The 11 best deals in miles and points
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Miles and points enthusiasts are obsessed with getting the most value for their rewards. That’s a fun and important statistic to keep track of — but more important is the distant bucket list destinations you can visit with your points! And if the flight is extra-long many of us prioritize the comfort of business class seats — or the luxe shock value of first-class seats.
Below are the 11 best deals in miles and points. If you’ve achieved any of the following deals, you’re choosing your travel wisely. Some of these routes are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, but they’re slowly making their way back into the daily rounds.
I’ll show you how to get the miles and points you need to achieve these amazing sweet spots — and help you understand which travel credit cards you need to earn those particular points.
In this article:
- First class flight to Japan on ANA: 110,000 miles round-trip
- First/business class one-way to South Africa via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific: 70,000 miles
- Buy-one-get-one flights for 2 years: Southwest Companion Pass
- One-way coach/business class to Hawaii on United Airlines: 7,500/12,500 miles
- Three days on a private island: 120,000 points
- One-way coach flights to Ireland on Aer Lingus: 13,000 miles
- First class to Greece or Italy on Emirates for 135,000 miles round-trip
- Business class to Spain on Iberia: 34,000 miles one-way
- First class to Sydney (with a free stopover) on Etihad: 110,000 miles
- One night at (nearly) any Hilton hotel in the world: $450 (or less)
- Round the World trip in business/first class: 105,000+ ANA miles
First class flight to Japan on ANA: 110,000 miles round-trip
Cash value: $22,000+
Value per point: 20 cents
How to achieve it: Virgin Atlantic is partnered with ANA — one of the best, most lap-of-luxury airlines in the world. Premium cabins here are dynamite, from the gigantic seats to the restaurant-quality food to the $800 whiskey. And with Virgin Atlantic’s award chart, it costs as little as 110,000 miles to book a round-trip first class seat. Here are the prices:
- First class from East Coast cities: 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
- First class from West Coast cities: 110,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
- Business class from East Coast cities: 95,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
- Business class from West Coast cities: 90,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
This is such a good deal — particularly for first class. Some airlines will charge you 200,000+ miles for the same route. You can book ANA first-class seats to Japan from the following U.S. cities:
- New York
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Also note that ANA has recently put an end to exorbitant fuel surcharges, making this trip extra cheap!
How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles: Virgin Atlantic has its own credit cards to help you earn Virgin Atlantic miles, but the most efficient way to earn them is by transferring flexible bank points to Virgin Atlantic. Here are the points that you can convert to Virgin Atlantic:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points (1:1 transfer ratio)
- Amex Membership Rewards points (1:1 transfer ratio)
- Citi ThankYou points (1:1 transfer ratio)
- Marriott points (3:1 transfer ratio)
First/business class one-way to South Africa via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific: 70,000 miles
Cash value: $17,000+
Value per point: 24 cents
How to achieve it: Cathay Pacific is another airline with a much-lauded premium cabin — a bucket list item for a miles and points enthusiast. Cathay Pacific is an airline partner with Alaska Airlines, which possesses one of the most valuable loyalty programs in existence. No matter who you are, you should be investing in Alaska Airlines miles.
You can fly Cathay Pacific first class from the following U.S. cities:
- New York (JFK)
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
For 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles, you will fly to Hong Kong in first class, then onto Johannesburg in business class. The only potential snag is that you’re taking a long, long way to get to South Africa. By avoiding this strategy, you could probably reach Johannesburg in half the time. However — if you’re like us, when you’re flying in fancy airplane seats, you just don’t want it to end. This is a way to get your miles worth in a premium cabin! You’re getting more than 28 hours in first/business class for 70,000 miles. That’s 2,500 Alaska miles per hour! An absolute steal.
Not only that, but you can add a stopover in Hong Kong if you like. Stay there for a week or two if you want before continuing your journey to Africa!
How to earn Alaska Airlines miles: Alaska Airlines miles are one of the hardest currencies to accrue. Their only transfer partner is Marriott. You’ll get 1 Alaska mile for every 3 Marriott points you transfer. However, when you transfer Marriott points in increments of 60,000, you’ll get an additional 5,000 Alaska miles. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 Alaska miles.
Alaska Airlines also has its own credit cards with decent welcome bonuses. Read our post on how to earn Alaska Airlines miles.
Buy-one-get-one flights for 2 years: Southwest Companion Pass
Cash value: Thousands
How to achieve it: We consider the Southwest Companion Pass to be the best deal in travel, for a few reasons:
- It’s not niche. A lot of miles and points sweet spots are only valuable if you’re going to a certain location
- It lets a friend or family member travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. Regardless of whether you booked a flight with points or paid with cash – you can bring someone along for only the cost of taxes and fees (usually ~$6 one-way for domestic flights).
That’s huge. If you were to fly every single day on Southwest, your travel companion could come along on every flight. There is no limit to the times you can use it! And it’s valid during the year you earn it, as well as the entire following year. So if you were to earn it in January, your Companion Pass wouldn’t expire for nearly two years!
To qualify, you’ll need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year.
How to earn Southwest points:
There are plenty of Southwest credit cards to choose from whose bonuses count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.
The following Southwest consumer credit cards are currently offering 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
One-way coach/business class to Hawaii on United Airlines: 7,500/12,500 miles
Cash value: $1,000+
Value per point: 8
How to achieve it: This deal doesn’t apply just to Hawaii, but in fact the entire U.S. However, the sweetest use is for flights to Hawaii.
United Airlines is a partner with Turkish Airlines through the Star Alliance. And booking United flights with Turkish miles is often dramatically cheaper than had you booked the same flight with United miles! You can fly from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii) for the following rates:
- 7,500 Turkish miles in coach
- 12,500 Turkish miles in business class
For flights to Hawaii, I find that I can only consistently locate available award seats when searching from the following East Coast cities:
- Washington Dulles (IAD)
So while the Turkish Award chart technically allows you to make the trip to Hawaii for 7,500 miles from your home airport, you may not have much luck finding seats unless you search from these airports. The above cities are also good if you’re looking for nonstops to the Midwest/East Coast from the Hawaiian Islands. If you want a 10-hour lie-flat business class seat, those are the airports to scour.
How to earn Turkish Airlines miles:
Turkish Airlines are moderately difficult to earn. Its only transfer partner is Citi ThankYou points. And while there are only a handful of cards that earn this currency, they’ve got solid earning rates to help you accrue rewards quickly. Read our post on how to earn Citi ThankYou points for more details.
Three days on a private island: 120,000 points
Cash value: $8,850
Value per point: 7.37 cents
How to achieve it: Calala Island has the two things I’m looking for in a vacation: It’s both fly and dope. If you want exotic, this 11-acre private island off the coast of Nicaragua is up your alley. It’s got four rooms (huts) and accommodates no more than eight guests at a time. OH, AND IT’S ALL-INCLUSIVE. The chef just hangs around and you can eat whenever you want, whatever you want — as long as he’s got the means.
You’ll pay 40,000 Hyatt points per night to stay here, which is an absolute steal considering prices can reach near $3,000 per night. You’ll book directly into a Junior Suite with points. You must book at least three nights at a time.
How to earn Hyatt points: Hyatt points are easy to earn. Hyatt’s got its own credit card, the World of Hyatt Credit Card, but it’s also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. This means any Chase points you have can be instantly converted to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. Read our post on how to earn Chase points for the best strategies to racking up points quickly.
One-way coach flights to Ireland on Aer Lingus: 13,000 miles
Cash value: $500+
Value per point: 1.92 cents
How to achieve it: Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland. It flies to a handful of U.S. cities from Dublin and Shannon. And if you choose the right route, you’ll pay just 13,000 Aer Lingus Avios points one-way to reach Ireland:
- New York (JFK)-Shannon
- New York (JFK)-Dublin
- Washington, DC-Dublin
13,000 points is the off-peak price — peak prices are 20,000 points each way, which still beats most of the competition (U.S. airlines generally charge 30,000 miles each way to Europe). Below is a calendar indicating off-peak dates. Any date in white will price as 13,000 points each way. As you can see, there are tons of off-peak dates.
Note: You can also fly in lie-flat business class for just 50,000 points each way during off-peak dates.
You can read exactly how to do this in our Ireland award sweet spot guide.
How to earn Aer Lingus Avios points: Aer Lingus is under the same umbrella as British Airways and Iberia, in that they collect the same type of points: “Avios.” And while all three loyalty programs have different award charts, the neat thing is that you can transfer points between the programs. For example, if you’ve got 30,000 British Airways Avios points, you can transfer them to Aer Lingus and immediately have 30,000 Aer Lingus Avios points.
This makes Aer Lingus points extremely easy to earn. Aer Lingus is also a transfer partner of:
So any credit cards that earn these points effectively earn Aer Lingus Avios points.
First class to Greece or Italy on Emirates for 135,000 miles round-trip
Cash value: $7,000+
Value per point: 5.18 cents
How to achieve it: Emirates runs two (really cheap) routes between the U.S. and Europe. That’s right, you don’t even have a connection through its hub in Dubai.
You can fly either from Newark to Athens or from New York-JFK to Milan for the following rates:
- 90,000 miles round-trip in business class
- 135,000 miles round-trip in first class
This is tens of thousands of miles (if not 100,000+ miles) less than U.S. carriers will charge for the same ticket to these destinations. The best part? It’s on Emirates — the airline that perfectly encapsulates Dubai — with one of the glitziest premium cabins in existence. Although you won’t get an onboard shower for these routes (they’re operated by 777’s; only A380s have showers), you will have the absolute time of your life sipping on Dom Pérignon in your enormous cubicle (if you get an aircraft that’s rocking the new first-class suites that is).
Note that one-way award flights are a significantly worse deal than round-trip flights. If you can help it, book a round-trip itinerary.
How to earn Emirates miles: Emirates is a transfer partner of:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points (1:1)
- Amex Membership Rewards points (1:1)
- Citi ThankYou points (1:1)
- Capital One miles (2:1)
- Marriott points (3:1)
That’s right! It’s one of the easiest points currencies to earn. If you have a card that earns any of the above points, you’re earning Emirates miles by extension. Read our posts on how to earn Amex points and how to earn Chase points to see how quickly and easily you can earn the necessary rewards to book this seat.
Business class to Spain on Iberia: 34,000 miles one-way
Cash value: $950
Value per point: 2.8 cents per point
How to achieve it: Here’s the thing about these Iberia flights. Oftentimes, a one-way flight is far more expensive than a round-trip. If you’re booking one-way, your value per point will be 3x better than booking a round-trip. That shouldn’t influence your bookings, I just wanted to say that.
Iberia serves a handful of U.S. cities, all of which offer staggering deals to Madrid (particularly those around the Midwest/East Coast). Here are the off-peak prices:
- Boston and New York – 17,000 points in coach, 34,000 points in business class
- Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco – 21,250 points in coach, 42,500 points in business class
- Los Angeles – 25,500 points in coach, 51,000 points in business class
34,000 points to fly in business class across the Atlantic?? That’s pretty much the best deal you’ll ever find. The catch is that it’s got to be departing from Boston or New York — and the destination has to be Madrid. However, even if Madrid isn’t your vacation of choice, you should pay attention to this deal. Once you’re in Europe, you can hop around from city to city for super cheap; this is just a way to enjoy the biggest leg of the trip in luxury — for a comparable amount of points as other airlines charge to fly coach!
For example, you could buy a cheap ticket from Madrid to Paris for less than $25 each way on Ryanair. I’d gladly route through Madrid for a dirt-cheap lie-flat seat.
How to earn Iberia Avios points: Iberia has the same loyalty program as British Airways and Aer Lingus (discussed above). They collect identical points. Therefore, you can transfer points between any of these airlines. If you’ve got 20,000 British Airways Avios points, you can transfer them to Iberia and immediately have 20,000 Iberia Avios points.
Iberia is also a transfer partner of:
If you’ve got a card that earns any of these points, you’ve got a way to earn Iberia Avios points quickly.
First class to Sydney (with a free stopover) on Etihad: 110,000 miles
Cash value: $17,000+
Value per mile: 15.45 cents
How to achieve it: Unless you’re an oil sheikh, you’re probably not paying cash for a first class seat. But with Air Canada Aeroplan miles, you can book it for a super reasonable price — and even add-in an obligatory stopover.
Via the Air Canada site, you can build an itinerary from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi to Sydney, all in Etihad first class. TWENTY-SIX HOURS of first class — that’s hard to beat.
How to earn Air Canada Aeroplan miles: Air Canada is a transfer partner of:
Many times we’ve seen transfer bonuses for Amex points to Aeroplan miles. It may be wise to wait for another one of these inevitable bonuses before transferring.
One night at (nearly) any Hilton hotel in the world: $450 (or less)
Cash value: $1,000+
What you get: Hilton Weekend Night Certificates are the only hotel night certificates that are completely uncapped. Whether a Hilton hotel charges 5,000 points or 120,000 points, your certificate is valid there. Just note the few quirky exceptions where Weekend Night Certs aren’t accepted.
By using this at the right hotel, you could easily save $1,000+. For example, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives routinely charges $1,700+ per night for an overwater bungalow — but you can use a Weekend Night Certificate to lock it down for free.
Just note that Weekend Night Certs are exactly what they sound like — weekend nights. You can use them for Friday night, Saturday night, or Sunday night (or, in the Middle East, Thursday through Saturday).
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – One annual weekend night upon opening your card, and every year after you renew your card. Also, a second free-weekend-night award each calendar year in which you spend $60,000+ in eligible purchases on your card.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – One weekend night after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year
The information for the Amex Hilton Aspire has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Round the World trip in business/first class: 105,000+ ANA miles
Cash value: $6,000+
Value per point: 5.7 cents
How to achieve it: You can get a more thorough explanation of this trick when you read our guide to using ANA miles. Essentially, ANA allows you to book up to eight stopovers, and charges you based on the total distance you fly. Here’s their award chart:
You can use Great Circle Mapper to strategize your stopovers according to how many miles you’re willing to pay. Just keep in mind the following rules:
- Round the World itineraries are priced according to the total basic sector mileage for the entire itinerary (excluding ground transportation sectors.)
- You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans once
- Backtracking is not permitted
- Up to three stopovers allowed within Europe and up to four stopovers allowed within Japan
Again, there are a few other rules you should know, so read our ANA guide to best understand. But the ability to circumnavigate the Earth and stop at up to eight of your favorite cities is phenomenal. For Example, a flight from New York to Paris to Hong Kong to New York costs just 105,000 ANA miles in business class!
How to earn ANA miles:
ANA miles aren’t terribly difficult to earn if you’ve got any of the best American Express credit cards. That’s because you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to ANA at a 1:1 ratio.You can also transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio. And when you transfer in increments of 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 ANA miles!
While there may be some extra complicated routes you can take advantage of to maximize your miles and points, these are the ones just accessible enough to us all. Let me know your favorite miles and points sweet spot! If it’s good enough, I’ll throw it on the list.
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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! :)