These three cards offer a blank airline ticket to anywhere in the world (round-trip!) as a welcome bonus
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I’ve over-simplified this post to give you an idea of how easy it currently is to visit whichever corner of the planet you’ve always dreamed about.
Listed below are not necessarily the absolute best value for your points, but they show you the astounding things you can achieve by exerting very little effort. The entire Earth is a plane ride away with any of the large welcome bonuses currently offered by three travel cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Okay, you can’t go to Antarctica. Barring that, you’re pretty well able to go anywhere. I’ll explain the strategy to use points from all three cards to visit your bucket list destination very, VERY easily.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: 104,000 Chase points
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s by far the greatest offer we’ve seen on this card (the previous high was 80,000 points).
Chase has a lot of great airline partners that give you the ability to travel anywhere in the world. But because of this unusually large welcome bonus, United Airlines can do most of the heavy lifting here. You can do just about anything with 100,000 United Airlines miles. By transferring the whole Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus to United, that is nearly a blank ticket in itself.
We’ll touch on some other Chase transfer partners to help you save miles, though.
North America: Transfer to Southwest and receive a value of ~1.5 cents per point towards Southwest flights. For 100,000 Chase points, you can get ~$1,500 in Southwest airfare domestically (including Hawaii), to Mexico, even to Central America!
South America: Transfer to United Airlines to reach anywhere in South America. You can go all the way to Chile for just 60,000 miles round-trip, or even to the Galapagos Islands for only 50,000 miles round-trip!
Asia: Asia is big, so it depends on where exactly you want to go. If you’re headed to Japan, transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic to fly round-trip in coach for as little as 60,000 miles, or business class for as little as 90,000 miles. If you’re headed to India, transfer to United Airlines and you’ll pay 85,000 miles round-trip in coach.
Europe: Transfer to United Airlines to reach anywhere in Europe. You’ll (usually) pay 60,000 miles round-trip, whether you’re going to Paris, Venice, or harder-to-reach areas like the Faroe Islands.
Africa: Depends on where you’re going. You can get all the way to Cape Town, South Africa, for 80,000 United miles round-trip. But you can reach Morocco and Algeria for 50,000 miles round-trip by transferring your points to Flying Blue (the loyalty program of Air France and KLM). You can even reach the tropical Seychelles islands for 88,000 United miles round-trip!
Australia: Transfer to United Airlines and fly to Sydney for 88,000 miles round-trip in coach. Transfer to Flying Blue to reach French Polynesia for 51,000 miles round-trip in coach. Or, if you live on the West Coast, transfer to British Airways and book two separate round-trip tickets and reach Australia for just 77,500 points. Here’s what you do:
- Book Los Angeles to Honolulu for 26,000 points round-trip
- Nest a round-trip from Honolulu to Sydney between the dates of the above round-trip for 55,000 points
This gives you a free stopover in Hawaii for as long as you want — and it’s a very cheap way to reach Australia!
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express: 80,000 Amex points
The publicly available offer for The Platinum Card® from American Express is 75,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in the first six months of account opening.
HOWEVER, you’ll also earn 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined spending during the first six months of card membership. If you max that deal out, you could potentially earn 225,000 points in total. My wife and I both opened the Amex Platinum because of this deal, and we’ll definitely both earn the full 225,000 points with a little strategy! For the sake of this post, though, let’s assume you’ve only earned 80,000 total points (75,000 bonus points + 5,000 points for meeting minimum spending ).
You’ve got 18 Amex airline partners to choose from. And though several of them aren’t terribly useful, there are an elite many airlines that are guaranteed to shorten your bucket list. Here’s how to get anywhere with 80,000 Amex points.
North America: Transfer to British Airways for flights on their partner American Airlines. British Airways charges based on the distance you fly, so for short-haul flights, you could pay as little as 7,500 points. Alternately, you can transfer rewards to Singapore Airlines to book domestic flights for 25,000 miles round-trip on partner United Airlines — and just 35,000 miles round-trip to Hawaii!
South America: Transfer to Flying Blue to fly on its SkyTeam partners. Flying Blue has a “dynamic” award chart, meaning prices aren’t ever a constant, but generally you can expect to pay 58,000 miles to just about anywhere — including the very southern tip of Argentina (Ushuaia).
Europe: Take your pick — there are a handful of great partners to reach Europe for cheap. Flying Blue can get you there for 50,000 miles round-trip — and significantly less than that if they’ve got any useful Promo rewards. Air Canada will price your ticket based on the distance you fly, and they’ve got generous stopover rules, to boot. If you live on the East Coast, this could be a good bet (though expect to pay at least 70,000 miles round-trip).
Asia: Again, it depends on where you’re going. You can fly to Israel for just 50,000 points round-trip by transferring to Flying Blue (Air France and KLM). You can reach Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, etc.) for 78,000 points by transferring to Avianca, and flying on one of their Star Alliance partners — or 80,000 miles to the Maldives by transferring to ANA.
Africa: You can fly to Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Canary Islands) for 50,000 miles round-trip by transferring your points to Flying Blue. If you’re headed farther inland, you can reach South Africa for 80,000 miles by transferring to Avianca (though note you’ll pay $150+ in taxes and fees).
Australia: You can transfer points to ANA for round-trip airfare to Australia that costs just 75,000 miles — though you’ll have to fly from specific hub airports, like Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Vancouver.
Read our full Amex Platinum review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Up to 140,000 Capital One miles
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has a choose-your-own-adventure sort of welcome bonus:
- 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening
- OR, earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
The Capital One Venture earns a flat 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. So, if you achieve the full 100,000-mile bonus, you’ll have a total of 140,000 Capital One miles after you meet minimum spending. That is so many miles!! And if you think $20,000 in spending sounds like a lot, read this post.
Capital One has 16 airline transfer partners. Here’s how to get anywhere with them.
North America: Transfer to Turkish Airlines. Capital One offers a 2:1.5 transfer ratio to Turkish. So for example, if you transfer 20,000 Capital One miles to Turkish Airlines, you’ll receive 15,000 Turkish Airlines miles.
Turkish Airlines charges 15,000 miles round-trip in coach and 25,000 miles round-trip in business class for flights on partner United Airlines to anywhere in the U.S. — including Hawaii. Therefore, you’ll pay 20,000 Capital One miles in coach and 33,334 Capital One miles in business class. Just one note about Hawaii — you’ll have the best luck finding an award seat when searching from United hubs such as Newark, Washington, DC (IAD), Chicago, etc.
South America: Transfer to Avianca to reach most places in South America on the Colombian airline’s Star Alliance partners. You won’t spend more than 60,000 miles round-trip in coach, no matter where you’re going.
For the few destinations to which Star Alliance doesn’t serve, you should be able to reach them by transferring to Flying Blue and catching a ride on its SkyTeam partners. You’ll usually pay no more than 58,000 miles for a round-trip in coach — but Capital One’s transfer ratio is 2:1.5 to Flying Blue. That means you’ll spend a maximum of 77,334 Capital One miles for a flight to the bottom of the continent.
Europe: Again, several partners can take you to Europe with easy. For example, Turkish Airlines — you’ll again be subject to that unfavorable 2:1.5 transfer ratio, but it’s still a good deal. You can fly to Europe in coach for 60,000 miles round-trip (80,000 Capital One miles) or 90,000 miles in business class (120,000 Capital One miles) round-trip.
Asia: Sounding like a broken record here, but you can fly to Israel for just 50,000 Flying Blue points round-trip (you’ll have to transfer 66,667 Capital One miles). You can fly farther into Asia with Avianca (like the Maldives), topping out at 85,000 points by transferring to Avianca and flying on one of their Star Alliance partners.
Africa: Identical advice to those with Amex points instead of Capital One miles. Transfer to Flying Blue for Northern Africa destinations, and you’ll spend 50,000 miles round-trip (66,667 Capital One miles). Flying Blue can also take you to the western countries, like Kenya, for 68,000 miles in coach (90,667 Capital One miles). Or, transfer 80,000 points to Avianca and fly round-trip to South Africa.
Australia: Transfer to Avianca. You’ll pay 80,000 miles round-trip in coach to reach Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne on partner airlines United and Air Canada. This route also 80,000 miles in business class each way — so if you’re willing to spend 120,000 Capital One miles, you can fly one direction in coach and the other direction in business class with this welcome bonus.
Read our full Capital One Venture review.
Three cards currently offer a welcome bonus so massive that they can take you anywhere in the world you want to go. That’s just like having a blank airline ticket!
And if you know how to stretch your miles and points, these intro offers could take you to multiple fun destinations. At the moment, the most enticing offer to us is the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of its unprecedented 100,000 bonus coupled with its reasonable $95 annual fee. Chase points are our favorite rewards currency.
Let us know if you plan to open one of the above cards — or all of them! They’re all issued by different banks, so you could theoretically open them all the same day. Just be sure you apply for the one you want most first. Imagine earning an easy 300,000+ miles!
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