Sweet Spot Sunday: How to fly round-trip to Europe in business class for 88,000 miles
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Sweet Spot Sunday is a weekly series, highlighting the best-value award redemptions across loyalty programs.
When it comes to Star Alliance award tickets, most people go the easy route: United MileagePlus. You can book award tickets online and points are easily accessible through Ultimate Rewards transfers and cobranded United cards. Easy, right? Except there’s a cheaper option out there. All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club offers several sweet spot redemptions that can save you as much as 50% on award travel. More points mean more travel and who doesn’t love that, especially after a year in quarantine?
Today we’ll go over one of ANA’s best sweet spots available: the 88,000-mile round-trip business-class award to Europe. If you’re not familiar with ANA Mileage Club, don’t worry – I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about earning Mileage Club points and how to book this sweet spot award, step by step.
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Why it’s special
This award offers terrific value when compared to programs like American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus. A typical business-class award to Europe costs 115,000-154,000 miles round-trip, meaning you can save nearly half the miles by booking through ANA instead.
Economy awards to Europe often pricing out at 60,000 miles round-trip or more, making this 88,000-mile ANA award an even better value.
How to book this award
You can book ANA award tickets online or you can do it over the phone for a $25 fee. Just keep in mind that you can’t book any ANA awards within 96 hours of departure, so you’ll need to plan ahead. ANA also doesn’t allow one-way award bookings, so you’ll have to find return flight availability. With that being said, here’s how to book an ANA award ticket:
Step 1: Log in to your Mileage Club account
This probably goes without saying, but you’ll need to be logged in to your ANA Mileage Club account to book an award ticket. If you don’t have a Mileage Club account, you can sign up for one fairly easily.
Once you’re logged in, head to the Partner Flight Awards page and click on the “How to Apply” tab. The “Reservations and Applications for Partner Airline Flight Awards” button will take you to an award booking page.
Step 2: Enter your trip information
Once you’re on the award booking page, you’ll need to enter the details for your trip. It’s always a good idea to check off the “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days” box. If your dates are flexible, it generates a broader search.
Notice there’s a check box at the bottom: “Check when logged in user will not be traveling.” You’ll need to check that when booking travel for someone else. ANA allows you to book travel for a spouse, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. ANA also allows family pooling, so you can combine points and redeem an award faster.
Step 3: Confirm your travel dates
On the search results page, you’ll see a calendar displaying award availability within one week of your specified dates. If you’re lucky, you’ll see “Seats available” all around. With travel demand to Europe likely picking up, you might need to adjust your dates on this page to book this award.
Step 4: Pick your flight
Once you confirm your travel dates, you’ll get redirected to a page that shows the total cost of the award, along with flight options. As you can see, some awards can carry pretty hefty taxes. Even though ANA eliminated most fuel surcharges last year, they continue to pass on fuel surcharges added by partner carriers like Lufthansa, Copa and Air China, to name a few. The difference can be staggering. For example, a business-class award with a Swiss Airlines segment costs $962.17.
That same award drops to $171.10 if you switch to a Scandinavian Airlines segment instead. It’s definitely worth comparing the flights operated by different carriers to ensure you’re paying the lowest taxes possible.
Step 5: Confirm and pay
On the final step, you’ll need to review your itinerary and finalize your booking. In my case, I currently have zero ANA miles, so I’m not able to proceed with the booking until I top off my account.
The next step would be to enter your traveler profile and pay for your flight. Be sure to use a card that earns bonus points on travel, like The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
If you’re booking an award with inordinately high taxes, you may want to consider charging it to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You’ll earn only 2x miles per $1 spent but you can redeem miles toward the purchase to eliminate your out-of-pocket cost. Plus, the card offers travel accident insurance, offering you another layer of protection if anything goes wrong during your trip.
How to earn points for this award
Considering that ANA is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, these points are fairly easy to come by. The easiest option is through a new credit card welcome bonus. Since Amex is currently offering elevated welcome bonuses on several of their most popular cards, the timing is great.
Not only will you receive enough points to cover a round-trip ANA business-class award to Europe, but you can continue earning Membership Rewards through generous category bonuses. Just keep in mind Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule when it comes to welcome bonuses.
Here’s a look at some of the best card options to help you earn at least 88,000 ANA miles:
The Platinum Card currently offers 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Plus, you’ll earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases during your first six months of card membership. Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Even if you earn just 1x on the first $4,000 and then charge $1,000 in grocery purchases to your card, you’ll end up with a combined 89,000 Membership Rewards points. That’s more than enough to secure an ANA business-class award ticket to Europe.
The Business Platinum Card offers 125,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.
If you manage to complete the $15,000 spending requirement for this card, you’ll earn a whopping 140,000 points. That’s almost enough for two round-trip business-class awards using ANA miles. But even if you’re just after one award, the Business Platinum Card’s welcome bonus is enough to make that happen.
The Amex Gold Card is a good option if you have a portion of the points needed for this award but want to give your balance a boost. The card currently offers 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within your first six months of card membership. The card also earns 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or via American Express Travel and 4x on dining at restaurants and groceries at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x), making it ideal for maximizing daily spending.
I recommend the Amex Gold Card if you don’t need the full 88,000 points for an ANA business-class award to Europe. It still offers a sizeable welcome bonus and the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) is much more reasonable for the average person than the premium Platinum cards.
The Amex Business Gold Card currently offers a welcome bonus of 70,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $10,000 within the first three months. That definitely takes the sting out of the card’s $295 annual fee (see rates and fees).
If you want to save up for an ANA business-class award to Europe without paying over $500 in annual fees, then the Amex Business Gold Card is a great alternative. The welcome bonus is higher than on the personal Gold Card and if you make use of all the statement credits, you’ll more than offset the $295 annual fee (see rates and fees).
If Europe is on your post-pandemic bucket list, and you have Membership Rewards saved up, ANA’s 88,000-mile business-class ticket is one of the cheapest options out there. Earning points for this award is also fairly easy, considering ANA is a Membership Rewards transfer partner and, barring the once-per-lifetime rule, there are always great welcome bonuses you can take advantage of to stock up on points
Featured photo of Lufthansa’s A350 business class by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
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