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The 7 best ways to redeem points and miles for flights to Europe

April 26, 2021
11 min read
An empty Old Town Square in Prague
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The European Union recently announced plans to admit vaccinated American travelers this summer. An exact reopening date is yet to be announced — and actually reopening will be up to individual EU countries — but it's encouraging news nevertheless. The EU has been largely closed to Americans since the coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the world in March 2020.

Are you looking to book a European vacation this summer? We'll show you the best ways to redeem your points and miles for trips to Europe. This focuses on the best sweet spots from the U.S. to Europe so that you can stretch your points on the best redemption possible. You can book each of these flights with popular transferable points programs.

Let's dive in!

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ANA Mileage Club on United, LOT Polish and others

United Polaris business class on its 787-10 aircraft. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

ANA Mileage Club has the best redemption rates on Star Alliance flights to Europe. You can book round-trip tickets for 55,000 miles round-trip in economy and 88,000 in business class. That said, there are a couple of restrictions to keep in mind: you can't book one-way tickets, and you'll pay high fuel surcharges on some carriers. This includes favorites like Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss.

With that in mind, try flying with Air Canada, United Airlines, TAP Portugal, LOT Polish Airlines, SAS and Turkish Airlines. These airlines either don't add fuel surcharges or charge very low ones. Even better, you can add a free stopover to any ANA award booking, letting you see two cities for the price of one.

For example, you can fly Newark (EWR) to Lisbon (LIS) and stop over for a few days. Then, you can fly from Lisbon to Warsaw (WAW) and spend as much time as you'd like before returning to Newark. TAP Portugal and LOT Polish Airlines operate this itinerary, so you'll pay 88,000 miles and $155.47 for a round-trip business class ticket.

(Screenshot courtesy of ANA)

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points to ANA Mileage Club.

Related: The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability

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Book shorter Star Alliance flights with Aeroplan

Business class in an Air Canada Boeing 777-300. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Another good option for Star Alliance flights to Europe is Air Canada Aeroplan. This program no longer adds fuel surcharges and recently moved to a new distance-based award chart. Further, you can add stopovers to one-way tickets for 5,000 points — check out our full guide to Aeroplan stopover rules for more information. You'll want to use Aeroplan when booking shorter transatlantic flights on high-surcharge carriers.

Aeroplan publishes its award chart on its website (PDF link). Refer to the North America to Atlantic award chart for U.S. to Europe awards, which start at 35,000, 60,000 and 90,000 points one-way for an economy, business class or first class award, respectively. This pricing is for flights up to 4,000 physical miles.

For example, here's a flight from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) on Lufthansa. You'll pay 60,000 miles and $56.27 for a one-way flight in business class, which is a solid deal.

(Screenshot courtesy of Air Canada)

You can transfer points to Aeroplan from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Read our guide to earning Aeroplan points for more info.

Related: TPG details Air Canada’s sweeping Aeroplan changes

Avianca LifeMiles for longer Star Alliance flights

Swiss Airlines business class onboard its 777-300 aircraft. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)

While Aeroplan points are good for shorter flights and cheap stopovers, Avianca LifeMiles are ideal for long-haul Star Alliance flights to Europe or flights where you need to connect from a non-Star Alliance hub to a larger airport. Not only can you save miles on both economy and premium cabin flights, but Avianca doesn’t tack on fuel surcharges on those coveted Lufthansa first class awards, saving you hundreds of dollars per ticket.

One-way flights from the U.S. to Europe can be booked for as little as 20,000 LifeMiles in economy class, depending on your origin and destination. One-way business class flights cost 63,000 LifeMiles and first class costs 87,000 LifeMiles.

Here's a sample booking from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Prague (PRG) in business class:

(Screenshot courtesy of Avianca Lifemiles)

You can save further on your premium cabin awards by working in an intra-Europe economy class segment. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points to Avianca LifeMiles.

Related: 6 tips for booking Lufthansa first-class awards

Fly SkyTeam airlines with Flying Blue

Air France 777-300 business class seat. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Flying Blue is one of the industry's most underrated rewards programs, offering sweet spot awards to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Flying Blue offers some of the lowest redemption rates for both economy and business class awards if you're headed to Europe. You can redeem miles for flights on Air France, Delta or KLM. All three airlines have strong route networks throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Redemption rates will vary depending on your route. For example, a one-way business class award ticket between New York-JFK and Frankfurt (FRA) will set you back just 53,000 miles on some dates. Saver economy class is even more of a bargain at 21,5000 miles.

(Screenshot courtesy of KLM)

Meanwhile, flights to Paris price out at 22,000 in economy and between 57,500 and 75,000 in business class.

(Screenshot courtesy of KLM)

These rates are already lower than what most frequent flyer programs require for award tickets to Europe. But you might be able to save even more through Promo Rewards. This monthly list features awards you can book for up to 50% less. At the moment, Promo Rewards are limited to intra-Europe flights, but this might change in the coming months as Europe begins to open up to vaccinated travelers.

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy to Flying Blue.

Related: Crossing the Atlantic on Air France’s 777-300ER in business class, New York to Paris

Head to Madrid for cheap with Iberia

Iberia business class on its new A350 aircraft. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Iberia offers the best deals on flights to Spain.

Specifically, you can fly to Madrid (MAD) from the East Coast or Midwest for as low as 17,000 Iberia Avios each way in coach, 25,000 Avios in premium economy or just 34,000 Avios in business class. The carrier uses a distance-based award chart, and you can get the lowest price booking on off-peak dates.

Here’s an overview of how many Avios you’d need for one-way, nonstop flights to Iberia’s hub in Madrid:

OriginBlue Class / EconomyPremium EconomyBusiness
Off PeakPeakOff PeakPeakOff PeakPeak
New York (JFK)17,000 / 22,00020,000 / 28,00025,00035,00034,00050,000
Chicago – O’Hare (ORD)17,000 / 22,00020,000 / 28,00025,00035,00034,00050,000
Boston (BOS)17,000 / 22,00020,000 / 28,00025,00035,00034,00050,000
Miami (MIA)21,250 / 27,75025,000 / 35,00031,75043,75042,50062,500
Los Angeles (LAX)21,250 / 27,75025,000 / 35,00031,75043,75042,50062,500
San Francisco (SFO)21,250 / 27,75025,000 / 35,00031,75043,75042,00062,500

Unlike British Airways, you’ll pay minimal taxes on these awards. Plus, the program sometimes offers promotional award redemption rates where you can book your flights for even fewer miles. For instance, Iberia recently offered business class flights from the U.S. to Madrid for just 17,000 Avios.

You can quickly earn Iberia Avios by transferring points from programs like American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios so long as both accounts have been open for 90+ days.

Related: 6 best ways to redeem 100,000 Iberia Avios

Fly American with Etihad Guest

American Airlines Business Class on Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

While the Abu Dhabi-based carrier doesn’t fly between the U.S. and Europe, you can use the Etihad Guest program to book cheap transatlantic American Airlines flights. Flights to Europe cost 20,000 to 30,000 miles in economy (depending on the time of year), 50,000 miles in business class and just 62,500 miles in Flagship first class.

These rates are generally better than what you’ll pay through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. By comparison, American usually charges 22,500-30,000 AAdvantage for economy, 57,500 miles for business class and a whopping 85,000 miles for first class.

You can transfer points to Etihad Guest from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy.

Related: The ultimate guide to Etihad partners

Save on British Airways fuel surcharges with Asia Miles

British Airways first class on the carrier's A380. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

British Airways is notorious for adding high fuel surcharges to award tickets — even when booked with partners. These can top $700 one-way when flying in BA first class on some routes. Thankfully, you can lower the cost of BA fuel surcharges when you book your ticket with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. You'll pay under $250 on most one-way tickets, which is less than half of what you'd pay when booking with Avios.

The number of points you'll pay depends on the route you book. In the case of New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR), you'll pay 27,000 miles one way in economy, 43,000 in premium economy, 61,000 in business class and 87,000 in first class. A one-way business class ticket has just $204 in taxes, fees and surcharges.

(Screenshot courtesy of Asia Miles)

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points to Asia Miles.

Related: The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

Bottom line

The European Union will reopen its borders to American tourists this year if all goes according to plan. It's in your best interest to lock in your award travel now before the mad rush to book. Use this article as a guide when doing this — it can save you miles and money that you can use toward booking your next big trip.

Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal and Benji Stawski.

Feature photo of Prague's Old Town Square by Andrew Mayovskyy / Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023