Fly Economy Around The World For Less Than 125,000 Membership Rewards Points

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A few days ago, I shared some fun ways to use the 125,000 Membership Rewards from the increased bonus on The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Just in case you missed the details of the current bonus, here they are:

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points after $10,000 in spend within 3 months
  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points after $15,000 in spend within the same 3 months

In that post, the 6 options I shared were premium cabin redemptions. Reader Max commented:

I get the enjoyment of flying first class, but with so many countries I want to see, I’d rather fly in economy and visit more! Working on getting the signup bonus for my business platinum. I should have about 270k MR to go with 100k Avios in the next few months.

I can absolutely appreciate that. Even if the first class flights look like fun experiences, some people would rather stretch their miles across multiple trips, or more destinations.

With that in mind, I was going to take a look at a few great ways to book economy flights for those about to earn 125,000 Membership Rewards, but I decided to take a slightly different angle. People often ask about booking round-the-world awards, and depending on the program those can be decent values (though are often tricky to book).

In many cases you can get a better deal by piecing together a trip using multiple awards from multiple programs, so I thought I’d put together an example of how you could piece together a trip around the world with economy class awards. Even if you’re not interested in an economy RTW right at the moment, hopefully this provides you with some inspiration for different ways to use miles.

Let’s get into it!

San Francisco to Tel Aviv for 29,000 Flying Blue miles

Currently, Air France-KLM Flying Blue requires 25,000 miles to fly one-way from the U.S. to Europe — yes, Israel is included in their definition of Europe. However, Flying Blue is making some changes and as of June 1, 2018, the lowest level award from the west coast will be 29,000 miles.

From New York (JFK), you will still be able to book for 25,000 miles while booking from Miami (MIA) will drop to 22,000 miles. Departing from other east coast airports such as Boston (BOS) and Washington Dulles (IAD) will require 26,000 miles.

Flying Blue Economy Award To Israel

We could get into how this move reminds me of Delta and how much it bothers me, but I’ll spare you for now.

Even with the change, 29,000 miles to Tel Aviv (TLV) is about as good as it’s going to get in economy. If you fly KLM through Amsterdam (AMS), you’ll have a layover of 9 or nearly 12 hours which is plenty of time to leave the airport and explore the city. Flying Air France into Paris (CDG), you could build in a layover of 12 hours.

How to book with Flying Blue miles

To find award space, you can search on either Air France or KLM’s site and book online. The taxes/fees on KLM will be around $95, while on Air France they’ll be around $115-125.

Amman to Prague via London for as little as 14,000 Avios

After exploring Israel, you can head over to Jordan to visit Amman and Petra — plan ahead for this as it’s not as simple as hopping in a car and you might need to sort out visa issues prior to crossing the border. From Amman (AMM) you can fly to London (LHR) on British Airways. If you’re flying during off-peak periods, you can get this flight for 10,000 Avios.

You can continue onto Prague (PRG) for another 4,000 Avios bringing your total to 14,000 Avios and about $170 in taxes/fees.

British Airways Avios Amman To Prague

If you’ve looked at the LHR-PRG route on gcmap.com, you’ve probably noticed it’s listed at 651 miles which would bump it to the next award tier at 6,500 Avios off-peak. Fortunately, British Airways doesn’t hold that one single mile against you. As of this writing, London to Prague still prices at 4,000 Avios off-peak.

You can also use low-cost carriers and trains to hop around western Europe if you would like to see more!

How to book with British Airways Avios

You can search and book on British Airways’ site — including the stopover. Recently, I’ve had more issues with BA’s site than usual. If it gives you trouble, just log out and try again.

Prague to Seoul for 12,805 Etihad Guest miles

From Prague, you can jet off to Seoul (ICN) by booking an economy ticket on Czech Airlines with 12,805 Etihad Guest miles. Probably not an airline you’re used to flying, but Czech Airlines flies an Airbus A330-300 (leased from Korean Air) on this route.

Czech Airlines A330
(Image courtesy of Gforce800)

When you consider this flight is listed at just under 10 hours, this is a great redemption. You can expect taxes and fees to run you about $155.

If you feel like mixing in a business class flight on this journey, this is the flight to do it. For a small premium (less than 13,000 additional miles) you can book a one-way business class award for only 25,610 miles.

How to book with Etihad Guest miles

Use Air France or KLM to find award space then call Etihad Guest to book over the phone. I’ve had really good experiences with the call center in Serbia (1-877-690-0767).

Seoul to Bangkok via Hong Kong for 17,500 Avios

After enjoying some Korean BBQ and perhaps some soju, you can make your way to Bangkok (BKK) but not before exploring Hong Kong (HKG) for a few days and having some more amazing food. Each segment is charged separately when you use British Airways Avios, so you can stay in Hong Kong for as long as you’d like.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

After that, you can head off to Bangkok to enjoy even more food and explore Thailand. You can book cheap flights on low-cost carriers around the country and neighboring countries.

By using British Airways Avios, you can fly ICN-HKG-BKK on Cathay Pacific for 17,500 Avios and about $90 in taxes/fees.

How to book with British Airways Avios

As with the flight from Amman to London (and Prague), you can search and book online with British Airways.

Bangkok to Los Angeles via Singapore and Tokyo for 38,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles

If you thought the food portion of this trip was over, you’d be wrong.

You can use 38,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles to fly Singapore Airlines from BKK to Singapore (SIN) where you can get a Michelin star meal from a hawker stall and explore Little India.

Singapore KrisFlyer Bangkok to Los Angeles

After your stopover, you can jump on a Singapore Airlines flight to Tokyo Narita (NRT). You might want to leave yourself quite a bit of time to explore not only Tokyo but other parts of Japan as well.

From NRT, you can then fly to Los Angeles (LAX). Stopovers on one-way saver awards with Singapore KrisFlyer are not free but, at $100 each, they can easily be worth it. The taxes/fees should come out to around $63 since Singapore Airlines doesn’t hit you with fuel surcharges on its own flights.

How to book with Singapore Krisflyer miles

To book, you can search for space on Singapore Airlines’ site but you’ll need to call (1-800-742-3333) to book since you’re including stopovers. Make sure you aren’t charged a phone booking fee since this cannot be done online.

Los Angeles to San Francisco for 5,500 Delta SkyMiles

After a visit to Los Angeles (LAX) to party like a celebrity, you can finish up your around the world adventure with a nonstop Delta flight to San Francisco for as little as 5,500 SkyMiles.

Delta SkyMiles Los Angeles to San Francisco

How to book with Delta SkyMiles

Booking Delta flights with SkyMiles is simple. Just use Delta’s site to search — a flexible date search can make space much easier to find — and book from there.

Around the world for 116,805 Membership Rewards points

Membership Rewards Round The World Economy

All in, this itinerary will have you flying roughly 28,000 miles around the world and that doesn’t include any additional cheap flights you use to explore Asia or Europe. Even without additional stops, you’re already at 10!

The total cost of the trip would be 116,805 Membership Rewards points and about $780 in taxes/fees.

To compare, if you booked an “official” Round the World award through ANA, you would need 120,000 ANA Mileage Club miles for a trip with 25,001 to 29,000 flight miles with 8 stopovers, so we’ve actually done a bit better than that.

Not to mention the fact that we still have about 8,000 more Membership Rewards points to burn for a short Oneworld or British Airways flight thanks to Avios — two BA flights during off-peak periods, actually.

Don’t forget Amex Travel

As an Amex Business Platinum cardholder, you can receive a 35% rebate if you use your Membership Rewards points to book a flight through Amex Travel. If you find a great cash fare deal, you might actually save some points by booking through Amex Travel.

To receive the rebate on economy flights, you must book on your preselected airline. All business and first class flights are eligible for the rebate, which will be returned to you within approximately 6-10 weeks.

If it seems unnecessarily convoluted, I’m right there with you. Even so, you might be able to get some great mileage out of this perk.

Bottom line

While the flights might not be a comfy as business or first class, economy class might be just the ticket if you’re looking use your points to visit as many places as possible. I chose these flights to highlight some of the best economy redemptions for your Amex points — if you booked business class on these tickets you’d need ~220,000 points, and there are better ways to structure premium-cabin trips.

The example above is just one example of how you could piece together an around-the-world itinerary but you could easily just book simple round-trips with a stopover. With 125,000 Membership Rewards points, you’ll have plenty of ways to book economy flight and see the world.

What are some of your favorite ways to book economy awards with Membership Rewards points?

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Comments

  1. Also remember Membership Rewards has a 25% transfer bonus right now to Flying Blue so for the round the world trip you mentioned, it would cost less than 116k MR points.

  2. So even at the 1 cent per mile redemption against real purchases it’s still about $2k for the trip, with quite a bit of stars needed to be aligned.
    Versus rock bottom fare wars pricing
    $400 for RT to Asia
    $300 for RT to Europe

  3. Flying in economy that long takes away everything from the novelty of an around-the-world trip.

  4. @ Jason

    I love me a good linguistic pedant. While you’re technically correct, can you explain why we need to differentiate between different types of “less/fewer”, but we only have one undifferentiated word for “more”?

    Surely if it’s really *important* to differentiate types of reductions, why is it not equally important to differentiate types of enlargements?

    Which kind of suggests to me the difference is not at all important. So your pedantry has literally zero purpose other than to show you’re “smarter” than someone else.

  5. Like others, I would never consider doing this in economy. However, I think something an article like this that was a “business class around the world for X miles” (or even “mixed cabin” so long as any flight >5 hours is in business class) would be really helpful to readers like myself. I, and I presume a lot of OMAAT readers, don’t mind short hops in economy, especially within europe and the US where the hard product in premium cabins is not much better.

  6. @The not-so-nice Paul-
    I dont make the rules, I just follow them/ try to follow them. Thanks.

  7. This post makes me sad. Just three years ago (2015) we flew around the world in business class using 85K USAirways Dividend Miles each (ORF-JFK-HKG-BKK-DOH-BCN-JFK-ORF) just prior to the DM/AAdvantage frequent flyer program merger. It’s amazing how fast things have deteriorated.

  8. @Spencer, you leave out one the hardest and most complex parts of the trip… leaving Israel and traveling to Jordan. Some crossings you need a visa and some others you don’t. It’s a good OMAAT article, but I would hate for some to try and book this itinerary w/o knowing this challenge. It was worth the extra sentence.

  9. @Jason — Paul has it right. If in personal conversation you say fewer rather than less in appropriate circumstances then you are merely following the rules.

    If, however, you come to a blog’s comments to correct another’s use of grammar then you are doing much more than merely following the rules. Admit it or not, you are indeed a pedant. Feel free to defend pedantry. Fabric-of-society or whatever pedants like to say while correcting others. But at least be honest about what you are.

  10. @Robbo – quick (cheap) flight to Bali from Singapore and you’re there or just rearranged the intra-asia flights a bit and book an award 🙂

  11. If everyone could chill and not be so elitist. I’m glad to see a post about economy flying as some people want this content. I for one don’t care to spend loads of miles on business class. I’d rather take those and book more flights or use chase UR to get hotels etc.

    Why pay boat loads of points for mediocre in flight food, a couple fancy drinks and a nap ?

    Eat in the lounge, grab a nice dinner outside the airport, sleep at a 4 star hotel.

  12. The less vs fewer distinction has never been a hard rule, in the way that subject-verb agreement is. Historically, it’s been more down to preferences that somehow got established as a convention, and we all know that preferences/conventions can change, hence the relatively common (and mostly accepted) use of ‘less’ for count nouns in modern Spoken English.

    The usage of less/fewer has never been consistent in any case. Time and Distance measures are effectively count nouns (year, mile), yet they represent quantities on a continuum rather than being discrete (atomic). This may be why people generally find ‘less’ more natural than ‘fewer’ when applied to such measures.

    “I’ve lived hear less than 3 years, so I can’t get credit approval.”
    “I just did my four A3 segments so that’s 12000 miles less to fly before I qualify for *G.”

    But I honestly don’t know the answer to Paul’s comment about why there aren’t two versions of ‘more’.

  13. Should transfer the MR to ANA and book the trip in business class…not a good use of miles and way too confusing.

  14. Spencer why would anyone fly around the world in economy when they can fly in biz for the same amount of points? Maybe you could break the mold of useless articles on this blog by writing about the Amex Aspire card.

  15. I am also surprised how you don´t consider booking flights without points. For example a flight from Tel Aviv to Prague on El Al or Czech airlines goes for 100-150€, why would you pay that amount of money and miles and connect in London rather than flying direct

  16. @Jackie – If you’d like to read about biz class redemptions — perhaps, 125k MR to ANA for a RTW biz class trip, you can check out the article I wrote last week and linked to several comments above yours. Personally, I’d prefer to fly biz class as well, but we had a reader ask about using the points to fly economy which seemed like a fair request. Thanks for reading.

  17. @Richi – Lots of ways to book these kinds of RTW trips. The article was meant to give an idea of how many ways you can book economy awards. Regarding the connection in London, that was intentional as to provide another destination. As a rule, I think it’s important to check cash prices when booking economy awards so one can decide if spending the points is worth it (or if paying cash is in the budget).

  18. I’d rather pound a railroad spike through my foot than fly RTW in Y. Why anyone would torture themselves in this way is beyond me.

  19. @Spencer

    Sounds good. Maybe you can write me an article on how to travel around the world on a camel going backwards with membership reward points.

  20. Jackie and all elitist hobos,
    This blog is not just for first/biz travel and I absolutely like content that’s geared towards we value travelers. Get off your high horse/ lounge and see the world that has diverse people.

  21. Thanks Spencer for the research and useful article. I never fly business/first. To me the value is not there vs. the cost. So, this article and ANA RTW info will come in handy..

  22. You’d definitely get more value by transferring 125k MR points to ANA and booking a 22,000 mile RTW trip in business.

  23. Thank you for this article. Being a tightwad I want to get value out of my points. I wouldn’t mind a few business class legs, but I am fine with cattle car. if given the choice between hotel upgrades and business class, I go for the hotel at least internationally.

  24. @Spencer, sure you can buy a flight from Singapore to Bali and cross into the Southern Hemisphere, but can you really consider yourself to have crossed round the world when your itinerary misses the continents of:

    Australia
    Africa
    South America

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