Amex Membership Rewards sweet spots

37
Update 7/6/21: With the huge new Membership Rewards points offer available, some readers will find themselves wondering how best to use Membership Rewards points, so we have updated this guide to add some additional sweet spots and account for award chart and transfer partner changes since original publication.

Membership Rewards sweet spots are plentiful and strong. Indeed, Amex Membership Rewards is the strongest transferable points program in terms of the sheer number of Amex transfer partners. I’ve written about the Strengths of Membership Rewards over Ultimate Rewards and despite the fact that Amex lacks a clear value in terms of hotel transfer partners, it more than makes up for it with great premium cabin award options. Thus, without further ado, here are the top sweet spots from Membership Rewards.

ANA business class, from just 75K round trip.
ANA business class, from just 75K round trip.

Table of Contents

Recent updates to this guide

We recently updated a number of the sweet spots below to account for award chart changes and transfer partner additions. We also added economy class sweet spots from our Best Ways To Get To series. This guide to sweet spots still focuses mainly on premium cabin flights because those are the sweet spots that provide the greatest value in comparison to ticket cost, but we will continue to add economy class sweet spots for those who prefer to use fewer points and/or travel with more than two passengers (it can often be very challenging or impossible to find more than two award seats in a premium cabin).

Note that this guide is best viewed in a web browser rather than in email form in order to take advantage of the full organization.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Transfer bonuses

Any conversation about Amex sweet spots ought to at least start with the fact that Amex frequently offers bonuses when you transfer to select partners. You can always find current point transfer bonus information here. We often see bonuses of 25%, sometimes 30%, and occasionally as high as 40-50% with select partners. That same resource page with current point transfer bonuses also lists expired bonuses, so one can easily track past promotions to make an educated guess as to which bonuses we may see in the future.

These bonuses can make a sizable difference in sweet spots. For example, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club charges 120,000 miles round trip to fly first class on ANA between New York and Tokyo. However, when Amex is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic, that means one could transfer just 93,000 Membership Rewards points and have enough points for a round trip first class award, a savings of 27,000 points thanks to the bonus. If your needs line up with transfer bonuses, some of the sweet spots below can become even sweeter.

Note that while transfer bonuses became infrequent across the board during the pandemic, we are starting to see them reappear and expect to see more of them in the coming months.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Domestic US Flights

American Express Membership Rewards has by far the best range of partners for domestic US flights. Avianca has become a personal favorite for United flights within region (or even sometimes between regions since pricing can sometimes be better than the award chart suggests). Virgin Atlantic and Air France often offer much better deals on Delta and you have a total of three options for booking AA flights for a better deal than with AA miles.

Alaska Airlines domestic US flights

Note that Alaska is now a member of oneworld, so we have included Iberia and Qantas pricing below. Award booking with oneworld airlines is expected to become available during summer 2021.

British Airways Executive Club (for American Airlines or Alaska Airlines)
  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so short direct flights on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines can sometimes be a great value. Also note that British Airways allows cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for no fee but forfeiting the taxes ($5.60 each way within the US), though they've been known to refund those with some cancellations.
  • Miles required: Varies based on distance. From 9K one-way in economy class / 16.5K in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights. Note that British Airways inexplicably periodically stops displaying AA availability. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

Iberia Plus (for American Airlines or Alaska)
  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines or Alaska (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions.
  • Miles required: From 11K miles round trip plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American or Alaska has availability. No fuel surcharges on American or Alaska.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space on American at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool. Search Alaska award space via AA.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com for American or over the phone for Alaska when Alaska bookings become available. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool for American.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain. Iberia requires round trip booking for American Airlines flights (you will get no results if searching one-way).
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One (transfer to British Airways and then from BA to Iberia) Marriott

Qantas Frequent Flyer (for American Airlines or Alaska)
  • The short story: Qantas offers better pricing than traditional American Airlines or Alaska Airlines award prices on itineraries with a distance of 1200 miles or fewer each way and has no close-in booking fee. This could be especially good for those who need to connect on short itineraries as Qantas measures cumulative distance rather than pricing segments separately.
  • Miles required: 8,000 miles for itineraries covering a distance up to 600 miles or 12,000 miles for itineraries covering a distance up to 1200 miles. (See: Strengths of Qantas for AA redemptions). No fuel surcharges on American or Alaska.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account). Note that for Alaska space you'll need to search AA.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com for American Airlines. Call for Alaska until Alaska becomes available for oneworld bookings.
  • Key warnings: Avios, either through British Airways or Iberia, might be a better value if you have direct flights if you have access to points which transfer to Avios. However, for flights with connections, Qantas can be a better deal.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Singapore KrisFlyer (for Alaska)
  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer has a zone-based chart with some great values for travel on Alaska Airlines, particularly within the Western US and to/from Canada.
  • Miles required: Varies form 7.5K-12.5K each way based on zone combination. See the zone-based chart and region definitions here. Note that Zone 2 includes all of Alaska's Canadian destinations (noted just as "Canada").
  • How to find awards: Search for available Alaska Airlines award space at AA.com (note that Singapore can not book any legs on AA, but AA will show Alaska flights available to partners).
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Alaska awards must be booked over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that AA.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

American Airlines domestic US flights

British Airways Executive Club (for American Airlines or Alaska Airlines)
  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so short direct flights on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines can sometimes be a great value. Also note that British Airways allows cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for no fee but forfeiting the taxes ($5.60 each way within the US), though they've been known to refund those with some cancellations.
  • Miles required: Varies based on distance. From 9K one-way in economy class / 16.5K in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights. Note that British Airways inexplicably periodically stops displaying AA availability. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

Iberia Plus (for American Airlines or Alaska)
  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines or Alaska (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions.
  • Miles required: From 11K miles round trip plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American or Alaska has availability. No fuel surcharges on American or Alaska.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space on American at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool. Search Alaska award space via AA.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com for American or over the phone for Alaska when Alaska bookings become available. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool for American.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain. Iberia requires round trip booking for American Airlines flights (you will get no results if searching one-way).
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One (transfer to British Airways and then from BA to Iberia) Marriott

Qantas Frequent Flyer (for American Airlines or Alaska)
  • The short story: Qantas offers better pricing than traditional American Airlines or Alaska Airlines award prices on itineraries with a distance of 1200 miles or fewer each way and has no close-in booking fee. This could be especially good for those who need to connect on short itineraries as Qantas measures cumulative distance rather than pricing segments separately.
  • Miles required: 8,000 miles for itineraries covering a distance up to 600 miles or 12,000 miles for itineraries covering a distance up to 1200 miles. (See: Strengths of Qantas for AA redemptions). No fuel surcharges on American or Alaska.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account). Note that for Alaska space you'll need to search AA.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com for American Airlines. Call for Alaska until Alaska becomes available for oneworld bookings.
  • Key warnings: Avios, either through British Airways or Iberia, might be a better value if you have direct flights if you have access to points which transfer to Avios. However, for flights with connections, Qantas can be a better deal.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Delta Airlines domestic US flights

Air France / KLM Flying Blue (for Delta)
  • The short story: Air France sometimes charges far fewer miles for Delta flights than Delta charges its own members.
  • Miles required: Variable, but starting around 11.5K one-way in economy, or 28K one-way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Use the Virgin Atlantic 5 week award search to find availability (see this post for details). Next, confirm your findings at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone when the website returns errors.
  • Key warnings: Air France's website is buggy and will often return errors when trying to complete a booking. If that happens, try calling.
  • Transfer fromAmex Membership RewardsBrex CashChase Ultimate RewardsCiti Thank YouCapital OneMarriott
Delta SkyMiles
  • The short story: Delta has weekly flash sales where it is sometimes possible to get solid value.
  • Miles required: Varies, but enter your starting airport at the Travel is Free Delta mileage calculator to find the cheapest destinations from your home airport.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Delta.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at Delta.com.
  • Key warnings: Delta pricing can be very unpredictable and vary wildly. Transfers from Membership Rewards incur a small excise tax that is not charged when transferring to foreign partners.
  • Transfer from: Amex

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (for Delta)
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers a distance-based award chart for Delta flights that may be advantageous (particularly for short direct itineraries).
  • Miles required: From 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 17,500 miles each way in business class (for nonstop flights) within the continental US, Alaska, and Canada. Note that the number of miles required increased based on distance flown (if flying more than one segment, each segment is priced separately). See the distance bands here and use a tool like gcmap.com to calculate distance between airports.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseMarriott

JetBlue domestic US flights

Emirates Skywards (for JetBlue)
  • The short story: Emirates Skywards offers cheap short-haul one-ways on JetBlue.
  • Miles required: From 7,500 miles each way in economy class (varies by route).
  • How to find awards: Search for available "U" space via ExpertFlyer or call Emirates at 1-800-777-3999.
  • How to book awards: Over the phone with Emirates at 1-800-777-3999.
  • Key warnings: It will likely only be the cheapest revenue fares that are available as awards. JetBlue may therefore be charging even fewer TrueBlue points for the same awards. Further, Emirates charges for each segment separately. See this chart for direct/nonstop pricing by route.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Brex, Citi, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

JetBlue TrueBlue
  • The short story: JetBlue TrueBlue points are typically only worth about 1.43c towards the cost of a flight (See: What are JetBlue TrueBlue points worth?), but in some instances it may be possible to do a bit better.
  • Miles required: Varies by route but can be less than other options when cash prices are low.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at JetBlue.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at JetBlue.com.
  • Key warnings: JetBlue award cancellation fees vary from $75-$200 per passenger. While that's on par with legacy carriers, this is a key point of differentiation with Southwest (which charges no change/cancellation fees). Note that transfers from Membership Rewards cost a small excise fee. Transfers are free from other transferable currencies.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

United domestic US flights

Air Canada Aeroplan (for United)
  • The short story: Aeroplan offers decent pricing for very short awards within the US and between the US and Canada, though the new distance-based chart means that longer itineraries are less of a deal.
  • Miles required: From 6K to 22.5K miles each way in economy class or 15K to 35K miles each way in business class based on distance (see more info here).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Flights on Air Canada incur fuel surcharges, so choose United flights to avoid those fees.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Marriott

Avianca LifeMiles (for United)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone is officially 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Singapore KrisFlyer (for United)
  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer charges the same 12.5K miles each way in economy class both within the US and between the US and Canada. While not the best deal in all situations, Singapore miles are easy to accumulate since they are partners with all of the major transferable points.
  • Miles required: 12.5K miles each way in economy class (business class at 34.5K each way is not competitive with the best rates from other programs)
  • How to find awards: Search for available United Airlines space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com (See: Book United flights online with Singapore miles– but note that business class prices have increased since that post was written).
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that United.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check availability at SingaporeAir.com or with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Hawaii

While saver business class awards to Hawaii can be difficult to find (and even rarer in lie-flat seats), Amex has the good transfer partners to get the best values when available. Note that Singapore KrisFlyer can be a great deal for booking on Alaska Airlines.

United or Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii

Singapore Krisflyer
  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer charges fewer miles for domestic flights to Hawaii than United does for the same flights. Additionally, they have a great chart for Alaska Airlines for those originating in parts of the US other than the East Coast.
  • Miles required: For United flights: 17,500 miles each way in economy or 34,500 in business (as compared to 22.5K / 40K through United). For Alaska Airlines flights: award prices range from 11.5K to 12.5K one-way in economy class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available United Airlines space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com (See: Book United flights online with Singapore miles– but note that business class prices have increased since that post was written). For Alaska Airlines award space, search at AA.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Alaska awards must be booked over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that United.com and AA.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check availability at SingaporeAir.com or with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.

American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii

British Airways Avios
  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the West Coast of the USA on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines can be a great value with Avios.
  • Miles required: 13K miles each way plus $5.60 for economy-class segments between west coast cities and Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.

Delta Airlines flights to Hawaii

Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • The short story: Air France charges far fewer miles than Delta for Delta flights to Hawaii, but finding award availability can be a huge challenge.
  • Miles required: 17.5K one-way in economy, or 30K one-way in business class for Delta flights from the US mainland to Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Use the Virgin Atlantic 5 week award search to find availability (see this post for details). Next, confirm your findings at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone when the website returns errors.
  • Key warnings: Air France's website is buggy and will often return errors when trying to complete a booking. If that happens, try calling.
  • Transfer fromAmex Membership RewardsBrex CashChase Ultimate RewardsCiti Thank YouCapital OneMarriott

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers Delta flights to Hawaii for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries. This can be a particularly good value for Delta’s life-flat routes to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 20,000 miles each way in economy class or 37,500 miles each way in business class (for non-stop flights)
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Europe

The absolute standout value here is ANA Mileage Club for Star Alliance awards at 88K round trip. However, with a good transfer bonus, Virgin Atlantic can offer amazing value for booking Delta One and Air France’s monthly promo awards can also offer nice values particularly if they line up with a transfer bonus. Look to Avianca LifeMiles for great pricing on mixed-cabin awards and possibly look to leverage the British Airways multi-carrier tool with a mixed Alaska/AA booking when those oneworld bookings become available on Alaska.

Economy class

ANA (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: ANA charges an excellent rate for round trip Star Alliance flights to Europe which is particularly good for those looking to take advantage of a free stopover on a round trip.
  • Miles required: 55K round trip in economy class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but are avoidable with the right carriers. See: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points for info on the business class sweet spot that is applicable to economy class as well.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Note that transfers to ANA are not instant. Transfers typically take 2-3 days from Amex Membership Rewards or a week or more from Marriott, so there is risk of award space disappearing while you wait for a transfer.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Etihad, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership RewardsMarriott Bonvoy

Air France / KLM Flying Blue (for Air France / KLM or other SkyTeam airlines)
  • The short story: Monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards can sometimes offer excellent value between the US and Europe.
  • Miles required: Varies. Air France no longer has an award chart, but promo awards often offer good value, with economy class awards often available from as low as 10K-15K one way during some sales from select airports. They sometimes present good value for travel on other SkyTeam partners like Delta or Alitalia, but YMMV.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Air France / KLM do add fuel surcharges, though they are often reasonable.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You, Capital One, Marriott

Avios (for British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Iberia)
  • The short story: You can use British Airways, Iberia or Aer Lingus Avios to fly on those airlines for low mileage prices on nonstop routes.
  • Miles required (Note that this gets confusing, particularly for Iberia. For more on the Iberia charts, I recommend reading this post at Travel is Free):
    • For flights on British Airways or Aer Lingus booked via British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Iberia (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 13K / 20K for flights 3,000-4,000 miles flown
      • 16,250 / 25K for flights 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
    • For flights on Iberia booked via Iberia Avios only (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 17K / 20K for flights 3,001-4,000 miles one way
      • 21,250 / 25K for flights 4,001-5,000 miles one way
  • How to find awards: Search for British Airways available space at britishairways.com for Aer Lingus at United.com or Avios.com. For Iberia, use the Advanced Avios tool. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book British Airways flights online at britishaiways.com or over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. You can book Aer Lingus over the phone with British Airways or use Avios.com
  • Key warnings: Note that it may be worth checking all 3 booking options (Avios.com, BritishAirways.com, and Iberia.com) to determine your best deal, though keep in mind that things like cancellation policies differ (note that Iberia offers no changes or refunds at all on most partner flights whereas British Airways offers cheap cancellation). Aer Lingus and British Airways charge for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly (Iberia charges based on cumulative distance each way, which can be cheaper on connecting itineraries).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Avianca LifeMiles (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, with some routes to Europe inexplicably pricing lower than the award chart.
  • Miles required: Officially, the LifeMiles award chart offers economy class at 20K one-way from the Northeastern US to the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Russia or 30K one-way on all other routes between the US and Europe. However, there is some inexplicable variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), with some routes pricing well under the expected 30K economy class price (such as JFK to Zurich for 16,500 miles or Denver to Brussels for 23K). Also see: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com, though note that you may be able to make a manual booking if individual segments are available separately. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer fromAmex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Citi Thank You, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (for flying a single Oneworld partner airline)
  • The short story: Cathay Pacific has reasonable pricing for single-partner oneworld redemptions, particularly those requiring connections since they charge based on cumulative distance.
  • Miles required: 27K miles one-way for a cumulative distance of 2,751 to 5,000 miles, which covers much of the US to Europe. The next distance band, which covers up to 7,500 miles, would be less interesting at 35K.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AsiaMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Asia Miles frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AsiaMiles.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are moderate depending on route and origin.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Capital One, Citi Thank You, Marriott Bonvoy

Etihad Guest (for American Airlines or Brussels Airlines)
  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on American Airlines between the US and Europe during off-peak dates (October 15 - May 15).
  • Miles required: 20K each way in economy class on American Airlines during off-peak dates (October 15 - May 15). Peak pricing is 30K each way. Note that in either instance, you will need to see saver space available via American Airlines in order to book with Etihad. If your travel is during peak dates, also consider Brussels Airlines from New York JFK or Washington IAD, which would be 27K each way in economy class (search for space on Brussels via United.com).
  • How to find awards: Search for American Airlines award space at Qantas.com. Note that you could also use the British Airways site, but it is known to sometimes show phantom AA availability.
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Capital OneCiti Thank You, Marriott

Virgin Atlantic (for Air France / KLM or Virgin Atlantic)

Note that Virgin Atlantic also charges the more standard 30K miles each way for nonstop Delta flights, which is notable since Delta frequently charges many more miles for the same flights. See How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles for more.

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers excellent economy class pricing on Air France / KLM, particularly from the Eastern US to Europe but also for its own flights to the UK (albeit with somewhat expensive surcharges). Premium Economy can also be an excellent deal. See the full Virgin Atlantic award chart for travel on Air France / KLM here.
  • Miles required:
    • For flying Air France / KLM During "standard season" (not peak) dates, 12,000 miles each way in economy class between the East Coast of the US and Western Europe or 20,000 miles each way to Central Europe (and North Africa). From the Western or Central US to Western Europe is 15,000 miles or Eastern Europe is 23,000 miles. Standard price travel dates dates include:
      • 6 January 2020 – 2 April 2020
      • 22 April 2020 - 19 June 2020
      • 7 September 2020 - 11 December 2020
      • 6 January 2021 - 31 March 2021
    • For flying on Virgin Atlantic to/from the UK (Prices shown off-peak / peak; see: Virgin Atlantic award chart (U.S.-centric)
      • From the Northeast US: 10K / 20K
      • From the Midwest & South: 12.5K / 22.5K
      • From the Western US: 15K / 25K
      • Note that fees are about $149 one-way to London or $263 one-way from London
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: Book Air France & KLM with Virgin Atlantic Miles.
  • Key warnings: The zone-based award chart for Air France / KLM flights can be a bit confusing at first, but the nice thing about booking Air France / KLM flights with Virgin Atlantic miles is that Virgin Atlantic does not charge each segment separately as they do with other partners or their own flights. In this case, you'll pay the region prices even if connecting. Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic is currently facing uncertain financial times, so it may be best to hold off a while on booking any travel that isn't imminent.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseMarriott

Business and First Class

Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • The short story: Monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards can sometimes offer excellent value between the US and Europe
  • Miles required: Varies. Air France no longer has an award chart, but the "normal" price to Europe is around 60K one way in business class. Promo awards often offer better value, with business class awards often available in the 40K’s and sometimes as low as the 20K’s depending on destination.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Air France / KLM do add fuel surcharges, though they are often reasonable (about $150-$250 in taxes and fees each way)
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Marriott Bonvoy

Air Canada Aeroplan (for Star Alliance flights)
  • The short story: Aeroplan significantly changed its award chart for travel between North America and Europe in 2020. As a result, flights to Europe became more expensive, though the same "Atlantic" region now includes Africa, The Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. They also offer a stopovers on on a one-way award for 5,000 miles, which can present particular value. Lap infants are now just $25 CAD or 2,500 miles per direction (far cheaper than what most programs charge).
  • Miles required: 60K-100K each way in business class or 90K-130K each way in first class based on distance (See our complete guide to Aeroplan for more detail). Partner awards no longer incur fuel surcharges.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: You'll pay more miles based on distance, but keep in mind that you can add a stopover on a one-way for 5,000 miles, which makes Aeoplan a better deal if you're looking to visit two countries in one trip (like Spain & India or Germany & South Africa or Portugal & Morocco as examples).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards (coming in 2021), Capital One, Marriott

ANA Mileage Club (for Star Alliance round trip bookings)
  • The short story: ANA offers the hands-down best deal for round trip business class to Europe on Star Alliance airlines.
  • Miles required: 88K round trip in business class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but are avoidable with the right carriers. See: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Note that transfers to ANA are not instant. Transfers typically take 2-3 days from Amex Membership Rewards or a week or more from Marriott, so there is risk of award space disappearing while you wait for a transfer.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Etihad, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Avianca LifeMiles (for Star Alliance flights)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, especially in first class, with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: 63K each way in business or 87K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance, with some routes inexplicably pricing well below the official award chart like Newark to Lisbon for 35K miles in business class (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). Mixed-cabin business class itineraries can price from as low as 49K. See: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com, though you may be able to email for a manual booking. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Capital One, Citi Thank You, Marriott Bonvoy

Etihad Guest (for Royal Air Maroc, American Airlines, or Brussels Airlines)
  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, or Royal Air Maroc between the US and Europe.
  • Miles required: 44K each way in business class on Brussels Airlines or 44K to Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc (connections to Europe will add additional miles now, fuel surcharges around $170 each way) or 50K each way in business class on American Airlines (no fuel surcharges). First class on AA is only 62.5K miles one-way, but AA only operates 3-cabin first class on a couple of routes and award space may be hard to come by.
  • How to find awards: Search for Brussels award space on United.com or American award space on AA.com (you may want to double-check availability at Qantas.com)
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi Thank You Marriott Bonvoy

Virgin Atlantic (for Delta flights)
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers Delta flights for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries. This can be a particularly good value for Delta’s life-flat routes to Europe and availability is often surprisingly good. While Virgin Atlantic changed most Delta awards to a distance-based award chart in early 2021, they have maintained the old zone-based pricing for Delta flights to/from Europe.
  • Miles required: 50K miles each way in business class (for direct flights) between the US and Europe (excluding the UK, which as a separate chart).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com. See: Book Delta with Virgin Atlantic miles online! (again).
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries. Note that taxes on flights originating in Europe can be high, but are only $5.60 when originating in the US. Some major European airports are not loaded into Virgin Atlantic’s website, so you may have to call to check availability / book.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Marriott Bonvoy

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Asia

While Virgin Atlantic stands out as the hands-down best value here for its amazing first class pricing on ANA, you can get even better value for ANA business class itineraries (and Star Alliance itineraries) by booking through ANA Mileage Club. Avianca LifeMiles may also be a good choice for routes to Asia, especially if you’re able to take advantage of mixed-cabin pricing referenced in the Avianca sections above. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is likely the best choice for oneworld flights.

Business and First Class

ANA Mileage Club (for Star Alliance round trip bookings)
  • The short story: ANA charges 75K round trip between North America and Japan for business class flights on ANA metal during low season, 85K RT during regular season, or 90K RT during high season. Star Alliance awards are charged at high season rates. A stopover is allowed.
  • Miles required: From 75K round trip in business class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be quite reasonable to/from Japan and some other destinations.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA's website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA's website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Low and regular season pricing only applies to itineraries entirely on ANA. Star Alliance awards or those mixing ANA and Star Alliance carriers price at high season rates.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Etihad, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)

Avianca LifeMiles (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers decent pricing to Asia with no fuel surcharges. Business class awards may be semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
  • Miles required: From 75K each way in business or 90K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (for oneworld)
  • The short story: Cathay Pacific has reasonable pricing for business and first class on long itineraries, but it can get quite a bit better if you're able to pair the long-haul flight with a long leg in a lower class. See: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles mixed cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • Miles required: 85K miles each way in business class or 125K each way in first class on itineraries over 7500 miles (less for some itineraries from the West Coast and less yet with mixed-cabin pricing as shown above)
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AsiaMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Asia Miles frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AsiaMiles.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are moderate depending on route and origin.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Qantas (for El Al to Israel)
  • The short story: Qantas offers good partner pricing for El Al flights to Israel.
  • Miles required: 78K points in business class on El Al between Tel Aviv and Boston, Newark, and New York JFK. 92K points in business between Tel Aviv and Chicago, Miami. 104K points in business between Tel Aviv and Los Angeles or San Francisco. With a transfer bonus, these rates can get better. No fuel surcharges for travel on El Al.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Singapore KrisFlyer
  • The short story: While award prices are high, Singapore KrisFlyer has much better availability in premium cabins for their own members. They also offer a stopover on a one-way award.
  • Miles required: 95K / 99K from the West Coast / East Coast to Singapore in business class or 130K / 132K in first class (see the full award chart here).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Can waitlist as many options as you’d like as long as you have enough miles to book the award being waitlisted.
  • Key warnings: Note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets. Waitlisted itineraries that do not clear by 14 days prior to departure will get canceled.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott

Virgin Atlantic (for ANA)
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers incredible value for ANA first class between the US and Japan (and decent value for business class).
  • Miles required: 110K / 120K round trip for first class between the US West Coast / US East Coast and Japan or 90K / 95K miles in business class
  • How to find awards: Search United.com to find ANA partner award space.
  • How to book awards: Call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at 1 800 365 9500.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so this award is best for direct flights. They also add fuel surcharges for ANA flights, though total taxes and fees are still quite reasonable (about $270 round trip at the time of writing).
  • Transfer fromAmex, Chase, Citi, Marriott

Virgin Atlantic (for Delta)
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic used to offer very competitive pricing for Delta business class between the US and Asia. Unfortunately, in early 2021 Virgin Atlantic moved to a distance-based award chart which has increased prices dramatically. They may still offer better pricing than Delta does and in some cases you may find six or more seats available in business class, so this can be a useful option for those looking to fly many passengers (though it is pricey). Taxes leaving the US are just $5.60 one way.
  • Miles required: From 105K miles each way in business class from the mainland US. 80K each way in business class from Hawaii to Northern Asia (Honolulu to Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka). See the distance bands here and use a tool like gcmap.com to calculate distance between airports.
  • How to find awards: Search VirginAtlantic.com to find Delta award space.
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com or call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at 1 800 365 9500.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so this award is best for direct flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Citi, Marriott

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Caribbean / Latin America

Similar to domestic US flights, Avianca LifeMiles and Qantas can offer better value than United and American for the same flights. Avios can also offer good value for American Airlines flights — British Airways is better for direct flights and when you need flexibility; Iberia is better for connecting itineraries and when plans are locked in (since you can not change or cancel).

All Classes

Avianca LifeMiles (for United / Copa)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United to the “rest of North America” (i.e. not the US) for 12,500 miles each way in economy class.
  • Miles required: 12,500 miles each way in economy class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

British Airways Avios (for American Airlines)
  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the southern part of the US to the Caribbean and Latin America can be a solid value.
  • Miles required: Varies based on distance. From 7.5K one-way in economy class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

Delta SkyMiles (for Delta)
  • The short story: Delta has weekly flash sales where it is sometimes possible to get solid value. Some itineraries to the Caribbean offer surprising value.
  • Miles required: Varies, but enter your starting airport at the Travel is Free Delta mileage calculator and just check the "international" box to find destinations that may present a good deal.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Delta.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at Delta.com.
  • Key warnings: Delta pricing can be very unpredictable and vary wildly.
  • Transfer from: Amex

Iberia Avios (for American Airlines)
  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions.
  • Miles required: From 11K miles round trip plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American has availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at iberia.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase

Qantas (for American Airlines)
  • The short story: Qantas offers better pricing than traditional American Airlines award prices on itineraries with a distance of 1200 miles or fewer each way and has no close-in booking fee. This could be especially good for short international flights like Miami to Grand Cayman or other points in the Southern US to the Caribbean.
  • Miles required: 8,000 miles each way for itineraries covering a distance up to 600 miles (like Miami to Grand Cayman) or 12,000 miles each way for itineraries covering a distance up to 1200 miles (like Miami to most of Central America and the Caribbean). (See: Strengths of Qantas for AA redemptions).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Avios, either through British Airways or Iberia, might be a better value if you have direct flights if you have access to points which transfer to Avios. However, for flights with connections, Qantas can be a better deal.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Africa

It’s hard to beat the value of using Etihad Guest for Royal Air Maroc to get to Africa at just 44K miles each way in business class to Casablanca. However, if you don’t live near an airport served by Royal Air Maroc, using ANA Mileage Club to book a Star Alliance award for 105K round trip in business class is also a fantastic deal that opens a lot more options. If you’re looking to combine two destinations on a one-way, look to Air Canada Aeroplan for a stopover for just 5K miles on a one-way ticket.

Economy Class

Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • The short story: Monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards can sometimes offer excellent value between the US and Europe and Flying Blue considers several countries located in North Africa to be part of its "Europe" pricing model (including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and the Canary Islands). Once in Africa, keep Flying Blue in mind for intra-Africa awards on Kenya Airways.
  • Miles required: Varies. Air France no longer has an award chart, but promo awards often offer good value, with economy class awards often available from as low as 10K-15K one way during some sales from select airports. They sometimes present good value for travel on other SkyTeam partners like Delta or Alitalia, but YMMV.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Air France / KLM do add fuel surcharges, though they are often reasonable.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Brex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

ANA Mileage Club
  • The short story: ANA has the hands-down cheapest award pricing between North America and Africa/Middle East on Star Alliance airlines (note that they include almost all of Africa in their definition).
  • Miles required: 65K round trip in economy class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be avoided with the right partners. Find partners that do not add fuel surcharges in this post: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges (avoid Lufthansa-group airlines to avoid high fuel surcharges). The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: AmexMarriott

Avianca LifeMiles
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 40K each way in economy class to South Africa (which includes most of Africa) or 42.5K each way to North Africa (and the Middle East). Note that there is sometimes variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), though we are not aware of any such pricing anomalies to Africa.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • The short story: Cathay Pacific has reasonable pricing for single-partner oneworld redemptions, particularly those requiring connections since they charge based on cumulative distance. Keep in mind that Royal Air Maroc is now a oneworld carrier and American intends to begin service from Philadelphia to Casablanca in 2021 (delayed from June 2020).
  • Miles required: 27K miles one-way for a cumulative distance of 2,751 to 5,000 miles, or 40K one-way for up to 7,500 miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AsiaMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Asia Miles frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AsiaMiles.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are moderate depending on route and origin.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Etihad Guest (for Royal Air Maroc)
  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on Royal Air Maroc between the US and Casablanca.
  • Miles required: 22K miles each way in economy class plus about $120 in fuel surcharges one-way between North America and Casablanca.
  • How to find awards: Search for award space at RoyalAirMaroc.com or AA.com. (You’ll need to create a free Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account to search at the Royal Air Maroc website).
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Note that Etihad Guest adds fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi

Singapore Krisflyer
  • The short story: Singapore offers good Star Alliance award pricing to the Middle East and North Africa (including Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt).
  • Miles required: 37.5K miles each way in economy class to/from the Middle East and North Africa. Central and Southern Africa are less competitive at 45K each way. See the full award chart here.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer.
  • Key warnings: Note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers excellent economy class pricing on Air France / KLM, particularly from the Eastern US, but since the US is split into two different zones and you'll find African countries in four different zones, it can be very confusing. Premium Economy can also be an excellent deal (see the full chart for Air France on this page).
  • Miles required:
    • East Coast North America & Caribbean (Zone 6) to:
      • Zone 2 (Eastern Europe and North Africa, which includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia): 20K miles each way off-peak / 30K peak
      • Zone 3 (Middle East and Russia, which includes Egypt): 25K off-peak / 35K peak
      • Zone 4 (Central Africa): 24.5K off-peak / 34.5K peak
      • Zone 5 (Southern Africa, Indian Ocean & Indian Subcontinent): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
    • West & Central North America & Central America (Zone 7) to:
      • Zone 2 (Eastern Europe and North Africa, which includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia): 23K miles each way off-peak / 33K peak
      • Zone 3 (Middle East and Russia, which includes Egypt): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
      • Zone 4 (Central Africa): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
      • Zone 5 (Southern Africa, Indian Ocean & Indian Subcontinent): 31K off-peak / 41K peak
    • Standard price travel dates dates include:
      • 6 January 2020 – 2 April 2020
      • 22 April 2020 - 19 June 2020
      • 7 September 2020 - 11 December 2020
      • 6 January 2021 - 31 March 2021
    • Peak season travel dates include:
      • 3 April 2020 - 21 April 2020
      • 20 June 2020 - 6 September 2020
      • 12 December 2020 - 5 January 2021
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: Book Air France & KLM with Virgin Atlantic Miles.
  • Key warnings: The zone-based award chart for Air France / KLM flights can be a bit confusing at first, but the nice thing about booking Air France / KLM flights with Virgin Atlantic miles is that Virgin Atlantic does not charge each segment separately as they do with other partners or their own flights. In this case, you'll pay the region prices even if connecting. Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic is currently facing uncertain financial times, so it may be best to hold off a while on booking any travel that isn't imminent.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseMarriott

Business and First Class

Air Canada Aeroplan (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: Aeroplan includes Africa in its "Atlantic" zone, meaning that the award pricing range matches that to Europe and you could even add a stopover in Europe en route to Africa for 5K additional miles one-way. Lap infants are just 2,500 miles.
  • Miles required: Ranges from 60K to 100K in business class based on distance (add 5K miles for a stopover). First class ranges from 90K-130K one way. See more chart information here.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Fuel surcharges: Aeroplan no longer adds fuel surcharges to awards.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Marriott

ANA Mileage Club (for round trip Star Alliance)
  • The short story: ANA's round trip business class pricing to Africa is far better than what most programs would charge for the same flights.
  • Miles required: 104K round trip in business class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be avoided with the right partners. Find partners that do not add fuel surcharges in this post: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Note that transfers to ANA are not instant. Transfers typically take 2-3 days from Amex Membership Rewards or a week or more from Marriott, so there is risk of award space disappearing while you wait for a transfer.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex, Marriott

Avianca LifeMiles (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Etihad Guest
  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on Royal Air Maroc between the US and Casablanca.
  • Miles required: 44K miles each way in business class between North America and Casablanca plus about $170 in fuel surcharges one-way. Additional segments are priced individually.
  • How to find awards: Search for award space at RoyalAirMaroc.com. You’ll need to create a free Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account to search.
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). Note also that Etihad Guest does add fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Australia / New Zealand / Oceania

While Aeroplan award pricing to the region has increased, it is nonetheless an excellent deal for those looking to visit a destination in Asia and one in Oceania on the same ticket given that a stopover can be added for just 5K miles one way and Aeroplan adds to fuel surcharges on partner awards. On the other hand, ANA Mileage Club is hard to beat for phenomenal pricing to much of the region as long as you can book round trip.

Business and First Class

ANA Mileage Club (for Star Alliance)
  • The short story: ANA offers the best deal out of Membership Rewards partners for business class between North America and Oceania and also offers a wide range of partner options. You can route via Canada or most of east / Southeast Asia or fly Air New Zealand.
  • Miles required: From 105K round trip in business class on ANA metal during low season up to 120K round trip in business class on Star Alliance partners or during high season. ANA has eliminated fuel surcharges on many/most of its flights, making routing on ANA an even better deal.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Note that transfers to ANA are not instant. Transfers typically take 2-3 days from Amex Membership Rewards or a week or more from Marriott, so there is risk of award space disappearing while you wait for a transfer.
  • No fuel surcharges on: ANA (many/most routes, though a few still have surcharges) United (no surcharges to Europe; unfortunately, they do have charges to Asia), Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa, Ethiopian, TAP Air Portugal, or Singapore
  • Low fuel surcharges on: LOT Polish
  • Moderate surcharges on: Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex, Marriott

Air Canada Aeroplan
  • The short story: Aeroplan significantly changed its award chart for travel between North America and Oceania in 2020. Oceania is now included in the same region as Eastern Asia. While awards to Oceania mostly increased in price, members can now book a stopover in eastern Asia en route to Australia or New Zealand for 5K additional miles one-way. Lap infants are now just $25 CAD or 2,500 miles per direction (far cheaper than what most programs charge).
  • Miles required: 55K-105K each way in business class or 90K-140K each way in fist class from North America to the Pacific zone, though practically for most North America-based flyers, distance bands start at 75K / 105K each way. See more detail here.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Fuel Surcharges: Aeroplan no longer charges fuel surcharges on partner award tickets.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards (coming in 2021), Capital One, Marriott

Avianca LifeMiles
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles might have somewhat hackable awards if you could find premium cabin space on the long-haul.
  • Miles required: 80K miles in business class from the US to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania, but see Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for info on how this might be hackable if premium space exists. Note also that Air New Zealand economy class flights price lower than the chart shows for flights to/from Los Angeles. Business class may also price lower if you can find availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you'll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.

Etihad Guest
  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers flights on American Airlines based on the old American Airlines chart (which itself devalued several years ago).
  • Miles required: 62.5K each way in business class, 72.5K each way in first class
  • How to find awards: Search for American saver award space on AA.com (you may want to double-check availability at Qantas.com)
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). Note that finding saver premium cabin availability on American Airlines is only slightly more likely than getting struck by lightning.

Hawaiian Miles
  • The short story: Hawaiian may be a good option for those who can position to Hawaii cheaply, particularly for Pago Pago or Papeete.
  • Miles required: 65K miles one-way in business class to Australia or New Zealand; 47.5K miles one-way in business class to Pago Pago or Papeete.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Hawaiian Airlines’s Hawaiian Miles site(you’ll need to create a free Hawaiian Miles account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Hawaiian Airlines’s Hawaiian Miles site.
  • Key warnings: Availability can be hard to come by, but if you find it it may be worth it.

Qantas: for Jetstar
  • The short story: Qantas's low-cost-carrier Jetstar flies between Hawaii and several Australian cities and can be booked with Qantas points.
  • Miles required: 57,600 miles one-way in business class from Honolulu to Sydney on Jetstar before September 18, 2019, 61,500 miles thereafter.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Jetstar flights can be quite cheap. While their business class is much more expensive than their economy class fares, it's worth comparing to cash fares to be sure you're getting a decent value.

Qantas: for Emirates
  • The short story: While the award cost here is substantially higher than others included in this sweet-spot post, it may be worth it to those who really want an indulgently long experience in Emirates business class. It is possible to spend upwards of ~30 hours in A380 business class by routing via Dubai (note that some US cities have 777 service, which is likely angled in business class).
  • Miles required: 159,000 miles one-way in business class between North American cities and those cities served by Emirates in Australia and New Zealand.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Choose A380 routes to get a fully-flat aisle access business class seat with a bar at the rear of the plane.

Virgin Atlantic: for Delta
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic used to offer a decent sweet spot for Delta flights to Oceania. Unfortunately, they changed to a distance-based award chart in early 2021 and prices have since skyrocketed. This option is only worth considering if you need multiple seats as Virgin sometimes has access to multiple seats on Delta flights (though availability is often tough to find to/from Oceania)
  • Miles required: 165K miles each way in business class on routes of 6,000 miles or more (from the mainland US to Oceania), which makes this a relatively poor value.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com. See the distance bands here and use a tool like gcmap.com to calculate distance between airports.
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.

Virgin Atlantic: for Air New Zealand
  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic also offers good deals for Air New Zealand premium cabin flights if you can actually find availability.
  • Miles required: 45K each way for business class to/from Hawaii, 45K each way in business class from the "South Pacific" to :ps Angeles, 62.5K each way in business class from New Zealand to North or South America
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (I believe that Air New Zealand space does not show up at VirginAtlantic.com)
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately (i.e. an itinerary with a single connection will cost 25K miles), so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries. Furthermore, Air New Zealand business class award space is extremely rare.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Round the world ticket

In addition to the sweet spots mentioned above, it is worth noting that ANA’s round the world award chart can present phenomenal value for RTW Star Alliance awards and the British Airways multi-carrier tool can be leveraged similarly for oneworld itineraries including at least 2 oneworld partners.

ANA Round the World

Here is the ANA round the world award chart:

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots Round the world ticket

And here is an example itinerary that clocks in at just under 20K miles, meaning it could (theoretically) be booked entirely in business class with Star Alliance carriers for 115K miles.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Round The World Trip

ANA round the world awards can only be booked over the phone with ANA Mileage Club. See this post from Travel is Free for more.

British Airways multi-carrier award

Here is the award chart for a British Airways Avios multi-carrier award (note that this requires flights on 2 or more oneworld carriers):

Distance (in miles) Economy Premium Economy Business First
0-1,500 30K 45K 60K 90K
1,501-4,000 35K 52.5K 70K 105K
4,001-9,000 60K 90K 120K 180K
9,001-10,000 70K 105K 140K 210K
10,001-14,000 90K 135K 180K 270K
14,001-20,000 100K 150K 200K 300K
20,001-25,000 120K 180K 240K 360K
25,001-35,000 140k 210K 280K 420K
35,001-50,000 160K 240K 320K 480K

 

A British Airways multi-carrier award requires 2 or more oneworld carriers (note that you can not fly non-oneworld partners on this ticket). You can have up tp 8 segments and one open-jaw and travel must take place within a 12-month period.

For an excellent write-up with insight into valuable nuances of this award, see this write-up from Prince of Travel. You’ll need to call British Airways Executive Club to book after finding availability.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Hotel Partners

Hilton often sells points for half a cent each. This means that transfers to Hilton don’t many sense even with a transfer bonus unless you need a larger quantity of Hilton points than you can purchase and/or there is no current sale.

Marriott is a 1:1 transfer partner, though we have seen transfer bonuses as high as 50%. Marriott transfers might make sense if you have a valuable redemption in mind. As a reminder, here is the Marriott Bonvoy award chart (see our Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide for more detail):

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Free Night Award Chart

Choice Privileges can be a notably good partner for Nordic Choice hotels, where it is possible to get both free breakfast and free dinner in some instances.

Choice Privileges
  • The short story: Clarion Collection hotels, of the Nordic Choice hotels group that can be booked with Choice Privileges points, offer free breakfast and dinner and offer a great value for points. See: Free hotel breakfast & dinner at Nordic Choice Clarion Collection [Sweet-spot spotlight].
  • Points required: Varies, but many options between 10,000 and 20,000 points per night
  • How to find and book awards: Search online at ChoiceHotels.com, but be aware that you can only search and book award stays a maximum of 100 days in advance.
  • Key point: Rather than transferring the full amount needed for an award night, it is possible to transfer as few as 6,000 points to Choice Privileges and then use cash & points bookings to buy the rest of the points necessary for well under 1c per point. See this post for details.

Amex Membership Rewards Sweet Spots: Bottom line

American Express Membership Rewards is an incredibly powerful currency with some great sweet spots. In comparison to the posts on Citi ThankYou points sweet spots and Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots, you can see that Amex just has a wider range of possibilities to get great value to many parts of the world, making it a favored (and in my opinion underrated) award currency.

Have we missed your favorite sweet spot? Let us know in the comments below.

Other program sweet spots

Capital One Miles sweet spots
Citi ThankYou points sweet spots
Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots
Marriott Bonvoy airline partner sweet spots
Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

37 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments