The Best Ways to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Fly to the UK

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Andrew, tweeted:

@MilMileSecrets Looking to use the AMEX 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus for flights for a golf trip to Scotland.  British Airways taxes and fees are crazy.  Best option?

Excellent question!  Andrew has 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points and wants to know how to get to the United Kingdom to play golf.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

I’ll Show Andrew How to Get to Scotland with AMEX Membership Rewards Points. Stay for the Bonus Golf Tips!

There are lots of ways to get to Europe with AMEX Membership Rewards points.

I’ll show you the best options.  And give you tips on how to save on golf!

About AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Link:   How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Get to Europe

Link:   American Express Premier Rewards Gold

Link:   The Platinum Card from American Express

Link:   The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to  airline partners like British Airways, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

You Can Fly to the UK When You Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Aeroplan, Virgin Atlantic, and Even Hawaiian Airlines

When you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points, they become miles or points within each airline’s loyalty program.  And each 1 has its own set of pros and cons!

But when you use your points on certain airlines, you can get a lot of Big Travel with Small Money!

Read my series about all the ways to get to Europe with AMEX Membership Rewards points for more ideas.

The Best Ways to Get to the United Kingdom

Andrew discovered certain airlines (like British Airways) have fuel surcharges and taxes, even on award tickets!  These extra fees can add up to hundreds of dollars, and I don’t like paying them!

But there are a few ways to reduce them.  Let’s see which programs Andrew should look into.

1.   British Airways

Even though British Airways has high fees on award tickets, they can still be useful to fly to Edinburgh or London from several US cities, or for short flights within the UK.

Flying out of the UK is expensive because of the Air Passenger Duty tax and fuel surcharges.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

British Airways Charges $696 in Extra Fees on a Round-Trip Coach Award Ticket to London

British Airways only charges 26,000 British Airways Avios points for an off-peak, round-trip coach award ticket from New York to London.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

It’s Possible to Fly From the East Coast to London for Only 13,000 British Airways Avios Points

Fuel surcharges from New York to London are $256.  But you’ll pay $338 to fly from London back to New York.

So Andrew might decide to use British Airways Avios points to the UK, and another program’s miles to get back home.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

There Are Nonstop Round-Trip Flights From New York to Scotland, But You’ll Pay More Points and Similar Taxes

Or he can pay 40,000 British Airways Avios points for direct round-trip flights from the US to Scotland.  But he’ll end up paying nearly the same amount in taxes and fees.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Search Aer Lingus Award Seats on United.com. Round-Trip Coach Award Flights From Boston to Dublin Cost 25,000 British Airways Avios Points and ~$50

Another option is to use British Airways Avios points to fly to Dublin on Aer Lingus, and then connect to Scotland, either with British Airways Avios points or a cheap paid flight.  A nonstop round-trip award flight from Boston to Dublin costs 25,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$50.

You can search Aer Lingus award seats on United.com.  And then call British Airways at 1-800-452-1201 to book the flights.

Keep in mind that British Airways uses distance flown to give you a price on an award ticket.  So the longer your flight, the more points you’ll pay.

And starting October 1, 2015, the new transfer ratio will be 250 AMEX Membership Rewards points : 200 British Airways Avios points.  Or 5:4.

Beginning October 1, 2015, you’ll need to transfer 32,500 British Airways Avios points for a round-trip coach award ticket from New York to London (instead of 26,000 British Airways Avios points like now.)

Even with the upcoming changes considered, British Airways charges the fewest points to Europe in coach from the East Coast.  So Andrew may decide to save his points and pay the extra fees.

It’s NOT worth it to pay for Business Class or First Class on British Airways.  You’ll pay 3 to 4 times more points, and the taxes are higher, too.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

British Airways First Class Costs 149,000 British Airways Avios Points and $1,216 for a Round-Trip Flight From London to New York

If Andrew wants to avoid paying fees, he should NOT consider using his points for British Airways Business Class or First Class, because they can add up to over $1,000 dollars per person!

A.   Use British Airways Avios Points for Short Flights Within the UK

Another terrific use of British Airways Avios points is to book award flights under 650 miles within the UK.

That’s because British Airways only charges 4,000 to 4,500 British Airways Avios points for these flights!

Depending on where he wants to go in Scotland, Andrew can fly from London to Edinburgh…

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Fly from London to Edinburgh for Only 4,000 British Airways Avios Points and ~$28

…or Glasgow and pay 4,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$28.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

You Can Also Fly London to Glasgow for 4,000 British Airways Avios Points and ~$28

That’s a good deal!

So even if Andrew flies to the British Isles with another airline, he may consider using British Airways Avios points to get to Scotland.

2.   Aeroplan

Aeroplan is the loyalty program of Air Canada.

They charge 30,000 Aeroplan miles 1-way in coach from the US to Western Europe.  And 45,000 Aeroplan miles each way in Business Class.

Aeroplan is a part of the Star Alliance.  So you have your choice of many airlines!

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

With 27 Partner Airlines, Star Alliance Is the Largest

Keep in mind that Aeroplan charges a lot of fuel surcharges for flights on Air Canada and Lufthansa.  So Andrew will want to avoid those airlines if he doesn’t want to pay extra fees.

I found award flights on Brussels Airlines to Edinburgh for 60,000 Aeroplan miles and $235 round-trip in coach.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

With Aeroplan, You’ll Pay More Miles but Less Money Than British Airways

Compared to British Airways, you’ll use more miles but pay less in taxes and fees when you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan.

As always, do the math and decide which is best for you!

3.   Flying Blue Promo Awards

Link:   Flying Blue Promo Awards

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France and KLM.  Each month, they release a new list of promo awards.  You can fly from certain US cities to Europe for fewer miles.  Some months the discount is up to 50% off!

Right now, you can fly from Boston or Dallas to the UK with a 25% mileage discount.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Fly Round-Trip From Boston to Edinburgh for 37,500 Flying Blue Miles and ~$350

You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

Compared to Aeroplan, this is an option if Andrew wants to use fewer points and pay a little more out-of-pocket.

Because each month has a new set of North American cities, it’s worth checking to see if 1 near you is on the list.

If the dates line up with your travel goals, this can be a good deal!

4.   Virgin Atlantic

AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Andrew Could Fly to Scotland on Virgin Atlantic, but There Are High Fuel Surcharges There, Too

Virgin Atlantic does not fly nonstop from the US to Scotland.  But you can connect in London.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

You’ll Pay 35,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles and ~$545 to Fly Virgin Atlantic to Edinburgh from New York or Chicago

Prices vary depending on where you begin your trip.  

From New York or Chicago, you can fly to Edinburgh for 35,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and ~$545.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

San Francisco to Aberdeen Costs 42,500 Virgin Atlantic Miles and ~$753 for a Round-Trip Coach Award Flight

And from San Francisco to Aberdeen, you’ll pay 42,500 Virgin Atlantic miles and ~$753 in fuel surcharges and taxes.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Virgin Atlantic Has Lots of Award Seats in September, but You’ll Still Pay a Lot of Cash Out-of-Pocket

I found plenty of available award flights from the US to Scotland in September 2015.

Like British Airways, there are hefty fuel surcharges.  But this could be helpful if Andrew can’t find an award flight on another airline on the day he wants to travel.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

There Are 2 Ways to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Virgin Atlantic Flights. Pick the 1 That’s Best for You!

Virgin Atlantic is a partner of Hawaiian Airlines.  And you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian Airlines!

You will NOT pay fuel surcharges when you book Virgin Atlantic flights with Hawaiian Airlines miles.  Round-trip coach award flights to London cost 60,000 or 80,000 Hawaiian miles, depending on where you fly from.  So you’ll pay more miles but less cash.

Folks love the Virgin Atlantic experience.  I flew on Virgin Atlantic and had a fun flight!

Pay With the Right Card!

Link:   Citi Prestige

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   American Express Premier Rewards Gold 

The Citi Prestige card has an annual $250 credit to use on any airline.  That’s valuable because you can use it for flights, upgrades, baggage fees, or award booking fees.

So in the examples above, Andrew could pay the award booking fees with the Citi Prestige and subtract $250 from the fuel surcharges.  That helps a lot with getting to the UK!

The Citi Prestige also comes with 3 rounds of golf per year.  Not only can Andrew get to the UK more cheaply, but he can also get started playing golf once he gets there!

Read my review of this card.

Remember the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel.  And the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card earns 3X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on airfare.

Start Golfing Before You Leave

Link:   Golfmiles & Million Mile Secrets 2,500 Mile Bonus Promotion

Link:   Visa Cardholders Save at Golfballs.com

Link:   SPG Moments – Golf

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Personal)

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Small Business)

If Andrew wants to practice his golf before he heads to Scotland, there are a few opportunities here at home.

Sign-Up for Golfmiles

Until August 15, 2015, Million Mile Secrets readers can earn 2,500 airline miles from their choice of 10 airlines when they use our link to sign-up for Golfmiles.  This is an exclusive offer for our readers!

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Earn Rewards for Booking Tee Times Through Golfmiles – and Million Mile Secrets Readers Get an Exclusive Bonus Until August 15, 2015!

All of the golf courses are in the US, but this is a great way to earn miles toward your next trip!

Get $10 off $50+ at Golfballs.com

Save on gear if you have a Visa card!  Until September 30, 2015, Visa cardholders get $10 of a $50+ purchase at Golfballs.com.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

Get Ready for Your Next Round! Save $10 on a $50+ Purchase at Golfballs.com Until September 30, 2015

To get the discount, you must click through the promotion page and enter promotion code “VISABUCKS” at checkout – and pay with a Visa card.

SPG Golf Moments

And don’t forget SPG Golf Moments.

The Best Ways To Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points To Fly To The UK

SPG Moments Features Golf Experiences All Over the World!

Folks who like to play (and watch) golf can use Starwood points for VIP tickets to tournaments, exclusive access to championship courses and resorts, and golf clinics with professional golfers.

Some of these packages are auctions which go to the highest bidder.  Others can be purchased for a set number of Starwood points.  If you need more Starwood points, opening a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (personal or small business) card is the easiest way to earn more!

Bottom Line

Andrew wants to go to the United Kingdom with his AMEX Membership Rewards points for a golf trip and does NOT want to pay fuel surcharges.  I don’t blame him – I don’t like paying those fees, either!

British Airways has the most direct flights to London and the British Isles.  You’ll use fewer British Airways Avios points but pay more cash.  Virgin Atlantic has comparable fees on award tickets.  Citi Prestige comes with a $250 annual airline credit, which can help cover some of the expenses.  It also includes 3 rounds of golf per year!

The next best option is with Aeroplan.  You’ll pay more miles, but less cash.  To get the best price, avoid flights on Air Canada and Lufthansa.

If you get to the UK a different way, remember that you can use 4,000 to 4,500 British Airways Avios points to fly from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow, Scotland.

And be sure to take advantage of golf offers to earn miles and save money before tee time!

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2 responses to “The Best Ways to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Fly to the UK

  1. I tried to plan a trip to Scotland a few months back. With the lack of award availability and the fuel surcharges I finally gave up and I’m going to Hong Kong instead. Before I did, the leading choice was just to pay cash on Iceland Air to fly to Glasgow with a stop in Reykjavik. Iceland Air has some inexpensive flights, especially from the East Coast. It’s not that long of a flight to fly coach, plus you can see Reykjavik.

  2. Funny timing, literally just got done doing a similar search for my Dad’s golf trip to Scotland next summer. He’s card-less (kinda) so with a blank slate United was looking pretty good. Flying from Detroit to Edinburgh with a quick stop in Newark, there was lots of saver level availability. Obviously could tack on another stop in Europe before heading home too.