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Amex Membership Rewards points are a favorite of points collectors and for good reason. With 17 airline transfer partners (and 3 hotel partners you probably shouldn’t use) plus a variety of ways to earn points, they’re a go-to points program for many of us.
So, let’s get into it!
Amex offers a bunch of cards that earn Membership Rewards points. Whether you’re looking for a personal card or a small business card, you’ll have plenty of choices. In addition to a large sign-up bonus, many of these cards have a variety of bonus categories to help you earn points faster or perks such as airport lounge access.
If you have a card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can link it to your Rakuten account. Doing so allows you to earn points instead of cashback when you use the Rakuten shopping portal.
Generally, you can earn a $30-40 sign-up bonus when you join Rakuten after spending $30-40. If you choose to earn Amex points instead, this would bee 3,000 to 4,000 points.
For those booking business class on Star Alliance partners from the east coast and central US, Air Canada's Aeroplan program is a great choice. There are numerous one-way nonstop choices that cost 60,000 Aeroplan points, and many more that only cost 70,000 points.
Plus, Aeroplan is the only Star Alliance program that is allowed to book Singapore Airlines business class. This can really come in handy on Singapore’s two fifth freedom routes to Europe: JFK to Frankfurt and Houston to Manchester.
Aeroplan doesn't pass on surcharges, so you can avoid steep taxes and fees. A stopover can also be added to a one-way award ticket for an extra 5,000 points.
Your total flight distance cannot exceed 4,000 flight miles in order to book at the 60,000-mile rate. Your flight distance must be between 4,001 and 6,000 flight miles to book at the 70,000-mile rate. Please refer to the Aeroplan award chart as the award rate is determined by the origin/destination’s regions plus your total flight distance.
For 70,000 Aeroplan points one-way, you can book business class from the east coast to destinations like Ghana via Europe on Star Alliance partners. The award rate increases to 90,000 points when you fly more than 6,000 miles. For example, a one-way flight to Ethiopia or Kenya would cost 90,000 points.
Before you dive into this one, just know that it’s tough to book. However, if you have the patience to sit on the phone and get lucky, there’s a lot of value here.
To start, Amex Membership Rewards points transfers to Aeromexico at a 1:1.6 ratio so you’ll need to transfer 220,000 Amex points to get the necessary 352,000 kilometers.
You can include 3 to 15 stopovers and include flights on any of Aeromexico’s SkyTeam partners. You must travel either east to west or west to east - you can’t backtrack. Additionally, you must travel in the same class of service on all flights. So, if you want a business class RTW ticket, all flights must be in business class.
The key to the award rate of 87,500 Aeroplan points is keeping the total flight distance of your itinerary to no more than 11,000 flight miles. Whether you’re flying EVA Air via Taipei, All Nippon Airways (ANA) via Tokyo, or Etihad via Abu Dhabi, that’s the key. Plus, Aeroplan is the only Star Alliance program that is able to book business class award tickets on Singapore Airlines.
Once you reach 11,001 flight miles, you’ll need 115,000 points for a one-way business class award ticket.
While it can be tough to book business class to South America on flights with lie-flat seats, it certainly makes for a more enjoyable journey. If the flight distance is 4,501+ flight miles, you can book a one-way award for 60,000 Aeroplan points. You’ll only need 50,000 points for flights between 2,501 and 4,500 miles.
You can use fewer points to fly to Tokyo with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, but you’ll be on the hook for surcharges. Depending on the rate at which Japan has capped surcharges, that could mean $400+ taxes/fees on a one-way award ticket.
With Aeroplan, you won’t be on the hook for surcharges which means you can book with 75,000 points and save a nice chunk of cash. Plus, you can include connections on other Star Alliance partners and/or connect to other destinations in the region for no additional points
If you happen to book a non-stop between Seattle and Tokyo, you’ll only need 55,000 Aeroplan points. It’s a niche option, but a fun sweet spot if it fits your travel plans!
Many airline programs will charge you 10% of the cash fare for an infant. This can be particularly expensive when booking one-way premium cabin awards for yourself. However, with Aeroplan, you can include a lap infant for only C$25 one-way.
ANA offers the best around the world ticket option. You can include 8 stopovers and take advantage of some great award rates. The total flight distance will determine the number of miles you need. I think the sweet spot is 20,001 to 22,000 total flight distance which requires 125,000 miles. Just keep an eye on surcharges as ANA will pass those on to you.
When booking ANA flights to Japan, you can get the best round-trip award rate with ANA Mileage Club. The key is that ANA Mileage Club only allows you to book round-trip awards.
Another important factor to consider is that ANA has low, regular, and high season award rates:
For award flights to South Korea, the round-trip award rates for ANA flights increase a bit, but it’s still a fantastic option. Of course, if you can book a business class award on an ANA flight with their new business class (The Room), the long-haul will be even better. Here are the award rates:
For flights to Southeast Asia, ANA Mileage Club is yet again a great option when flying ANA business class. Again, you’ll see a bit of an increase in award rate but it’s still a great rate. Here are the rates:
El Al isn’t always the most generous about releasing business class award space on flights between Tel Aviv and Boston, New York, and Newark. However, if you can find space, 90,000 points is a solid option for a nonstop flight to Israel. Yes, there are options that require fewer miles, but it’s tough to find non-stop options.
Iberia business class one-way to Madrid for 34,000 Avios is a regular favorite among points collectors. There are two things you must keep in mind in order to get this rate.
Finding award space on off-peak dates is key, as flying on peak days costs 50,000 Avios one-way (still a solid option). Fortunately, Iberia provides a calendar with off-peak and peak travel dates.
Second, to book at this rate, you must fly non-stop from Boston, Chicago, JFK, or Washington Dulles to Madrid. Since Iberia and BA have reward charts based on flight distance, other US routes and trips involving connections will require more Avios.
With Amex Membership Rewards points, this is the best way to book Qantas business class to Australia. Award space is often tough to find, but 90,000 Asia Miles is a great way to book a non-stop to/from the US. You can also include a connection on Qantas to other parts of Australia.
If you’re visiting North Asia but can’t find space on ANA itself, you can still get a great rate by including flights on Star Alliance partners. For 95,000 ANA miles, you can book a round-trip business class ticket on partners such as United, Air Canada, and Asiana Airlines.
You’re probably noticing a trend. ANA has some fantastic award rates on a ton of different routes whether you’re only flying ANA or you’re flying Star Alliance partners. Whether you’re just booking connecting flights or the entire itinerary on Star Alliance carriers, 136,000 ANA miles round-trip is an excellent way to book.
For itineraries on Cathay Pacific that cover 7,501+ flight miles, you can book business class one-way with 85,000 Asia Miles. This could be a non-stop flight from New York to Hong Kong or it could be a flight to Australia, South Africa, Thailand, etc. with a connection in Hong Kong.
Royal Air Maroc offers a solid non-stop option to Casablanca for 60,000 BA Avios one way from the east coast. It's an excellent way to get to Morocco, where you can continue to places like Fez and Marrakech.
If you’re departing from the west coast, you can get a one-way non-stop Cathay business class award for 70,000 Asia Miles. You can even include a short connection if you can keep the total flight distance to no more than 7,500 flight miles.
British Airways is notorious for imposing massive surcharges on award tickets. BA’s own program and other oneworld programs pass on all of these surcharges. However, Asia Miles only passes on some of the surcharges to you so you can keep your cash cost lower.
Ideally, you’ll start your award ticket on British Airways outside the UK. If you start your journey from the UK, you’ll be on the hook for the pricey Air Passenger Duty (APD) fee. However, if you only connect or arrive in the UK, you won’t have to pay the APD fee.
Asia Miles provides one of the best ways to book a multi-carrier award ticket on oneworld partners. If you can avoid airline partners with steep surcharges, this can be an excellent way to include multiple stops on an itinerary.
More specifically, you can include up to 5 stopovers on a multi-carrier award ticket. Additionally, 2 open-jaws and 2 transfers are allowed to be included. To book, your itinerary must include at least 2 oneworld airlines other than Cathay Pacific. You’ll need to call to book.
Delta SkyMiles is notorious for having some horrible business class award rates for its own flights as well as partner flights. On the rare occasion, Delta does run discounted award rates for its own flights. For example, I’ve seen 148,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip business class award ticket to Europe.
You can book a nonstop business class on a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo for 77,250 Avios from Los Angeles or San Francisco. JAL is known for its fantastic crews so you can feel confident that you’ll have a wonderful experience.
Flying Blue offers Promo Awards from select airports each month. While business class Promo Rewards from the US/Canada aren't released every month, when they are, they’re great opportunities to use Flying Blue miles.
With a promo, the 55,000-mile award rate can drop to 41,250 miles with a discount of 25%. You would just need 27,500 miles with a 50% discount. There isn’t a discount on the taxes/fees.
HawaiianMiles is a niche program as it’s really only good for award tickets on Hawaiian Airlines and saver level award space is generally tough to find. Still, if you can find saver level first class award space to/from the contiguous 48 states, you can book a one-way award for 40,000 HawaiianMiles.
Note: In the US, “first class” and “business class” are often used interchangeably. This can cause some confusion. Hawaiian Airlines first class is really a business class product.
Generally, I tell people to book business class awards outright rather than upgrade with their points. British Airways is an exception though as you’re often better off booking a premium economy cash ticket then upgrading to business class with Avios.
For 90,000 Aeroplan points one way, you can book a business class flight from the east coast to India with a connection in Europe. You might prefer to book a separate cash ticket once in Delhi to visit destinations further south in India, such as Mumbai and Goa, where the award rate would increase to 110,000 points one-way.
Although it is rarely mentioned, China Airlines can be a great way to fly non-stop between the US and Taipei. Unfortunately, there aren’t many useful options for booking award tickets. However, using 82,500 Flying Blue miles for a one-way business class ticket to/from Vancouver is a solid option. From other west coast cities, you’ll see award rates starting at 90,000 miles.
At 108,000 Skywards miles + ~$260 taxes/fees round-trip, this is a great way to book Emirates business class between JFK and Milan. You can get the same rate between Newark and Athens, but the business class cabin on Emirates’ Boeing 777 doesn’t have lie-flat seats.
Additionally, the cabin is arranged in a 2-3-2 layout so many seats don’t have direct aisle access. It still might be worth booking but keep that in mind.
Please note that the one-way rate is 87,000 Emirates miles.
Singapore KrisFlyer runs monthly Spontaneous Escapes. These promos are similar to the Flying Blue Promo Rewards. Each month, select routes are bookable with KrisFlyer miles with a 30% discount. You need to book for the following month (thus, spontaneous), but it’s a great option if you can make it work.
Singapore’s JFK-Frankfurt route has been included in their monthly promo many times. At 30% off, 81,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way becomes 56,700 miles one-way.
If you can find award space on Star Alliance carriers which don’t have surcharges, 88,000 ANA miles are a great way to book round-trip award tickets to Europe. Some good options include United, Aeroplan, and TAP Air Portugal. Avoid Austrian, Lufthansa, and Swiss if at all possible as the total taxes/fees on a round-trip award will exceed $1,400 because of the surcharges.
Virgin points could be used to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, but there would be hefty surcharges. You can book a non-stop business class award ticket to London for 64,000 miles plus modest taxes/fees with Flying Blue. You can expect the award rate to increase the longer the route - i.e. flying from LAX will require more points than flying from JFK.
If departing London, the UK's APD will mean steeper taxes/fees.
Generally speaking, Qatar Airways Qsuites are regarded as one of the top two business class cabins in the sky. For just 70,000 Avios round-trip, you can book a non-stop flight to or from Doha. The cost will increase to 75,000 or 80,000 Avios if you want to connect within the Middle East.
Emirates’ partnership with Korean Air is often overlooked - even by longtime points enthusiasts. However, Emirates Skywards provides a solid option for booking business class award tickets at 88,000 miles one-way.
Award space in business class on Finnair can be tough to find but the rate of 61,000 miles one-way is a solid way to book when you find space. If you want to connect to other European cities, expect the rate to increase to 75,000 miles one-way.
Sometimes, booking Qsuites awards which include connecting flights through Qatar's own program instead of British Airways will require fewer Avios. This extra step is worthwhile as you’ll only need 95,000 Qatar Avios to fly Qsuites to Southeast Asia.
You'll need to open a Qatar Privilege Club account in addition to your BA Executive Club and then link the accounts. This will allow you to transfer Avios between the two accounts.
The saver level award rates are determined by Flying Blue based on origin and destination pairs. A number of US/EU city pairs have business class awards for only 55,000 miles one-way. Surcharges make the taxes and fees a bit expensive ($250-$300 one-way), however if you want to keep cash prices down, you can simply use another program to book an award in the other direction.
Just like Europe, you can use 88,000 ANA miles for a round-trip business class award ticket to South America. It can be a bit tough to find a true business class with lie-flat seats as many flights to South America are operated by narrow-body aircraft with recliners - often called domestic first class.
On some flights during off-peak times, you can book an Aer Lingus business class one-way ticket for 50,000 Avios (2022 & 2023 dates). To avoid significant surcharges, you should book through Avios.com rather than the British Airways website.
Boston (BOS), Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Toronto (YYZ), and Washington Dulles (IAD) all have nonstop Aer Lingus flights to Dublin (DUB).
They also operate flights from BOS and JFK to Shannon (SNN) and between JFK and Manchester (MAN). Don't book Aer Lingus from MAN to JFK if you want to avoid paying the Air Passenger Duty (APD) fee.
LifeMiles is one of the best ways to book business class award tickets to Europe. Not only is the rate of 63,000 miles one-way a great option, but LifeMiles doesn’t pass on surcharges to you so the taxes/fees are generally quite reasonable.
Emirates just edges out British Airways Avios as when it comes to book Japan Airlines business class between Seattle and Tokyo at 76,000 miles vs 77,250 Avios.
Whether you’re booking a non-stop on United or Air New Zealand or connecting on Star Alliance carriers via Asia, LifeMiles provides a great option at 80,000 miles for business class. While connecting does add some time to your journey, there are some nice business class products to/from Asia to enjoy!
LifeMiles splits South America into two regions: Northern and Southern. You can book a one-way business class award to the Northern region for 45,000 miles. This includes popular destinations such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
For the Southern region, you can book business class for 60,000 miles one-way to destinations such as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
Since Aeroplan now has access to Singapore Air business class award space (it’s the only Star Alliance partner that does), KrisFlyer isn’t the only game in town. However, sometimes, KrisFlyer members get access to additional award space. In those cases, 81,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket between JFK and Frankfurt or Houston and Manchester is a solid way to book!
ANA continues to be one of the most highly rated airlines in the world. Plus, with Virgin points, you have a great way to book ANA business class - try to find a flight with their new business class (“The Room”).
For only 45,000 Virgin points, you can book a one-way award ticket on a non-stop flight from the west coast. If you’re on the east coast or in the central US, it’s still only 47,500 points for a one-way ticket.
While Delta SkyMiles has terrible award rates for business class flights to Europe, Virgin points provide a great option if you want to fly non-stop to/from Europe. At only 50,000 points one-way, it’s a much better choice than 105,000 SkyMiles.
Air New Zealand business class award space is tough to find but Virgin Atlantic Flying Club provides a great way to book if you do. At only 62,500 points one-way, it’s one of the best award rates to New Zealand. The business class cabin isn’t top of the line but you don’t have to connect in Asia or Australia which can shorten your travel time.
For most awards booked with Virgin Atlantic FLying Club, you need more points if you want a connection. However, for tickets booked on Air France or KLM, that’s not the case. In fact, Virgin sometimes has better award rates than Air France-KLM’s own Flying Blue program. Between the east coast/central US to Western Europe, you’ll only need 48,500 points on off-peak dates.
As one of the most valuable points programs on the market, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself earning and redeeming Amex points at some point during your points journey. With so many redeem Membership Rewards points for business class, it really just comes down to deciding on your next travel goal. I’ll leave that up to you!
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