The 13 “Best of The Best” Ways To Use Your Points & Miles [For Incredible Value]

Emirates First Class A380 - Seat 2E Enjoying A Movie

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High-value redemptions are available with all of the transferable point programs. From redeeming Chase points to Amex points, Citi points, and Marriott points, you have many options.

The key to using points for award travel is to leverage the partners within each program.

Earning Transferable Points

The first and most important thing to keep in mind when looking for redemptions is to focus on earning points for the program that you plan to use. We recommend focusing on transferable points, as they provide you with flexibility in case a program devaluation occurs.

Our preferred option is to collect Chase Ultimate Rewards. They are preferred mainly because of the various ways to earn bonus points through category spending; for example, dining and travel purchases.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $450 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Easy earning at 1.5% on all purchases. Just know that you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Also, if you pay for your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. In addition, get up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards.

We also really like collecting American Express Membership Rewards, as they can be transferred to a number of different airline and hotel partners. This gives you a lot of options.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a HUGE welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 after you spend an additional $15,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

Of course, Citi has credit cards that collect transferrable Citi ThankYou points.

This guide shares 12 of the best point redemptions out there. From Emirates First Class to Cathay Pacific first class, you’ll be covered with options for your next big trip.

13 Best Of The Best Points and Miles Redemptions

1. Fly Singapore Suites From the U.S. to Australia (Singapore KrisFlyer)

Upgraded Points on Singapore Suites, Flight 1 - Round the World Trip
Alex and Erin kicking it back in Singapore Suites! Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Singapore Airlines has an incredible redemption when flying from the U.S. to Australia. The KrisFlyer award chart is zone-based for Singapore Airlines flights.

With 167,000 Singapore Airlines miles, you can fly from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) to Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SIN) all in Singapore Suites! The taxes on this route work out to only about $76, which is incredible! Remember that you can add a stopover for only $100 on one-way Saver tickets, so be sure to consider that!

Hot Tip: As you might expect, award availability can be tough if you’re not searching far out in advance. With a little patience, you can be flying for nearly 27 hours in Singapore Suites! 

2. Fly Etihad In The Apartments (American Airlines AAdvantage)

The Apartments from Etihad is one of the most premium seats you can book with points. Calling it a seat doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

With 115,000 American Airlines miles, you can fly one-way from the U.S. to the Middle East in one of the best first-class products available.

Etihad First Class Apartment - Apartment 4K
Etihad First Class Apartment. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

The only way to fly this route from the U.S. is the New York (JFK) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) flight on an A380.

Hot Tip: Don’t search for availability the normal way by looking for a one-way between JFK >AUH on Eithad’s website. Instead, search for first-class availability on the Etihad website by searching round-trip from Abu Dhabi to New York. When you find Guest First availability on the New York to Abu Dhabi flight, call the American Airlines Australian call center to put the flight on hold. With the ticket on hold, call American Airlines U.S. reservations to book the ticket.

Need helping book this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Etihad First Class.

Bottom Line: Searching for a round-trip award ticket starting in Abu Dhabi will make finding availability much easier. If you search one-way from New York to Abu Dhabi, you will have trouble locating availability. Strange, but true!

3. Fly Emirates First Class From the U.S. to the Middle East (Japan Airlines Mileage Bank)

Emirates First Class A380 - Seat with Amenities & Excitement
Fly to the Middle East on Emirates! Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Flying Emirates First Class is nothing short of majestic. Do everything in your power to make it happen!

Japan Airlines uses a distance-based award chart that calculates the mileage required based on the total distance of your itinerary.

Emirates flies non-stop to Dubai (DXB) from the following U.S. airports:

  • Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), and Washington (IAD).

With 120,000 Japan Airlines miles, you can book a one-way first class flight on Emirates from the U.S. to the Middle East. For 80,000 Japan Airlines miles, you can fly one-way from the U.S. to the Middle East in business class.

Flights from Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle are more than 8,000 (plane) miles one-way and will price at 135,000 Japan Airlines miles one-way.

The main downside to booking Emirates first class tickets are the taxes and fees. Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $842 one-way in taxes and fees.

You can now search for availability directly on the JAL site.

As with any first-class redemption, availability will be limited. We recommended using Expert Flyer to find first-class award availability.

Marriott Bonvoy partners with many airline programs. You can transfer your Marriott points to Japan Airlines at a 1:1 ratio to book this award.

Hot Tip: For every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to most airline partners, you will receive a 5,000-mile bonus.

Need help booking a trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Emirates First Class.

4. Fly Qantas First Class From the U.S. to Australia or New Zealand (Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan)

Qantas First Class
Fly to Australia on Qantas! Image Credit: Qantas

Qantas flies non-stop from:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), and Brisbane (BNE)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Sydney
  • Dallas (DFW) to Sydney

With 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you can book a one-way first class flight on Qantas from the U.S. to Australia. You can also book a one-way Qantas business class flight for 55,000 miles.

The primary challenge with this redemption will be award availability. Expert Flyer is your friend here, as these are popular long-haul routes in premium cabins.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $52 in taxes and fees to fly one-way in first class on Qantas.

Need help booking this trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Qantas First Class.

Bottom Line: Most long-haul flights in premium cabins will be tough to find award availability, and Qantas is no different. Reviewing our step-by-step guide will help in booking this award ticket. 

5. Fly Cathay Pacific First Class From the U.S. to Asia or Africa (Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan)

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat
Fly to Asia on Cathay Pacific! Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Flying Cathay Pacific to both Southeast Asia and then to South Africa for no additional cost in miles is a unique opportunity. The reason you can do this is because of Alaska Airlines’ stopover rules.

With 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you can fly Cathay Pacific first class one-way to Hong Kong (HKG). Business class is 50,000 miles one-way and would also be a great way to use your Alaska Airlines miles.

What makes this redemption even more valuable is the ability to add a stopover in Hong Kong. For the same 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you can fly from the U.S. in first class, stopover in Hong Kong, and continue to Johannesburg (JNB) in business class (first class is not offered).

If you were required to book 2 separate itineraries, you would need 112,500 miles based on the Alaska award chart, 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles to fly from the U.S. to Hong Kong, plus 42,500 miles to fly from Hong Kong to Johannesburg.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $139 in taxes and fees to fly one-way in first class from the U.S. to Johannesburg with a stopover in Hong Kong. The U.S. to Hong Kong flight is in first class, while the Hong Kong to Johannesburg flight is in business class.

If you didn’t want to settle for business class on the second flight, you could fly on a couple routes to preserve your first class itinerary:

  1. Hong Kong (HKG) – Beijing (PEK)
  2. Hong Kong (HKG) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND)

Need help booking this trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Cathay Pacific First Class.

Bottom Line: Flying Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Africa with a stopover in Asia in 2 premium cabins at this price may be one of the best redemptions you’ll find when using your Alaska Airlines miles. 

6. Fly Japan Airlines First Class From North America to Asia (Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan)

Japan Airlines First Class Seat
Fly to Japan on Japan Airlines! Image Credit: Spencer Howard

Japan Airlines is known to have one of the best first class products in the industry. With Alaska Airlines, you can enjoy one of these long-haul flights for an affordable amount of miles.

Japan Airlines flies non-stop to Tokyo (NRT/HND) from the following North American airports, giving you multiple cities to search for award flights:

  • Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), and Vancouver (YVR)

With 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you can book a one-way first-class Japan Airlines flight from the U.S. to Japan. For 60,000 miles, you can fly Japan Airlines business class.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $118 in taxes and fees to fly one-way in first class on Japan Airlines.

Need help booking this trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Japan Airlines First Class.

7. Fly Lufthansa First Class From the U.S. to Europe (Asiana Airlines Asiana Club)

lufthansa first class a380
Try the amazing Lufthansa first class by flying to Germany from the U.S.! Image Credit: Spencer Howard

The Asiana Airlines Asiana Club award chart doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it should be on your radar.

Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC) from the United States. Here are some example airports they fly out of:

  • Frankfurt (FRA): Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA), Tampa (TPA), and Washington (IAD)
  • Munich (MUC): Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Charlotte (CLT), Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), and Washington (IAD)

With 50,000 Asiana miles, you can book a one-way first-class flight on Lufthansa to Germany. For 40,000 miles, you can fly one-way in business class on Lufthansa.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $524 one-way in taxes and fees to fly Lufthansa First Class.

Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Lufthansa First Class.

Hot Tip: Award availability in a premium cabin on Lufthansa will be challenging to find. We recommend reviewing our step-by-step guide as well as the Asiana award program to help book this award ticket. 

8. Fly Business Class From the U.S. to Europe (Korean Air SKYPASS)

Delta One Suite Middle Seats
Fly to Europe on Delta One! Image Credit: Delta.com

Korean Air offers one of the best business class options when flying to Europe. The Korean Air award chart groups Europe into 1 region, which opens up a significant number of opportunities on a SkyTeam partner like Delta.

With 80,000 Korean Air miles, you can fly round-trip from the U.S. to Europe. For 50,000 fewer miles, you can enjoy a round-trip flight in economy.

Korean Air allows you to add in a stopover and an open jaw, which further increases this redemption value. The main downside with the program is that you must book round-trip when flying on a Korean Air partner such as Air France.

The taxes and fees will vary depending on the airline and route you are flying, but Korean Air generally passes on all fuel surcharges. We recommend using ITA Flight Matrix to estimate your taxes and fees before booking this award.

Chase partners with several airline programs, including Korean Air. Just transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air at a 1:1 ratio and book this award!

Need help booking a trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Delta One (business class).

Hot Tip: Korean Air is one of the best ways to fly round-trip in business class to Europe. It can be challenging to search for availability on Korean Air’s website, so we recommend searching for SkyTeam availability first on Delta, Air France, or KLM. When you find availability, double check the availability by searching for the flights on the Korean Air website. See our booking guide on completing your booking!

9. Fly Round-Trip ANA Business Class From the U.S. to Japan (ANA Mileage Club)

ANA Business Class Seat 2
Enjoy the comfort of ANA business class. Image Credit: Stephen Au

ANA has several award charts, and the one to use for this redemption is the ANA international award chart. The program is nuanced, with the points required driven by the zones of your departure and destination, and the date you are flying.

ANA flies non-stop to Narita (NRT) from the following U.S. airports:

  • Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA), Washington (IAD), and Honolulu (HNL)

ANA also flies non-stop to Haneda (HND) from:

  • Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and New York (JFK)

During the 2019 low season (January 7-February 28, April 1-25), you can fly round-trip in business class from the U.S. to Japan for 75,000 miles. Flying round-trip in economy could be an even better option at 40,000 miles in the low season.

ANA allows 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws on ANA flights. With these allowances, you can add a connecting flight after you land in Japan. You can also fly out of a different airport than the one you landed in (i.e., fly into Narita (NRT) and out of Haneda (HND)).

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $261 in taxes and fees to fly round-trip in business class on ANA.

American Express Membership Rewards partners with many airline programs, including ANA. Transfer your Membership Rewards points to ANA at a 1:1 to book this award.

Need help booking a trip? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking ANA business class.

10. Fly From North America to Asia (ANA Mileage Club)

Another ANA redemption to consider is on the ANA award chart in the Asia Zone 1 region. ANA groups Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Manila, among others, in this region.

With 80,000 ANA miles, you can fly round-trip in ANA business class during the low season. For 45,000 miles, you can fly round-trip in economy during the low season.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $265 in taxes and fees to fly round-trip in business class on ANA.

Need more ways to redeem ANA miles? Here are 11 Additional Ways To Redeem ANA Miles.
Bottom Line: ANA is a great program if you are putting together a trip to Asia. Flying during the low season on ANA can provide high value for your ANA miles. 

11. Fly LATAM Premium Business Class From the U.S. to South America (Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan)

LATAM's B787 Business class has a fresh new look and you can use your American Airlines miles to fly it! Image courtesy of luxurytraveldiary.com.
Fly to South America in LATAM Business Class! Image courtesy of luxurytraveldiary.com.

LATAM flies non-stop from:

  • Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and New York (JFK) to Santiago (SCL)
  • Boston (BOS), Miami, and New York to Sao Paulo (GRU)
  • New York to Buenos Aires (EZE); and Miami to Rio de Janeiro (GIG)

With 45,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you can book a one-way LATAM business class flight from the U.S. to South America. For 35,000 miles, you can fly one-way in economy on LATAM.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $28 in taxes and fees to fly one-way in business class on LATAM.

12. Fly Etihad in Business From the U.S. To the Middle East or Africa (Asiana Airlines Asiana Club)

Asiana has another high-value redemption with a one-way flight from the U.S. to the Middle East. If you’re not flying round-trip as mentioned in the ANA/Etihad redemption, this is a great one-way option! 

With 60,000 Asiana miles, you can book a one-way business class flight on Etihad to the Middle East. For 40,000 miles, you can fly one-way in economy on Etihad.

Based on a recent search, you’ll pay about $30 one-way in taxes and fees to fly Etihad Business Class.

13. Fly Star Alliance from the Continental U.S. to Hawaii (Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles)

United Airlines Polaris Business Class
United Airlines lie-flat business class can be found on select routes to Hawaii. Image Credit: runwaygirlnetwork.com

The cheapest single way to fly from the continental United States is by using Turkish Airlines miles. For 15,000 miles round-trip in economy, you can fly from anywhere (including East Coast America) to Hawaii. The same trip would cost 25,000 miles round-trip in business class. With lie-flat seats being offered on some flights, you could potentially nab a 6-10 hour flight round-trip in lie-flat business class for 25,000 Turkish Airlines miles!

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Honolulu (HNL) 
  • Newark (EWR) – Honolulu (HNL)
  • Chicago (ORD) – Honolulu (HNL)

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to leverage award programs with your transferable points can open up some incredible redemptions. If flying in premium cabins is your goal, you have a number of high-value options to choose from after reading this article.

It’s important to factor in the taxes and fees, particularly with Emirates, Etihad, and Lufthansa. Even with high taxes and fees, these experiences may be worth the out-of-pocket spend!


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13 Best of the Best Ways to Use Your Points & Miles

Michael McHugh

About Michael McHugh

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Michael took his first international trip in 2013 with friends to the Bahamas. Although he didn't travel much in his younger years, on that trip, he caught the travel bug and has been hooked ever since. Michael first caught wind of the points and miles game in 2014 while at a bar in Washington, DC where the conversation amongst friends was quickly derailed because of an alert on a friend's phone about a mistake fare.  That's where the love affair with points and miles began.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

8 comments

  1. Kenny · May 21, 2018 · Reply

    And I thought The Points Guy loved pics of himself.

    C’mon.

    • I think it’s important to show that we do in fact “practice what we preach”. Honestly, I like to put in a mix of pics – some with us in, and many without. 🙂 Each blog has their preferences – sorry if you’re not a fan of ours!

  2. Chris · May 23, 2018 · Reply

    As of December of last year, I believe ANA miles can no longer be used for Etihad flights, which would eliminate #12. Please verify. Thanks.

    • Michael McHugh · May 29, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Chris

      I just heard back from ANA who confirmed the ANA/Etihad partnership is still on hold. ANA was not able to provide a timetable on when the partnership will resume. I’ll update the article to reflect this information. Thank you for bringing this up in the comments.

  3. Great informative article.

    • Michael McHugh · May 24, 2018 · Reply

      We’re glad you found the article informative David. Thanks for reading!

  4. paul martin · May 27, 2018 · Reply

    i have saved chase points, amex points and aeroplan, as well as some aa points and emirates points. i would be very interested to see or hear your thoughts on an around the world trip starting somewhere in the US and ending in US flying only in suites maybe 4 or 5 destinations, using points, or point leveraging on either one way flights or combination.
    thxs for the article it opened up some creative travelling ideas.

    regards

    • Michael McHugh · May 31, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Paul

      Be on the lookout for an article on this topic next week. We may have something right up your alley!

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