No matter if you are planning a vacation of looking to move somewhere in Asia for the foreseeable future, getting there from the USA can be an expensive event. A roundtrip ticket can cost thousands and one ways are not much cheaper.

The good news is that there is a way to make the trip for pennies on the dollar, or almost completely free. The bad news is that is does take a good amount of planning. And, you will need to have decent credit.

If you have OK credit, are American, have a few months lead time before making your trip across the ocean, and want to save some serious money then keep reading.

Getting Started

While this may at first sound like it’s too good to be true, it’s actually a pretty transparent and straight forward process. There are no sneaky back alley dealings or get rich quick schemes involved.

Step One

This involves knowing your credit situation. If you have credit monitoring already, you can check that to get an idea of your what credit score is. If not, you can sign up for free to Credit Karma.

If you have a score of 645 or more, you are in luck. This method of getting a free flight should work. If you don’t but you aren’t far off, you still might have some options.

For the sake of this post, we’re going to assume you are at the 645+ mark.

Step Two

This step is optional, but it will absolutely increase your chance of success, especially if you are closer to the 645 credit score than something higher like 750.

You will want to pay down as much credit as you can. That means even if your payments are due for a few weeks, pay them anyway.

Don’t go and destroy your savings, but if you were going to pay your balance in a few weeks, do it now instead. The reason for this is that it will improve your debt to credit ratio.

The lower the ratio the better. So, if you have $10,000 in credit but have a balance of $5,000, you are using 50% of your credit. However, if you have $8,000 in credit but have a balance of $2,000, you’re only using 25% of your credit.

The lower that percentage the better.

Step Three

This step is where you get the fuel for the fire. If you are OK with step one and your credit utilization ratio (debt to credit ratio) is reasonable, this should go fairly smoothly.

The main objective of this process is to book airfare using Chase Ultimate Reward points instead of money. And, the good news is that you can usually get enough points by doing this process one time to get a round trip ticket and almost always a one-way ticket. Awesome!

There are two basic ways to earn these reward points. The most common is to spend money on certain credit cards and earn anywhere from 1 to 5 points per dollar. But, that’s the slow way and it requires spending a ton of money to get the amount of points we need.

The easier way is to grab a big fat sign up bonus.

Chase offers a variety of cards and they all have their own unique pros and cons. But, in regards to the goal of getting from America to Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, or another Asian country for virtually free, we’re going to focus on two cards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card from Chase is a top option for travelers, and for the sake of our goal, it’s about as good as it gets.

First and foremost, it currently comes with a 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points sign up bonus. You will of course need to both get approved for the card as well at meet a minimum spend limit to get that bonus. That spend amount is $4,000 over the first three months of owning the card.

As the goal here is to fly for free, you want to use the card for all you normal spend, like paying your electric, shopping at the supermarket, paying for gas, etc. And, you want to pay it off each and every month as paying interest would be counterproductive.

Some more details about this card are:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Double points on travel and dining spend
  • There is a $95 annual fee

But, one of the most important benefits is that the points are transferrable, which we will discuss in more detail later.

To apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, use our referral link:

Chase offers an upgraded version of this card too called the Reserve, but the bonus is currently less and the annual fee is much higher, so the Preferred is a great choice for the goal of this strategy.

Sometimes you get approved instantly, and sometimes it can take a couple of week. Plus, you need to have time to meet the spend minimum to earn the bonus so keep that in mind when planning your trip.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred

Another option is actually a business card from Chase. You don’t need to have a giant corporation to get approved for a business card. If you run a small business or even if you have a one-person-show side hustle such as selling art or small crafts, you should be good to go.

There are two reasons why you might want to take a look at this card instead of the Sapphire Preferred above.

  1. You already have a Chase Sapphire card
  2. It has a bigger signup bonus

The Ink Business Preferred actually has a massive 80,000 Ultimate Rewards Points sign up bonus. That is massive!

*Note: This bonus appears to not be currently available

This card does require a bigger minimum spend due to the extra 20,000 points, so you’ll need to make sure that you can put $5,000 on the card over three months comfortably. Again, the idea here is to fly for free and if you need to spend mindlessly to meet the spend requirement, that is counter productive.

Some more details about this card are:

  • Triple points on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services
  • Triple points on social media and search engine advertising spend
  • No foreign transaction fees

And, like the personal card, these bonus points and all the points you earn from your spend transfer to travel partner sites.

To apply for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, use our referral link: 

Chase also has other business cards, but the aim is to get the sweet signup bonus the Ink Preferred offers.

How to Use my Ultimate Rewards Points

To be completely transparent, there are a lot of credit card and airline rewards programs out there. Depending on your personal needs or preferences, Chase might not be the best choice. You’ll see why in a bit.

But, in order to show you how this is real and possible – flying to Asia from the USA for pennies on the dollar if not for free – we are going to use Taiwan as an example. For Taiwan, we want those delicious Ultimate Rewards points.

Without going into too much of a deep dive on why UR points work best for this, the tl;dr version is that almost every airline on the planet belongs to an alliance. There are several alliances, but the one we want to focus on for this example is called the Star Alliance.

Why do we care about Star Alliance?

Great question. The main reason is that two of the airlines we are targeting, United and EVA, are both members.

Step One

Now that we signed up to one of the Chase cards above, met our spend, and have our bonus points in our Chase account we are ready to make use of them.

If you don’t have a United Airlines account yet you’ll want to create one and sign up for their MileagePlus program. You need to do this before moving on to the next step.

Step Two

The reason why we need to be a member in the MileagePlus program is that this is where we’ll be shopping for our flight to Taiwan. Once you join, you can start searching for flights. Remember, we are planning to pay with points and not cash, so we are looking for award flights only.

mileageplus flight search

You’ll need to tinker a bit with your dates, preferred connections, etc., and make sure you select either roundtrip or one-way. While you might get a bit of a discount on a round trip purchase when paying with cash, that doesn’t really happen when using points. So, for this example I am going to do a sample search for one-way.

Note, in order to get through immigration you will most likely need an additional one-way ticket showing you eventually plan to leave Taiwan. You can always purchase a one-way return flight, or you can grab a low cost and possible refundable ticket to somewhere close, like Hong Kong or Manila if you plan on extending your travels.

Now, let’s look at some different reward flight and see how much they are going to cost us.

Here is a screenshot for a one-way ticket from Philadelphia to Taipei in the summer –

mileageplus PHL to TPE

Take a close look at the three section in red.

First at the top you see an economy flight will run you only 35,000 points and $9.10. The Sapphire’s 60,000 point bonus will more than cover that.

But, it gets even better. If you look to the right you see that a Business Saver Award seat on this particular day is only 80,000 points plus $9.10. If you grabbed the big bonus from the Ink Business Preferred card you are set.

And, even the Sapphire gets you most of the way there. If you plan well ahead you have plenty of time to make up for the extra 20,000 points you’ll need by using your card for your normal upkeep. Or, you can always buy the extra points from United when they run a promotion.

Lastly, look at the red circle. You’ll see the long haul portion of the flight isn’t a United flight but is instead operated by EVA, a very nice Taiwanese airline. Remember when we discussed Star Alliance before? Here’s where it all comes together.

But, what if you aren’t flying out of PHL? Let’s look at somewhere from the west coast.

mileageplus LAX to TPE

We see similar results when flying out of Los Angeles, with the bonus being it’s a non-stop flight.

Remember, you need Ultimate Rewards points or United Miles to take advantage of those offers. And, grabbing a big bonus is the quickest way to get them.

To apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and grab the 60,000 point bonus, use our referral link:

Or, to apply for the Chase Ink Business Preferred for the 80,000 point bonus, use this referral link:

Once you have your preferred flight planned out, you are ready to move to the next step.

Step Three

Now we get to the fun part. You should already have you Ultimate Rewards points in your Chase account from signing up and meeting your minimum spend to get the bonus.

You should already have signed up to a United MileagePlus account.

You should already have scoped out a flight you want to book.

Now, it’s time to make it official and put those points to good use.

This next step is incredibly important and also where many people make a mistake with this whole process.

You DO NOT want to buy your flight through Chase. Instead, you want to transfer your Ultimate Reward Points to your MilagePlus account.

chase ultimate rewards travel partners

After you transfer the correct amount of points, which you should know from when you found the flight you want in Step Two, you can hope back over the the United site.

Now, logged in to United, you should be able to purchase your award flight to Taiwan with your transferred points saving you hundreds and maybe even over a thousand dollars.


In Summary

Yes, it is possible to fly from America to many countries in Asia for almost nothing. It’s virtually free aside from having to pay some taxes.

You will need to meet a few requirements, like having decent credit. And, you will need to plan ahead as the whole process takes a few months at a minimum.

That means, the sooner you get started the sooner you’ll have your ticket booked.

And remember, to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and grab the 60,000 point bonus, please use our referral link:

Or, to apply for the Chase Ink Business Preferred for the 80,000 point bonus, use this referral link:

Happy travels!