Maximizing Brex Points With SkyTeam Programs
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While we generally think of transferable points currencies in terms of the “big three” players — Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points — the space is undeniably heating up. Last year, Capital One shocked the award travel community by adding airline transfer partners to some of its popular cards, and Marriott chose to continue — and even expand — the list of transfer partners from Starwood Preferred Guest when the programs were integrated.
The latest player to join the ranks is Brex, a company you may not have heard of before. Unlike Chase and Amex, Brex cards are corporate charge cards designed to help companies manage their cash flow with a modern technology stack. Despite being just over two-and-a-half years old, Brex is already valued at over $2 billion, and the company continues to improve the product it offers its corporate clients. The latest improvements were just announced at the end of July, as Brex launched a 100,000-point sign-up bonus on the Brex World Elite Mastercard and added the following six airline transfer partners to its Brex Exclusive Rewards program:
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
These partners represent an even distribution across the major alliances, with two programs from each one. After first covering the best way to leverage Brex’s Star Alliance transfer partners, today we’re going to take a look at the best options for Brex customers to redeem their points for SkyTeam award flights.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
It’s gotten considerably harder to speak in general terms about SkyTeam award tickets ever since the two biggest programs in the alliance — Delta SkyMiles and Air France-KLM Flying Blue — pulled their respective award charts and switched to more dynamic pricing. On any given day, the price for an award ticket might vary by as much as 3-4x — sometimes even more on longer international routes. Take a look at this example of business class flights between New York-JFK and Paris (CDG).
While plenty of days have the lowest price of 57,500 miles available (worth $690 based on TPG’s valuations), many days require three, four or even five times as many miles.
By far the best value to be had in the Flying Blue program comes from the carrier’s monthly Promo Rewards, which offer discounts on flights between Europe and select international cities. Rather than a fixed number of miles off the standard price, you’ll instead receive either a 25% or 50% discount based on the program’s dynamic pricing algorithm. For the month of August, here are the current US destinations (valid for trips between October 1 and November 30, 2019):
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD): 25% off business class flights
- Houston (IAH): 25% off economy flights
- Boston (BOS): 25% off economy flights
These tend to book up pretty early in the month, but there are still several available. Flying from Chicago to Venice (VCE) in business class for only 39,750 miles and ~$250 in taxes is a solid award.
Even without the Promo Rewards discount, there are still some values to be had. Back in January, TPG Editor Nick Ewen redeemed 53,000 miles plus $236.91 per person to fly from Miami (MIA) to Venice via Paris as part of his annual, international trip over Thanksgiving. While the out-of-pocket cost stung a bit, getting to Europe in comfort for a comparatively small number of miles was well worth it.
Because Aeromexico’s Club Premier loyalty program uses kilometers rather than miles as its currency, award rates are inflated as a result — which can complicate the transfer math. While other transfer partners such as Amex Membership Rewards compensate for this fact with an elevated transfer ratio (1:1.6), Brex does not. Brex’s 1:1 ratio is still much better than the 2:1.5 transfers offered by Capital One, but it still leaves most Aeromexico awards feeling overpriced. For example, a round-trip economy flight from the US to Mexico will cost 56,000-60,000 miles depending on the season. SkyTeam partner award flights will be even worse, with one-way economy awards from the US to Europe costing either 48,000 or 65,000 miles depending on the season.
That being said, there is one major plus to the program — though it won’t be useful for every type of traveler.
Aeromexico is one of the last airlines to offer a valuable round-the-world award ticket. Economy class awards cost 224,000 miles, while business class will set you back 352,000 miles. While that’s a lot of points to spend in one place — especially with a 1:1 transfer ratio — you can build a pretty incredible trip, with up to 15 stopovers of more than 24 hours (no more than five per continent).
Here are the other important restrictions on the pass:
- Valid only for travel on SkyTeam airlines.
- Travel must continue in the same direction, east or west (although there are some reports that Aeromexico is flexible on this if you’re backtracking to connect through a SkyTeam hub city).
- Travel must begin and end in the same country.
- All flights must be booked in the same class of service.
- Pass is valid for one year from the date of issue.
Even if you don’t max this pass out, your average cost per flight can still be incredibly low, especially for long-haul travel. The beauty of round-the-world passes is that, outside of the restrictions listed here, it’s up to you to see how creative you can get in building your dream itinerary. While the sky is quite literally the limit, here’s an example of a trip you could take using this pass.
Brex’s decision to start offering airline transfer options to its cardholders confirms what many TPG readers knew all along: Flexible, transferable points are the most valuable form of credit card rewards out there. While cash-back cards offer a steady and fixed return, Brex points now give you the ability to pick and choose which airline and alliance to choose for your next work trip or family vacation. And once you’ve narrowed down your plans and selected an itinerary, you even have multiple avenues to book, allowing you to pick the cheapest possible awards.
Featured photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
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