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Mastering Credit Card Point Transfers to Frequent Flyer Programs, Part II: Sweet Spots

The second in our two-part series on what you need to know about transferring credit card points to airline miles.

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If you transfer credit card points to frequent flyer programs correctly, you'll be blown away by how cheap you score biz class seats
Have an OMG moment when you score biz class seats for free by transferring points to miles.
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Last week, we looked at credit cards which allow the transfer of credit card points to frequent flyer programs for redeeming award seats. This week, we highlight sweet spots to score the best seats up in the air. We break it down by region and hope this inspires you to look for—and take advantage of—the best deals out there!

How do I even begin choosing between so many frequent flyer transfer partners?

As we told you last week, there are dozens of frequent flyer programs eligible for points’ transfers at a 1:1 ratio, but not all programs are created equal. Not all airlines charge the same mileage for the same routing, so be smart when it comes to deciding which program you use to book a mileage ticket. Also, look into alliances for work-arounds and getting award tickets on your favorite airline through their partners.

It does take work to look at the award chart of every airline, but this homework pays off. Here, we’ve done the homework for you and included some of our favorite so-called “sweet spots,” award tickets that present incredible value and return on miles. We’ve narrowed it down to our top five in terms of value and availability for business class.

Sweet Spots between USA and Europe

For trips between the United States and Europe in business class, availability tends to be generous on Star Alliance carriers, namely LOT Polish, Swiss Air, TAP Portugal, and Turkish Airlines. The easiest—and cheapest—way to score these tickets is by transferring points to Star Alliance partner Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. Aeroplan is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards and points can be transferred from Membership Rewards to Aeroplan at a one-to-one ratio. Business class flights between the USA and Europe booked through Aeroplan run a mere 55,000 points per person, per way (sweet spot score!). Aeroplan does not add fuel surcharges for these airlines, so expect taxes and fees to be nominal. Note: Holders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve can similarly transfer points to United Mileage Plus and then book LOT Polish, Swiss Air, TAP Portugal or Turkish Airlines award flight through the United search engine. However, ticketing through United will cost 70,000 points per person, per way.

Sweet Spots between the continental USA And Caribbean/Central America/Mexico

Through its Avios program, British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, making shorter- distance flights on American Airlines sweet spots. If flying from a nearby American hub such as Miami, Dallas, or Los Angeles, expect flights to the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico to be a fraction of what they’d cost if booking directly through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. For example, a business-class mileage ticket between Miami and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, costs 25,000 AAdvantage points using American Airlines but only 12,000 Avios points through British Airways. Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire cards and American Express premium cards should transfer points to British Airways Executive Club and then book their American Airlines award flight through the British Airways Avios search engine.

Sweet Spots within Asia

Again, playing off British Airways’ distance-based award chart, flights on partner airline Cathay Pacific within Asia on Cathay Pacific come at bargain basement point prices, even when traveling in first or business. For example, a business-class mileage ticket between Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan, will cost only 12,000 Avios points using British Airways. Likewise, a business-class mileage ticket between Hong Kong and Shanghai costs just 18,000 Avios points. Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire cards and American Express premium cards should transfer points to British Airways Executive Club and then book their American Airlines award flight through the British Airways Avios search engine.

Sweet Spots between Hawaii and Central America

For reasons we may never understand (but we are guessing human error), Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program groups Hawaii and Central America as a single zone for purposes of mileage redemptions. A business-class ticket within this zone comes to a mere 30,000 points one-way, and this routing typically takes place on partner airlines United Airlines and Copa Airlines. Since Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of the Chase Sapphire cards, the American Express premium cards, and the Citi Prestige card, transfer points from the card of your choosing and then book what is arguably the cheapest long-haul business reward out there!

Sweet Spots between the USA and Africa

Similar to Europe, availability between the USA and Africa tends to be generous on Star Alliance carriers, namely TAP Portugl and Swiss Air. In addition, South Africa Airways sometimes releases award space for its direct flights between JFK and Johannesburg. Cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express should transfer points to Air Canada (Aeroplan) and then book their Star Alliance award flight through the Aeroplan search engine for 75,000 points per person, per way.

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.