Have Points, Will Travel: How We Booked a Biz-Class Ticket to Sweden Using Amex Points and $5.60
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TPG has teamed up with travel influencer and videographer Ian Agrimis to launch a new video series called "Have Points, Will Travel," in which he'll travel around the world on some of the most redemption-friendly flights — and teach you how to do the same. Kicking off the series, Ian flies from his home in the US to Northern Sweden in business class on Scandinavian Airlines using 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, transferred from the American Express Membership Rewards program. Altogether, the one-way ticket cost just those 55,000 points — worth $1,100 based on our latest valuations — and $5.60 in taxes and fees.
Here's a step-by-step look at how he booked his ticket, and how you can too. Keep in mind that, although Ian got his Aeroplan miles through Amex, he could have also transferred points to Aeroplan from Capital One or Marriott Bonvoy.
1. Earn Amex Points
It's very easy to quickly earn a large stash of Amex points if you're just getting into the points and miles world. By signing up for certain credit cards and meeting their spend requirements, new cardholders could come by all, or almost all the points they need for this ticket.
The Platinum Card® from American Express will give you 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. That's more than enough points for the one-way business class ticket to Europe. Then, you'll earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel and on hotels booked through Amex Travel, and one point per dollar on everything else. The card has a $550 annual fee (See: Rates & Fees), but that's offset by benefits such as airport lounge access, $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides each month plus a bonus $20 in December) and $100 back at Saks Fifth Avenue, among many others. Enrollment required for select benefits.
There's also the $250-a-year American Express® Gold Card (See Rates & Fees), which offers 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of Card Membership. This card is best for those who spend a lot on dining, as it earns four points per dollar spent on dining at restaurants as well as at US supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each calendar year; then 1x). It also earns three points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and one point per dollar on everything else. Benefits of the card include up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners, and a $100 annual airline fee credit. Enrollment required for select benefits.
2. Search for Award Availability
Once you have the points you need for your ticket, you'll want to begin searching for award availability. To do this, head to Aeroplan's website and sign in to your account, or create one if you don't already have one.
Under the "Book Travel" tab click "Flights," type in your origin and destination, dates, select "Business/First" and hit "Search." In Ian's case, the airport was Lulea, Sweden (LLA), but there's no price difference if you'd rather land at a different European city.
You might not find availability right away so you'll want to try a few different date options. Fortunately, there's a "Flexible Dates" option when searching for flights so you won't need to do too much scrambling. You can also get an ExpertFlyer subscription and set alerts to be notified when award space opens up.
3. Transfer Your Points
Once you've found availability on the flights you want, you'll need to transfer your points from American Express to Aeroplan. To do this, sign in to your online Amex account, go to the "Rewards" page, click "Transfer Points" and then "View All."
From there, just look for Aeroplan and click on it. If this is your first time transferring points to Aeroplan, you'll need to provide your Aeroplan account number and verify your identity.
After that, enter the number of points you want to transfer (in this case, 55,000 points) and hit "Confirm & Transfer Points." Amex points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio and typically post instantly. The reason we searched for availability before transferring our points is because transfers are non-reversible, meaning we'd lose a lot of flexibility in our points if we didn't have immediate use for them.
4. Book Your Flight
Now, for the most exciting step of the process: It's time to book your flight! Once you've refreshed the Aeroplan site and your points have posted, repeat everything we did in Step 2, but this time hit "Book" next to the flight you want. You'll want to use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for the taxes on your ticket, so that you're covered by the the cards' excellent travel protections.
Voilà! Just like that, you've booked yourself a business-class ticket to Sweden. Check back next month for a new episode of "Have Points, Will Travel," where Ian travels to Tokyo, and has a sandwich that costs more than his flight home booked with points.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.