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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

Over the past few years, Iceland has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Budget carrier WOW Air has added more than a dozen flights between Iceland and the US, while legacy carriers like Delta and United have increased their service. But Icelandair, the country’s oldest and largest international airline, runs loads of flights out of its transatlantic hub. So how can you book them with points and miles, asks TPG reader Gloria

Does anyone have experience in booking Icelandair via the CSR portal?

TPG Reader Gloria

The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal lets you use Ultimate Rewards to book flights, hotels and more at a fixed rate — either 1.5 cents a point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The portal is in the process of changing over to use Expedia for its booking engine, which means if you can find it on Expedia, you’re in luck. However, Icelandair flights have been bookable through the Chase portal even before the Expedia rollout happens…

So yes, you can use the Chase portal to book Icelandair flights, but is it the best option? Well, Icelandair has a frequent flyer program called Saga Club, but it’s not really useful unless you have a huge stash of points in the program. That’s because it’s not a transfer partner with any of the major points programs, so there’s no way of earning miles with the carrier other than by flying on the airline itself or with one of its partners, Alaska and Finnair. And if you’re flying on Alaska, you’ll be much better off crediting flights to that airline’s Mileage Plan program, since its miles are worth much more and are way more flexible.

What about booking Icelandair flights with Alaska miles? Well, Alaska’s award chart for Icelandair is broken down into two sections — flights between the contiguous US and Alaska to Europe, and flights from the US to Iceland.

Coach rates are reasonable — at least during low and medium season — and the TPG staff has given good reviews to Icelandair’s economy class product.

And 55,000 miles to Europe in business sounds pretty great. However you’ll have to make a connection in Iceland’s Keflavik airport (KEF) and you’ll be relegated to a domestic first class-style recliner seat.

You could also take advantage of Alaska’s stopover rules, which’ll squeeze some more value out of your miles. And if you’re short on Alaska miles, SPG/Marriott points transfer directly to Alaska (at a 1:1 ratio with a 25% bonus on transfers of 20,000 points, soon to be a 2.4:1 ratio including the bonus) or you can earn Alaska miles through its Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card. The card is currently offering a 30,000-mile bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cardmembership.

However, Alaska charges pretty hefty surcharges on Icelandair flights, even in coach. Fees will range from $200-$250 on a round-trip itinerary.

It’s probably best to save your Alaska miles for a different trip, such as a business or first class redemption on Cathay Pacific to Asia or another partner, where you’ll likely get a better experience and way more value.

As we mentioned earlier, Finnair is also an Icelandair partner and allows mileage redemptions on Icelandair, but it’s not really a practical option since you can’t transfer in points from any major bank program. Finally, you could just pay cash and use points or miles from a credit card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to wipe away an Icelandair charge from your credit card card statement.

Bottom Line

Booking Icelandair flights with points and miles is pretty simple, mainly because there’s only three real options. You can go through a bank’s travel portal, pay with a card whose points will wipe away travel purchases or book with Alaska miles. Since Icelandair consistently offers dirt cheap fares to Iceland and Europe, booking through the Chase travel portal may be your best bet — just make sure you do the math.

And if you don’t have a Chase card, you can consider booking through the Citi ThankYou Rewards portal or another bank portal. Tickets purchased this way will still earn miles, making the value proposition of this method even higher. But remember that you may get more value out of your points by transferring them to partners and booking premium cabin awards — just not on this trip.

Thanks for the question, Gloria — if you’d like to know more about traveling to Iceland for free, check out our guide on “How to Get to Iceland on Points and Miles.” And if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Wikimedia Commons.

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