What to Do with 100,000 Membership Rewards Points

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Since I only get two weeks of vacation a year, I don’t travel near as much as I’d like to. That being said, I try to plan at least one big vacation per year to take advantage of those two weeks. So, these past few weeks I’ve been looking at options for this year’s vacation and I thought of an idea that I wanted to try out… Can I book my flights solely with my “recent” Amex Platinum sign-up bonus?

I have more than 100,000 Membership Rewards points accumulated in my account(s), but for kicks and giggles I wanted to see if I could only use the sign-up bonus miles. Here are my requirements for this trip:

  1. Two business (or first) class international tickets (Hawaii counts) – Domestic travel can be in economy.
  2. Must travel to a new destination – Current ideas: Europe (Germany, London, and/or Italy), Australia, Hawaii, Israel.
  3. Must travel in August or September – October or November would be possible if the location is warm.

Is it possible? I think so… hopefully.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m far from an expert at booking awards and I don’t play one on TV. I’m just writing ideas down as I research. If you have any suggestions or see an error in my ramblings, please chime in below.

Transfer Options

The beautiful thing about Membership Rewards points is that you can transfer them to a number of partners at a 1:1 ratio. On occasion, Amex even offers a transfer bonus making the transfer much more lucrative. Here are the current transfer options for Membership Rewards points:

  • Aeroplan – 1:1
  • AeroMexico – 1:1
  • Air France – 1:1
  • Alitalia – 1:0.75
  • All Nippon Airways – 1:1
  • Asia Miles – 1:1
  • British Airways – 1:1 (1:1.4 until January 31st)
  • Delta – 1:1
  • El Al – 1:0.02
  • Emirates – 1:1
  • Frontier – 1:1 (until March 4)
  • Hawaiian – 1:1
  • Iberia – 1:1
  • JetBlue – 1:0.8
  • Singapore – 1:1
  • Virgen America – 1:0.5
  • Virgin Atlantic – 1:1

Looking at the above transfer partners, the one that really jumps out at me is British Airways, due to the 40% transfer bonus. That means my 100,000 Membership Rewards points would equal 140,000 Avios. That should be easy enough to work with!

Alternatively, American Express offers a book with points option, but then the points equate to about $0.012 each after the 20% back. The value of that is too low for my tastes compared to transferring, though.

Using Avios

British Airways Avios Award Chart

British Airways Avios Award Chart

The interesting thing about British Airways is that their award chart is distance based rather than zone based, which has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Where this award chart shines is short hauls, i.e. 3,000 miles or less. The downfall of using British Airways, though, is the fuel surcharge they tack on to most of their flights. Fortunately, they have a few partners who don’t charge fuel surcharges or the charges are low enough that it doesn’t make much of a difference.

Partners Without Fuel Surcharges

  • airberlin
  • Aer Lingus
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines (Domestic and between North/South America)
  • LAN

Flight Options

Of those partners, there are two that have no fuel surcharges to Europe, which is my first choice at the moment – Aer Lingus and airberlin.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus is Ireland’s main airline, but it’s still a relatively small carrier. So, there are flight options, but not many. Here are the options (assuming availability):

FlightDistance (mi)Avios (RT in biz)Avios for 2Avios Left
BOS-SNN2,89550,000100,00040,000
BOS-DUB2,99350,000100,00040,000
JFK-SNN3,08180,000160,000-20,000
JFK-DUB3,17980,000160,000-20,000
YYZ-DUB3,27880,000160,000-20,000
ORD-DUB3,67380,000160,000-20,000
MCO-DUB4,072100,000200,000-60,000
SFO-DUB5,098100,000200,000-60,000

As you can see, the only flights that would stay under 140,000 Avios would be BOS-DUB and BOS-SNN. However, after checking United for availability on Aer Lingus, since British Airways’ website doesn’t search them, I came up with only economy seats.

Search Aer Lingus United

Both BOS-DUB and BOS-SNN only had economy awards available.

My last resort was to try calling British Airways, which I did. The call was 50 minutes, but 40 of them were due to their infamous hold times and guess what I found out.. They don’t have any business award availability from June-October. That sucks, but I won’t rule the option out, because Aer Lingus could release seats in the future.

airberlin

airberlin is Europe’s second largest airline carrier (Lufthansa is first), so they don’t have many flight options out of the US, but they have some. Here are the options:

FlightDistance (mi)Avios (RT in biz)Avios for 2Avios Left
JFK-DUS3,74950,000100,000-20,000
JFK-TXL3,96850,000100,000-20,000
ORD-DUS4,23080,000160,000-60,000
ORD-TXL4,41280,000160,000-60,000
MIA-DUS4,73380,000160,000-60,000
MIA-TXL4,97480,000160,000-60,000
LAX-DUS5,689120,000240,000-100,000
Lax-TXL5,804120,000240,000-100,000

With airberlin, there aren’t any flights that would cost under 140,000 Avios, but I checked the availability anyway with BA (over the phone) and with AA (online) anyway. The trick to search airberlin award seats on AA is to choose non-stop flights only from an airport listed above to TXL or DUS.

AA airberlin Award Booking

airberlin had one seat available in biz.

Based on AA and the BA customer service rep I talked to, airberlin had only one seat available, not two. Regardless, I wouldn’t fulfill the terms of this challenge if I went with airberlin.

Other Options

Theres always flights from the west coast to Hawaii for 25,000 roundtrip, but I’m not entirely sure I want to travel there at this point. I think I’d like to use Hawaii as a stopover to another location in the future. I’ve seen mention of booking US Airways flights to Europe with Avios, but I haven’t found much information on that yet.

Do you have any destination suggestions that would work with Avios? I’d love to get some input.


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