Travel guide to Amex Membership Rewards points: Part 7 – Europe
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American Express Membership Rewards points give you a lot of flexibility if you want a free vacation but haven’t decided what exactly you want. These points give you the option to redeem with multiple airline and hotel transfer partners when the time comes.
Those in the miles and points hobby know that earning transferable points are the best way to reserve free travel, be it a first class flight around-the-world, a family trip to Europe, or an off-the-beaten-path adventure. It’s easy to earn Amex points from some of the best American Express cards.
The Amex Membership Rewards points program has many direct airline and hotel partners. You’ll get access to other indirect partners, too, so you’ll have lots of choices when planning flights across the Atlantic. Or you can keep it simple and use Amex Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and get a fixed amount per point.
Let’s look at the best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points for flights to Europe.
The ultimate guide to American Express Membership Rewards points:
- Part 1 – Transfer Partners
- Part 2 – How to Transfer Points
- Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
- Part 4 – Best Ways to Fly to Hawaii
- Part 5 – Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
- Part 6 – Best Ways to Fly to Caribbean & Mexico
- Part 7 – Best Ways to Fly to Europe
- Part 8 – Best Ways to Fly to India & Middle East
- Part 9 – Africa
- Part 10 – South America
Cards that earn transferable Amex Membership Rewards points
You can earn Amex Membership Rewards points with the following cards:
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Amex Membership Rewards points for flights to Europe
Amex has several direct airline transfer partners that are great for flights to Europe. From the direct partners, you also get access to fly other airlines within the three major alliances:
- Oneworld (includes American Airlines)
- SkyTeam (includes Delta)
- Star Alliance (includes United Airlines)
The best transfer partner will depend on:
- Available award seats
- Destination you’d like to visit
- Which airlines fly from your home airport
- Your airline & alliance preferences
Keep in mind you can potentially save points by booking a cheap award flight to a city in Europe and using budget airlines to travel to your final destination.
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.
Link: Ultimate Guide to Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada is part of Star Alliance. This means you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Air Canada and then book flights to Europe on partner airlines like:
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
- Turkish Airlines
- 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 Europe you’re flying to. Air Canada has two regions in Europe. The good news is you’ll pay the same amount regardless of your U.S. departure city.
“Europe 1” includes:
- Spain (including Balearic Islands, but excluding Canary Islands)
- United Kingdom
For a one-way award flight from the U.S. to “Europe 1,” you’ll pay:
- 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in business class
- 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in first class
For example, you can book a round-trip, nonstop coach award flight on partner airline SAS from Chicago to Copenhagen for 60,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and around $50 in taxes and fees.
Air Canada includes these countries in the “Europe 2” region:
- Czech Republic
- Russia (Western)
You’ll pay slightly more for one-way award flights to “Europe 2” countries:
- 37,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 57,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in business class
- 80,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in first class
For example, you could book a one-way business class award flight from Los Angeles to Athens, Greece, for 57,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and around $22 in taxes and fees. This same seat costs between $1,300 and $2,200 if you pay cash. I’ll gladly pay the small taxes and fees to book the award flight instead.
To find available award seats on Star Alliance partner airlines, we recommend searching the United Airlines website for “Saver” level awards. Read our post on where to find award space if you’re confused.
Singapore Airlines may not be the first airline that comes to mind when planning a trip to Europe — but the airline flies from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt before continuing to Singapore.
Using Singapore Airlines miles and starting your trip in Germany can be one of the cheapest ways to use miles to visit Europe. One-way award flights cost:
- 22,500 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
- 72,000 Singapore Airlines miles in business class
- 86,000 Singapore Airlines miles in first class suites
Singapore Airlines no longer charges fuel surcharges when flying on their own airplanes, so you will only spend ~$28 in taxes and fees. Keep in mind you’ll want to book these flights as far in advance as possible. Singapore Airlines has very limited available award seats at the prices listed.
ANA is also part of Star Alliance, which means you can book award flights to Europe on partners like Air Canada or United Airlines.
You can’t book a one-way award flight with ANA. Round-trip award flights from the U.S. to Europe cost:
- 55,000 ANA miles in coach
- 88,000 ANA miles in business class
- 165,000 ANA miles in first class
And you can book United Airlines award flights directly on the ANA website. For example, a round-trip, non-stop coach United Airlines award flight from Newark to Brussels costs 55,000 ANA miles and around around $60 in taxes and fees.
ANA miles can be useful for more complex itineraries to Europe, because the airline allows 1 stopover on round-trip award flights. For example, you can pay 55,000 ANA miles in coach to fly:
- Newark to London
- London to Frankfurt (stopover)
- Frankfurt to Newark
Keep in mind, ANA adds hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees on award flights. Run the numbers to see if it makes sense before transferring your Amex Membership Rewards points.
Delta does not publish an award chart — but from experience searching the Delta award calendar, the cheapest one-way award flights to Europe cost:
- 30,000 Delta miles in coach
- 70,000 Delta miles in business class
These prices can be lower when Delta offers award sales. You can bookmark our post about Delta SkyMiles deals to monitor such cheap award fares.
Delta offers many non-stop award flights from their hub cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Salt Lake City
Delta is part of the SkyTeam Alliance. This means you can use Delta miles to book award flights on partner airlines like Air France, KLM, and others. To quickly find award prices and available seats on Delta’s website, be sure to use the Price Calendar view. You can search for non-stop flights in coach or business class and see the cost of the award flight, including taxes and fees.
Link: Sweet Spot: Fly to Ireland From 6 US Cities for Only 26,000 British Airways Avios Points Round-Trip!
Amex Membership Rewards points transfer to British Airways Avios points at a 1:1 ratio. The program has a few sweet spots that can help you get to Europe.
For example, during off-peak travel dates, it costs just 13,000 points each way to fly partner airline Aer Lingus in coach between Dublin and eight U.S. cities:
- New York – JFK
- Washington, DC
It’ll cost 40,000 British Airways Avios points during peak travel from the same cities — still a good deal!
Note that you cannot search for or book Aer Lingus award flights on the British Airways website. Annoying. However, you can search for “Saver” level award seats on the United Airlines website, and call British Airways to book at 800-452-1201.
Alternately, you can navigate to Avios.com to search for availability. From that site, you can transfer your British Airways Avios points to Aer Lingus, and book online. A bit of a hassle, but worth it if you hate talking on the phone!
Iberia Avios are a fantastic option for traveling to Europe — if you live near certain cities. You can fly one-way in coach to Madrid for as little as 17,000 Iberia Avios from certain East Coast cities. But most intriguing is the ability to book one-way lie-flat business class seats for ultra cheap:
- Boston – 34,000 points in Business Class
- Chicago – 34,000 points in Business Class
- Los Angeles – 42,500 points in Business Class
- Miami – 42,500 – points in Business Class
- New York – 34,000 points in Business Class
Amazing! The biggest caveat is that you must find nonstop flights to Madrid. That’s where this luxurious journey ends. You’ll have to buy a ticket from Madrid to wherever your actual destination is. Fortunately, intra-European flights are usually super cheap.
Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points directly to the program at a 1:1 ratio.
Flying Blue eliminated their award chart, opting for a calculator instead. Keep in mind, this tool is an ESTIMATOR. You’ll have to check your exact dates to find the true price of your desired flights.
Just type in your origin and destination airports, and the miles price estimator will give you the cheapest possible price for which you can find that ticket.
Just because you’re flying on KLM or Air France, you don’t have to end your journey in Amsterdam or Paris (the European cities served directly from the U.S. by KLM and Air France). For the same number of miles, you can connect onward to other European cities. And Flying Blue’s definition of Europe includes Western Russia, Israel, and cities in Northern Africa. So you could stretch your points even farther.
Etihad is not part of an airline alliance, but they have great airline partnerships, which can help you get to Europe.
One way to book a flight to Europe is to redeem Etihad miles for award flights on American Airlines. One-way award flights cost:
- 30,000 Etihad miles in coach
- 50,000 Etihad miles in business class
- 62,500 Etihad miles in first class
Keep in mind, it can be difficult to find available award seats using Etihad miles. To find eligible award seats, you can search available award seats 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 use Etihad miles. The eligible codes are:
- Booking code “T” for coach
- Booking code “U” for Business Class
- Booking code “Z” for first class
To book your award flight, you’ll have to call Etihad at 877-690-0767.
You can use Etihad miles to fly several other partner airlines to Europe, including:
- Air New Zealand (Los Angeles – London)
- Air Serbia
- Brussels Airlines (this is an amazingly cheap one if you can find available award seats)
- Jet Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
Use Amex Pay With Points to avoid blackout dates
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 use your Amex Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket. And those with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can get a 35% points rebate using the Pay With Points. You’ll get:
- 35% of your points back for ALL first class or Business Class flights booked through the Amex travel portal
- 35% of your points back for all flights, including coach tickets, booked with your selected airline through the Amex travel portal
Redeeming points through the Amex travel portal can potentially save you points for cheap coach airfare instead of transferring directly to an airline partner. For example, a sample round-trip United Airlines coach flight from Newark to London costs ~$513 or ~51,000 Amex Membership Rewards points.
You could book this same flight by transferring points to Amex airline partners Air Canada or ANA. But you’d pay:
- 55,000 ANA miles
- 60,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles
And those with the Amex Business Platinum can get an amazing deal if the flight is on their selected airline. And that might make it the best American Express card for you. For example, if United Airlines is your selected airline, you’ll pay ~51,000 Amex Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to London. But you’ll get 35% of your points back. In the end, you’ll only use ~33,150 Amex Membership Rewards points for a round-trip flights to Europe!
Plus, you’ll earn redeemable airline miles for your flight!
Amex Membership Rewards points are extremely versatile for anyone desiring to visit Europe.
You can transfer points directly to Amex partners and book award flights on several airlines including American Airlines, Air France, Delta, United Airlines, and many more. Just be mindful of fuel surcharges on certain award flights to Europe to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
You can also use Amex Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book paid airfare to Europe. This can be an amazing deal for those with the Amex Business Platinum to book cheap coach airfare on their selected airline. You can potentially save tens of thousands of points using Pay With Points instead of transferring directly to an airline partner for the same flight.
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