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You might have a bunch of frequent flyer miles for a specific airline, but often those miles are actually more valuable when redeemed for flights on other airlines, known as a partner award booking.
Or, you might have a lot of generic travel points from big banks like American Express or Chase. While you can use them to book airfare directly through the bank's online travel portals, often these points are more valuable when transferred to the actual frequent flyer program of an airline.
And sometimes, you’ll want to do both: Transfer your generic bank points to one airline, then use those points to book a partner award on a second airline for maximum value.
» Learn more: How do miles work with partner airlines?
When it comes to international travel, there are often dozens of airlines to choose from, not to mention a daunting variety of ways to book the flights and redeem your points (online, over the phone, with an award chart, dynamic pricing, etc.).
We built a tool that allows you to input the points/miles that you have and where you want to go, and we’ll give you our recommendations based on our nerdy research of which partner airline likely offers the best value for your points.
If you have credit card points ...
You can typically redeem credit card points through the airline’s travel portal, where you pay the equivalent cash airfare in your points’ value. This is generally seen as the most straightforward way to redeem points, and it can be lucrative if you’ve found an incredible cash airfare deal (perhaps the airline is offering a fare sale).
But for sweet-spot redemptions, the best way for travelers to afford them isn’t by fronting thousands of dollars. Instead, transfer your credit card points to airline frequent flyer programs, and then you’re looking at better redemption rates.
If you have frequent flyer miles with an airline ...
If you have many miles or points with a specific airline, you might be inclined to just log on to its website, search for flights and book one. And while some airlines make it easy to see award flights offered on partner airlines directly on their website, others do not.
Sometimes you have to pick up the phone and call, or you may even need to check a different airline’s website to see the award flight availability. You may also run into limited availability with certain partners and awards. Our tool will help you narrow down your focus to a few key airlines and will give you tips on how to book those award flights with partner airline miles.
What about domestic airfares?
We did not include domestic airfares simply because the best flights often vary based on origin and destination and are often easier to locate and book through common booking tools as compared to the complexities of booking international flights.
For example, if you have Delta miles and want to travel in the U.S., you’re typically best off using them for actual Delta flights (there are only a few Delta partners within the U.S. anyway, such as Hawaiian Airlines).If you have more general travel rewards points, you’re typically better off finding what airlines serve the city you’re trying to get to. From there, see if any of those airlines are good transfer partners with the rewards currency you have. Use our guides to the best Citi ThankYou transfer partners, the best Chase transfer partners, and the best AmEx transfer partners to know which ones are a worthy fit.
The bottom line
If you’re looking to head abroad with those travel or airline miles you’ve saved up during the pandemic, use our tool to start your search in the right direction to get the maximum value for your points. After inputting your type of points/miles and your desired destination, read our suggestions for ways to use those points or miles that often get you a great value.
As always, the timing and departure/arrival locations of your specific trip can alter the pricing, so you’ll want to check the airline search tool directly for updated pricing and booking options.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card