Get two round-trip tickets to Europe with one card’s elevated bonus: Here’s how
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As more European countries begin welcoming Americans again, travel demand to Europe is skyrocketing. We’ve gotten countless requests from readers about using points to travel to Europe. There are many options for covering flights across various loyalty programs and award space is wide-open.
Today we’re going to focus on Chase Ultimate Rewards. After all, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is currently offering 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. With this elevated bonus being a must-have, lots of TPG readers are applying and hoping to redeem their rewards for a trip to Europe.
Historically, the easiest option was to transfer Ultimate Rewards to United and book economy-class tickets to Europe for 30,000 miles each way. Unfortunately, United’s dynamic pricing has made that rate a little unpredictable and in the summer it goes as high as 72,600 miles.
Luckily, Chase has several other airline partners you can book flights with for as low as 10,000 miles each way. Here are the four best ways to redeem your Sapphire Preferred welcome bonus for a flight to Europe this summer and beyond.
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Air France and KLM’s joint Flying Blue program is one of my favorites for getting to Europe on points. These miles happen to be some of the easiest to earn, thanks to several transfer partnerships that include Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Flying Blue offers incredibly cheap award rates to Europe and availability is generally good, especially in economy class. You can fly round-trip between the West Coast and Istanbul for just 43,000 miles in economy and 106,000 in business.
Sometimes Flying Blue offers incredible deals through their Promo Rewards, discounting the cost of an award ticket by up to 50%. If you want to head to Europe this summer or fall, Flying Blue should definitely be on your radar. You can transfer points instantly in most cases and book award tickets online.
Avios get a bad reputation for their sky-high fuel surcharges on premium-cabin awards to Europe, but if you can avoid transiting through London and stick to partner airlines, it’s actually reasonable. British Airways employs a distance-based award chart, so the number of Avios required varies depending on how far you’re flying and how many segments you’re incorporating into your itinerary. In other words, direct flights will be cheaper than those with multiple stops.
For example, you can fly off-peak between Boston (BOS) and Dublin (DUB) for just 13,000 Avios each way in economy class.
With the 100,000-point welcome bonus from the Sapphire Preferred, you’re looking at enough for up to four tickets to Europe. Or, opt for a couple’s trip and have enough Ultimate Rewards points left over for a few hotel nights.
Virgin Atlantic is another European rewards program that is known for high fuel surcharges. But their economy-class flights to Europe can offer tremendous value. For example, you can fly economy class from the East Coast to London on Virgin Atlantic for just 10,000 points and $262 in taxes and fees. During peak travel season, the award rates double.
- Peak season 2021: Jan. 1-5, March 26-April 19, June 19-Sept. 5, Oct. 15-25, Dec. 11-31.
- Standard season 2021: Jan. 6-March 25, April 20-June 18, Sept. 6-Oct. 14, Oct. 27-Dec. 10.
Granted, the taxes are high on these awards, but it might make sense depending on the cost of airfare. TPG values Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points at 1.5 cents each, so 10,000 points are worth about $150. If airfare to the U.K. is $412 or higher each way, you’ll get enough value out of your points to justify the higher taxes on this award ($150 + $262 each way = $412).
Book cheap flights through Ultimate Rewards
The easiest (and sometimes the best) option is to book cheap flights through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem their points at 1.25 cents each while Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get 1.5 cents each.
The nice thing about this is that Chase’s portal is powered by Expedia, so you can book virtually any flight without worrying about award availability. Since these tickets are treated like paid fares, you’ll earn redeemable miles and elite qualifying credit.
Right now, there are some really terrific fares available between the U.S. and Europe. For example, in August you can book a flight between New York (JFK) and Madrid (MAD) for just 28,486 Ultimate Rewards. If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, that number drops to 23,738 points.
If you’re on the West Coast, you can score a 38,288-point award between San Francisco (SFO) and Madrid. With a Sapphire Reserve, you’ll redeem just 31,906 points.
And if you want an even cheaper award, you can fly to Lisbon (LIS) for just 30,736 Ultimate Rewards. Sapphire Reserve cardholders need just 25,614 points.
With 100,000 Ultimate Rewards, you could cover up to three award tickets to Europe using this method. That’s pretty incredible and the timing is great because airfare is still affordable and the welcome bonus on this card is as high as ever.
The best part is that tickets booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal are coded as revenue fares. So in addition to getting a cheaper award ticket without paying additional taxes and fees, you’ll earn miles through the relevant frequent flyer program.
Award travel to Europe used to be challenging in the summer, but with fares being so low right now and a generous sign-up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s a great time to score a bargain on a European getaway.
Featured photo by Allard Schager/Getty Images.
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