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Best airline award deals via mile credit cards – guide by destination

by on Mon January 30, 2012 • No Comment
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American Express airline transfer partnersThis is a guide to the lowest cost base price in miles for various regions for trips originating in the United States.

All miles aren’t created equal. While most U.S. based frequent flyer programs have pretty similar mile prices for flights to various regions, the programs of their foreign counterparts can have wide variations (often lower) for the very same flights. You can take advantage of that and really maximize the power of the right mile credit cards by understanding two facts:

  1. Most airline mile programs have ‘partner airlines’ which means you can use the miles from one airline’s account to book travel on the other partner airlines. For example, one of United’s partners is US Airways, so you can use United miles for US Airways flights
  2. Several credit cards offer transfer to multiple airline mile programs. These include the American Express Membership Rewards enabled cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card,  and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. That means you can take advantage of miles values in programs without ever flying them.

Milez.biz is a new site that will calculate which programs have the lowest cost in miles to the destination you want. Just type in your origin and destination and it will show the mile prices across dozens of programs.

A few notes — it doesn’ t check real time inventory, it just uses the published award charts, and it misses a few nuances like Korean Airlines’ unique partner award charts. But overall it’s a neat tool, and we used it to help compile this list of best airline award values via mile credit cards.

There are some really intriguing values if you transfer miles to foreign based programs like

  • 35,000 miles for a roundtrip first/business class ticket in the U.S. (vs 50,000 miles typical) using Lufthansa miles on partners United, US Airways, or Continental (the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a 1:1 mile transfer partner).
  • 30,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket to Hawaii (vs 40,000 typical) using Air France / KLM’s Flying Blue program for travel on partner Delta (American Express Membership Rewards cards and Starwood Preferred Guest are mile transfer partners), or Korean Skypass for a ticket on Hawaiian Airlines (Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you transfer to Korean). First class is just 60,000 miles on both vs 80,000 in U.S. programs.
  • 50,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket to Israel (vs 80,000 typical) using AirFrance / KLM Flying Blue or Alitalia’s program – both let you travel on all the SkyTeam airlines to get there (Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, etc). You can use both American Express Membership Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express to earn points for Flying Blue.

Just note the following caveats…

  • We limited the search to airlines that offer mile transfer into their programs from U.S. based credit cards. There may be lower values in other programs, but if a U.S. based flyer can’t transfer credit card miles in, it’s less relevant to us.
  • Be aware that many foreign based frequent flyer programs tend to charge more in taxes and fuel fees on award tickets than U.S. programs. For overseas travel it can be $400-$500 for economy tickets, and up to $800-$900 for business class. For domestic travel, it’s about $25-$100.
  • On the flip side, foreign programs tend to have lower or no fees for changing your award ticket

Now, onto the guide of values for travel originating in the United States, and let us know if there are other mile values you’d like to see included…this is a work in progress…

Continental U.S.

Economy Class

Lowest: 20-22,000 miles, ANA (use on United, US Air, Continental); 9,000 – 20,000 miles, British Airways Avios (nonstop flights on American or Alaska less than 2,000 miles each way)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: 1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and The Platinum Card® from American Express (ANA, British Airways), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (ANA, British Airways), 3) via Ultimate Rewards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (British Airways)

Typical: 25,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 35,000 miles, Lufthansa Miles and More (use on United, Continental, US Airways)

Credit card with 1:1 mile transfer: via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Lufthansa)

Typical: 50,000 miles

Hawaii

Economy Class

Lowest: 30,000 miles, AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue (use on Delta), Alitalia MilleMigla (use on Delta), Korean SkyPass (use on Hawaiian Airlines); 25,000 miles, British Airways Avios (using nonstop flights from West Coast on Alaska Airlines — no connections, or miles price will be higher)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: 1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia, British Airways), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia, British Airways), 3) via Ultimate Rewards —  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Korean, British Airways)

Typical: 40,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 60,000 miles, AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue (use on Delta), Alitalia MilleMigla (use on Delta), Korean SkyPass (use on Hawaiian Airlines)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: 1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia), 3) via Ultimate Rewards –  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Korean)

Typical: 80,000 miles

Europe

Economy Class

Lowest: 50,000 miles, AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia MilleMigla, AeroMexico Premier (all can be used on Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Czech)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: 1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia, AeroMexico), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia)

Typical: 60,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 80,000 miles, AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue (use on Delta, KLM, Air France, Alitalia, Czech); 63,000 – 90,000 miles, ANA (distance based; East Coast 63,000 miles, West Coast 90,000; can be used on United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Continental, Austrian, SAS, Virgin Atlantic)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: 1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, ANA), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue, ANA)

Typical: 100,000 miles

Australia

Economy Class

Lowest: 70,000 miles, JAL (can be used on Qantas)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (JAL)

Typical: 80,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 110,000 miles, JAL (can be used on Qantas)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (JAL)

Typical: 135,000 miles

Israel

Economy Class

Lowest: 50,000 miles, Air France / KLM Flying Blue (can be used on Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Delta), Alitalia MilleMigla (can be used on Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia), via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia)

Typical: 80,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 80,000 miles, Alitalia MilleMigla (can be used on Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer: via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia), via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue, Alitalia)

Typical: 100,000 miles

Caribbean

Economy Class

Lowest: 30,000 miles, Air France / KLM Flying Blue (can be used on Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Flying Blue), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Flying Blue)

Typical: 35,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 60,000 miles, most airlines

 

South America – Deep (Brazil, Argentina, etc)

Economy Class

Lowest: 50,000 miles, Alitalia, Korean, Alaska (can be used on Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Alitalia), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Alitalia)

Typical: 60,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 75,000 miles, JAL (use on LAN only, distance must be 12,000 miles or less roundtrip); 90,000 miles, Korean, Alaska (can be used on Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Alaska, JAL), via Ultimate Rewards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Korean)

 

South America – North (Peru, Colombia, etc)

Economy Class

Lowest: 35,000 miles, American (can be used on American, LAN), Aeromexico (can be used on Delta, Aeromexico), Alitalia (can be used on Delta, Aeromexico)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Alitalia), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Alitalia, American)

Typical: 40,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 60,000 miles, American (can be used on American, LAN), Aeromexico (can be used on Delta, Aeromexico), Alitalia (can be used on Delta, Aeromexico)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Alitalia), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Alitalia, American)

Typical:  70,000 miles

Africa

Economy Class

Lowest: 70,000 miles, US Airways (can be used on Lufthansa, Swiss, South African, United, Continental, Ethiopian, Egyptair)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (US Airways)

Typical: 85,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 110,000 miles, US Airways (can be used on Lufthansa, Swiss, South African, United, Continental, Ethiopian, Egyptair)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (US Airways)

Typical:  150,000 miles

Thailand

Economy Class

Lowest: 65,000 miles, United Mileage Plus (can be used on Lufthansa, Swiss, ANA, South African, United, Continental, more)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Ultimate Rewards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (United)

Typical: 85,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 95,000 miles, Alitalia (can be used on Korean, Delta)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (Alitalia), via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Aeromexico, Alitalia, American)

Typical:  125,000 miles

Tahiti

Economy Class

Lowest: 60,000 miles, Korean Airlines SkyPass (can be used on Air France via its LAX-PPT route)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Ultimate Rewards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Korean)

Typical: 100,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 90,000 miles, Korean Airlines SkyPass (can be used on Air France via its LAX-PPT route)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Ultimate Rewards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Korean)

Typical:  150,000 miles

Japan

Economy Class

Lowest: 55,000 miles, ANA (use on ANA)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  1) via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (ANA), 2) via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (ANA)

Typical: 65,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 85,000 miles, ANA (use on ANA)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Membership Rewards — Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card®, Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN, and Platinum Card® from American Express (ANA), via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (ANA)

Typical:  120,000 miles

Hong Kong / China

Economy Class

Lowest: 55,000 miles, JAL (use on JAL)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (JAL)

Typical: 65,000 miles

Business/First Class

Lowest: 90,000 miles, JAL (use on JAL)

Credit cards with 1:1 mile transfer:  via Starwood points — Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (JAL)

Typical:  120,000 miles

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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