Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 11: Asia

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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline partners when you’re ready to book.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  

The AMEX Membership Rewards program has 17 direct airline partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you choices for flights to Asia!

Or you can use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal.  This could save you time and points, especially when you can find cheap airfare!

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

AMEX Membership Rewards Points Are Great for Flights to Asia! So You Can Visit Destinations Like Hong Kong, Which Emily Really Enjoyed!

I’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for flights to Asia!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights to Asia

Link:   Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?

There are several AMEX airline transfer partners that are great for flights to Asia.

But before you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to an airline partner consider:

  • Destination you’d like to visit
  • Which airlines fly from your home airport
  • Your airline & alliance preferences

And keep in mind Asia is a huge continent.  This means many airlines charge different prices for award flights depending on the region you’re traveling to.

If you’re planning a trip to Asia, you can read our tips and experiences from our trip reports, which included visits to Hong Kong and Macau.

If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.

1.   Air Canada

Link:   Air Canada Award Chart

Link:   How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Tickets

Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance.  So you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada and then book flights to Asia on partner airlines like:

  • Air China
  • Asiana
  • EVA Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines

Keep in mind, you’ll pay fuel surcharges when you redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles on certain airlines.  These charges can range from ~$50 to several hundred dollars.

The number of miles you’ll need for an award flight varies depending on the region in Asia you’re flying to.

Air Canada has 2 regions in Asia.  The good news is you’ll pay the same amount regardless of your US departure city.

Asia 1 includes:

  • China
  • Eastern Russia
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Mongolia
  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use Air Canada Aeroplan Miles to Visit Macau and Check Out the Historic Buildings and Monuments!

For a one-way award flight from the US to Asia 1, you’ll pay:

  • 37,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 62,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 105,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

For example, a round-trip, non-stop Business Class award flight from Los Angeles to Taipei costs 150,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$38 in taxes and fees.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Fly Non-Stop in Business Class From Los Angeles to Taipei on EVA Air for 150,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles

And Air Canada includes these countries in the Asia 2 region:

  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Micronesia (including Guam)
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

You’ll pay slightly more for one-way award flights to Asia 2 countries:

  • 45,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 65,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 77,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 107,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

For example, a non-stop, round-trip coach award flight from New York to Singapore costs 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$38 in taxes and fees.

You’ll actually fly around the world with this sample itinerary.  Because you’ll fly to Asia from New York for the departure.  Then, fly back through Europe on the way home.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Book a Round-Trip Coach Award Flight to Singapore for 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles and Your Itinerary Might Include Circling the Globe!

2.   ANA

Link:   ANA Award Chart

ANA is based in Japan and has many options for award flights from the US to Asia.  The airline is also part of the Star Alliance, which means you can book award flights to Asia on partners like United Airlines.

You can only book round-trip award flights with ANA.  And there are a few complexities with ANA award flights to Asia.

Because the airline has different award charts for flights directly on ANA versus a partner airline.  And ANA adds significant fuel surcharges (up to ~$1,000) on partner award flights to Asia.

Plus ANA has different seasons (low, regular, and high), which changes the price of an award flight on their airline.  But this doesn’t apply to award flights on partner airlines.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Check the Seasonality Calendar for ANA Award Flights to Figure Out How Many Miles You’ll Need

Depending on the season, round-trip award flights to Tokyo on ANA cost:

  • 40,000 to 50,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 75,000 to 90,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 150,000 to 165,000 ANA miles in First Class

You can fly non-stop to Tokyo on ANA from:

  • Los Angeles
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco

For example, I found a non-stop, round-trip coach award flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo for 40,000 ANA miles and $86 in taxes and fees.  That’s a phenomenal deal!

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Using 40,000 ANA Miles for a Round-Trip Flight to Tokyo During Cherry Blossom Season Is an Incredible Deal!

For partner award flights, ANA separates Asia into 2 regions.

To Asia 1, a round-trip award flight costs:

  • 60,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 95,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 180,000 ANA miles in First Class

And you can fly to destinations like:

  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • Philippines
  • Taiwan
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Jet Over to Hong Kong Using ANA Miles to Enjoy the Amazing Food!

And to Asia 2, round-trip award flights cost:

  • 80,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 136,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 240,000 ANA miles in First Class

Asia 2 destinations include:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • East Timor
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

One thing to watch out for with ANA award flights are waitlisted seats.  If you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to ANA to book a waitlisted award seat, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Check If the ANA Award Flight You’re Booking Is Waitlisted Before You Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points

3.   Singapore Airlines

Link:   Singapore Airlines Award Chart 

Link:   Singapore Airlines Star Alliance Partner Airline Award Chart

Singapore Airlines is a direct AMEX transfer partner.

The airline uses a zone based award chart, which means award flight prices change based on the zone you’re traveling to.

Singapore Airlines has separate award charts for flights directly on the airline and for flights on Star Alliance partner airlines.

Note:   You’ll NO longer get an automatic 15% discount when booking Singapore Airlines award flights online.

Award Flights on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir

There are 7 zones in Asia on the airline’s award chart, including:

  • Zone 1 – Singapore
  • Zone 2 – Malaysia, Indonesia & Brunei
  • Zone 3 – Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Zone 4 – South China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
  • Zone 5 – North China (Beijing and Shanghai)
  • Zone 6 – Bangladesh, Maldives, South Asia, and Sri Lanka
  • Zone 7 – Japan & South Korea
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use Singapore Airline Miles to Visit the Famous Merlion Park in Singapore!

To figure out how many miles are required for a one-way award flight from the US to Asia, you can reference Zone 13 and Zone 14 in the award chart.

Zone 13 includes West Coast US cities.  And Zone 14 includes East Coast and Houston.

Check the Singapore Airline Award Chart to See How Many Miles You’ll Need to Get to the 7 Zones in Asia

You’ll use the fewest number of Singapore Airlines miles for flights from the West Coast to Tokyo. You’ll pay:

  • 35,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 80,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 107,500 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

Singapore Airlines no longer adds fuel surcharges to their award ticket prices, which will save you money!

And it can make sense to pay extra miles if you’re looking to fly Business Class, First Class, or on the airline’s A380 First Class suites.  Because these flights regularly cost several thousand dollars if you paid cash.

For example, I found a one-way Business Class award flight from Houston to Singapore for 92,000 Singapore Airlines miles and ~$24 in taxes and fees.  This same flight costs ~$2,900 if you pay cash.

Using Singapore Airlines Miles Can Save You Lots of Money on Otherwise Expensive Business Class or First Class Flights, Without Fuel Surcharges!

And Singapore Airlines is known for its amazing service and cuisine, especially in the premium cabins.

Team member Keith used Singapore Airlines miles to fly First Class suites with his wife on their honeymoon.  He really enjoyed the food and comfort!

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Singapore Airlines to Book a First Class Suites Award Ticket Can Make Your Flying Experience Unforgettable!

Award Flights on Star Alliance Partner Airlines

The Singapore Airlines award chart for Star Alliance partner award flights is slightly different and has less zones.  A one-way award flight from anywhere in North America to Southeast Asia costs:

  • 55,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 97,500 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 112,500 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

Southeast Asia includes:

  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

And to North Asia, a one-way award flight on a Star Alliance partner airline costs:

  • 45,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 87,500 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 100,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

North Asia includes:

  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • Micronesia
  • Palau
  • South Korea

If you want to redeem Singapore Airlines miles on a Star Alliance partner airline, like United Airlines, I suggest searching for your award flights on United.com or Aeroplan.com.

For example, I searched United Airlines for a non-stop flight from Chicago to Beijing.  The trick is to find “Saver Award” seats in coach, Business Class, or First Class.  This will let you know that you can use Singapore Airlines miles for the same flight.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Search United Airlines to Find Saver Award Seats, Which Means You Can Redeem Singapore Airlines Miles for These Flights

To book your award flight, call Singapore Airlines at 800-742-3333. 

Keep in mind, the number of Singapore Airlines miles required for an award flight might be different than if you booked directly with the airline’s currency.

4.   Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)

Link:   Secret Ways To Book Cathay Pacific Award Flights 

Link:   The Amazing Value of 5 Free Stopovers & 2 Open Jaws With Cathay Pacific Award Flights!

Asia Miles is the frequent flyer program for Cathay Pacific.

The airline uses 2 different distanced based award charts, including one for flights on Cathay Pacific (or Cathay Pacific and a partner airline) and another for oneworld partner airline flights.

Here’s the award chart for Cathay Pacific award flights:

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Cathay Pacific Uses a Distance Based Award Chart

As an example, the distance between Los Angeles and Hong Kong is 7,260 miles.  So a round-trip award flight would cost:

  • 60,000 Cathay Pacific miles in coach
  • 72,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Premium Economy
  • 120,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Business Class
  • 180,000 Cathay Pacific miles in First Class

And you can book Cathay Pacific award flights online just by going to the Asia Miles website.  Cathay Pacific adds fuel surcharges to award flights, but the cost can be minimal for certain routes.  For example, from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, you’ll pay ~$14.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use the Asia Miles Website to Search and Book Cathay Pacific Award Flights

If you’re looking to book the same award flight on a partner airline, you can refer to the airline’s oneworld award chart.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Refer to Cathay Pacific’s oneworld Award Chart for Flights on Partner Airlines

So the same 7,260 mile example round-trip award flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on a partner airline would cost:

  • 60,000 Cathay Pacific miles in coach
  • 80,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Business Class
  • 105,000 Cathay Pacific miles in First Class

Award flights on partner airlines carry fuel surcharges (except Air Berlin), which can cost several hundred dollars depending on the route.

Remember to check out Million Mile Secrets contributor Andy’s post about taking advantage of Cathay Pacific’s lenient routing rules.

5.   British Airways

Link:   British Airways Award Flight Calculator   

British Airways is a direct AMEX transfer partner.  But the airline has a less favorable transfer ratio (5:4).

That said, you can use British Airways Avios points to fly to Asia on airline partners American Airlines and Cathay Pacific!

British Airways has a distance-based award chart.  So the amount you’ll pay depends on the length of your flight.

For example, one-way coach award flights cost:

  • 22,750 British Airways Avios points for flights between 6,501 and 7,000 miles
  • 32,500 British Airways Avios points for flights 7,001+ miles

As an example, I searched one-way coach award flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in April 2017.  On the date I selected, you have the choice of using British Airways Avios points to fly on American Airlines or Cathay Pacific.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

You Can Use British Airways Avios Points to Book Award Flights to Asia on American Airlines or Cathay Pacific

To find available award seats to Asia on American Airlines or other partner airlines, I recommend searching the American Airlines website for low-level “SAAver” seats.  These are the only type of award seats you can book with British Airways Avios points.

Keep in mind, you’ll pay fuel surcharges using British Airways Avios points for award flights on partner airlines to Asia.  Depending on the route, the amount can vary from ~$50 to ~$150 each way.

6.   Etihad

Link:   Etihad Award Chart for American Airlines Redemptions    

Link:   Save Miles!  Book American Airlines Awards With Etihad Miles 

Link:   Etihad Award Flight Mileage Calculator 

Link:   How to Find Etihad Award Seats

There are 2 ways to use Etihad miles for award flights to Asia.

One way is similar to British Airways.  You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Etihad and then book American Airlines award flights.  But the transfer ratio to Etihad is better at 1:1.

Etihad has 2 zones for American Airlines award flights to Asia.  To Zone 1, a one-way award flight costs:

  • 25,000 Etihad miles in coach (off-peak)
  • 32,500 Etihad miles in coach (peak)
  • 50,000 Etihad miles in Business Class
  • 62,500 Etihad miles in First Class

Off peak dates are October 1 to April 30.

Zone 1 includes these countries in Asia:

  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Mongolia

One-way award flights to Asia Zone 2 cost:

  • 37,500 Etihad miles in coach
  • 62,500 Etihad miles in Business Class
  • 72,500 Etihad miles in First Class
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use Etihad Miles to Book an American Airlines Award Flight to Seoul, South Korea!

Zone 2 countries include:

  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Saipan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

To find award seats eligible for using Etihad miles, you can search on the American Airlines website or call Etihad.

The trick is to find award seats with eligible booking codes, which means you’ll be able to use Etihad miles.  The eligible codes are:

  • Booking code “T” for coach
  • Booking code “U” for Business Class
  • Booking code “Z” for First Class

For example, I found an American Airlines award flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, which is eligible to book using Etihad miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use American Airlines Website to Find Eligible Award Flight Booking Codes to Use Etihad Miles

To book your award flight, you’ll have to call Etihad at 877-690-0767.

Note:   You can not use Etihad miles to book award flights on American Airlines partner airlines.

You can also use Etihad miles to fly to Asia directly on the airline with a layover in Abu Dhabi.  From Abu Dhabi, you can fly non-stop to these Asia destinations:

  • Bangkok
  • Beijing
  • Chengdu
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Jakarta
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Manila
  • Nagoya
  • Phuket
  • Seoul
  • Shanghai
  • Tokyo

Etihad doesn’t publish an award chart for their flights.  But you can use the Etihad mileage calculator to quickly find out how many miles you’ll need to fly in coach, Business Class, and First Class.

For example, I searched a one-way coach award flight from New York to Bangkok which costs ~75,000 Etihad miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Use the Etihad Mileage Calculator to Quickly Calculate the Number of Miles You Need for an Award Flight

To book an Etihad award flight, you can check out my step-by-step guide to finding available Etihad award seats.

7.   Delta

You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta to book award flights to Asia on the airline or on SkyTeam partners like Aeroflot or Korean Air.

Remember you’ll pay an excise fee when you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta.

Delta does not publish an award chart.  So you’ll need to search specific award flights to find prices.

The cheapest one-way award flights I found to Asia cost:

  • 35,000 Delta miles in coach
  • 80,000 Delta miles in Business Class

The best departure options are from Delta hub cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

For example, I found a one-way, non-stop Business Class award flight from New York to Seoul for 80,000 Delta miles.  This flight is on partner airline Korean Air.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

You’ll Have to Search the Delta Award Chart to View Prices, but You Can Find Good Deals, Like Non-Stop Business Class From New York to Seoul for 80,000 Delta Miles!

Redeeming Delta miles is not always the cheapest option for award flights, but it’s very easy to search available award seats and book online.

Save Lots of Points With This Business Platinum Perk

Link:   AMEX Pay With Points 

Link:   AMEX Business Platinum Points Rebate

Link:   Changes to AMEX Business Platinum Points Rebate

Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you redeem points through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket with most cards.

But with the The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you can get some of your points back using the Pay With Points perk.  This rebate changed for folks who applied for the card after June 1, 2017, and will change for previous cardholders after the first year of card membership.

This is a great option for folks looking to save time and avoid blackout dates.

For example, I found a round-trip United Airlines coach flight from San Francisco to Beijing which costs ~$518 or ~51,800 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Asia

Before Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to a Partner Airline, See If You Can Save By Using the Pay With Points Perk

You could book this same flight by transferring points to AMEX airline partners Air Canada, ANA, or Singapore Airlines.  Assuming award flights are available on the same dates, you’d pay:

  • 60,000 ANA miles
  • 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles

Folks with the AMEX Business Platinum can get an even better deal using Pay With Points if the flight is on their selected airline.

For example, if United Airlines is your selected airline, you’ll pay ~51,800 AMEX Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to Beijing.  But you’ll get some of your points back.

Bottom Line

You’ll have lots of great choices for flights to Asia if you collect AMEX Membership Rewards points.

You can transfer points directly to partners like Air Canada, ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines.

One of the best redemptions is a round-trip award flight to Tokyo for only 40,000 ANA miles.

You’ll also have the option to book award flights on partner airlines.  For example, you can transfer points to Delta and book award flights to Asia on Korean Air.

Each airline partner uses a different method to price award flight to Asia.  Certain partners like British Airways and Cathay Pacific use distance based award charts, which is better for folks on the West Coast.  Others designate zones in Asia to price award flights to different regions.

You can also use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book cheap coach or Business Class airfare.  This can be a fantastic deal for folks with the AMEX Business Platinum booking a coach flight on their selected airline or any Business Class or First Class ticket.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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11 responses to “Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 11: Asia

  1. When you used ANA miles to travel to Hong Kong, did you fly on one of its partners and how much fuel surcharges was added to the ticket? Thank you

  2. I had no clue they had kicked India out of Asia ?

    Last I checked India WAS very much in Asia ?

  3. Nice guide, but it would be really helpful if you would have specified which partners charge the high fuel surcharges. The examples you gave all seemed to have low fuel surcharges, but it wasn’t clear which partners are good and which are bad for that.

    • Thanks for the feedback! Fuel surcharges can vary depending on the airline partner and route. For example, some routes might include multiple flights on different partners where one of the flight legs has high surcharges and another leg does not. Searching sample flights online will give you a better idea of the exact fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees.

      • @MMS
        What Chris is saying is that it would’ve been helpful if you included high surcharge routes in your review, not just the low ones.