You always want what you can’t have. And with Europe off-limits to U.S. travelers for the foreseeable future, we’re all pining to get back.
But better days of travel are on the horizon, and it’s never too early to start crafting a gameplan to get back to Europe for cheap in 2021 or beyond. When it comes to using points and miles to get to Europe, there are plenty of options. And some are much, much better than others.
Whether you’re good flying economy or want to class things up a bit with a business or class redemption, we’ve rounded up the absolute best ways to travel to Europe on points and miles.
Book a Cheap Flight with Credit Card Points
One of our favorite ways to use credit card points like Chase Ultimate Rewards points is to book flight deals directly. Rather than paying cash, you’re using your credit card points as if they were cash.
And that’s a goldmine when you can harness a cheap fare you find using Google Flights or get straight to your inbox from Thrifty Traveler Premium. And unlike when you use airline miles, you won’t have to pay any additional taxes or fees – they’re covered by your points.
With airfare to Europe and beyond dropping for as far out as summer 2021, it’s a foolproof way to book flights to Europe for as few points as possible. Let’s look at a recent Thrifty Traveler Premium deal as an example, with flights on TAP Air Portugal from across the U.S. to Europe for as low as $219 round-trip next summer.
With this deal, you could book flights to Paris-Orly (ORY) from Newark (EWR) for just $246 and change. But if you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can book that flight for less than 20,000 points total. That means the card’s 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months can get you three round-trip tickets.
It gets even better with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as the points with that card are worth even more when booking travel. You could book the same flight for just 16,400 Chase points.
How to do it: First things first, you need some Chase points.
We think the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is easily the best travel card in these times for a few reasons. It’s got a reasonable annual fee at just $95. You can quickly earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months. And the card isn’t loaded with expensive travel benefits you can’t use for now.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Still, there’s no denying the value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve – especially if you’re using points to book flights, as each point is worth 1.5 cents toward airfare and other travel expenses. Add in the free lounge access via Priority Pass, $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and an annual $300 travel credit, and your next big trip to Europe could be even better.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Get to Madrid for 34,000 Miles … Round-Trip
Most airlines charge about 60,000 to 70,000 miles to fly from the U.S. to Europe and back. One airline can get you there and back for half that price.
It’s Iberia, the Spanish flag carrier whose Avios mileage program is second-to-none when it comes to getting to Europe on the cheap. Depart from the right cities and at the right time, and you can score round-trip flight straight to Madrid (MAD) for just 34,000 miles plus some taxes and fees.
The trick? Iberia’s distance-based award pricing system means you have to start your journey from the East Coast hubs of Boston (BOS), New York City (JFK), or Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD). Luckily for Midwesterners, Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) works at this price, too. Departing from other Iberia outposts like Miami (MIA), San Francisco (SFO), or Los Angeles (LAX) will cost you more miles.
Thrifty Tip: Don’t live in one of these cities? Use a positioning flight to get there and then book your flights to Spain separately.
You also need to time it right. Iberia uses peak and off-peak pricing, which means getting these cheap flights at 34,000 miles requires traveling during the off-peak season. Luckily, Iberia’s definition of “off-peak” is typically quite generous: It means you can fly at the lowest rates for nearly 2/3 of the year. Mid-June through mid-September are generally considered peak summer season, with some scattered weekends and holidays blocked off, too. Check out Iberia’s full calendar to scope out the dates.
Read more: These are the cheapest times to travel
In all, it’s not hard to find dates in the spring or early summer of 2021 for 34,000 miles round-trip. Iberia passes on some unavoidable cash fees on these tickets. But at $150 or so for economy, it’s far more reasonable than what you see on other airlines.
Oh, and one of the best parts about booking with Iberia miles? You can book flights almost a year in advance! Hello, summer 2021 plans! Make plans to explore Madrid, head to Barcelona, or hop onward throughout Europe using Madrid as your starting point.
How to do it: Iberia miles couldn’t be easier to earn, and you don’t even have to step foot on an Iberia flight to get them.
You can easily Iberia Avios by transferring them from Chase, Citi, or American Express. That means you can easily earn the miles you need with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Platinum Card from American Express, among other options.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
… Or Fly Business Class for 68K Miles!
Double the price, double the fun. Just as with economy, there’s absolutely no cheaper way to fly business class to Europe than using Iberia Avios. You can do it for just 68,000 miles round-trip – less than most airlines charge for a one-way ticket.
The same rules apply as you follow when booking a dirt-cheap economy award ticket with Iberia Avios. Fly from New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., or Chicago. Then focus on off-peak travel dates to book your eight-plus hour flights in business class for just 34,000 Avios each way. If you ask us, it’s one of the best deals in the world of points and miles, period.
You’ll pay less than $200 in fees for a round-trip flight, which is a steal compared to what many other airlines charge. While it may not make the cut for one of the world’s best business class cabins, Iberia business class is plenty good – and the price is definitely right.
The seats are spacious and comfortable, easily reclining all the way back into a lie-flat bed to catch some Z’s as you cross the Atlantic Ocean. So-called “honeymoon seats” in the center of the cabin are perfect for traveling couples. The food and service are equally solid, and you’ll be able to get into American’s excellent Flagship business class lounges before taking off for Europe.
Read our full review of the Iberia business class flight from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Madrid (MAD)!
How to do it: Second verse, same as the first.
Factor in the $4,000 spending requirement within three months to earn the 60,000-point bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and you’ll have nearly enough to book this business class flight to Spain in one fell swoop. Or if you qualify for the outstanding 100,000-point bonus on the Platinum Card from American Express via Cardmatch, you’re set.
Just transfer those points over to Iberia (but not before scoping out award availability first!) and you’ll be on your way to Europe in business class in no time.
Hop on a Delta SkyMiles Flash Sale
This is why you earn and save those Delta SkyMiles.
Like many airlines, Delta often charges 70,000 miles or more for a round-trip flight to Europe. But Delta’s frequent SkyMiles flash sales shake that up in a big way. How does this sound?
- Flights to London-Heathrow (LHR) as low as 14,000 SkyMiles round-trip – no, that’s not a typo.
- Nationwide flights to other European hotspots like Barcelona, Paris, and Rome for just 26,000 SkyMiles
- Fly to Athens and back for 32,000 SkyMiles total
- Fly Delta One (including a Suite!) nationwide to Europe for less than 100,000 SkyMiles!
This is the beauty of Delta SkyMiles. While flights using your SkyMiles are often expensive, these amazing SkyMiles flash sales we’ve found just in the last year are unbeatable. You won’t find these rates on any other airline.
How to do it: Patience. Flexibility. And a healthy stash of SkyMiles.
The trick with using Delta SkyMiles is waiting for the right deal, and being flexible enough to wait for it to come to you. That means this option likely won’t work if you’ve got a specific time period.
Sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium and you’ll get all the best SkyMiles flash sales – to Europe and elsewhere – delivered straight to your inbox. Then you’ll just need some Delta SkyMiles to book the next big deal. We’ve got you covered there, too.
Delta occasionally rolls out enhanced offers for its suite of American Express SkyMiles cards, so stay tuned to our running list of the best credit card offers each month.
Fly a Delta One Suite (But Not with Delta SkyMiles…)
Unless you come across a barnburner of a flash sale, flying Delta One business class isn’t cheap even using your Delta SkyMiles. Paying 120,000 SkyMiles for a one-way ticket is the norm. In fact, 120,000 SkyMiles is quite decent compared to the exorbitant rates we sometimes see for Delta One.
A whopping 320,000 SkyMiles for a one-way flight from Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam in a Delta One Suite?! Please don’t do this.
Instead, you can book the exact same flight in a Delta One Suite using Virgin Atlantic miles. It’s a slightly better deal…
That’s right: You can book the exact same Delta flight for just 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles – less than one-sixth what Delta itself is charging in SkyMiles. This is one of the best workarounds in the world of points and miles, and one of the best deals overall, too.
Finding award availability to book Delta One can be difficult, so be sure to read our guide to using Virgin Atlantic miles. And there are just a handful of routes to Europe that are equipped with suites – you may have to settle for business class in a refurbished 767-400 or an older Airbus A330, instead.
But you’ll relish that 50,000-point price tag even more when you get to cross the Atlantic Ocean in this…
Read our review of Delta One Suites from Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)!
How to do it: Earning the 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you need to book one of these flights is a piece of cake.
That’s because you can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic from Chase, American Express, and Citi. But these banks have frequently offered transfer bonuses of 30% or more to Virgin Atlantic, which brings down the cost to just 39,000 credit card points. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Thrifty Tip: Never transfer credit card points to your airline account until after you’ve confirmed the flights you want to book are available.
Book Star Alliance Business Class with Aeroplan
This is what we call a limited-time opportunity.
Aeroplan has long been one of the best mileage programs out there to book flights, especially business class awards to Europe. The airline charges just 55,000 miles for a business class award between the U.S. and most of Europe (or 57,500 miles to head for eastern Europe) on top-notch airlines like SWISS, United, Turkish, and others.
But that will change come November, when Aeroplan overhauls its award chart. There’s some great news there, as the airline is axing some of the ridiculous, $300-plus fees you have to pay when flying airlines like Lufthansa, Austrian, and even Air Canada.
Still, business class flights to Europe will go up in price: from 60,000 miles to even 70,000 miles each way, if you’re starting from the West Coast. And that means you’ve got a few months to lock in cheaper flights for as far out as summer 2021.
You can’t top the long flight from the U.S. to Istanbul (IST) – or the beaches of Bodrum (BJV), or elsewhere in Eastern Europe – in Turkish Airlines’ brand new business class for just 57,500 miles each way.
How to do it: Aeroplan miles are fairly easy to come by with the right credit cards.
Aeroplan is one of the absolute best transfer partners of American Express Membership Rewards. That means you can transfer the points you earn from the Platinum Card from American Express or the American Express Gold Card straight to your Aeroplan account.
With record-high bonuses of up to 75,000 points available on the American Express Gold Card after spending $4,000 within three months available via CardMatch, that’s a strong option.
You can also transfer Capital One Venture miles to Aeroplan, but every 2 Venture miles gets you 1.5 Aeroplan miles. That means a transfer of 50,000 miles will net you 37,500 Aeroplan miles.
Need help finding the right card for you? Thrifty Traveler Premium members get free, one-on-one credit card consulting!
The world is your oyster when it comes to getting to Europe and back on points and miles. These six redemptions are just the tip of the iceberg.
But they’re undeniably some of the best ways to get to Europe on the cheap … especially if you want to do it in style.