The 4 most undervalued airline programs you should know about
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Even in light of increasing award prices across the major US carriers, it’s easy to see the value in 100,000 MileagePlus miles, and most of us can still get excited about a 100,000-mile AAdvantage credit card sign-up bonus. And none of us could possibly deny the incredible deal the Southwest Companion Pass provides or the peace of mind a stash of TrueBlue points and JetBlue Mosaic status can yield. But what about the other programs listed as credit card point transfer partners — the ones you may simply gloss over? Today, I’ll cover some of the most undervalued airline loyalty programs, which provide even more avenues for US-based travelers to earn and redeem for domestic and international travel.
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Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue is undervalued because most people don’t realize how easy it is to bank miles with the program. American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards are all 1:1 Flying Blue transfer partners, and Starpoints transfer at 1:1.25 if you maximize the 20,000-point transfer bonus.
On top of being able to quickly build a sizable balance, you can get tremendous value when redeeming miles through Flying Blue. Pay just 30,000 miles round-trip to fly from the continental U.S. to Hawaii and 25,000 miles round-trip from the U.S. to certain Caribbean destinations.
Additionally, Flying Blue’s Promo Awards offer you up to 50% off on flights booked with miles. Round-trip to Europe from certain US cities will cost just 37,500 miles round-trip in economy or 93,750 miles in business.
ANA Mileage Club
ANA Mileage Club offers some of the cheapest Star Alliance award rates to Asia and Europe. You can fly round-trip to Europe in business class for just 88,000 ANA miles. That’s an incredible bargain, considering Star Alliance partner United charges at least 62,500 miles each way.
Awards to Asia are also a great deal at just 95,000 miles round-trip in business class or 60,000 in economy. As a comparison, United charges 42,000 miles each way for an economy class ticket to Tokyo (HND), while business class is a staggering 92,000 miles. With ANA Mileage Club, you are essentially saving 50% on the cost of the same award ticket.
The best part is that ANA miles are easy to earn. You can transfer them from your Membership Rewards account at a 1:1 ratio. At the moment, The Platinum Card® from American Express is offering 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined spending during the 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.
Meanwhile, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express let’s you earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. That’s more than enough for a round-trip business class ticket to either Asia or Europe.
Asiana Club is a Korean airline that’s part of the Star Alliance, and it has a generous award chart that’s often overlooked. You need just 100,000 miles to fly Lufthansa first class round-trip from the U.S. or Canada to Europe.
Europe to Hawaii in round-trip business class is only 80,000 miles and 100,000 miles round-trip in first. You can redeem miles for one-way award tickets at half the price of the below values. Round-trip tickets can include up to eight segments with seven stopovers (each must be less than 24 hours).
However, note that tickets must be reserved and issued at least three days prior to departure, which makes booking Lufthansa first class a bit challenging on some routes, given that award seats may not appear until a day or two before departure.
Korean Air SkyPass
Korean Airlines has a wonderful product for both long-haul flights and regional flights within Asia. I’ve always enjoyed the service and the Korean food, and I find the seats to be comfortable. The SkyPass loyalty program is equally appealing, though unfortunately it’s often overlooked. You can boost your balance in the program by transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott or by using the SkyPass Visa Signature® Card. The information for SkyPass Visa Signature card the has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
One of the great things about this program is the plentiful premium-class availability on Korean Air’s own flights. If you search far in advance, you’ll find that most flights have four or more business or first-class seats open. Award rates are also favorable; you’ll need 62,500 miles for a one-way business-class flight to Asia from the US on Korean flights, 25,000 miles round-trip to Hawaii from the mainland on Delta and 80,000 miles round-trip in business to Europe from the US on SkyTeam partners. Another highlight is the ability to put an award ticket on hold for more than six months without having the required miles in your account.
There are some idiosyncrasies to the program, including award seat blackout dates, having to get approval to add family members to your profile if you want to book them an award seat and fuel surcharges on SkyTeam awards. If you jump through these few hoops, you can really find a lot of value in this program.
With the major US airlines seeing devaluations to their award charts and routing rules — not to mention moving to revenue-based programs — it’s no wonder many people are frustrated with their award travel options. However, by looking beyond American, Delta, United and other big US carriers, you can find some real gems. Flying Blue, LifeMiles, SkyPass and other programs offer relatively cheap award rates, and luckily there are plenty of ways to earn miles with each program.
Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal
Featured image of ANA’s The Room seat by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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