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Video SRQ: Using Amex Points to Cover a Trip to London and Paris

by on May 26, 2013 · 31 comments

in Aeroplan, Air Berlin, American Express, Avios, British Airways, Hyatt, Iberia, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Decker wants to take his wife on a trip to London and Paris next spring:

“I have almost 500,000 points with American Express. My wife and I are planning a trip to London and Paris in March of 2014. Do you have any suggestions for how we can use these points in the best possible way for hotels and flights?”

With half a million American Express points you have a lot of options and should be able to cover both  your hotel accommodations and flights while even spoiling your wife with business class roundtrip!

Flights

Let me start off with flights because you have a lot more options there. There are a couple different routes you could take. I’m not sure where you’re based but I’m going to use New York to show you some examples.

Right off the bat you should take advantage 35% transfer bonus that American Express is offering to British Airways that is valid until June 7. Flying on British Airways you’re looking at 80,000 Avios roundtrip in business class for each ticket and about $600-$700 dollars in fees per ticket, which is pretty steep.

If you want to minimize the fees, I would recommend flying Aer Lingus (which has a ton of business class availability) via Dublin or Iberia via Madrid. I actually just booked a roundtrip business class ticket on Aer Lingus the other day for 80,000 Avios round trip (only 60,000 Amex points with the 35% transfer bonus!) and about $80 in fees – much better than $700. When connecting through Madrid you can fly Iberia. I would recommend even staying a day or two in Madrid since its such a great city. The trick with Iberia is you need to transfer your BA Avios to Iberia Avios which takes a little bit of coordination, but it can save you a ton of money in fees. With the 35% bonus you’re looking at some really valuable awards there.

Another option is to fly Air Berlin which flies to a lot of different US airports including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York JFK,  and Ft. Meyers and throughout Europe, though you’ll have to connect somewhere in Germany – probably Berlin or Dusseldorf.

If you don’t want to fly British Airways or deal with any of those loopholes you can also transfer your Amex points to one of the program’s Star Alliance partners. Aeroplan is a great option which I priced out for a flight from Newark to London and then returning from Paris to Newark. A ticket in business class on this flight would be 90,000 miles and $200 in taxes and fees which isn’t terrible since both London and Paris are expensive airports to fly in and out of especially in business class.Aeroplan Open Jaw

If you really want to stretch your points you can transfer them to ANA, which will take about two days, but it will only cost you about 38,000 points roundtrip in economy or 63,000 miles in business class to go from New York to London on United for example.

ANA EWR LHR

Hotels

Moving onto hotel accommodations, you have a lot of different options here as well. While you can redeem your Membership Rewards points for Four Seasons and other hotel gift cards, you’ll only be getting about .8 cents per point. With my redemptions, I like to get at least 1 cent per point if not more.

The way that I would go about booking a hotel is to transfer your Amex points to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio and then transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, essentially getting two Hilton points for every Amex point you transfer. Note that this does take a couple of weeks so don’t expect it to happen overnight, but since you’re planning ahead for next March, you have plenty of time.

Hilton will also give you the 5 night free which is an added bonus to this option. I priced out a couple London properties where you can get a room for about 41,000 points per night, so if nightly rates are usually $300 or $400 you’re getting much more than .8 cents per point in value.

Hilton London Options

While it’s not going to be an incredible redemption it’s still a better option than gift cards. American Express points are not great in general for hotels in my opinion. I  would much prefer to use my Chase points and transfer them to Hyatt. 22,000 points will put you up at the Park Hyatt Vendome for a free award night, which is an incredible hotel.

If you only have American Express points, I would consider those options, though I did check out Best Western. Most European Best Westerns go for 36,000 points her night so that’s 36,000 American Express points, but those hotels are generally not $300 per night so you’re getting less than one cent in value..

In my opinion your best bet is to take advantage of the Virgin Atlantic to Hilton tip and then flying either ANA or Aeroplan depending on where you’re based. I hope this helps and I hope you guys have a great trip!

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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  • Elenor

    (Newbie question:) If I have a Delta AMEX Gold — can I transfer points to Avios? Is that done through AMEX or from Delta?

  • thepointsguy

    Unfortunately not- you need a Membership Rewards Card, like Premier Rewards /Platinum /Green

  • Michael

    hey TPG, do you know if using ANA points out of LAX will still be the cheapest option? Or will that distance from LA to NY push it into a different tier?

  • thepointsguy

    I just posted the ANA partner award chart in this post (http://thepointsguy.com/2013/05/video-srq-can-you-turn-amex-points-into-american-miles-to-fly-etihad/) – its all distance based, so calculcate roundtrip mileage using gcmap.com for your route then crossreference to the chart

    LAX-LHR-LAX on ANA would be 10,911 miles roundtrip, so 55,000,85,000,120,000 for economy/biz/first. So cheaper than Aeroplan by 5k for business (and potentially in fees), but ANA transfers take 2 days vs instant on Aeroplan so price out both before deciding. I’ve also done series on fees on Aeroplan and ANA so check there to see who is the cheapest for the different carriers you want to fly.

    http://thepointsguy.com/2013/04/ana-award-taxes-and-fees-airline-partner-roundup/

  • Joe

    Hi TPG,
    As new member of Aer Lingus and ANA, I can’t access their alliance members grid. Do I have to fly these airlines, or transfer Amex miles to get into their system?
    Thanks

  • thepointsguy

    http://thepointsguy.com/2011/06/how-to-use-the-ana-award-tool-to-search-star-alliance-award-availability/

    To search star alliance availability you can use united.com (saver) space should be bookable w Ana

    Aer lingus coach shows up on united.com though if booking through British you need to call them. Expertflyer.com shows aer lingus business availability

  • Joey

    Serious question: Why is this uploaded in 240p resolution? It’s actually quite annoying to watch such a terrible quality video. Please invest in a camera made after 2004.

  • thepointsguy

    It’s an iPhone 5- didn’t realize the resolution was so bad! Thanks for the feedback – will look into

  • Jordan

    No one is forcing you to read thepointsguy’s blog. He is kind enough to share with us his knowledge and experiences and you act like it is something owed to you. Try being a little more gracious the next time you want to make a suggestion.

  • Toni Southam

    Hi TPG,

    Do you have any posts that go into further detail on the information you just provided in your comment, specifically, “using gcmap.com for your route then cross referencing…” I have the points earning down to an art, it’s the flight booking that I’m lost with! Thanks!!!

  • Larry

    Great post. What kind of coordination are you referring to when transferring Avios points from BA to Iberia?

  • welovekimberly

    FYI, site search box is broke

  • mahdimad

    On a related note…does this hold true with US airways? I recently had to book an award and saw 8 saver seats on a flight to Honolulu and called up US Airways to book 2 since I wanted to use up my dividend miles and they claimed none of the 8 were available to them. In the end, I managed to book all 8 on united via mileagePlus.

  • JM

    Awesome info! Do you know how long it takes for Amex points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic, and then to Hilton? What kind of a time frame are we looking at? Thanks!

  • dcp

    How do I [best] use Amex points for hotels in Portgual in July. It seems that Hilton has only 3 hotels in the country! and none have any point redemption…. I ‘guess’ I will have to fall back on the Amex travel? Thanks for your help. [edit] Or would it be better to book via Ultimate Rewards? There seem to be lots more hotels available (for fewer points – though not Hyatt) in PT and I have ~100k in either program.

  • Joey

    Actually, at this point he is obligated to produce quality content. You can’t simply call your self “The Points Guy” and not live up to your name. That’s like calling myself the King of England and just sitting back and enjoying life instead of conquering and colonizing other countries. You have to live up to your name or give that duty to someone else.

  • Joey

    Thanks for the response. The iPhone 5 is capable of recording in 1080p. Try uploading over Wifi instead of over the network. Also, the Youtube Capture app is the best way to upload.

  • Dee
  • Jamie

    I think you should explicitly state that your Iberia avios acct needs to be open for 90 days before you can transfer avios from BA, right?
    So, if you don’t have an acct with Iberia yet, don’t walk…run, open one now, you never know when you’re going to want to do that transfer. :-)

  • Urbanist

    I believe you can also use points transferred to BA for tickets without the surcharges. I have yet to try it, but when I use the tools on BA’s website, it tell me that for a trip originating abroad, and heading to the US, I can book using miles with no major fees. I have the option of buying down those miles for a fee too.

  • Urbanist

    Waaaaaaaa

  • Joey

    What part do you not understand?

  • Rebecca Wright

    Do the same low fees and taxes apply to other partner airlines such as America Airlines? I have about lots of Avios and Amex and want to take the family of 4 to the UK for Christmas from Philadelphia. The taxes/fees alone on BA flights come to over $2K. I could go from New York or Baltimore, but prefer not to go from Boston on the Aer Lingus (the cost and bother of getting to Boston and from Ireland would not be worth it). American has a direct flight PHL-Lon, if I could do this flight with points and the low fees you see with Air Lingus we would be set!

  • thepointsguy

    AA transatlantic flights also have high fees. Only airlines that don’t are Aer Lingus and Air Berlin or Iberia if you transfer to Iberia Avios

  • Rebecca Wright

    Thank you and Love your blog!

  • dean

    So, noob question, BA Avios are different than Iberia Avios? a 1:1 conversion? Guess so, it’s like AA miles and US. Airways miles…

  • Mike

    Waaaaaa

  • Jack453.564

    Idiot

  • Jim

    This logic is so depressingly broken.

  • Julian

    Forgive me a dumb question…just tried to register with British and…at the end of the form there is position called:”Security Pin” – can anyone tell me where to obtain it/or how to get around it?? …

  • Fred R

    TPG – I’m rather surprised that you didn’t mention the AF/KLM Flying Blue Promo Miles. As far as I remember, there is an Amex MR transfer to them. Provided that their US city is covered, they could get a RT flight for just 25k. If there is no promo, then the cost is 50k, which certainly doesn’t seem to be a worse deal than ANA or Aeroplan… is there something I’m missing?

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