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 later this year or 2022. While it may not be time to travel yet, it’s a great time to earn the miles to pull these redemptions when you’re ready to get revenge on 2020.
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
- Nationwide to Hawaii for 35K Miles
- The Southwest Companion Pass
- Snag a Delta One Suite for 50K Miles
- ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles
- 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 AA flight – same dates, same plane, same trip to Hawaii – and do it for just 26,000 miles.
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 from Los Angeles (LAX) or Phoenix (PHX). That’s because British Airways sets its award pricing based on the distance, which puts LAX and PHX in the sweet spot.
But you can get to any of the four major Hawaiian islands at that price. And seeing as you’re saving nearly 20,000 miles with this workaround, it’s worth highlighting.
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, and Citi can all be transferred to British Airways. So the best-ever 80,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card within the first three months is enough to get you three round-trip tickets to Hawaii.
Get to Europe for 34k Miles RT – or Double for Business Class
If flying to Europe is on your list for 2022, 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.
The airline’s distance-based award chart means it’s cheapest to hop on the nonstop flight to Madrid from New York City-JFK (JFK), Boston (BOS), 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.
Iberia’s business class is solid. And at just 68,000 miles round trip – less than most airlines charge for economy – it’s a steal.
Check out our review of Iberia business class on the flight from Chicago to Madrid.
Iberia tacks on some cash fees, but they’re typically far more reasonable than what other major European carriers add to award tickets: just $100 or so for economy and $200-ish for business class. No matter how you slice it, it’s an amazing deal.
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 Platinum Card from American Express. And that’s true whether you want to fly economy or up in business.
Nationwide to Hawaii for 35K Miles
We’re heading back to Hawaii. And while the price tag may be higher than using British Airways, this one is far more versatile.
Want to get on a nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Maui (OGG)? That’ll be 35,000 miles round trip. Based all the way over in New York City-JFK (JFK) and need a one-stop flight to Hawaii? Still 35,000 miles round trip. OK, but what about a tiny airport like Fargo, North Dakota (FAR) that requires at least two stops? Again, it’s just 35,000 miles round trip.
The secret? Use Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles to book flights to Hawaii on Delta with this sweet spot, saving hundreds of dollars (and tens of thousands of SkyMiles) in the process. And it works at this low rate from virtually every airport in the country where Delta flies.
It can be tricky to find the right Delta flights you want through Air France or KLM’s websites, but it’s worth the work for this great deal. Consider that the flights from Fargo (FAR) to Kauai (LIH) normally costs at least $1,000 or more than 100,000 SkyMiles.
Read our guide with in-depth instructions on how to book Delta flights to Hawaii using Flying Blue miles.
So yeah, using just 35,000 miles from FlyingBlue is a sweet deal.
How to Do It: The cherry on top of this sweet spot is just how easy it is to get the Flying Blue miles you need to fly to Hawaii.
That’s because you can get FlyingBlue miles by transferring them from all four major banks: Chase, Capital One, American Express, and Citi. So with a great starter card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that earns 80,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months, you’ll have more than enough for a trip to two to Hawaii.
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 2021, 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 125,000 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.
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 of course, you also earn the pass by flying with Southwest 100 times in a year on paid fares.
Snag a Delta One Suite 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 Suites to Europe using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. And you can book that exact same flight 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 onboard can require some searching.
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.
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. That makes this outstanding deal even better.
ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles
This 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 110,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, or 120,000 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 110,000 miles. It makes this easily one of the best deals in the world of points and miles.
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 85,000 points from Chase, Amex, or Virgin. The best gets even better.
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 occasionally slashes award rates on select flights. Sometimes the airline advertises these sales, and other times we just discover them.
Here’s a taste of some of the best flash sales we’ve seen:
- 10,000 SkyMiles from Seattle (SEA) to Hawaii roundtrip!
- … or nationwide flights to Hawaii from just 14,000 SkyMiles total
- Take a trip to China for just 30,000 SkyMiles
- 90,000 SkyMiles to fly Delta One to Japan and back!
- Costa Rica for 11,000 SkyMiles roundtrip!
- Fly to Puerto Rico and back for just 10,000 SkyMiles total
- Fly Delta One Suites to Europe for just 98,000 SkyMiles
- A nationwide flash sale to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) from just 20,000 SkyMiles total
- Fly to London-Heathrow (LHR) and back for only 14,000 SkyMiles!
Get SkyMiles flash sales like this one with Thrifty Traveler Premium – try it for just $5.99 a month!
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 is out with its biggest-ever bonuses on its SkyMiles American Express cards, with up to 90,000 SkyMiles available! But these offers end next week on April 28, so you’ll want to act fast.
Otherwise, check out the American Express Platinum card. You can earn up to 225,000 points (or more!) after spending $5,000 within three months, and then transfer them to Delta when you want to book a great flash sale.
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. And there’s an easy way to do it for cheap.
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. After Emirates eliminated some hefty fees, you’ll pay just $50 or so in cash, too. It’s a bargain, and easily the best way to book these flights.
Want to fly round-trip? It gets even better: Emirates has better pricing for roundtrip awards, so you’d need just 135,00 miles total to get to Europe and back in Emirates first class.
How to Do It: Emirates Skywards miles are among the easiest to earn in the world.
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 Card, 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.