You can get to China and Hong Kong for as little as 60,000 miles. So save your cash for a nice new bespoke suit from the world famous tailors of Hong Kong. Or head straight to Beijing and start your journey in the Middle Kingdom with a trip to the Great Wall. With the right rewards credit card, you can earn enough with just the sign-up bonus.
To figure out the cost of award flights and the best programs to use, I looked at a variety of routes between major hubs in China and the U.S. The results may be slightly different depending on your itinerary. For more details and to design a customized strategy, check out RewardExpert.
The Fastest Ways to Get There For Free
This is the list of the best cards to get and the best frequent flyer programs to use your points or miles with to get to China and Hong Kong:
|Card||Time to Save||Sign-Up Bonus||Frequent Flyer Program||Cost of Award Flight|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||3 months||100,000 points||United MileagePlus||70,000 miles|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles||15 months||50,000 miles||Delta SkyMiles||70,000 miles|
|SPG Amex||16 months||25,000 points||ANA Mileage Club||60,000 miles|
To calculate the amount of time it will take, we assumed a $1,500-a-month spend on the credit card and that each dollar spent earns only earn 1 point or mile. Many cards offer extra points or miles for certain purchases, which will cut down the time.
Of course these three cards and frequent flyer programs are only part of the story. There are a lot of other options for earning the miles you’ll need to get to China. Some of them are below.
The Cheapest Flights
Below is a list of the frequent flyer programs offering the cheapest award flights. I’ve included the estimated cost, which may vary based on your exact routing.
|Frequent Flyer Program||Miles||Estimated Fees||Partner Airlines to Avoid Due to High Fees|
|ANA Mileage Club||60,000||$40-$70||EVA Air, Air China, ANA, Swiss, Asiana|
|JAL Mileage Bank||65,000||$80||Air France, British Airways|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||65,000||$45|
|Delta SkyMiles||70,000||$45-$95||China Eastern|
|British Airways Executive Club||70,000||$120||British Airways, American|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||80,000||$90||China Eastern, Aeroflot|
All of these programs have a variety of partner airlines which you may be flying on when you book an award flight, and all of them add taxes and fees to award tickets. In some cases those fees can be prohibitively high, adding up to several hundred dollars.
I’ve included the airlines in the list above that you should avoid so you won’t get stuck paying too much in fees. Be sure to always check the fees that are added to your flight before finalizing the booking.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards
The cards that will earn the miles you need to get to China and Hong Kong the fastest are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. That’s because these cards come with the best sign-up bonuses and earn points that can be transferred to several frequent flyer programs on the list above, including United MileagePlus, Air France KLM Flying Blue, Korean Air Skypass and British Airways Executive Club.
These are the three Chase cards you should consider:
|Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Bonus Earning Categories|
|Sapphire Reserve||100,000 points||$450||3x travel and restaurants|
|Sapphire Preferred||50,000 points||$95, first year waived||2x travel and restaurants|
|Ink Plus Business||60,000 points||$95||5x office supplies, phones, internet and cable; 2x gas and hotels|
The Sapphire Reserve card comes with a huge sign-up bonus, triple points for travel and restaurant purchases and a hefty annual fee. While $450 might be hard to swallow, the card includes an annual $300 credit toward travel expenses, free lounge access and a 50 percent discount on airfare purchased through the Ultimate Rewards website. If you use the card’s perks, it’s probably worth the money.
The Sapphire Preferred card is the no-risk choice in the lineup. It’s comparatively modest annual fee of $95 is waived the first year, so you can cancel it if it doesn’t suit you and you’ll never pay a penny. It still has a good sign-up bonus and double points for travel and dining out.
If you’re a small business owner or independent contractor, the Ink Plus Business card is a great choice too. It has a slightly higher sign-up bonus than the Sapphire Preferred and fantastic quintuple earning categories, including some recurring bills like cell phones, internet and cable. The annual fee is not waived the first year and the card has a fairly high minimum spend of $5,000 that you must meet to get the bonus. That’s more than the target I set of $1,500 a month.
Gold Delta SkyMiles
I don’t usually recommend co-branded airline cards over cards with transferable points. The flexibility of being able to use your points with multiple airlines is great. But with its current sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles, which is higher than the standard 30,000-mile bonus, it’s hard to pass up the Gold Delta SkyMiles card.
|Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Bonus Earning Category|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles||50,000 miles||$95, first year waived||2x with Delta|
Keep in mind that with this card you’re stuck flying Delta. If you can’t find an award flight on the dates you want at the lowest redemptions rates, you’ll just have to pay more or use your miles for something else.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
The SPG Amex’s sign-up bonus is, at best, half of what you’d get with the other cards mentioned above. It has two great perks, though. First, it has over 30 airline transfer partners. You can transfer points from SPG to all of the frequent flyer programs on the list above. Note that United is the only one that doesn’t transfer at a 1:1 ratio, so it’s best to skip that option.
|Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Bonus Earning Category|
|SPG Amex||25,000 points||$95, first year waived||5x at SPG properties|
The other fantastic benefit of this card is that you get a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 points that are transferred to an airline. That can really cut down on the time you need to save for a ticket. Taking advantage of the bonus reduces the time it takes to earn a 60,000-mile flight on ANA to Beijing from two years to just 16 months.
You Don’t Have to Get Just One
There’s nothing wrong with getting a couple of cards and doubling up on sign-up bonuses. The SPG Amex, for instance, is a great second card since it transfers to almost all major airlines.
Many carriers have solid co-branded cards with bonuses typically in the 30,000-mile range, including United, American, Alaska and British Airways. The annual fee is waived for the first year on many co-branded airline cards, so you could even cancel it after getting the bonus and basically pay nothing for the miles.