TPG readers’ best tips for booking international first and business class with points and miles
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
A while back, we asked our TPG Lounge readers to share their tips, tricks and favorite ways to book international first- and business-class seats using points and miles. Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).
Transferring points to airline partners
It seems our well-traveled TPG Lounge members know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to working with preferred airlines and their respective partners to make the most of their hard-earned points and miles.
“Sometimes [it’s more] straightforward, like booking a one-way flight on Japan Airlines (JAL) from Tokyo (NRT) to Los Angeles (LAX) on the Alaska Airlines site. Sometimes [it’s more] complicated, like booking a one-way flight on Virgin Atlantic via Delta but after transferring Membership Rewards points over from American Express. I called Delta, had them make a reservation and transferred the Amex Membership Rewards points over while I was on the phone. I prefer the more straightforward method of ‘Alaska has X available for Y Alaska points on Z partner.” Also, I have not done it yet for first class, but have checked for flights on United’s site in business class, then cross-checked the amount of Avianca Lifemiles needed — it was far less — and went with an instant buy on the Avianca site.” — Paul L.
“Using United miles to fly on its partner airlines presents some awesome opportunities. I’ve flown in first class on United from Honolulu (HNL) to Tokyo (NRT) on a 744, first class on a Thai Airways A380 and business class on an ANA 789. Last summer, I flew from Kansai (KIX) to Toronto (YYZ) thru Bangkok (BKK) and Zurich (ZRH) in business class for 120,000 United miles. What’s funny is I’m usually a devout Delta flyer.” — Scott M.
“Using Alaska Miles is the most cost-effective way to fly in first class on Cathay Pacific, but don’t expect Cathay Pacific to open much up after those New Year’s Eve flights booked up cabins months in advance. Also, using 80,000 American Airlines miles to fly in first class on JAL is fantastic.” — Nelson S.
“[I’ve flown with] All Nippon Airways (ANA) via Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa via United Airlines or [have flown] Mandarin Airlines last-minute after making a trip happen because there was availability. Haven’t done Singapore Airlines as an award flight yet. Also have flown on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo (HND and NRT) for low miles via British Airways and American Airlines.” — A. R. M.
“It depends on the product. For Singapore Airlines Suites, transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer miles. Otherwise, United miles is the default for me for flying in first class on Asiana, Thai Airways and Lufthansa. I’ve also used Korean Airlines Skypass for Korean Airlines flights. This used to be an amazing way to redeem miles, but earning with Skypass is tough these days. From Chase, I once transferred enough over to cover two business-class round-the-world tickets through SkyTeam, but could also cover up to six one-way first-class tickets from the United States to Korea, China and Hong Kong.” — Carl C.
Cashing in those sweet, sweet airline miles
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you reach the end of a points-and-miles quest — whether you spent ages earning, have finally gotten your reward for reaching the minimum spend or have purchased the points you need — and know you’re now able to fly in a top-notch first- or business-class product for (nearly) free.
“My best was to use 115,000 American Airlines miles — earned from making one small purchase on the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard to get 60,000 miles and spending $5,000 [in three months] on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® to get 50,000 miles* — to book a one-way ticket in Etihad’s First Class Apartment, which could have cost $10,000 if I had paid for it with cash. That’s twice as much as the credit card spend to get the miles!” — Shana G.
The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
*50,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months for the Citi Executive card
“I still want to do this but [spending] 70,000 miles for Qatar Airways’ QSuites and still having 45,000 miles left over seems like a better deal to me.” — Christopher B.
“Just bought Alaska Airlines miles and will be using them [to fly] on Cathay Pacific. Super excited.” — Dev B.
“I like tracking down JAL first-class award availability for months on the British Airways website, then being able to call American Airlines and give them the exact date and flight number I want. They are usually pretty surprised to hear that I know all the legs will be available.” — Derek R.
Readers helping readers
We love it when our TPG Lounge members get so involved in a topic they end up sharing tips and advice based on their own experiences. That’s what happened when TPG reader Amber F. asked for airline partner suggestions from the rest of the group.
“What if you can only use a SkyTeam partner? I am going to Asia but my points are primarily with Delta.” — Amber F.
“Korean Air has some decent awards.” — Scott M.
Reader Guarang K. also got some good advice from another TPG Lounge member when he asked who he should fly with when using points and miles to book a future flight.
“I need to book a flight from New York (JFK) to Ahmedabad (AMD) or Mumbai (BOM). Any suggestions?” — Guarang K.
“Use Etihad or [fly in] Qatar Airways’ QSuite.” — Habeeb A.
Related: The best travel credit cards
Featured photo of JAL and Cathay Pacific first class by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees