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For those chomping at the bit to start traveling again and wanting to book a trip using points… there’s hope around the corner!
Greece is among the most sought after summer destinations in Europe. And starting on July 1, the Greek government is planning to open up the country to non-EU citizens.
Yes, there’s an international destination on the horizon. Of course, this comes with a big caveat. The Greek government originally planned to open up to tourism on June 15, but instead Greece (and all of the EU) pushed back the date to July 1.
Will they push it back again? I sure hope not. But in any case, it’d be best to be prepared for potential last-minute changes and waits/quarantines at the border. Like the most places, Greece will sure to be extra careful. Be sure to check the latest status as you plan any Greek vacay.
Greek Summer Trip Using Points
But let’s say everything goes as planned and Greece is open for business on July 1. How do you book a trip using points to fly in business class?
There are four major credit card currencies (Chase, Amex, Citi, and CapitalOne), so let’s pick your best option for flights using each credit card company.
Chase – How to Book a Trip Using Points
While Chase has a variety of great transfer partners, the best bet to book a trip using points is:
Transfer to United Airlines
- One-way business class flights to Greece from the U.S. will cost 77,000 United Airlines miles. While the price is a little steep, the benefit is a very favorable out-of-pocket cost. Some airlines charge massive fuel surcharges and taxes on its award flights, but United Airlines (thankfully) doesn’t pass on those charges. So the business class flight to Greece will only cost around $20 (in addition to the 77,000 miles/points).
- The sample itinerary includes an award flight on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), one of the many European members of the Star Alliance. Since United Airlines is also a member of the Star Alliance, you can use United miles for redemptions on these other partner airlines.
- But the real advantage with United miles is booking flights on other airlines that would typically have a higher fuel surcharge. The primary examples of these airlines are Lufthansa, Swiss Air, or Austrian Airlines. If you book business class flights on any of these three airlines using United miles, you can avoid a $400+ fuel surcharges that you would normally pay. So while it’s a tad more expensive in terms of miles, you can help save hundreds of dollars in pesky fuel surcharges.
American Express – How to Book a Trip Using Points
American Express is the other major player in the credit card points world. Amex was the original reward credit card, and they have a number of great partnerships with airlines from around the world. However, the best transfer partner for a booking a trip using point to Greece isn’t too far from home. Your best bets are:
Transfer to Aeroplan (Air Canada)
- While Amex doesn’t partner with United Airlines, it does partner with our neighbors to the north’s flag carrier, Air Canada. Since Air Canada is a Star Alliance partner, they have access to virtually the same award availability as United Airlines, so this is another fantastic way to fly to Athens. Even better, Air Canada has a very favorable award chart, so the same flight from Chicago to Athens that cost 77,000 United miles would only cost 55,000 Air Canada miles.
- But here’s the catch… Air Canada passes on the high fuel surcharges from a number of European airlines, including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Swiss Air. And when I say high fuel surcharges, I’m talking $400+ each way. Yikes. But since there are so many European members of the Star Alliance, there are other airlines that provide a ton of award availability between the U.S. and Greece. For example, in the previous example itinerary, the flights take place on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which doesn’t charge insanely high fuel surcharges. This means that redeeming your Amex points via Air Canada miles for this exact same flight would save you 22,000 miles each way. In certain situations, it makes much more sense to redeem Aeroplan/Air Canada miles.
Citi – How to Book a Trip Using Points
Citi’s ThankYou points are often passed over for the more popular credit card points programs like Chase and Amex. But the more transfer partners Citi adds the more attractive ThankYou points become. Citi doesn’t partner with any of the Big Three U.S. airlines (American, Delta, and United), which is probably why it’s overlooked.
But Citi has a variety of other quality transfer partners. For example, for booking a trip using points to Greece, you should focus on how to:
Transfer to Avianca LifeMiles
- Perhaps you’ve never even heard of Avianca, the largest airline in Colombia, and a Star Alliance member. Regardless, Avianca has a fantastic frequent flyer program with competitive redemption rates. But the best part? Avianca never passes along any fuel surcharges on its award tickets. This means flying to Greece for 63,000 miles on Lufthansa, Swiss Air, or Austrian Airlines without paying $400+ in additional taxes and fees.
- Here’s an example itinerary on Swiss Air from Chicago to Athens. The total number of miles required is 63,000 – fewer than United (77,000) but more than Air Canada (55,000). For most frequent flyer programs, the tradeoff for paying more in miles is saving some of the taxes and fees.
- But in this case, Avianca is the best of both worlds. The same itinerary would cost 14,000 more miles when redeemed on United, and while Air Canada might be slightly cheaper (55,000 total), Air Canada redemptions on Swiss Air would need to incorporate fuel surcharges of $400+. For certain itineraries, using Avianca miles can make for a terrific deal, and a trip to Greece or anywhere else in Europe is one of these sweet spots.
- The downside: Avianca is known for its rather lackluster customer service. You might be left fending for yourself if things don’t go as planned and you need to change your ticket. Given that countries are constantly changing their policies for when to open their borders to tourists, this is something to keep in mind.
Capital One – How to Book A Trip Using Points
Capital One is a relative rookie in the credit card points world, but they are nonetheless a player and another option to consider for a trip to Greece.
The credit card company has a surprisingly good collection of airline transfer partners to choose from, many of which overlap with the other credit card companies. For example, you can transfer your Capital One points into both the Air Canada and Avianca frequent flyer programs.
But there’s a catch – Capital One points only transfer to the frequent flyer programs at a rate of 3:2. This means that in order to obtain 55,000 Air Canada frequent flyer miles, you’d need to transfer over 82,500 Capital One points. This is an important reminder that not all credit card points are created equal!
Still, there are some decent options for redeeming Capital One points for a trip to Greece. One possibility is to:
Transfer to Air France/KLM
- Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called Flying Blue. Flying Blue is noteworthy because it participates with SkyTeam, the same airline alliance as Delta. While Star Alliance has the most award space options between the U.S. and Europe, both Air France and KLM release a decent amount as well. Award availability can vary, but you can find business class award space to Athens for only 53,000 Air France/KLM miles.
- This is a great deal, but keep in mind that the transfer ratio between Capital One and Air France/KLM is 3:2, so this award flight would cost 79,500 Capital One points. Also… if you can read the fine print below the price of the flight, Air France/KLM passes along an annoying fuel surcharge of $228 on this award flight. So while the mileage cost is very low, the fuel surcharges tacked on to make it a little less appealing. But nonetheless, still an option.
Emirates – A Unique Opportunity
What makes Emirates unique? First of all, Emirates partners with all of the credit card currencies (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One). So you can easily acquire Emirates miles with almost any major credit card in your wallet.
But there are other airlines that overlap with multiple credit card companies. Air France/KLM partners with all four major players. You can transfer points from Amex, Citi, or Capital One to Avianca. What makes Emirates so special is that there just so happens to be a direct flight between New York’s Newark Airport (EWR) and Athens, Greece. In addition, Emirates recently lowered the taxes and fees on their award tickets. Talk about a perfect combo! Looking for dates in August, there was still a ton of award availability at a very favorable 62,500 miles and only $40.10 in fees.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, the bad part is that this awesome deal ONLY works for New York City to Athens… meaning you’re on the hook for your own airfare to NYC if you live outside of the Big Apple. And if you’re dreaming about sipping champagne at Emirates famous onboard bar, take note that this flight operates with a Boeing 777 rather than the Airbus A380. So while the Emirates experience will be amazing, it may not be exactly as you expect.
And listen… SAS, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, and KLM are all fine airlines But it’d be hard to beat 10+ hours in Emirates business class. If you can make it work, I’d try to fly Emirates.
If you want to book a trip using points and you’re looking for potential destinations, Greece should definitely be on your radar. There are a variety of redemption options no matter what credit card points you have, and award space seems to be plentiful. But remember… be flexible. Expect delays and last-minute changes. Traveling will be different. But hopefully, soon we can get back to normal.