3 Steps to Booking your $16k First or Business Class Trip to Europe for less than $90

Do you ever dream of traveling the world in style, heading off to Europe for a little shopping or just to get some authentic Italian food?  There is a way you can and it's easier than you think.

Below is my most recent points booking to Europe, the steps I took to find the deal and how you can do the same!

Step 1: Collect Transferable Reward Points

There are 4 Major Credit Card programs that allow you to transfer points you earn into miles with different airlines: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Points and SPG Amex.  Check to make sure the card you get is part of one of the above  Travel Rewards programs.  For example, many but not all American Express cards are part of their Membership Rewards Programs. Note that you can also sign up for an airline specific credit card, however this may limit your options to using points with that specific airline.

Recently my wife and I  applied for the  Amex Personal Platinum and Business Platinum credit cards with sign up bonuses.  The bonuses have changed slightly since then but were between 50-100k points per card depending on spending.  We even earned an extra 20k points by referring each other the card. The personal Amex Platinum was just recently updated and now carries a 60k point sign up bonus, while the Business platinum currently carries up to a 75k point bonus.

This helped increase our stash of Amex Rewards points and so we started looking for a good deal.

New Metal Amex Platinum Card

Step 2: Search Airline Partners for Award Tickets

We started by searching American Express's Airline transfer partners. American express has 17 airline transfer partners which gives you quite a few partner options for transferring miles to airlines and booking award tickets.  One of those partners, Delta, doesn't have a set award chart.  This is good and bad, despite award prices often being high, you can find some great award tickets.  Personally I just check destinations from time to time at Delta.com.  On Deltas site they have a 5 week calendar option that allows you to view award prices for 5 weeks at once, making it easy to spot any good values.

Delta Book A Flight

Delta 5 Week Award Chart

VacationWise Tip: Check Deltas 5 Week Award Calendar to quickly spot the best deals.  You can easily see in the above picture,  the best business class deals from Los Angeles (LAX) to Rome (FCO)  is only 70,000 miles.  If you can't find any good deals to your desired destination at the time, consider checking nearby cities.  For example:  If I wanted to get to Rome but didn't see any deals, I would also check Los Angeles to London or Los Angeles to Paris, then I could easily pick up a short flight either very inexpensively, or for minimal points through one of many airlines to my final destination.

Los Angeles to Rome on Air Frances 777-300er for only 70,000 miles and $25

After seeing many one way flights in Business class with a stop in Paris and then Business /First to Rome for 130-200k+ points on Deltas site, I spotted one for only 70k miles + $25.  This flight was with one of Deltas partners, Air France, on their new 777-300er.  

I checked this exact flight which ran $9041 One Way including tax if I were to purchase it.

VacationWise Tip: When you find a good deal in the points world book ASAP, good deals disappear quickly.

Step 3 Book Your Award Ticket

I quickly transferred the points needed from my Amex account  to my existing balance of Delta miles.  The transfer seemed to take about 10 minutes before the points showed up in my Delta account.

To Transfer Amex Points to Delta:  Simply login to the Amex Rewards site https://rewards.americanexpress.com/ and click Travel and then "Get Started" under Transfer Points.

Amex Transfer Points

Next, select the airline and add your airline account information and the amount of points you wish to transfer.

Amex Transfer Partners

Something else to keep in mind is if you are slightly short on points but find a good deal and you are traveling with a partner, just book one way for both of you.  You can always book the return or other flight later when you have more points.  Or you can each book two one way tickets. This allows you to select seats next to each other on the same booking versus having separate bookings.

You may also combine Amex points into one airline account but in order for you to transfer miles into someone else's airline account they must be an authorized user on one of your Amex Membership Rewards cards.

Return Trip: Rome to Los Angeles via Swiss Air for only 55k miles and $65

VacationWise Award Booking Tip: Often in the points world booking one way tickets allows you more flexibility.  Unlike paying for tickets, booking roundtrip versus one-way typically doesn't make a difference in the amount of points required.

Aeroplan is another great transfer partner of Amex with some great redemption values.  While Aeroplan is the reward program for Air Canada, they are a partner of Star Alliance plus a few other airlines, giving you access to over 30 partner airlines.

Be careful when booking: Aeroplan charges the same whether you're in a mix of economy / business or all business class seats for all flights on your booking.  You can see in the example below on the left hand side under the airline header, all flights are a mix of business and economy except the last row which is 100% Business Class.

Don't make the mistake of taking an international trip with your short hop to the gateway city in business class and having your 12 hour international flight in economy.  Check to make sure it says business not business / economy to ensure you will be traveling in style and comfort.

Aeroplan Award Booking

I ended up booking a Swiss Air Business class flight from Rome through Zurich to the US for only 55k miles and $65.  Thats a $5,845 one way ticket that I got for basically signing up for an Amex credit card bonus and $65.

I transferred 50k miles from my Amex Reward account and 5k from my SPG Amex Card. Transfers from Amex to Aeroplan take a few minutes, plus you will need to make sure you register for an Aeroplan account prior to transferring.

Bottom Line

My wife and I were able to snag Air France and Swiss Air Business class tickets to Europe totaling roughly $16k each, $32k for the both of us, for basically two credit card bonuses worth of miles plus $90 apiece.

So remember to plan early, sign up for a good credit card bonus when you see one from one of the major transferable credit card partners: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Points and SPG Amex.

Then check the partner airlines award tickets, when you see a good one, move quickly. Before you know it, you will be on your luxury VacationWise trip to Europe for less than the price of a European dinner:)

If you have found any good deals recently or have questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

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