Tokyo again for 3 nights (here’s my review). And at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo for 4. Was hoping to stay at the Conrad Tokyo for at least 2 nights. But demand was too crazy, obvi.
Still, I paid ~$58 out-of-pocket for a trip that retails for nearly $15,000. My only expenses when I get there will be train fares, food food food, and admission to art museums.
Here’s how I booked it!
In This Post
To Tokyo with points, 2018 edition
My first time in Japan felt like the first of many. I fell in love with the people, culture, orderliness, and endless things to do in the capital city of Tokyo.
When I left, I shed a tear as the plane ascended (for real). I always want to go back to Japan. I want to see more cities, hot springs, and outer islands – but this trip is to get more acquainted with Tokyo.
And why not? You could spend a lifetime and never see it all – it’s like New York in that way.
I’m excited to be back in a couple of weeks. And as I reviewed the trip details, I realized I only paid $58 to spend a week in Tokyo, in addition to points & miles.
1. Flights for $58
Shock of shocks, American had fully wide-open award space to AND from Tokyo from Dallas. This route is definitely under lock and key – I’d even call it unicorn space. So when I saw the perfect flights in the middle of cherry blossom season, I went for it.
I used 54,000 American Airlines miles for the flight there. The taxes were only ~$6.
It’s actually 60,000 American miles each way. But because I have a Citi American Airlines card, I get 10% of my redeemed miles back per calendar year – up to 10,000 miles a year.
This rebate put a nice dent in the price. And made the card worth its while for yet another year.
I didn’t have enough American miles for the return flight. But, I had a storehouse of Alaska miles from flights, spending, promotions, and of course opening the Bank of America Alaska Visa a couple of times. 😉
But, you can book American flights between the US and Japan with 50,000 Alaska miles and ~$52 in taxes. So that’s what I used to get back home.
When I checked the retail cost of the flights, they were selling for $11,820. Ho-lee crap!
In this case, my 104,000 combined miles covered $11,762 ($11,820 – $58 in taxes). And were worth a staggering 11 cents each – that’s a fantastic deal!
Now, Japan Air Lines (JAL) operates the same route from Dallas to Tokyo. I’m going to check if I can do a lil switcharoo closer to time. Although I thought American First Class was actually fantastic.
So while I’d love to try a new airline, I’m mostly happy to go back to Japan. But that would def be icing on the cake. Fingers crossed!
2. Hotels for FREE
The other piece was hotels. I was awash with Hilton points from stays and card offers. And same for IHG points because of the Accelerate promotions. I’d been dinging up my Chase account with lots of Hyatt stays (like the Hyatt Regency Tamaya and Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta).
So while the Hyatt Regency Tokyo was available, I didn’t want to use more Chase or Hyatt points. So, in a blinding flash of fury (not really), I booked the Hilton Tokyo and ANA InterContinental Tokyo (3 and 4 nights, respectively).
- Link: Hilton Tokyo
I’ve always wanted to stay at the Conrad Tokyo but alas, nothing was open. And nights at the Hilton Tokyo were only 60,000 Hilton points each – a steal considering it’s peak season (and could’ve been much higher).
With taxes included, my 3 nights would’ve cost ~$1,590. But I paid 180,000 Hilton points instead.
In this case, each point was worth just under a cent each (.8). That’s not terrible for Hilton points – but I didn’t want to pay the cash rate. So, I went ahead and did it.
There are no taxes on award nights, so 180,000 Hilton points covered it all.
ANA InterContinental Tokyo
I’m excited to stay in a new part of the city. And booked 4 nights in Akasaka at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo.
The 4 nights would cost ~$1,550. But I used 200,000 IHG points. I didn’t mind using them because I earned most of them from business stays. Plus, I just got another free award night. So I was pretty happy about this award.
Again, there’s no co-pay because taxes are covered with points.
By the numbers
In total, this would cost:
- $11,820 for round-trip Business Class flights on American Airlines
- $1,590 for 3 nights at the Hilton Tokyo
- $1,550 for 4 nights at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo
- 54,000 American miles and ~$6
- 50,000 Alaska miles and ~$52
- 180,000 Hilton points
- 200,000 IHG points
In addition to points & miles, I only paid $58 out of pocket to spend a whole week in Tokyo during cherry blossom season.
Could I have done this cheaper? Sure. I could’ve flown coach instead of business. Or found a cheap paid flight – and saved all my miles.
I could’ve paid for a cheap Airbnb. Or used fewer Chase or Hyatt points.
But I get to visit Tokyo in style and stay at nice, centrally-located hotels in the middle of a gorgeous time for flowers and weather. In short, I paid to have an amazing experience.
Copy my playbook
1. American miles
If you want more American miles, there are some solid sign-up bonuses on Citi American Airlines cards.
Citi will NOT let you earn the bonus if you’ve opened or closed another American card in the last 24 months.
You can also get 50,000 American miles when you open the Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator card and make a single purchase within 90 days of account opening + pay the $95 annual fee.
All of these cards get you the 10% mileage rebate when you redeem for award flights – up to 10,000 miles back per year. I value that many miles for $200, which more than covers the annual fees. Plus, you get a free checked bag domestically, which can add up if you check bags when you fly.
2. Alaska miles
- Link: Bank of America Alaska personal card with 30,000 miles and $0 companion fare
- Link: Bank of America Alaska business card
I love these cards.
Bank of America now has a rolling 2/3/4 rule for personal cards (2 cards per rolling 2 months, 3 card per rolling 12 months, 4 cards per rolling 24 months).
But you can still get the small business version of the card every 90 days.
They keep me in great supply of Alaska miles. With both, you can earn 30,000 Alaska miles after you make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
The only difference is with the companion fares. The personal offer is for $0 plus taxes from $22. With the small business card, it’s $99 plus taxes ($121+).
3. Hilton points
So. Many. Ways.
That’s why I didn’t mind using them.
|No Annual Fee||Ascend||Aspire||Small Biz|
|Welcome offer||65,000 Hilton points||Up to 100,000 Hilton points: 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. |
Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus points after spending an additional $1,000 in purchases in the first 6 months
|100,00 Hilton points||Up to 100,000 Hilton points: 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
And 25,000 bonus points after spending another $1,000 in purchases in the first 6 months
|Minimum spending||$1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership||$3,000 total (see above)||$4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership||$4,000 total (see above)|
|Earning||- 7X at Hilton|
- 5X at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets
- 3X on other purchases
|- 12X at Hilton|
- 6X at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets
- 3X on other purchases
|- 14X at Hilton|
- 7X on on flights, select car rentals, and US restaurants
- 3X on other purchases
|- 12X at Hilton
- 6X at US gas stations, wireless phone service from US providers, US shipping purchases, US restaurants, flights, and select car rentals
- 3X on other purchases
|Notes||- Hilton Silver elite status||- Hilton Gold elite status|
- Free weekend night when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year
|- Hilton Diamond elite status|
- Free weekend night every cardmember year
- $250 in resort credits and $250 toward airline incidentals each cardmember year
- Free Priority Pass Select membership
|- Hilton Gold elite status
- Does NOT count toward Chase 5/24
|Link||Learn more here.||Learn more here.||Learn more here.||Learn more here.|
4. IHG points
- Link: Chase IHG – Compare it here
You can get 60,000 IHG points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Plus, you get a free night at ANY IHG hotel in the world every year when you renew your card.
There’s a $49 annual fee, but I always get way more than that back with the free night. Last year, I spend 2 nights in New York that would’ve otherwise cost $500.
This card is NOT under 5/24 and is a no-brainer to keep every year with the free night.
I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo! I used a lot of points. But saved a ton of cash. I can’t believe this trip would’ve cost nearly $15,000, when I paid a measly $58.
This time around, I plan to focus squarely on Tokyo. Perhaps next time, I can visit Sapporo, Hiroshima, or Mount Fuji. But I think Tokyo deserves to be its own destination at least once, don’t you?
I found an excellent free online guide packed with information, things to do, and how to plan.
I’m proud about this award trip and looking forward to be back in Japan – in a little over 2 weeks! Aside from the usual touristy stuff (cat and robot cafes, Tokyo Tower, Yoyogi Park), are there are fun local places I should add to my list? (Yup, still using Todoist to plan out my travels.)
BEST Current Credit Card Deals
- Chase Ink Business Preferred - Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points! and 3X bonus points for travel, internet, and all Plastiq payments! Compare it here.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred - Earn 50,000 Chase points with the BEST card for beginners. Compare it here.
- Blue Business Plus Amex - 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points! Learn more here. - The BEST card for 2X on everyday spending.