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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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?