When it comes to using points and miles, there are good redemptions, better redemptions, and the best. You're looking at the best of the best.
Whether you want to fly business or first class or just travel more for less in economy, there are amazing sweet spots, loopholes, and strategies in this crazy world that can unlock some serious savings. And we've got some ideas for some of the best redemptions to add to your wish list for 2022 and beyond.
Want alerts for the best ways to use your points and miles? We send Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members award space alerts and Delta SkyMiles flash sales, along with cheap domestic and international fares.
In no particular order, here are nine of the absolute best ways to use points and miles.
- Hawaii and Back Using 26K British Airways Avios
- Get to Europe for 34K Miles RT – or Double for Business Class
- The Southwest Companion Pass
- Fly Delta One to Europe for 50K Miles
- ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles
- Or Biz Class to Tokyo from 75K Miles Roundtrip
- Delta SkyMiles Flash Sales
- Emirates First Class for 85K
- The World's Best Business Class to South Africa for 75K Miles
Hawaii and Back Using 26K British Airways Avios
A trip to Hawaii doesn't have to be expensive. And this example illustrates that perfectly.
American Airlines typically charges 45,000 AAdvantage miles to get to Hawaii and back which isn't terrible. But you can use miles from partner airline British Airway to book the exact same American flight – same dates, same plane, same trip to Hawaii – and do it for just 26,000 miles. And now that it's joined the Oneworld Alliance, you can also book many Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii for the same 26,000 miles roundtrip.
That's right: You can save almost 20,000 just by using a different airline mileage program to book the exact same flight.
The one hitch here is that this workaround only works when flying nonstop from several cities along (or near) the West Coast. That's because British Airways sets its award pricing based on the distance … and it also charges separately for each segment. That puts nonstop flights from cities like Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), and even Phoenix (PHX) in the sweet spot.
Getting from San Francisco (SFO) all the way to Maui (OGG) and back flying Alaska Airlines for just 26,000 miles is a great deal. And you can get to any of the four major Hawaiian islands at that rate! Seeing as you're saving nearly 20,000 miles with this workaround, it's worth highlighting.
If you want to take things to the next level, there are even cheaper ways to get to Hawaii like a Turkish Airlines sweet spot allowing you to book United flights to the islands for just 15,000 miles roundtrip. But booking those awards can be unbelievably complicated … and that's not the case here.
Award availability on these nonstop Alaska or American flights to Hawaii is typically wide-open for two, four, or even more passengers. That makes it a cinch to book these flights, which is why it's on the list.
How to Do It: Even if you never fly British Airways, you can easily earn these miles.
That's because credit card points from Chase, American Express, Capital One, and Citi can all be transferred to British Airways. That means the 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card within the first three months is enough to get you two round-trip tickets to Hawaii.
If you've got a stash of Amex Membership Rewards points from cards like the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express, it gets even better.
Get to Europe for 34K Miles RT – or Double for Business Class
If flying to Europe is on your list for 2023, you can't get it for much cheaper than this. For just 34,000 miles and a reasonable cash fee, you can fly from several U.S. cities to Madrid (MAD) and back.
Spanish flag carrier Iberia offers one of the best deals in points and miles. There's no cheaper way to get to Europe using points, in fact.
The airline's distance-based award chart means it's cheapest to hop on the nonstop flight to Madrid from New York City (JFK), Boston (BOS), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), or Chicago-O'Hare (ORD). If you time it right during the off-peak travel season – and that's fairly easy, because 80% of the year is considered off-peak – it's just 17,000 Iberia Avios each way. Most airlines charge double that or more to get to Europe.
Read up on how to save some major miles by using Iberia to fly to Europe.
Want your own bed and better meals for the long flight across the Atlantic Ocean? Iberia also has one of the best deals to fly business class: It's just 34,000 Avios each way, or 68,000 for the round-trip flights in business.
Check out our step-by-step guide to booking business class to Europe for 68,000 miles roundtrip – and read our Iberia business class review, too!
Iberia's business class is comfortable and solid, with lie-flat seats and great food onboard. And at just 68,000 miles round trip – less than most airlines charge for economy – it's a steal.
Iberia tacks on some cash fees, but they're typically far more reasonable than what other major European carriers add to award tickets: just $180 or so for economy and $280-ish for business class. No matter how you slice it, it's an amazing deal.
And it's gotten even easier to book now, too. British Airways recently eliminated all of its additional taxes and fees from these award tickets, matching exactly what Iberia itself charges. That means whether you book through Iberia or BA, you can now expect to pay 68,000 miles and $230ish roundtrip. For a one-way to Spain, it's 34,000 miles and $115 or so.
How to Do It: If you're wondering how you're going to get the Iberia miles you need to book one of these deals, don't sweat it – they couldn't be easier to earn.
You can get Iberia Avios by transferring them from Chase, Citi, or American Express. That means you can easily earn all the miles you need with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the American Express® Gold Card, or the The Platinum Card® from American Express. And that's true whether you want to fly economy or up in business.
You can also transfer points to British Airways to book these flights from cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card or even the Bilt Rewards Mastercard.
The Southwest Companion Pass
It's not strictly a points and miles redemption, but this buy one, get one pass could be more valuable than them all.
Introducing the Southwest Companion Pass.
It works like this: Once you earn it, the companion pass gets you a free companion – no matter whether you used cash or points to book your ticket. There are no blackout dates and no questions. Just pay the taxes and fees ($5.60 per person on a one-way domestic flight) on each flight and you’re set.
There’s no limit to how many times you can use the Companion Pass. Once you earn it, it’s good for the entire year in which you earned it AND the entire following year. Time it right to earn this pass in early 2023, for example, and you'll have nearly two full years of BOGO flights.
So it’s not hard to see that this perk could save you hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars on airfare. Whether you're flying within the continental U.S., heading to the Caribbean, or hopping on a flight to Hawaii, these savings could add up fast.
How to Do It: Unfortunately, it's gotten harder in recent years to earn the Companion Pass. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.
The easiest way is to earn 135,000 miles with Southwest through some of their co-branded credit cards. That's more difficult because Chase now restricts you from holding both Southwest personal credit cards. So you'll need to open a personal Southwest card and a business version in order to meet the Companion Pass. Fortunately, holding one of those cards will give you an automatic 10,000-point boost at the start of the year.
Southwest has occasionally offered much easier ways to earn the Companion Pass, like a deal earlier this year to earn a full year with the Companion Pass from a single credit card. And if you want to do it the really hard way, you also earn the pass by flying with Southwest 100 times in a year on paid fares.
Fly Delta One to Europe for 50K Miles
Delta One suites are some of the best business class seats in the world. You get your own private suite, amazing bedding to sleep, great meals, and more.
The problem is that Delta charges an arm and a leg for these seats. No matter whether you're flying to Europe or Asia, it often costs 200,000 SkyMiles or more for a one-way flight.
Enter Virgin Atlantic. Thanks to a partnership between the two airlines, you can book a flight in Delta One business class to Europe using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. And you can book that exact same flight for just 50,000 miles. It doesn't get much better than flying across the Atlantic like this for just 50,000 miles.
Unfortunately, it's gotten a bit harder to book a Delta One suite these days. While business class flights to Europe are still insanely cheap, Virgin Atlantic raised the cost of Delta One flights to Asia from 60,000 miles to as much as 165,000 miles each way. And finding a flight to Europe on a plane with Delta One suites – only available on Delta's Airbus A350-900s and Airbus A330-900neos – onboard can require a lot of trial and error … and even more flexibility. You may have to settle for another Delta One seat instead.
You'll also need to find the dates where this sweet spot works, which can be unpredictable. So be sure to read our full guide to booking Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic miles. Trust us: It's worth the work … especially if you let us do it for you. We've sent Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members a handful of alerts in just the last few months with great award space to book these Delta One flights to Europe for just 50,000 miles each way – and sometimes even less thanks to transfer bonuses.
How to Do It: Earning the 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you need to book one of these flights is simple.
That's because you can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic from Chase, American Express, and Citi. Better yet, these banks frequently offer transfer bonuses of 30% or more to Virgin Atlantic, like a 30% bonus from Chase to Virgin Atlantic available through the end of the year. That makes this outstanding deal even better, lowering your total cost to book Delta business class to Europe to just 39,000 Chase points.
ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles
Even after a nasty devaluation that raised award rates by as much as 42%, this still might just be the single best redemption in the world.
Japan's ANA is one of the best airlines in the world. And its first-class seats are tremendous, with amazing meals, comfortable beds, and top-dollar champagne and drinks.
But using Virgin Atlantic miles, it's priced more like an economy seat. You can fly from the western U.S. to Tokyo and back for just 145,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, or 170,000 miles from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) or East Coast cities. Most airlines charge substantially more for a round trip in business class.
These long flights in ANA first class typically cost more than $20,000 round trip. Yes, $20,000 or more. And you can do it for just 145,000 miles. It makes this easily one of the best deals in the world of points and miles, period.
The trick is finding award availability, as ANA is incredibly stingy with releasing these seats. We sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members an absolute unicorn of a deal earlier this year, with first class seats for two bookable in 2023.
How to Do It: Read up on everything you need to know to book ANA First Class using Virgin Atlantic miles. And read our review of the fantastic ANA First Class flight from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
By now, you know you can get the miles you need by transferring them from Chase, American Express, or Citi. And if you time it right with a sweet transfer bonus, you could book these flights for as few as 112,000 points from Chase, Amex, or Capital One. The best gets even better.
Or Biz Class to Tokyo from 75K Miles Roundtrip
Most airlines charge at least 160,000 miles for a round-trip in business class to Japan. But when booking flights on Japan's excellent All Nippon Airways with ANA Mileage Club, it starts at just 75,000 miles. For the roundtrip. In business class. That’s not a typo.
This is one of the cheapest ways to get to Japan using miles. The trick is timing it right, as ANA carves out different pricing during low (L), regular (R), and high (H) travel seasons. Even if you can't make something work in the low season, a regular redemption jumps to just 85,000 miles roundtrip – or 90,000 in the high season.
After some recent hikes, these ANA redemptions now also pass on some substantial fees at around $700 apiece … though fortunately, they're set to decrease even more soon. But that's still a decent price to pay when you're flying in lie-flat seats all the way to Japan and back for 75,000 miles total – or 85,000 miles during the “regular” season.
Check out our guide on how to fly to Japan in business class for the price of economy!
How to do it: There's one surefire way to earn ANA Mileage Club miles: You want some American Express Membership Rewards points.
ANA is one of the absolute best Amex transfer partners thanks to sweet spots like this one. That means you could pick up either the American Express® Gold Card, or The Platinum Card® from American Express to get the miles you need. One thing to keep in mind: Transfers from Amex can take up to 48 hours.
But before you transfer anything, search through United.com to find award availability on these ANA flights. Oh, and a tip? Try to find flights from either Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) or New York City (JFK) – that's where ANA currently flies its incredible new business class suites these days.
Delta SkyMiles Flash Sales
Is this, pardon the pun, the flashiest redemption in points and miles? No. Are Delta SkyMiles the best for getting crazy value to fly first or business class? Absolutely not.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't amazing deals when using Delta SkyMiles. And one of the best ways to use them is on Delta SkyMiles flash sales, when the airline slashes award rates on select flights. Sometimes the airline advertises these sales, and other times we just discover them and send them to our Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members.
Here's a taste of some of the absolute best flash sales we've seen over the years:
- 10,000 SkyMiles from Seattle (SEA) to Hawaii roundtrip!
- … or nationwide flights to Hawaii from just 14,000 SkyMiles total
- Nationwide flights to Europe from just 32,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
- 90,000 SkyMiles to fly Delta One to Japan and back!
- Costa Rica for 11,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
- Fly Delta One Suites to Europe and back for just 98,000 SkyMiles
- Flights to Tahiti as low as 50,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
- Fly to London-Heathrow (LHR) and back for only 14,000 SkyMiles!
Get the heads up on SkyMiles flash sales like this one with Thrifty Traveler Premium+!
These deals and the constant onslaught of others like them aren't top-dollar redemptions, by any means. But you will never see those rates to travel near or far on any other airline.
How to Do It: You'll want some Delta SkyMiles to book these flash sales. And you're in luck.
Delta occasionally rolls out bigger bonuses on its suite of co-branded American Express cards. Those are worth waiting for if you're in the market for some SkyMiles. But there's another way…
Delta is an Amex transfer partner, and it's one of our favorites. That means you can earn some Amex Membership Rewards points from cards like the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express, then transfer them to your Delta SkyMiles account when you see a SkyMiles flash sale you like.
Emirates First Class for 85K
It’s time to knock this one off your bucket list.
Emirates first class is incomparable, from the suites to the food and champagne to the showers onboard – at least if you’re flying the Airbus A380. But flying Emirates first class from the U.S. to Dubai (DXB) will cost you at least 136,000 miles … plus about $800 in taxes and fees. Ouch.
But there's an easy way to do it for cheap: Fly to Europe instead.
Read more: The Best Way to Scratch Emirates First Class Off Your Bucket List
Emirates operates two flights from the U.S. straight to Europe: Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) and New York City (JFK) to Milan (MXP). And you can book first class in either route with just 85,000 miles each way by transferring them direct to Emirates. Despite some punishing increases to Emirates award fees lately, it's still reasonable flying to and from Europe: Just $103 in fees for the one way from the U.S. to Europe!
Can't find the award space to book first class? Book a business class fare and then upgrade to Emirates first class with miles at check-in!
It’s a bargain, and easily the best way to book these flights. Plus, now that Emirates is flying the A380 to Milan again, you can sip Dom Perignon and take a shower on your way to (or better yet, home from) Italy!
How to Do It: Emirates Skywards miles are among the easiest to earn in the world.
You can transfer them from all the major banks: Chase, American Express, Citi, Capital One, and even Bilt Rewards. Heck, you can even transfer points from your Marriott Bonvoy account to Emirates.
The World's Best Business Class to South Africa for 75K Miles
Great cities like Johannesburg or Cape Town should be on everyone's list. But with 26 to 30 or more hours of travel time, it's not for the faint of heart. It's one of the longest trips in the world. So why not do it in the world's best business class?
You can use American AAdvantage miles to fly in a Qatar Airways Qsuite all the way from the U.S. to South Africa, with a stop in Doha (DOH) on the way. But what makes this so outstanding is that American only charges 75,000 AAdvantage miles for that long journey.
That's just 5,000 miles more than the nonstop from the U.S. to the Middle East – despite the fact that you're tacking on another 10-hour flight in business class!
The best time to splurge for business class is on a long flight where you can soak in the luxury and get a good night's sleep. You'll be hard-pressed to find much more bang for your buck than the long journey to South Africa – or anywhere else in Africa.
Read our full review of Qsuites on the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Doha (DOH).
How to Do It: Those AA miles will come in handy.
Between the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you could quickly rack up 100,000 AAdvantage miles. And that's more than enough to make these incredible flights happen.
This list is far from exhaustive. There are dozens more amazing ways that you can use points and miles to see more of the world – or see it in style – and save a boatload of money in the process.
My favorite post— the Real Deals!
An apartment for 50k to S Africa? Safari Time!
Hi Kyle Amazing and priceless info provided. Any tips on getting the best deal on trips to India from US on either Emirates or sinapore airlines?
Qatar Qsuites are a great option as well. This post walks you through the best ways to book:
How often does availability for one, let alone two, with points come along? How far in advance are seats open? Is it worth the points to transfer Avios from BA or points form Citi? How important are dates of travel?
I am looking at Boston-Windhoek return but not sure yet of my dates of travel.