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While Chase Ultimate Rewards points might be the most common starting point for people getting into points and miles, Amex Membership Rewards points are a great option as well. Not only does American Express have tons of airline transfer partners, but some of these partners have great award rates so you can get more bang for your buck.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how 10xTravel team members would use 100,000 Membership Rewards points to take an amazing trip.
Let’s see what they come up with!
As I recently earned 100,000 Membership Rewards points, I feel like this topic is speaking to me directly!
Even though Flying Blue is also a transfer partner of other transferable currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, when I think of Membership Rewards points, my first thought is almost always using them to get to Europe by booking Flying Blue Promo Awards.
Released monthly by Flying Blue, the shared loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Flying Blue Promo Awards offer up to 50% off of award flights to specific destinations.
The monthly promo awards are eligible for travel that occurs in a two-month window starting the next month. For instance, for the most recent pre-COVID Flying Blue Promo was March 2020, and the Promo Awards were valid for booking between March 1 and March 31, 2020 for travel to be completed between May 1 and June 30, 2020.
Flying Blue Promo Awards usually offer discounts of 20-40% off for short-haul flights and 25-50% off long-haul awards in both economy and business class.
So with my 100,000 Membership Rewards points in hand, I’m looking first to the monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards to see if upcoming offerings line up with some destinations that I’m keen to visit. If so, I’ll hopefully be able to book an interesting destination for upwards of a fraction of the cost of a normal ticket.
And depending on the routing options available, my wife and I could both book 4 roundtrip tickets in economy if we’re able to snag a 50% off economy award from the US to Europe (11,000 per person each way). Or, for just 15,000 more points, we could potentially book 2 roundtrip tickets in premium economy for 115,000 miles on a 50% off premium economy award. Or we could do a combination of some of the promo awards such as business class on the way there and economy home, depending on the promos.
This week’s topic makes me so happy to cover because I know exactly how I’d use 100,000 Membership Rewards points. In fact, I’ve been padding my Amex points balance specifically for this reason.
Argentina is one of those countries that’s been on my list for a long time, but I have yet to go there. The reason is quite simple actually. When my husband was a teenager, he spent a year studying abroad in the South American country. He still keeps in touch with his host family and would rather we go there together on my first visit so he could show me around and I could meet his host brothers.
Well, 2019 was supposed to be THE year. At the moment, Argentina has banned all commercial flights into the country until September and it’s unknown when exactly it’ll open borders to tourism again. But when it does, I have just the plan to get there.
I’d be redeeming the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles and flying its SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines for this trip. A one-way flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires is about 10 hours long, and for this reason I’d like to fly in business class and arrive refreshed and ready to explore. When redeeming Flying Club miles, the flight in the Delta One cabin requires 45,000 miles each way. So, I can book a round-trip for 90,000 Flying Club miles.
However, I’m also waiting for a popular transfer bonus between Membership Rewards and Flying Club, which comes by twice per year. In the past, this promotion has offered as much as a 30% bonus on the transferred points, which would lower my redemption to 35,000 Amex points for a one-way flight. That’s barely higher than the same flight in economy at standard rates.
Since I don’t live in Atlanta, and the Flying Club program tacks on extra miles for connecting flights, I’d need to redeem more miles to get to Atlanta from Salt Lake City. Both cities are Delta hubs, and I can add a nonstop segment in economy for 12,500 miles (or 10,000 Membership Rewards before the transfer bonus).
After all is said and done, I could fly from Salt Lake City all the way to Buenos Aires with a stop in Atlanta for 90,000 Amex points. I just hope the country opens up by winter or spring.
One of the best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points is to book around the world itinerary. Last year I booked two of these by transferring Membership Rewards points to ANA. The points transfer 1:1 and the transfer is usually instant.
Japanese carrier ANA has an extremely generous award chart for around the world awards! For the award to be considered around the world, you’ll have to cross the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, so if you have at least three weeks and want to visit more than one continent, this is an incredible value.
As you can see from the chart below, you can put together a trip as long as 25,000 miles flown if you are willing to fly in economy. I prefer to fly in business class on such long trips, so if 100,000 Membership Rewards points suddenly fell in my lap, I’d book another, shorter, around the world trip in business class for 105,000 points.
To estimate the distances flown, there’s no better tool than Great Circle Mapper. So let’s look at a couple of fun itineraries.
Let’s say you don’t mind flying in economy and want to maximize mileage flown. You can put together an epic trip flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan to Sydney, Australia to Frankfurt, Germany to Chicago. The whole trip comes in at just under 25,000 miles flown. This amazing award would only cost 100,000 ANA miles!
Let’s say you’d rather fly in business class and want to visit Asia and Europe. You can fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan to Brussels, Belgium and back to LA. You’ll fly just over 17,000 miles and use 105,000 ANA miles, all in business class!
This is where knowing airline partnerships comes in handy. ANA is part of the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, so we can use ANA miles (that we got by transferring 100,000 Membership Rewards points) to book flights to all these amazing destinations served by various Star Alliance carriers.
American Express has a lot of great transfer partners for airlines. American Express often has transfer bonuses to help make your points even more lucrative. If I was given 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, I’d look at another transfer partner: Hilton Hotels.
Normally you’ll earn 2,000 Hilton Honors Points when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards, but if you wait for a transfer bonus you’ll earn 3,000 Hilton Honors Points when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards. In total, you’ll earn 300,000 Hilton Honors Points when you transfer 100,000 Membership Rewards.
Now that I’d have 300,000 Hilton points, I’d stack it with Hilton Silver status or higher to get a fifth night free on award nights. With a card like the American Express Platinum you can get complimentary Hilton Gold status.
Combining 300,000 points with Hilton Gold status for fifth night free means you can stay 5 nights at any Hilton hotel that costs 75,000 points or less. Although this is a bit shy of Hilton’s highest cost rooms, which are 95,000 points per night, there’s still a lot of great options available.
You can stay at properties such as the Hilton Waikaloa Village in Hawaii (60,000 points per night), the Hilton Sydney (59,000 points per night), or even the Conrad Bali (46,000 points per night).
Taking advantage of the fifth night free along with a transfer bonus can help you get a few nights at some amazing hotels for only 100,000 points. Now all you’ll need are the flights!
I admit that I’m normally an economy flier, but there are some award chart sweet spots so good that they’re hard for even me to pass up. One such sweet spot? 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles round trip from the U.S. to Japan in ANA First Class.
While I’ve visited Japan once already, I only had a week and thus decided to spend the entire trip in Tokyo (where I STILL ran out of time – the city is massive and so full of art, food, culture etc. that I’m convinced you’d need a month to do it justice). I knew when planning that trip that I would obviously need a return trip to take in other parts of the country, including Kyoto, Osaka, and some nature-focused destinations.
The abundance of beautiful-looking points hotels—such as the Ritz Carlton Kyoto, the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono and the soon-to-open Hilton Okinawa Sesoko—has only made me want to go back even more.
If you’re in the same boat and armed with 100,000 Membership Rewards points, you’re in luck; that sum will get you almost all the way to a roundtrip ticket in an ANA first-class cabin that’s famed for its food and service. You can transfer your Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic to book; the two airlines are partners, and Virgin charges just 110,000 from the western U.S. (where I’m based) and 120,000 from the central and eastern U.S. to Japan.
To put that in perspective, ANA’s fellow Star Alliance member United used to charge 110,000 miles for a ONE-WAY between the U.S. and Japan—and that was before the carrier pulled its international award chart, giving itself the go-ahead to charge whatever it pleases on any given day.
Sticking within the Membership Rewards universe, if you were looking to use your Amex points a different way to get those flights, you’d be looking at a 105,000 one-way with Air Canada Aeroplan.
The Virgin Atlantic deal can get even better, though. Amex routinely offers transfer bonuses, and I’ve had friends book the ANA First Class roundtrip with just 85,000 membership rewards points per person. Hard to do better than that!
From Air France-KLM Flying Blue promo awards to great round-trip award rates with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to crazy around the world adventures with ANA Mileage Club, Amex Membership Rewards points provide a ton of great options.
With so many great options, the hardest part of using Amex points might be figuring out where you want to go on your next trip. Personally, that sounds like a good problem to have!
How would you use 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points?
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Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.