Your Guide to Using Transferable Points for Flights to Australia! This Week: AMEX Membership Rewards Points

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Your Guide to Using Transferable Points for Flights to Australia! This Week: AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Jake PearringYour Guide to Using Transferable Points for Flights to Australia! This Week: AMEX Membership Rewards PointsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Whether you want to visit Australia for its incredible beaches, amazing wineries and wildlife, or to learn about the nation’s impressive history, miles and points can help you get there!

Unfortunately, flights to Australia aren’t always cheap… or convenient!  Even if you live in Texas or California and can fly non-stop, you’ll still be looking at 14 to 16 hours of plane travel each way.

That’s why I recommend you redeem miles and points from one of the best credit cards for travel to make the most of your Australia vacation, and maybe even splurge to fly in Business Class.

Planning a Trip Down Under?  Miles and Points Can Get You There for a Fraction of the Cost

I’ll share tips on how to use transferable points to fly to Australia, starting with Chase Ultimate Rewards.  And in the coming weeks, we’ll publish more information on how to use other transferable points (like AMEX Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points) to get to Australia, too!

How to Use Transferable Points for Flights to Australia

To keep things simple, I’ll cover the best ways to fly in and out of Sydney.  If you weren’t planning on visiting Sydney, you should add it to your list!  After just a few nights staying at the Park Hyatt Sydney and enjoying the gorgeous architecture and pristine beaches, Sydney became my favorite city in the world!

Visiting the Bondi Beach Icebergs Club Was a Bucket List Item for Me, and It Only Cost ~$10!

I won’t cover every option for every different type of flexible rewards.  Instead, I’ll review the most useful and practical transfer partners and the basics that will help you make an informed decision, like:

  • Transfer ratio:   How many points do you need to transfer to get the number of miles you need?
  • Transfer time:   How long does it usually take to transfer your points to the airline?  This is important because you don’t want to find an award only to see it disappear while you’re waiting for the miles to show up in your account.
  • Award Prices:   How many miles will it take to book a flight to Australia with a particular airline?
  • Partner Award Prices:   You can use most airline miles to book award flights on their partner airlines.  For example, you can use United Airlines miles to book award seats on Asiana.  However, typically airlines have different award charts for their partner airlines.  And partner award seats are usually harder to find because in many cases, you’ll only be able to book the lowest priced (i.e. Saver level) awards.  Also, sometimes airlines don’t allow partner bookings for Business or First Class seats.
  • Fuel Surcharges:   When you book an award ticket, you’ll always have to pay for taxes and fees, which can be very high depending on where you’re going (i.e. London).  But some airlines also add fuel surcharges, in addition to the taxes and fees.  This can add $100s to the ticket cost.  So I’ll let you know whether or not you can expect these types of charges with each particular airline.
  • Pros:   What are the reasons you’d want to transfer points to an airline?
  • Cons:   What are the downsides of transferring points to an airline?
  • Other notes:   If there are any special rules, tips, or ticks you should know for the airline, they’ll be covered here.

How to Get to Australia With Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

You can earn transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the following cards:

And you can pool the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the following no-annual-fee cards onto the “premium” cards listed above, and then transferred to Chase’s travel partners:

British Airways

British Airways operates a distance-based award chart, so British Airways Avios points aren’t the most universally useful.  Australia is such a far distance from the continental US that using British Airways Avios points isn’t the best deal.  And with British Airways, you’ll pay based on the distance of the flight segment, NOT the total flight distance.  So shorter non-stop flights can be a good deal, but if you need a connecting flight you’ll pay extra for it!

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   British Airways operates a distance-based award chart.  You can use the Great Circle Mapper to estimate the distance of each segment of your flight.

 British Airways Avios Points Required for Each Flight
Travel DistanceCoach Premium EconomyBusiness ClassFirst Class
Off-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeakOff-PeakPeak
0 to 649 miles4,0004,5005,7506,7507,7509,00015,50018,000
650 to 1,149 miles 6,5007,5009,50011,25012,75015,00025,50030,000
1,150 to 1,999 miles8,50010,00012,75015,00017,00020,00034,00040,000
2,000 to 2,999 miles10,00012,50020,00025,00031,25037,50042,50050,000
3,000 to 3,999 miles13,00020,00026,00040,00050,00060,00068,00080,000
4,000 to 5,499 miles16,25025,00032,50050,00062,50075,00085,000100,000
5,500 to 6,499 miles19,50030,00039,00060,00075,00090,000102,000120,000
6,500 to 6,999 miles22,75035,00045,50070,00087,500105,000119,000140,000
7,000+ miles32,50050,00065,000100,000125,000150,000170,000200,000

Partner Award Prices:   British Airways uses the same chart for their awards and partner awards unless you book a flight with 2+ or more partner airlines.  In that case, you’ll want to reference this chart.  You’ll notice that the prices aren’t good and the fees are hefty.

With almost all partner awards, you can only book the peak price.

With British Airways Avios points, you can book Qantas flights under 650 miles within Australia for 4,500 Avios points one-way + taxes & fees.  Qantas and American Airlines fly non-stop from the US to Australia from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas.  But all of those flights are over 7,000 miles, so you’ll pay at least 32,500 British Airways Avios points plus taxes and fees for one-way award flights in coach.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes

Pros:   Great for booking short-haul flights within Australia, or reasonably priced if you can find a non-stop flight from the West Coast or Dallas

Cons:   Not good for folks who can’t fly non-stop or need to fly farther to get to Australia, higher fuel surcharges & fees on most flights

Other notes:   For more tips check out our complete guide to British Airways Avios points!

Iberia

Iberia operates a distance-based award chart, just like British Airways.  And you can even transfer Avios points in between your Iberia & British Airways account.  But you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to do it.

Iberia is a member of the oneworld alliance, so you’ll be able to book partner awards flights with Qantas and American Airlines.  You can also book award flights to Australia by routing through Asia on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific.  But that would make a very long journey even longer!

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Partner Award Prices:   Iberia has a separate award chart for each of their partner airlines, although most are exactly the same.  You’ll pay based on the total distance of the flight.  And for most partners, you’re only allowed to book round-trip award flights.

If you are booking an award with more than one oneworld partner, then you’ll use the award chart below.  And it is the same chart as the award charts for flights with American Airlines and Qantas, which are 2 of the more useful partners for flying to Australia.

Non-stop round-trip flights from the US to Australia will be between 14,000 to 18,000 miles in distance (ouch!), so I’ve highlighted those award prices.

Iberia Uses a Distance-Based Award Chart.  So I Would Look Elsewhere for Deals on Award Flights Down Under

The best deals will be on the shortest flights, so you’ll want to look for non-stop flights on American Airlines or Qantas.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, but certain partners, like American Airlines, don’t have fuel surcharges

Pros:   Easy to earn – they transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott, and British Airways. Or, you can sign up for the Iberia credit card from Chase!

Cons:   Distance based award charts are rough for flights to Australia because it is so far from the US! Some partner awards can only be booked over the phone (which incurs an extra fee), partner awards are non-refundable

Other notes:

  • You can book American Airlines partner awards online, but you’ll need to call to book partner awards with most other airlines

Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)

Flying Blue is the rewards program of both Air France and KLM, and you can use Flying Blue miles to book travel to Australia on Delta!

Transfer Ratio:   1:1

Transfer Time:   Instant

Award Prices:   Flying Blue doesn’t publish an award chart anymore.  Rather, they offer a pricing calculator.  Unfortunately, the pricing calculator page often redirects to the home page, so for your reference, the following prices are typically the lowest available:

  • Coach – 48,500 Flying Blue miles one-way in coach from the US to Australia on Delta
  • Business Class – 1210,000 Flying Blue miles one way in Business Class from the US to Australia on Delta
Although the Flying Blue Miles Estimator Is Easy to Use, Finding Available Award Flights Can Be Tricky

Fuel Surcharges:   Flying Blue does pass on fuel surcharges on other flights, but Delta’s fees are reasonable and will cost ~$100 per person each way.

Pros:   Even though the Flying Blue price calculator can be hit or miss, their award search engine does a pretty good job.  The award calendar is a great bonus!

Cons:   Can be tough to find available award seats on Delta, especially if you need to connect in the contiguous US.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines miles are not particularly useful for getting to Australia.  That’s because you will be better off booking non-stop flights with United Airlines miles, which I’ll detail below.  The biggest advantage of Singapore Airlines miles is how easy they are to earn.  You can transfer points from Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate RewardsAMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott / Starwood to Singapore Airlines.

So if you don’t have enough flexible points to get to Australia in any single program, you can easily combine points together and book award flights with Singapore Airlines miles.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Up to 2 days

Award Prices:   You could use Singapore Airlines to fly from the US to Australia, but that would include lots of flying!  For example, you could fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore to Sydney, but that would take nearly 2 days of your vacation!  And that routing would also cost a significant amount of miles.  Instead, I would search for flights on United Airlines or Air New Zealand and look at Singapore Airlines Star Alliance partner award chart.

Singapore Is a Fantastic Place to Visit but Stopping Here Would Make for a LONG Trip to Australia!

You’ll pay 60,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a one-way flight in coach from the US to Australia.  And award flights in Business or First Class are even more outrageously priced at 117,000 miles and 152,500 miles, respectively.  Ouch!

That’s why I don’t recommend transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines for award flights to Australia unless you need to combine points across multiple flexible currencies.

I Would Avoid Using Singapore Airlines Miles for Your Award Flights to Australia

Fuel Surcharges:   Singapore Airlines does not add fuel surcharges to their own flights.  But if you’re booking a partner award flight you’ll pay fuel surcharges when the airline you’re flying with has them.  Most Asian airlines add hefty fuel surcharges.  But others, like United Airlines, don’t have any fuel surcharges.

Pros:   Some of the easiest airline miles to earn as they transfer from Chase Ultimate RewardsAMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott / Starwood.

Cons:   High cost of awards, and you’re better off using United Airlines miles

Other notes:   You are allowed 1 stopover (layover of 24+ hours) & 1 open jaw (origin or destination is not the same) on round-trip Saver award flights.  You can add stopovers on award flights for $100 each (up to 3 total), but you can’t book them online.

United Airlines

United Airlines is probably my favorite Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner for award flights to Australia because of simplicity and available award seats.  But remember that United Airlines prices their awards as “Saver” awards and “Everyday” awards.  Saver awards are much cheaper, so those are what you’ll want to find and book.  Everyday awards can be obscenely expensive and are typically NOT a good deal.

United Airlines’ International Business Class Might Not Be Industry Leading, but It Sure Makes the ~16-Hour Journey to Sydney More Enjoyable!

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   

  • Coach – 40,000 United Airlines miles for a one-way Saver Award, up to 100,000 United Airlines miles for a one-way Everyday Award
  • Business Class – 80,000 United Airlines miles for a one-way Saver Award, up to 200,000 United Airlines miles for a one-way Everyday Award

Partner Award Prices:

  • Coach – 40,000 United Airlines miles one-way
  • Business Class – 90,000 United Airlines miles one-way
  • First Class – 130,000 United Airlines miles one-way

Fuel Surcharges:   Thankfully, United Airlines does not add fuel surcharges for their award flights or partner award flights!

Pros:   United Airlines awards are easy to find and book and typically there is pretty good award availability if you book in advance!  (Remember that Australia’s high season is opposite from the US, so it’ll be trickier to find award flights in December to March!)

United Offers Generous Amounts of Award Seats to Australia, but Check the Weather Before You Go!

Cons:   Business & First Class partner awards and Everyday Awards are expensive!

Other notes:

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly to Australia, but they are worth mentioning because they partner with Virgin Australia.  And you can fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney using your Virgin Atlantic Miles.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   There are no Virgin Atlantic flights from the US to Australia

Partner Award Prices:   Virgin Atlantic has a different award chart for each partner airline.  You can check them out here.  But the only useful partners for flights to Australia are Virgin Australia and Delta.

All the prices below are for round-trip awards – but in my experience you CAN book one-way award flights on Virgin Australia using your Virgin Atlantic miles.

You Can Redeem Virgin Atlantic Miles for Award Flights on Virgin Australia From the US

These prices aren’t outrageous, but if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards I prefer to transfer them elsewhere.  But for folks who already have Virgin Atlantic miles and can find the available award seats (which is notoriously tough in Business Class!), this can be a viable option.

Award flights on Delta cost slightly more, but might be a better deal because Delta award seats are easier to find.  Although the Delta section of Virgin Atlantic’s website doesn’t mention redeeming miles for award flights to Australia, the cost of award flights has typically been as follows:

  • 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for one-way in coach on Delta from the US to Australia
  • 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles for one-way in Business Class on Delta from the US to Australia

Although award flights on Delta look like a great deal (which they are!), award seats on Delta flights can be difficult to find at the “saver level” which is required to book with Virgin Atlantic miles.

Unfortunately, you cannot book partner award flights online.  You’ll have to book them over the phone (800-365-9500).

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, but the fuel surcharges are reasonable, typically around ~$110 per person, each way.

Pros:   You can transfer Chase Ultimate RewardsAMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott / Starwood points to Virgin Atlantic – so they’re easy to earn!

Cons:   Can’t search for or book partner awards online, fuel surcharges on award flights

 Other notes:

  • The easiest place to search for award flights on Virgin Australia is Delta.com, then call Virgin Atlantic to book the flights.
  • Although award flights on both Virgin Australia and Delta are hard to find, Virgin Australia consistently releases award seats within 5 days of departure.  So keep that in mind if you’re really flexible or don’t mind gambling with your dates!

When to Book Through the Chase Travel Portal Instead

Depending on how much your plane tickets cost, it doesn’t always make sense to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners for award flights.  Instead, you might save points by booking a cheap fare through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Whether or not it makes sense to book through Chase Travel will depend on a few things:  How much the ticket costs, what transfer partner you would be using, and which Chase card(s) you have.

Let’s start out with which Chase card you have.  Here’s what your points are worth through the portal with each Chase Ultimate Rewards card:

Chase Ultimate Rewards CardHow Much Are Points Worth Toward Travel?
Chase Freedom1 cent
Chase Freedom Unlimited1 cent
Chase Sapphire (no longer available)1 cent
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card1.25 cents
Chase Sapphire Reserve1.5 cents
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card1 cent
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card1 cent
Chase Ink Bold (no longer available)1.25 cents
Chase Ink Plus (no longer available)1.25 cents
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card1.25 cents

Generally, the cheaper your plane ticket is, the more likely it makes sense to redeem points through Chase travel instead of through a transfer partner.

Let’s look at a quick example first.  Suppose you were going to transfer miles to United Airlines to book a coach ticket.  United Airlines charges 80,000 miles to fly to Australia and back in coach.  You would be better off redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal if your ticket cost less than the following:

Depending on what miles you are using, these numbers wouldn’t necessarily be the same.  To find out what the breakeven price would be, take the numbers required and multiply by the value of your Chase points.  For example, 40,000 United Airlines miles X 0.015 (for the Chase Sapphire Reserve) = $600.

Looked at another way, let’s say that your round-trip flight to Australia was going to cost $900.  This is how many points you would pay if you booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal:

In this case, you would be better off booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal if you have the Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Business Preferred compared to transferring and paying 80,000 United Airlines miles for an award ticket.

But remember that Business Class flights will typically cost considerably more when paying cash, so redeeming miles will often be the better value.  Especially if you can afford the extra miles, using Chase Ultimate rewards to fly Business Class down under can make your long travel time much  more comfortable!

To find out how many points you need for a given ticket price when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, take the ticket price and divide by the value of your Chase points depending on what Chase card you have.  To use our example from above, $900 / 0.015 (for the Chase Sapphire Reserve) = 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Two other benefits to redeeming your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is that you don’t have to worry about finding available award seats or blackout dates.  As long as there’s a seat available for sale, you will be able to book it, and you’ll also earn frequent flyer miles and credit toward status for your airline ticket!

How to Get to Australia With AMEX Membership Rewards Points

AMEX Membership Rewards points are very helpful for getting to most cities in Australia because, as you’ll see, they have lots of useful airline transfer partners.  And they are easy to earn!

If you’ve got a collection of AMEX Membership Rewards points, I would continue to focus on using your miles for flights on a Star Alliance airline.  That’s because AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer to ANA and Aeroplan (both Star Alliance members) at a 1:1 ratio.  But one of the best things about AMEX Membership Rewards points is the frequent transfer bonuses they have with their partner airlines.

You can earn transferable AMEX Membership Rewards points with these cards:

Personal CardsBusiness Cards
American Express® Gold CardThe Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit CardThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
AMEX EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express


Business Green Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Air Canada Aeroplan

Aeroplan is Air Canada’s loyalty program and is part of the Star Alliance.  Aeroplan is also partners with Cathay Pacific, however you can only redeem Aeroplan miles on a few select Cathay Pacific routes, none of which will get you to Australia.

Overall, Air Canada Aeroplan offers very competitive award flight prices for folks visiting Australia. And by making the most of their partnership with the other Star Alliance airlines, Air Canada Aeroplan award availability for flights Down Under is some of the best out there.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   A round-trip flight to Australia costs 90,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach, 160,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class, and 220,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class.

Award Flights to Australia in Coach Are Readily Available!

One-way awards cost half of the Air Canada Aeroplan miles required for round-trip flights.

Partner Award Prices:   Aeroplan doesn’t have a separate award chart for partner awards.  But they partner with useful airlines for getting to Australia, like United Airlines & Asiana.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, but not with all of their partners.  If you want to avoid these extra fees try booking partner award flights with United Airlines.

Pros:   Visit extra cities for free via stopovers, lots of useful partner airlines, frequent transfer bonuses

Cons:   Fuel surcharges on some flights, and routing to Australia via Asia can make for a very long travel day!

Other notes:

  • You’re allowed 2 stopovers or 1 stopover & 1 open-jaw on award flights between 2 continents
  • Reasonable lap infant fees – $50 to $125 or 5,000 to 12,500 Aeroplan miles
  • For more tips, check out our guide to using Aeroplan miles.

ANA

ANA (All Nippon Airways) is one of the best options for booking award flights to Australia.  They have incredible award prices for travel on ANA flights and good partner award chart prices as well.

The biggest drawbacks are how complicated and confusing ANA’s award charts and rules are, and potentially higher taxes & fees on award flights.  I’ll keep things as simple as possible by only including information that is relevant to award flights to and from Australia.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   2 to 3 days

Award Prices:   Flights from North America to Australia with ANA vary in price depending on whether your flights are on ANA or one of their Star Alliance partners.

In the chart below, Y is coach, C is Business Class, and F is First Class.  You can only book round-trip international awards:

ANA Has Different Award Prices Depending on Whether You Travel on ANA or One of ANA’s Partner Airlines

ANA Award Prices:   Round-trip award flights from the US to Australia on ANA cost 65,000 ANA miles in coach, 110,000 ANA miles in Business Class, and 210,000 ANA miles in First Class.

Partner Award Prices:   ANA has the same Star Alliance partners as Air Canada Aeroplan and United Airlines, but you’ll pay less if you can find flights on ANA.  Round-trip award flights between the US and Australia on one of ANA’s partner airlines cost 75,000 ANA miles in coach, 120,000 ANA miles in Business Class, and 225,000 ANA miles in First Class.

You can NOT book one-way partner award flights, so all the prices listed are for round-trip tickets only.  And there is only one award chart for the entire year.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, and they can go up to ~$450 (plus taxes & fees). But you won’t pay this extra fee with certain partners like United Airlines

Pros:   Amazing award prices, lots of partner airlines

Cons:   Must book round-trip award flights, confusing and convoluted rules, the extra fees can add up

Other notes:

  • ANA miles expire after 36 months and cannot be extended
  • You can have 1 stopover and 1 open jaw on award flights

British Airways

It’s not uncommon for there to be an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways.  And they can be quite generous, which could make British Airways a useful option.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

For more details on using British Airways Avios points to get to Australia, check the Chase Ultimate Rewards points section.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific operates a distance based award chart.  And they are a member of the oneworld alliance, which includes American Airlines & Qantas!

Cathay Pacific’s award program is fairly convoluted and tricky, so I don’t recommend it for most people.  But if you can find award seats on Qantas, Asia miles are actually quite valuable for flights between the US and Australia.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   1 to 2 days

Award Prices:   For flights on Qantas between Australia and the US, you’ll pay 40,000 Asia miles one-way in coach, 50,000 Asia miles one-way in Premium Economy, 75,000 Asia miles one-way in Business Class, and 120,000 Asia miles one-way in First Class.

If You Can Find Qantas Award Seats Using Asia Miles Can Be a Great Value

If you want to fly with one of Cathay Pacific’s other partner airlines, you can calculate the mileage for your award here.  In general, your best bet will be award flights on Qantas.

Partner Award Prices:   The most useful Cathay Pacific partners for getting to Australia are American Airlines and Qantas.  Most folks would rather avoid connecting in Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong hub when traveling between the US and Australia.

Or, Book a Non-Stop Flight on American Airlines With Your Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

If you are booking an award which includes only 1 partner airline or 1 partner airline and Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, then you’ll use the “Asia Miles Standard Award” chart.  A Standard Award round-trip award flight can have up to 3 stopovers and 1 open-jaw, but the rules are complicated, and this doesn’t apply to all award flights.  You can read more about the stopover and open-jaw rules under #5 in the terms.

The oneworld multi-carrier chart applies if your award flight includes:

  • Two oneworld partner airlines, but does not include Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon
  • Three or more oneworld partner airlines and Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon is 1 is one of those airlines

For oneworld multi-carrier flights, the stopover and open-jaw policy looks like it could be even more generous.  But I can’t easily figure it out, and I’m not sure how practical it is for most flights to Australia, regardless.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, but certain airlines don’t add them (like American Airlines)

Pros:   Easy to earn – they transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott, useful for short-haul or one-way awards, potentially generous stopover and open-jaw policy

Cons:   Expensive award prices, overly complicated, and the most useful partners (for getting to Australia) don’t release many award seats

Other notes:

  • You can book award flights online if you’re flying on Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Qantas, or Qatar Airways.  But for awards which include any other partner airline (which covers most of your options to Japan) you’ll need to fill out a “Flight Award Request Formor call 866-892-2598 to book your award
  • Use this tool to figure out how much a specific award flight will cost
  • Sometimes you’ll get a phone agent that doesn’t completely understand Cathay Pacific’s convoluted award booking rules.  Don’t be afraid to hang up and call again.

Delta

Delta no longer publishes an award chart.  So it’s a bit of a guessing game estimating how many Delta miles it will cost to get to Australia.  And they are a part of the SkyTeam alliance, which doesn’t include any of Australia’s major airlines.

But Delta does have frequent award flash sales!  So this is a good option to keep in your back pocket in case a good deal pops up.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   Delta doesn’t have an award chart.  But I found one-way coach flights starting at 40,000 Delta miles and one-way Business Class award seats starting at… 430,000 Delta miles.

I Sure Hope Delta Releases Some Award Flights for Less than Half a Million Miles One-Way!

Partner Award Prices:   No partner award chart, but partner awards to Australia are difficult to find, and typically only available on Virgin Australia.

Fuel Surcharges:   Yes, but not on Delta flights originating in the US

Pros:   Potentially useful award sales

Cons:   No award chart, fewer non-stop flight options compared to other airlines, outrageous pricing at times

Other notes:

  • Delta’s had award flight sales between the US and Australia for as few as 50,000 Delta miles round-trip.  Keep an eye out for future award sales!

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has terrible award prices for flights from the US to Australia.  They also don’t have any non-stop flights to Australia and you aren’t allowed a stopover in Hawaii, which is the only reason I’d want to connect in Hawaii on my way to Australia.  In addition, it’s very difficult to find low-level award flights, so that only increases the cost!

That said, there have been transfer bonuses to Hawaiian Airlines in the past, so that could make this a more interesting opportunity, but only if you want to top up your Hawaiian Airlines account for an award flight.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Instant

Award Prices:   The prices listed in the chart below are for one-way award tickets.  60,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles for a one-way flight in coach is pretty steep!

The Award Prices Are Fairly Steep for One-Way Flights!

Partner Award Prices:   No practical partner award options for flights to Australia.

Fuel Surcharges:   No

Pros:   Low fees

Cons:   No non-stop flights to Australia, no stopovers in Hawaii, terrible award prices

But If You Can Find Award Flights, Maybe the Friendly Hawaiian Service Is Worth the Detour!

Other notes:

  • This is only a useful option if you already have a collection of Hawaiian Airlines miles and only need to transfer some AMEX Membership Rewards points over to top off your account, or if you live in Hawaii.
  • You can technically use Hawaiian Airlines miles for award flights on Virgin Australia, but you’d have to book round-trip and a flight in coach would cost 100,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles!  I would pass on this option, because Delta should see the same award flights and charge you way less!

Iberia

Iberia operates a distance-based award chart, just like British Airways.  And you can even transfer Avios points between your Iberia & British Airways account.

Iberia is a member of the oneworld alliance, so you’ll be able to book partner award flights with Japan Airlines, American Airlines, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific!

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   1 to 2 days

For more details on using Iberia Avios points to get to Australia, check the Chase Ultimate Rewards points section.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines miles are not particularly useful for getting to Australia.  But they are easy to earn.  You can transfer points from Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott to Singapore Airlines.  So if you don’t have enough flexible points to get to Australia in any single program, you can easily combine points together and book award flights with Singapore Airlines miles.

See the Singapore Airlines notes under the Chase Ultimate Rewards section for more details.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   Up to 24 hours

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly to Australia, but they are worth mentioning because they have decent award flight prices for travel on their partner airline, Virgin Australia.  Plus, Virgin Atlantic miles are super easy to collect because they partner with 3 transferable points currencies (and Marriott, as well!).

You’ll also frequently see transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic, making them even easier to earn.

Transfer ratio:   1:1

Transfer time:   1 to 2 days

See the Virgin Atlantic notes under the Chase Ultimate Rewards section for more details.

When to Book Through the AMEX Travel Portal Instead

It doesn’t always make sense to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to airline partners for award flights.  Instead, you might save points by booking a cheap fare through AMEX Travel.

Whether or not it makes sense to book through AMEX Travel will depend on a couple of things:  How much the ticket costs, what transfer partner you would be using, and possibly on what AMEX card you have.

Travel Sweepstakes Reader Tips 2
Check Paid Ticket Prices to Australia to See If You’d Be Better Off Using Pay With Points

Usually, the AMEX card that you have won’t make a difference as to how much your points are worth.  For most cards, your Membership Rewards points are worth just 1 cent each when redeemed for airfare.  But, there’s one exception!

If you have The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you’ll get 35% of your redeemed points back in 2 cases: If you’re booking Business or First Class airfare on any airline, and if you’re booking coach on your airline of choice (the same airline that you’ve chosen to get the $200 airline fee credit reimbursement from).  In these cases, your AMEX points are worth ~1.54 cents each when you factor in the rebate.

Generally, the cheaper your plane ticket is, the more likely it makes sense to redeem points through AMEX Travel instead of through a transfer partner.

Bottom Line

Although Australia is on many folks’ bucket lists, the long travel time, different seasons, and expensive flights can be prohibitive!  But by using your Chase Ultimate rewards or AMEX Membership Rewards points, you can save big or even fly in style for the long trip Down Under.

But keep in mind that award flights can be tough to find, and sometimes you’ll be better off buying your flights through the Chase Ultimate rewards portal or AMEX Travel, especially if you can find reasonably priced coach flights.

Stay tuned for more updates to this series where we’ll talk about other transferable points currencies!

Have you been to Australia?  How did you pay for your flights?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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