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Traveling to Europe conjures images of walking among tulips in The Netherlands, sipping espresso in a Parisian cafe, and marveling at Renaissance art in Florence – sounds nice, doesn’t it? With travel routes continuing to open around the world, many are planning summer trips across the pond to make up for the lost travel year that was 2020. Or, maybe you’ve had your fill of Hawaii and are ready for a new experience.
Luckily, there are many ways to get there using miles and points that will keep more money in your pocket for beers and brats in Germany!
Best Credit Cards for earning Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase offers many credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. As a reminder, you must have a current fee-charging credit card open (e.g. card_name, card_name, or card_name) in order to have the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners. You must also have one of these cards to enable your earnings from the card_name or card_name to be used as Ultimate Rewards points instead of straight cashback. Here are the cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points:
Check Cash Prices First
As always, whenever you’re planning to use rewards points for travel you should do a quick search to see what the cash rates are for the itinerary. This is as easy as plugging in the dates to Google Flights or checking the Ultimate Rewards Portal (as outlined in the post about getting to Hawaii). If you have the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve credit cards, you can book flights on the Ultimate Rewards portal with your points for a flat 1.25 cents/point or 1.5 cents/point with the Preferred and Reserve, respectively, and sometimes it’s a decent deal. Most of the time, however, prices for business class to Europe are exorbitant, and transferring to one of Chase’s travel partners is the way to go for the best value.
Best Transfer Partners for Travel to Europe
Chase offers many different airline transfer partners, but only a few of them offer competitive award pricing, are straightforward to book online without jumping through too many hoops, and have decent availability. Here are three of the best, in no particular order.
United – 60k/120k
Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to your United MileagePlus account is one of the easiest and most straightforward approaches to booking award travel. United charges 30,000/60,000 miles (economy/business) for one-way flights from the U.S. to Europe and about 10,000 extra miles for flights booked with partner airlines through United, plus $6 – ~$100 in taxes and fees. Since they have moved to a dynamic award chart these numbers may fluctuate quite a bit and you’ll have a much easier time finding economy tickets over business class, but if you look far enough in advance you are bound to find some availability.
How to book: To book with United, just log into your MileagePlus account and do a search for award flights (check the “book with miles” box on the search screen). If you also check the “flexible dates” box, you will be able to see an entire 30 days’ worth of availability at a time, which is helpful for seeing which days have the best pricing. Simply select the flight of your choice and click through the menus to book online.
You can also combine your newly-transferred Ultimate Rewards points with United miles already in your MileagePlus account. For example, if you open the card_name and have 60,000 miles in your account from the Welcome Bonus or regular spend, you would only need to transfer 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points to book a round-trip flight to Europe in business class.
Virgin Atlantic – 30k/50k
You can book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles for routes from the U.S. to Europe. Rather than paying Delta prices using Delta SkyMiles, you pay a fixed rate of 30,000 – 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, for economy and business class respectively, transferred from your Ultimate Rewards account.
How to book: Once you create a Virgin Atlantic account, you can do award searches from their website. One thing to note about Virgin Atlantic is that they also partner with other airlines, like KLM, and you are able to book on those flights as well for possibly lower rates (as low as 12,000 miles). The downside is that they often pass on fuel surcharges which can be in the range of $200+ depending on the route. Also, Virgin Atlantic charges more miles for routes on Delta that include a stopover and higher fees if passing through London, so if you’re going to use them I would recommend looking for a direct flight to anywhere other than London (like Amsterdam, for example). If your hometown airport doesn’t have a direct flight, it may be worth buying a cheap repositioning flight to wherever there is one.
Iberia Plus – 22k/34k
A fantastic sweet spot for award travel to Europe is transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Iberia Plus and booking business class flights from the U.S. to Madrid for 34,000 Avios (their version of miles) each way. Even if Madrid is not your intended destination, it’s a great jumping-off point to all areas of Europe. There are a couple of caveats to this incredible value, however:
- Iberia uses a distance-based award chart (as opposed to a zone-based chart as many other airlines use), so this price is only available from certain locations that they fly to such as New York (JFK), Boston, and Chicago to Madrid. Other locations, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, are also available but would price at 50,000 Avios instead of 34,000 (which is still a decent deal).
- The 34,000 Avios cost is the “off peak” pricing, which is generally September through May with some blackout dates. If traveling during peak dates, the cost is 50,000 Avios.
- Iberia DOES pass on fuel surcharges, which will be $150+ each way. This is a little high, but with such a discount on the number of points required it’s still a great deal.
How to book: Create an Iberia Plus account and log in to search for availability between BOS or JFK (for best pricing) to MAD. You can book these awards online. Similar to the example with United above, you can also open the card_name to supplement your Avios if you are low on Ultimate Rewards points.
While not an exhaustive list of the many ways you can get to Europe using miles and points, these are a few of the ways you can use Ultimate Rewards points to easily get across the pond. As with all points transfers, it’s important to confirm award availability before transferring because once you send the points to your frequent flyer account, the transaction cannot be reversed. Also, be sure to check for availability far in advance if you’re hoping to secure business class seats, as the routes to Europe are extremely popular, especially in the summertime.
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