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TPG Readers' Favorite Airline Rewards Programs for International Travel

July 14, 2019
7 min read
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We recently asked our TPG Lounge audience to share what they consider to be the best airline rewards program for international travel. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan FTW

Many TPG Lounge members answered with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, a loyalty program that's allowed them to travel the world in top-notch business- and first-class products on Qantas, JAL, Cathay Pacific, Condor, British Airways and Icelandair.

"Alaska Airlines. 70,000 miles to fly from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Sydney (SYD) in Qantas first class!" — Gillian D.

"Mileage Plan because of the partner list and redemption value." — Kevin M.

"Going with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Last month, I changed our flights back from Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) at the last minute and ended up with three seats on Japan Airlines in first class! The Salon and Cristal Champagne goes for nearly $600 a bottle and the service was impeccable." — Linda V.

"70,000 Alaska miles got me a first-class flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Melbourne (MEL) on Alaska and Qantas via the A380. 50,000 miles got me in business class from IAD to Hong Kong (HKG) on Cathay Pacific's A350-1000. Talk about steals. You could also fly in business class to Australia with a layover in Fiji on Fiji Airways for 55,000 Alaska miles. Cathay flies to Australia as well, with a layover in HKG." — Takashi N.

Have you flown in the Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin yet? (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Have you flown in the Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin yet? (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

"Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is incredible! I used miles for an around-the-world trip last year: Cathay Pacific business class from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) to the Maldives (MLE), Condor business class from MLE to Frankfurt (FRA) to Venice (VCE), BA Club Europe from VCE to London (LHR) to Reykjavik (KEF), then IcelandAir Saga from KEF to SFO." — Wade W.

"Alaska got me a one-way ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) to Bali (DPS) in first class and business class for 70,000 miles with a free stopover in Hong Kong! I priced the ticket on a few sites and it was about $16,000! Alaska has great partner airlines and if you call in the redemption, you’re allowed a free stopover in a layover city. I booked my flight with Cathay Pacific and the layover was for four hours in Hong Kong. Instead of four hours, I made it four days for free." — Mike F.

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"Alaska Mileage Plan for sure. They've gotten me my best redemptions ever: 42,500 miles for Cathay Pacific business class from Dublin (DUB) to Hong Kong (HKG), plus $42 in taxes instead of $5,000; 55,000 miles for Qantas business class from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL) open jaw, and Brisbane (BNE) to Perth (PER) + $49 in taxes instead of $13,000." — Matthew T.

Saving Big With Star Alliance

While some TPG Lounge readers admitted they weren't fans of United Airlines, they did say they enjoyed the perks of flying with its international partners, namely Singapore Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Avianca, EgyptAir, EVA Air and ANA.

"United's Excursionist Perk! I can see two countries for the award redemption of one!" — Sara R.

"EgyptAir plus lifetime Star Alliance Gold status. Enough said." — Peter K.V.N.

"If you don’t mind going to Manchester, England (MAN), Singapore Airlines flies nonstop from Houston (IAH). Even though I live in Los Angeles, I love Singapore so much I’m flying to Houston and taking the A350 in business class to Manchester. I found snagging a Saver Award not to be difficult, and this is in August." — Richard G.

Singapore Airlines' A350 business-class product was a big winner with our TPG Lounge members. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
Singapore Airlines' A350 business-class product was a big winner with our TPG Lounge members. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

"EuroBonus (Scandinavian Airlines) has amazing Singapore Airlines redemptions as they partnered up last year on some special collaboration. LifeMiles (Avianca) has a wonky website and their customer service by phone is frustratingly bad, but they have a generous award chart, don’t pass on fuel surcharges and it’s easy to buy miles, oftentimes as low as 1.5 cents per mile, or transfer, including essentially 1.5 LifeMiles per dollar spent on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. They also let you buy the miles you need for a redemption in cash if you’re short." — Christopher B.

"Round-the-world business-class tickets on Star Alliance. 10 countries, one year, no change fees for dates and a reasonable $13,500." — Nancy D.G.

"An ANA round-the-world ticket from San Francisco (SFO) to Amsterdam (AMS) to Taipei (TPE) to Japan, then back to San Jose (SJC) in business class with United, EVA Air and ANA with $450 in taxes and 115,000 ANA miles." — Rosa W.

Delta, American AAdvantage and JetBlue

Although not too popular following 2016's devastating devaluation, some TPG Lounge members did say they'd been able to plan epic trips with the AAdvantage program, while others praised Delta SkyMiles and looked forward to more international flights with JetBlue.

"Delta allows me to use miles to reduce prices on short-haul flights. As I might never have enough for a big flight, at least the miles are maximized to a certain extent. Also, I was able to use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a round-trip Economy Plus seat from New York (JFK) to London-Heathrow (LHR) on Delta, and I paid under $100 for the whole trip. As I don’t like Newark (EWR) and am not a fan of United, I will stay with Delta whenever possible." — Joan L.

"I chose Delta. The biggest advantage is that it is not AAdvantage. My last domestic redemption on Delta was 14,000 miles nonstop round-trip, and its been years since I found any usable redemption on AA. A flight halfway across the country should not require three red-eyes with connections to use miles when it's normally a two- to three-hour nonstop flight. But then I've only been flying AA for 28 years." — Tom R. W.

"My American AAdvantage miles got me to Paris (CDG) in first class on British Airways in May and will be getting me to Sydney in September in first class on Qantas. They'll also be getting me to Victoria Falls next May with 15 hours in a Qatar Airways Qsuite." — Thomas P.

"American Airlines, Los Angeles (LAX) to Doha (DOH) to the Maldives (MLE) in a Qatar Airways Qsuite for 140,000 miles round-trip. I've always have had luck with AA and international business class. Also, the lounge in Doha is phenomenal." — Anna-Lisa L.

"JetBlue is great. Before they forsook Washington, DC for New York and Boston, I flew with them a lot and had some great redemptions. Should be fun when they start the new Europe routes!" — Erik M.

Featured image by (QSuite. Photo by Zach Honig/TPG)
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 for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
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 revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees