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INSIDER SECRET: The most economical way to get to Thailand using points and miles is to use Alaska Airlines miles to fly Cathay Pacific. We’ll show you how.
Thailand is a must-see for anyone with a thirst for adventure, culture and beautiful scenery. Looking for mountains, jungle, beaches or a big city vibe? Thailand’s got it all. Bangkok also happens to be a great jumping-off point for visiting many less-traveled parts of the world, like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
The downside is there aren’t any direct flights between Thailand and the US, so no matter what you will be making a stop somewhere like Taiwan or Hong Kong, adding to the length of the trip.
The upside is there are lots of options to get to Thailand with miles and points for (nearly) free with the many of the best travel credit cards, like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express or the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, including great deals in both business and first class.
How to Get to Thailand With Points and Miles
It’s possible to get to Thailand using a variety of different travel rewards currencies, but here are our top four recommendations:
1. Alaska Airlines
The least expensive way to get to Thailand with miles is to use Alaska Airlines miles to fly Cathay Pacific, but it’s also possible to fly to Thailand using Alaska Airlines miles on their other partner airlines including Japan Airlines and American Airlines.
The difficult part about Alaska Airlines miles is that they’re harder to earn than most other travel rewards. The only credit cards that earn Alaska Airlines miles are the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card, while the only flexible points program that partners with Alaska Airlines is Marriott.
You can’t search directly for Cathay Pacific award flights on Alaska’s website. So you’ll need to use either British Airways‘ or Qantas‘ site to look for a ticket, then call Alaska Airlines to book your flight.
Here are Alaska Airlines’ partner award prices to Thailand with:
This can be an incredible deal because it’s only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles for a one-way business-class seat on Cathay Pacific. (And believe me, you’ll want the extra space and comfort for a trip this long.)
Economy tickets on these Alaska Airlines partners cost from 30,000 to 35,000 miles one-way, which is also a good price considering you’ll be in the air for upwards of 18 hours if you’re flying from the West Coast to Bangkok. What’s also good about the partner award flight prices mentioned above is that they apply to flights from anywhere in the continental US and Alaska. That means you could fly from either coast (or Alaska!) and the price of your award ticket would cost the same.
Even better, Alaska Airlines has very generous routing rules when compared to other airline frequent flyer programs. With Alaska Airlines award tickets you can book one-way or round-trip flights, plus, you’re allowed to add free stopovers on award flights (one stopover on a one-way flight and two on a round-trip award ticket).
The only catch is the stopover must occur in a hub city for the airline you’re flying on. It’s sometimes possible to call in to book non-hub stopovers, but there’s no guarantee that will work.
In addition to these routing rules, you can also fly on one partner airline in addition to Alaska Airlines on each award ticket. By booking two separate one-way flights, each ticket could include a different partner and therefore a different stopover location. (Just be aware that if you do this and need to make changes you’re essentially doubling the fees you’ll pay because it’s considered two separate reservations.)
In order to get the best price for an award flight using ANA miles, you’ll want to fly ANA, not its partner airlines.
ANA only allows round-trip award bookings, but the prices are good, especially for off-peak times:
Another good thing about ANA miles is that they’re an Amex Membership Rewards points transfer partner, so you can indirectly earn them with cards like:
|Card||Welcome Bonus & Minimum Spending Requirements|
|The Business Platinum® Card from American Express||Up to 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account, plus earn an extra 25,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending an additional $10,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.
|The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express||No welcome bonus|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.|
|American Express® Gold Card||35,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||35,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.|
|Business Green Rewards Card from American Express||5,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after your first purchase on the card within the first year of card membership. Terms Apply.|
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express||15,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.|
|Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express||10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Terms Apply.
You can search for and book awards on ANA’s website, but it’s often easier to use United’s site because it’s easier to navigate and more reliable. It’s recommended to start your search six or more months out, especially if you’re looking for premium seats.
3. American Airlines
American Airlines doesn’t fly directly to Thailand, so if you want to use your American Airlines miles for a trip there, you’ll have to fly one of their partner airlines, like Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific.
On most American Airlines award tickets, you are limited to only connecting to two regions in the award chart, but flights to Thailand are an exception. Thailand is located in the Asia 2 region, but when you fly from the US to Thailand you’re allowed to connect through the Asia 1 region. (This makes sense considering there aren’t any direct flights from the US to Thailand.)
Below are the one-way prices for an award ticket on American Airlines’ partners to Thailand. You can snag a coach seat for 75,000 American Airlines miles round-trip, but when you look at business and first class the award prices become pretty unreasonable, so for premium seats, it’s best to book with another rewards currency (unless you have American Airlines miles to burn).
It’s also important to note that when flying their partner airlines Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, you’ll need to call in to book. You won’t be able to book these tickets directly through American Airlines’ website.
The good thing about American Airlines miles is they are very easy to earn with cards like:
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
It’s not hard to earn the miles you’d need to get to Thailand by opening one or two cards and earning the intro bonus. You can also transfer Marriott points to American Airlines.
4. Japan Airlines
The advantage to using Japan Airlines miles to fly to Thailand is that they have a decent number of options and prices when it comes to partner awards on airlines like Air France and Cathay Pacific.
The disadvantage is that the only major transfer partner to Japan Airlines is Marriott. This makes it harder to collect lots of miles when compared to other programs like ANA, which is a transfer partner with AMEX Membership Rewards. Japan Airlines’ frequent flyer program is also distance-based, meaning the price of an award ticket will vary depending on your departure and destination cities.
That said, with multiple partner airlines you’ll have some flexibility when it comes to searching for and finding award seats. For example, you can use Japan Airlines miles to fly from New York to Bangkok on Air France for 47,000 miles in coach and 85,000 miles in Business Class. Those are decent award prices seeing that a Business Class ticket on this same route on Air France can easily run upwards of $7,000.
You can search for award seats either on Japan Airlines’ own website or through the British Airways website.
There are plenty of ways to use miles and points from many of the best travel credit cards, like the Amex Business Platinum or the personal Alaska Airlines card, to get to Thailand. The best way for you will likely come down to award seat availability and what kinds of miles and points you’ve already started collecting.
If you’re just starting your research and want to strategize with a trip to Thailand as your goal, using points and miles for award tickets with these four frequent flyer programs can save you a lot.
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All photos by the author unless noted otherwise.