Sunday Reader Question: Using Amex Points to Get To Europe

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TPG reader Doris writes:

“My family of four would like to go from Houston to Europe (Amsterdam or Germany) in early August. We have the Amex Platinum card with 240,000 points. What are your recommendations?  Should we transfer our points to Flying Blue?  Will they come out with promotions for August?”

Flying Blue can be a smart option if you can book within 2 months of travel and want business class and don’t mind paying fuel surcharges of about $800 per ticket. Flying Blue Promo Awards are only 25,000 miles in economy and 50,000 roundtrip in business class, so you’d have more than enough for all 4 members of your family and KLM flies Houston to Amsterdam non-stop. However, they won’t announce the July/ August promo award cities until June and you won’t be able to book them until the last day of June and who knows what availability will be like at that time.

Other options:
Economy
1) Transfer points to Aeroplan and fly on United to avoid fuel surcharges. Awards to Europe 1 (which include the Netherlands and Germany) are 60,000 miles each roundtrip and Amex transfers to Aeroplan at an instant 1:1.
2) Delta is also a 1:1 transfer partner and historically there have been a lot of transfer bonuses, but there’s been a lull lately. Not sure if that’ll change, but if you can find KLM or Air France availability those tickets will be 60,000 miles each for economy with relatively low fees.

Business class
1) There’s currently a 50% transfer bonus to British Airways and roundtrip business class awards are 100,000 miles a piece from Houston to London. To get those 400,000 points needed, you’d have to transfer 267,000 Amex, and Amex will advance you the amount you need for free as long as you earn them back within the next year (or you can buy them for 2.5 cents a piece). You’d then have to redeem for intra-European flights  because BA prices each segment a la carte. You could also buy them from low cost carriers.  Just prepare yourself for the fees – you should expect around $900 a ticket in fuel surcharges. Then again, BA has a pretty nice lie-flat business class seat (Club World) and nice lounges and you are still saving a ton from what you’d pay outright for business class.

These are just a couple suggestions. I’d recommend using airline websites like United.com, Airfrance.us, Britishairways.com and even paid sites like ExpertFlyer to find award availability on your preferred dates and then go from there.

Finding 4 low level awards in August to Europe will be a challenge, but if you are are diligent and persistent I’m sure you can make it happen. Keep us updated!

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