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I book millions of miles a month in awards for clients and I’m always trying to think about what award option works the best, since most people have multiple mileage balances and flexible credit card points. Whether its wrangling a Delta award to the “low” level or helping someone maximize an American Express transfer bonus they didn’t know about, I like to add value as much as possible.

This past weekend I booked clients on a business class trip from Florida to Australia for only 100,000 Amex points a piece (see how below, #1), this made me think about some of the best award redemptions out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the best “bang for your mile” redemptions.

1) 100,000 Aeroplan miles for North America to Australia in business class on Star Alliance partners. Note: If you actually fly Air Canada, they require 115,000 miles and the taxes/surcharges will be higher. Note #2: Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members

2) 80,000 Aeroplan miles for business class North America to Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain (incl. Balearic Islands; excl. Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom). Note: Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members. Transfers are usually instantaneous.

3) 100,000 Aeroplan miles for business class North America to Asia 1 (which includes Thailand and Vietnam). Most airlines charge a premium for South East asia, but not Aeroplan. A great value, especially because Aeroplan miles can be redeemed for 27 Star Alliance airlines; including Singapore, Thai, and Asiana.

4) 63,000 ANA miles for New York to London on Virgin America Upper Class. Note: ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards Members. Transfers usually take 2 days.

5) 68,000 ANA miles for East Coast to Europe with stopovers. I once booked (for myself) JFK-FRA-MUC (stop), MUC-TXL (stop), TXL-FRA-JFK. JFK-FRA was on Singapore airlines on their 747 upper deck and all other legs on Lufthansa. Taxes were a bit high at $400, but it was worth it. Note: ANA awards lack flexibility, like being able to change a trip after it starts.

6) 120,000 Delta Skymiles for business class to Africa, including Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion. You can also include a stopover and an open jaw, so why not visit Paris to break up the trip (Seychelles is only 10.5 hours from Paris)? Note: Delta is an 1:1 Amex transfer partner and they usually run promotions, like the current 50% and 25,000 MQMs, which is pretty stellar. 80,000 Amex points for a trip to Seychelles and Paris? Get on that! Taxes for my award were about $250. Amex transfers are usually instantenous and the 50% bonus should post immediately.

7) 40,000 mile American off-peak coach to Europe between October 15-May 15. Offpeak awards can also be used on Oneworld partners; like British Airways, Iberia, and Finn Air.

8 ) 60,000 mile US Airways off-peak business class awards to Europe. Only on US Airways flights, January 15- February 28.

9) 20,000 mile Continental/United coach award from North Asia to South Asia.

10) 30,000 mile Continental/United business class award from North Asia to South Asia.

11) 80,000 mile British Airways North America to South America Oneworld partner business class awards. Note: these are good for one carrier, so if you choose LAN, you need to get yourself to the gateway or else the price increases drastically. However, you can build in a bunch of stopovers, so your trip could be JFK-LIM (stop)- SCL (stop)- IPC (stop)-JFK. A great way to tour South America and British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards. Note #2: there’s currently a 40% bonus.

12) 1,300 IberiaPlus points for Intra-European flights, like MAD-AMS. These flights can be extremely expensive, especially those not served by low-cost carriers. Iberia is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, 100 IB Plus points = 1,400 Amex points. MAD-AMS = 18,200 Amex points (and the time I booked that award flights were $750+) and flights like MAD-Tel Aviv, which routinely sell for over $1,500 USD for economy roundtrips, can be snagged for 2,250 IB points (31,500 Amex points.) Iberia has very generous award availability.

13) 110,000 US Airways miles for Business Class North America to South Pacific (Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Saipan, etc).  US Airways miles can be purchased for as low as 1.5 cents each through their 100% bonus offer.

14) 120,000 mile Aeroplan mini-Round The World award. It’s basically a first class award to Asia, but you can route through Europe and stop in two cities along the way to your final Asian destination and cross both oceans. An incredible value I wrote about here.

15) 50,000 mile Flying Blue North America to Europe 50% off awards (cities vary by promotion period). Currently you can fly from Vancouver to Europe in KLM business class for 50,000 miles roundtrip, which is an amazing value. Note: Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Fees are high, but worth it considering you have to use 50% the miles needed for an award.

16) 25000 mile + £170 copay bmi coach awards North America to Europe.

17) 37, 500 mile + £255 copay bmi business class awards North America to Europe.

18) 100 credit Southwest yearly companion pass. Earned when accruing 100 credits in a year, which used to be doable by credit card activity alone. March 1 begins the new Rapid Rewards, but the Companion Pass stay – though you can’t mix credit card AND flight activity. You either need to fly enough to earn 100 credits or spend enough for 110 credits ($110,000).

19) 100 credit Airtran yearly companion pass. While they don’t give it to you like Southwest, you can redeem Airtran credits. Airtran is an Amex Membership Rewards Transfer partner and they are currently running a 20% bonus, so you’d need to transfer 112,500 Amex points to get enough credits for the yearly companion pass. However, that’s 365 days of free flights for any companion traveling with you – if you use it enough, it can be an unbelievable value.

20) 280,000 Delta miles for a business class Round the World trip, with up to 6 stopovers. Since Skyteam partner availability is decent, planning these isn’t as hard as you’d think. And with the 50% Amex bonus, those with Amex points can get this award for a mere 187,000 points.

This was just a random collection of some of my favorite awards, but is by no means a definitive list of all valuable awards. Please feel free to comment below on your thoughts or your favorite award.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • gpapadop

    Excellent list, thanks!

    Are #6, 11 and 13 all coach?

    I had no idea about #12 Iberia Plus points!


  • D

    #7 is amazing in my experience. Since we love to travel to Europe in the shoulder season, we have used this many times. Y across the pond, is a short enough trip from BOS, that I am willing to “suffer” ;-)

  • Mark

    #12 is amazing. Wow.

    Superb list.

  • michael

    fantastic work! How do you book BA 40K award using AA miles (I’m Explat) on the AA website? I can’t find it. Do you call? Does BA waive fees like AA does for Explats?

    thanks for the help

  • The Points Guy

    Gpopadop- 6,11,13 are all business class.
    Michael- you have to call AA to get partner availability- since you are booking the BA award through AA, some fees should be waived.

  • Jim

    I got tickets to Copenhagan 3/31-4/3 thanks to you. Do you have any idea where to stay? I’m looking for suggestions.

  • The Points Guy

    Jim- I’m not sure where I’m staying yet either. Not many choices, but I might go for Radission Blu if I can get some Carlson points or a good corporate rate. I’ll let you know what I find (and you do the same if you find something good)

  • Jim

    I looked on FT and some of the guys liked the Imperial. I guess it was really easy to get to from the airport. A 10 min train ride, and then the hotel is in center city.Only problem is no points or upgrades! All of the chain hotels seem to be near the airport.

  • abcx

    Note that with BMI you will also pay YQ. A better use of BMI miles is to go to S. America using TAM. Very low YQ. IIRC, N. America to S. America is 30k + co-pay in C.

    BMI also allows two stops (one in each direction) but they are sticklers about the routing.

    Also, AFAIK, DL does not allow two stopovers on any awards. It’s stopover + OJ. US is 110k miles to anywhere Africa in C thus better than the DL 120k miles (unless you are valuing US miles higher than DL). Note that US to Europe is 100k in C. So for 10k more, you can go all the way to S. Africa with a stop in Europe. I just wished that US offered one stopover in each direction…

  • Elizabeth

    I just booked #11 on LAN last week. Getting 2 biz seats for 160,000 BA miles is a pretty awesome deal and the availability was wide open. I’m looking forward to trying LAN out and visiting South America soon.

  • Glenn

    Hey, great blog!

    I love Aeroplan’s 120K F class awards to SE Asia. I guess you have that covered in the miniRTW. I have not done a stopover but considered it for my trip this year. I thought about stopover in SIN for a couple of days on my way home from BKK or a couple of days in Toronto. They really improved their web booking process and now include a lot more flight options.

  • al613

    MAD-TLV 10k BA each way plus yq

  • The Points Guy

    Wow- didn’t realize Israel was in Europe 3- thanks for the tip. I just priced out a MAD-TLV in business fo 40,000 BA plus $250 in fees- not bad at all! That would be 29,000 Amex points with the current promo- less than Iberia for coach.

  • Ben

    Wow, what a great article! This is a great example of why I like your blog so much–great content, organization, and a clear and concise writing style to boot.

    My 50,000 MR points just posted on my gold card from the signup and this gives me many ideas for what to do with them. I know the transfers to DL and BA are really good right now, but does Aeroplan ever do big bonuses or should I go for one of the current ones? I am a college student so I don’t have too much flexibility on the churn right now.

  • The Points Guy

    Ben- where do you live and where do you want to go? The beauty of Amex points is there flexibility, so there’s a risk that if you transfer them all to one program- that program won’t be able to meet the needs down the line. That being said, if you are flexible and a college student, Delta may make sense because you’d also get medallion status until feb 2013 which would save you money on checked bags and their fees are much lower than BA. However getting low awards does requre research and flexibility. In sure others will give different opinions.

  • Ben

    ATL is my home airport so Delta obviously makes a lot of sense. My dream trip right now would be SE Asia, so I am hesitant to transfer to Delta because from what I can tell it takes more miles to get there using SkyMiles.

  • GLIE

    Awesome list…. wish I had this during my heyday …. now married with childrens. Almost impossible to score 4 tix in coach let alone business. what you think about spg to aeroplan for asia trip… need 4 tix :D

  • The Points Guy

    Ben- right now it’s 120k to SE Asia business class but it’s hit or miss. A lot opens up last minute
    GLIE- Aeroplan isn’t the best for coach travel to Asia- I’d recommend US air- lower miles and fees/surcharges. Four is hard- why dont you redeem two in biz and let the kiddies ride in the back (assuming they aren’t toddlers)

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  • Farhan Mehta

    I have the same dilemma as Ben. I am based out of Detroit (Platinum on Delta) and am not sure if I should cash in on the MR Delta 25k MQM promo or hold the points to have more flexibility.

  • Jim

    I’m trying to book an itinerary on LAN using BA points….JFK-LIM-EZE (stopover)-SCL-IPC (destination)-SCL (stopover)-JFK

    I know Elizabeth in this thread has successfully booked a similar itinerary…and I know others who have booked the exact itinerary.

    However, two calls to BA have yielded a negative response…they said that I could not stopover in EZE on the way to IPC because it is not the most direct route. The fact is that it is not the most direct route (JFK-SCL-IPC is most direct), but others have had succes with BA being somwwhat flexible re stopovers.

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  • Sice

    I know this is late, but we stayed at the Imperial Copenhagen and it was fine. Decent room, nice bed, very clean, but the price was the thing that got us there. Very centrally located and nice to walk from the central station (came via train from Göteborg) and then were VERY central to most things (Ströget, museums). And it was nice to be close again to the train station for our departure at CPH early a few mornings later.

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  • http://[email protected] bryan

    Did I win this easter egg hunt?

  • Eric

    Found an easter egg! Happy sunday.

  • dan ramsen

    Hey Points Guy!

    do you know of a way to travel US-EU without major taxes and fees (<$100RT)?

  • Torsten Jacobi

    Some more ideas:

    - US (West coast) to anywhere in Europe on Swiss (LX) using Miles &More (SPG transfer partner 1:1) 37.5k miles in economy round-trip
    - 135k First/Business Onepass RT for anywhere in US to Cape Town South Africa with a stop-over in Europe
    - inner-Japan or China/ Japan flights can be booked one-way for 10k onepass miles and $34 taxes – such tickets often cost $500+

  • Eduardo Morgan

    is it a good idea to my 212,500 AeroMexico-Skyteams miles (340,000km) to make a business class around the world?
    I’m considering MEX-LAX-HNL (less than 24 hrs) HNL-ICN (stopover#1), ICN-PVG (#2), PVG-PEK (#3), PEK-HKG (#4), HKG-HAN(less tan 24 hrs), HAN-BKK (#5), BKK-NBO (less than 24 hrs), NBO-AMS-CDG (#6), CDG-JFK-MEX
    As professor of Services Marketing, I’m developing an evaluation tool and considering flying the maximum of airlines.
    Eduardo Morgan

  • Kris

    TPG, I would love love love to see an updated list of this! I’m sure you’ve discovered more awards, or charts have changed, or surcharges are now being added, etc etc etc!

  • Phil

    Is there any benefit of having Aeroplan with American Express instead of CIBC Aeroplan? Is it easier to redeem points for business class from North America to Europe?

    It seems very difficult to book business class from Calgary to Paris for late September. Any suggestions?

  • Ryan1

    why would you do 80K Aeroplane with Amex MR vs. 68K ANA with Amex MR when going to Europe? ANA would seem like a much better deal

  • Ryan1

    hey Points guys :) Can you let me know what you think about the above question..i’m very confused especially if you have AMEX seems like a no brainer to use them for ANA not Aeroplane.

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  • Dave

    Are you a travel agent?

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