Travel Rewards Credit Card for Family Award Tickets to Hawaii?
Rewards Credit Cards
Hilary Stockton

My Award Booking Service helps travelers book first class and business class with miles and points. As an independent affiliate of Cadence, I also have access to Four Seasons Preferred Partner, VirtuosoPeninsula Hotels PenClub, Dorchester Diamond Club, Belmond Bellini Club, Shangri-La Luxury Circle, Langham CoutureRitz-Carlton STARS, Starwood Luxury Privileges, Rocco Forte and other 5-star hotel partners, so I can book, for no extra cost, your perfect luxury hotel or luxury cruise with VIP amenities not available anywhere else. Become a client and upgrade your stay!

Have a travel question we haven't covered yet? Want to share your secrets for traveling well for less?

Travel Rewards Credit Card for Family Award Tickets to Hawaii?

Which travel rewards credit card for family award tickets to Hawaii? TravelSort reader Lisa writes on the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards page:

"My husband doesn't travel for work, and my family (including myself) of 4 only travel via airplane and have hotel stays, once a year maybe. Therefore, we don't accumulate many travel miles.

However, I'm trying to plan a family vacation to Hawaii next May 2015 for our 10 year anniversary and I want a card that I can get the most amount of miles for to use for my airline tickets ASAP...right now, the direct flights are pricing at $1200 per person (in economy) and with four people, it will be expensive.

We live in Atlanta and so we only fly Delta direct flights anywhere we go. Hence, I need a card that I can use on Delta and it seems that most the cards you mentioned in your top choices don't include redemption on Delta."

Delta SkyMiles Awards to Hawaii Are Expensive vs. Other Frequent Flyer Programs

Lisa and her family understandably want to fly nonstop from Atlanta, which means just one choice: Delta. The problem is that Delta SkyMiles awards to Hawaii are expensive relative to other frequent flyer programs' awards to Hawaii. For example, just looking at economy awards from the continental U.S. to Hawaii:

Delta: 65,000 miles

American: 45,000 miles (or 35,000 miles offpeak)

United: 45,000 miles

Singapore KrisFlyer: 35,000 miles


Earning Delta Miles With Credit Cards = American Express

Lisa isn't fond of AMEX, but unfortunately, in terms of earning Delta miles with credit cards, American Express is really the only game in town. That's because the major frequent flyer programs have each partnered with a major bank/credit card issuer, as follows:

United MileagePlus = Chase

American AAdvantage = Citibank

US Airways Dividend Miles (until the frequent flyer program merges with AAdvantage in Q2 2015) = Barclays 

Delta SkyMiles = American Express

So the Delta SkyMiles credit cards are all issued by AMEX, and even the points that can transfer to Delta SkyMiles are American Express cards, namely Membership Rewards linked cards such as the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card, the AMEX Platinum, and the AMEX EveryDay cards. SPG points also transfer 1:1 to Delta, and, no surprise, it's an AMEX card.


Best American Express Credit Card Bonus Offers Are Targeted

The current public Gold Delta SkyMiles AMEX only has a 35,000 signup bonus. You can try the CardMatch tool to see if you're targeted for any higher bonus, and also watch your snail mail to see if you can get a higher offer that way. 

The best American Express signup bonuses are targeted, in general to those who have never had an AMEX card or are lapsed cardholders. For example, see 150K AMEX Business Platinum Bonus Offer (Targeted)

Alternatively, there is a 50K Mercedes-Benz AMEX offer (see Best Travel Credit Cards for current link), albeit with a hefty $475 annual fee. That includes $200 airline incidental credit per calendar year, which can best be used on AA gift cards or via a United gift registry you make to your name. See Maximizing the AMEX Platinum Airline Fee Credit.

How About Buying Delta Miles?

Buying Delta SkyMiles is a terrible deal--they're sold for 3.5 cents each, plus tax. That means that if you were to buy all 65,000 miles for an economy award to Hawaii, you'd be paying over $2300, over $1000 more per ticket than the high prices Lisa is already seeing for revenue tickets.


Alternative: United Economy Award with 1 Stop for 35K KrisFlyer Miles Roundtrip Per Person

As an alternative, I'd recommend looking at United economy awards out of Houston (IAH). Sure, Lisa and her family would have a connection in Houston and the added time that entails, but they could save significantly on the award prices of their tickets by flying United.

That's because, if they can find economy saver award space on United flights, they could book their awards with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, for just 35,000 KrisFlyer miles per person roundtrip, or a total of 140,000 miles for all 4 tickets, vs. 260,000 Delta SkyMiles. How to get Singapore KrisFlyer miles? My recommendation is to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards. Lisa and her husband could each apply for the Sapphire Preferred card, and one of them could also apply for the Ink Plus card. If approved, each of them would earn at least 48,000 points from the Sapphire Preferred (including the points from the $3000 minimum spend) and they would earn at least 55,000 points after meeting $5000 minimum spend for the Ink Plus. that's 151,000 points from 3 cards, and enough for all of them to fly to Hawaii assuming they find saver award space on United.


Cash Back Credit Cards?

Lisa also asks about cash back credit cards. I never recommend the Capital One Venture card, since Capital One pulls from all 3 credit bureaus, needlessly denting your credit score, plus the Venture card isn't as good as the Barclay Arrival Plus card, at least when redeemed for travel, since you get an effective 2.2% cash back from the Arrival Plus when redeeming for travel, thanks to the 10% points rebate.

In general, I see cash back cards as complementary to transferable points credit cards, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and AMEX cards, and airline frequent flyer credit cards. Cash back cards can fill in the gaps, by helping you rebate award ticket taxes, rebate the cost of the odd low cost carrier ticket, or be used when you're not working on minimum spend and have spend that doesn't otherwise earn a category bonus.

Another cash back card I like is the Chase Freedom, even though the Chase Freedom 2014 5X bonus categories were disappointing. Still, it's hard to beat no annual fee, even if you only max out a couple quarters of 5X categories a year. The points can be combined with an Ultimate Rewards card, then transferred to a frequent flyer program such as Singapore KrisFlyer or Korean SkyPass.

Lisa notes that her family typically only travels once a year. That said, she may need 4 award tickets each time, unless airfare is inexpensive, and since neither she nor her husband travel much on paid tickets, I'd recommend that they both put their everyday spend to work for them with travel rewards cards such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, as well as AMEX cards, particularly if either or both of them receive a good targeted offer from AMEX.


Bottom Line

In Lisa's shoes, I would opt to connect in Houston, and earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly United to Hawaii using Singapore KrisFlyer, for 120,000 fewer miles than Delta is charging. I certainly hope Lisa and her family find a way to earn the miles and visit Hawaii, my home state, for their 10th wedding anniversary! The Aloha State is waiting for them.

Related Posts

Best Frequent Flyer Miles for Hawaii Award Tickets

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Review: Best Luxury Hotel in Hawaii

Cheap Hawaii Interisland Flights: Miles and Points or Paid Ticket?

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea Review

Need Award Booking Help? Our fee is as low as $75 per ticket if you book your hotel or cruise through us.

If you enjoyed this, join 150,000+ readers: please follow TravelSort on Twitter or  like us on Facebook to be alerted to new posts. 

Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Amenities!

  • |
  • Print
    print |
Related Articles
Picture?type=large Jana P. commented 13 Nov 2014
Hi Hillary, this is so funny. Our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up and I was just thinking the same thing.... Hawaii would be great way to celebrate. We can't go during the actual date of our anniversary, due to work but we're thinking mud winter or Early spring. Also going with two kids. We live on the west coast, Seattle. We have some United miles but I was thinking to combine them with Ultimate rewards points for a trip to Europe next summer as e need a lot of points/miles for four people. My questions are: 1) What would the fuel charges/fees to Hawaii with United be? 2) What about Hawaiian airlines CC with 35k Mike's sign up bonus and buy one get one half off flight ticket offer. Meaning my husband and I would both get the CC. 3) What would the fees be on Hawaiian and how ahead do we need to book? 4) I was also thinking about getting the American Aadvantage citi Select, first the business card, later there personal card. The problem is, my husband application for business CC was declined due to “not having an established business“, at least that is what the trip said. I am not sure how old his business has to be. I am trying to get him to call back and at least ask for the personal card, since they already ran his credit. 5) So a little nrelated question: how long from the initial application does he have to call back before they would have to run his credit report again? It's been about three weeks since his application. 6) What route would you recommend for a hotel? Which credit card or program? Lots of questions,I know. Thank you Hillary!
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 Nov 2014
Jana, you definitely have an advantage flying from the West Coast, with a shorter flight and nonstop options on Delta, Alaska and Hawaiian. With United you'd have to connect, in say SFO, but fees are low--around $11 roundtrip, although more miles are required than if you book using Singapore KrisFlyer miles as I mentioned in the post. Note that with the Hawaiian 50% off the companion ticket you do still pay taxes/fees on the ticket; not sure offhand what those are, but as with all Hawaii tickets, you'll want to book as far in advance as possible for mid-winter/early spring travel which is still high season. Your husband would need to call reconsideration within a month after initially applying, to avoid another hard pull. For a hotel, I highly recommend splurging on the Four Seasons Hualalai or Four Seasons Maui at Wailea for a special 10th wedding anniversary trip--they're worth it. I'm able to book clients with Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits, see
Picture?type=large Jana P. commented 18 Nov 2014
Than you Hilary, it sounds like the Delta miles we have (70K) may work better for us. Or I just got an offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®! For a limited time only, earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles1 and 2 Admirals Club passes2 after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, No fee the first year. Though that may postpone the trip even more. I'm a little hesitant to apply now, as we are getting ready to get a loan for home improvement. I am not sure how much another card would affect my Credit Score. It's tempting though. :-)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 19 Nov 2014
Jana, if you'll be taking out any kind of significant loan, I would definitely postpone credit card applications for the moment, as you'll want to get the best possible interest rate. While I realize you mentioned a loan rather than a mortgage, you may be interested in a couple of my past posts--we were able to secure a significantly lower rate by keeping a certain amount of money with our issuer.
Picture?type=large Abhilash R. commented 19 Nov 2014
Since the travel is in May the quickest is to apply for BoA Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card for both you and your spouse. You get discount codes for $99 Coach Companion Fare within a week of applying and could easily save 45% compared to buying 4 fully paid tickets.
Leave a Comment
Rewards Credit Cards
Get Free Email Blog Updates
Popular Articles
  The Chase Private Client Arts and Culture Card offers complimentary admission for the cardholder and guest (sometimes several guests) at museums and cultural attractions in NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Florida, Arizona and Texas. It...
  This Review of Etihad First Class Apartment on the A380 from Abu Dhabi to New York is from our recent family trip to the Maldives, where we loved our stay at Cheval Blanc Randheli. Departing First Class passengers in Abu...
  This review of Etihad Economy Class on the A330-200 from Male, Maldives to Abu Dhabi is part of our recent return trip to the Maldives, including Etihad First Apartment on the A380, Emirates First Class, and a stay at...
  How is your 2017 miles and points progress? For my family, frequent flyer miles and points are the means to an end--they're what enable us to fly internationally and for me, be productive for work and for my family,...
  Some airlines are better than others when it comes to peanut and nut allergies. These allergies are some of the most prevalent of all allergies, and in general I'm very sympathetic to allergy sufferers, given that in my family...
The AMEX Centurion Lounge will have a new guest policy for AMEX Platinum members: only 2 family members or guests may enter for free, and a one day pass must be purchased for the 3rd guest, 4th guest etc. at...
  You can earn 500 Singapore KrisFlyer miles for opening a new KrisFlyer account, by using code JOINKF2017 when signing up for a new account. Even if you already have a KrisFlyer account, it can be worth signing your spouse, partner...
  Are Michelin-star restaurants off limits to kids? Not necessarily. If you're a foodie and now have a family, you don't have to relegate yourself to cafes, family-friendly restaurants, take-out and room service when traveling, any more than you have...
  Have kids who enjoy Pokémon? The Peninsula Tokyo offers a Pokémon package that is perfect for Pokémon fans, called Pokémon Hotel Adventure: The Power of Ten. Here's what the package offers, along with a FAQ to help with questions. Plus, don't forget...
  We recently made a quick trip to lovely Sarasota, Florida, and visited the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium there.  It's a perfect family place to spend a few hours looking at the fish and marine mammals (manatees!), and learning about...