When it comes to using points and miles, there are good redemptions, better redemptions, and the best. You’re looking at the last option.
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 to help you.
In no particular order, here are nine of the absolute best ways to use points and miles.
Fly to Hawaii and Back Using 26,000 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 to book the 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 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred within the first three months is enough to get you two round-trip tickets to Hawaii.
Get to Europe for 34,000 Miles RT with Iberia – or Double for Business Class
If flying to Europe is on your list, you can’t get it for much cheaper than this. For just 34,000 miles and cash fees, 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.
Iberia’s business class won’t win any awards for the best in the world, but it’s 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 $220-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 the miles you need with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Platinum Card from American Express.
Fly to Hawaii from Anywhere Nationwide for 35,000 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.
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 FlyingBlue 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 great starter cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that earns 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months or the Capital One Venture card, which gets you 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within three months, you’ll be well on your way to a trip 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 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. 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 110,000 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. And of course, you also earn the pass by flying with Southwest 100 times in a year on paid fares.
Flying a Delta One Suite for 50,000 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 using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. And you can book that exact same flight for as low as 50,000 miles.
Check out all the routes where you can currently snag a Delta One suite. Flights to Europe run 50,000 miles, while a flight to Asia will be 60,000 miles.
The trick is finding the dates where this sweet spot works, and it can be unpredictable. So be sure to read our full guide to booking Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic miles.
How to Do It: Earning the 50,000 to 60,000 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.
Fly ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles
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.
Fly in Your Own Apartment for 50,000 Miles
Some of the best deals in the world require you to think outside of the box. This is one of those times. This is the cheapest way to fly in one of the most luxurious first class seats in the sky.
It’s the Etihad Apartment, your own private suite with a seven-foot-long bed and a shower on board. That’s right, you can shower at 35,000 feet.
You can fly in an Apartment from New York City-JFK (JFK) to Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi (AUH). But those flights cost 115,000 American AAdvantage miles, and finding the award space can be difficult.
So if you can make it to either Seoul-Incheon (ICN) or Abu Dhabi, you’re in luck: You can hop on the 10-hour flight between those two cities for just 50,000 AAdvantage miles. That’s less than you need for the even shorter flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or London-Heathrow (LHR) in an Apartment.
It’s by far the most cost-effective way to fly in an Apartment, and it’s easily one of the best deals in points and miles. Read up on how to book your own Apartment using AAdvantage miles.
How to Do It: Earning the 50,000 AAdvantage miles you need to book this flight couldn’t be easier.
The airline has two different co-branded credit cards that will get you there in one fell swoop. You can currently earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles by making a single purchase – and paying the $99 annual fee – on the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. That means you could buy a pack of gum, pay the annual fee, and have enough miles to fly in one of the world’s best first-class cabins.
Or look at the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card, which is offering 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 on the card in the first three months.
Delta 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 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 lately:
- Fly to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador from just 12,000 SkyMiles
- Take a trip to China for just 30,000 SkyMiles
- Fly Premium Select from Anywhere in the U.S. to Europe for 68,000 SkyMiles
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 get to Colombia, China, or Europe on any other airline.
How to Do It: 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.
Otherwise, check out the American Express Platinum card. You can earn up to 100,000 points after spending $5,000 within three months, and then transfer them to Delta to book a great flash sale.
Fly the World’s Best Business Class to South Africa for 75,000 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.
How to Do It: Those AA miles will come in handy again.
Between the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card, you could quickly rack up 110,000 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.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.