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Points and miles can be incredibly valuable. But to get outsized value redeeming your miles for flights, don’t look to economy-class seats. For a truly incredible experience, save up enough miles to fly in business class.
With spacious seats, some of which can lie completely flat, elevated meal service, early boarding and other perks, business class travel can be far more enjoyable than economy class — especially on a long flight to Europe. And if you can book business class tickets using miles, these otherwise pricey seats are suddenly within reach.
Here’s how many points U.S.-based airlines currently charge for business class flights from the U.S. to Europe:
American Airlines (MileSAAver* Award): 57,500 AAdvantage miles each way.
United (Saver Award): 60,000 MileagePlus miles each way on flights operated by United — or 77,000 miles each way for flights operated by partners.
Delta: Prices can vary widely because Delta doesn't have an award chart. Some recent sample searches found business class flights to Europe starting at 75,000 miles one-way.
That’s not bad. But some international mileage programs offer more competitive rates for business class between the U.S. and Europe.
*American recently announced the discontinuation of MileSAAver and AAnytime fares along with updates to its elite status program for 2023. See what's getting shaken up »
Here’s a look at five of the cheapest options.
34,000 Iberia Avios each way from East Coast to Spain
The absolute cheapest way that we found to get from the U.S. to Europe in business class is by using Iberia Avios. You can book a lie-flat business class seat for 34,000 Avios each way, based on Iberia’s distance-based award chart. But your routes and dates are somewhat limited.
Business-class awards to destinations at least 3,001 miles away but closer than 4,000 miles are priced at just 34,000 Avios each way during off-peak dates. Iberia operates four routes to the U.S. within this distance range:
Boston to Barcelona.
Boston to Madrid.
New York to Barcelona.
New York to Madrid.
Flights traveling between 4,001 and 5,500 miles in distance cost a bit more. You can fly from Miami or Chicago O’Hare to Madrid in business class for 42,500 miles each way. But you’ll need to fly during off-peak dates to get this rate. Iberia publishes a calendar of off-peak dates on its website, so you can easily find dates that work for you.
How to get Iberia Avios
You don’t have to be a frequent flyer on Iberia Airlines to earn Avios. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to Iberia Avios at a 1:1 ratio. Or, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Iberia Avios at a 3:1 ratio — with a 5,000-Avios bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Marriott points. Also, you can transfer British Airways Avios or Aer Lingus Avios to Iberia Avios.
Iberia also offers the Iberia Visa Signature® Card through Chase. Earn up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months of account opening.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
45,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles each way from U.S. to Europe
Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles loyalty program gives you a lot more choices for routes and dates on its low-priced business class redemptions. You can fly from anywhere in the U.S. to Europe in business class for just 45,000 miles each way. And you can use your Turkish Airlines miles to book a flight on any Star Alliance airline at this price as long as there’s award availability.
For example, 45,000 Turkish miles will get you a seat on a Swiss Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare to Zurich.
Or fly all the way from Los Angeles to Istanbul for the same price.
The only catch is that it can be hard to figure out how to start an award search online. Your best bet is to log in to your Miles&Smiles account and then browse to this search page to start.
Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Turkish Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each.
How to get Turkish Miles&Smiles
Miles&Smiles is a transfer partner of just one U.S. bank points program: Citi ThankYou Points. You can transfer ThankYou Points to Miles&Smiles at a 1:1 ratio. If you have Marriott Bonvoy points, you can transfer them to Miles&Smiles at a 3:1 ratio — with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Marriott points.
88,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles round-trip from U.S. to Europe
Japan-based All Nippon Airways Mileage Club charges just 88,000 miles round-trip between North America and Europe. Don’t worry, you don’t have to fly to Europe via Japan to get this rate. Instead, you can fly on ANA’s Star Alliance partners between the U.S. and Europe.
ANA partners include United Airlines, Air Canada, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines and more than a dozen others. For the cheapest out-of-pocket costs, use United flights whenever possible.
For example, here’s a round-trip itinerary from Chicago O’Hare to Zurich on United for 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles plus around $100 (¥10,560).
But, if you fly the exact same route on Swiss, the out-of-pocket costs jump to around $1,500 (¥160,140).
The award search function on ANA’s website doesn’t easily allow for flexible date searches. So we recommend using United’s award search tool to find award availability before booking on ANA’s website.
How to get ANA Mileage Club miles
ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio). You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to ANA at a 3:1 ratio — with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Marriott points.
50,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles each way from U.S. to Europe
U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club mileage program partners with Delta Airlines. Through this partnership, you can fly Delta One business class from the U.S. to Europe for just 50,000 Flying Club miles each way.
The catch: Flying Club charges per segment. So you’ll need to fly on a nonstop Delta route to get this excellent price. To get the lowest out-of-pocket costs, avoid flying to or from the United Kingdom.
How to get Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
One of the best parts of Flying Club is just how easy it is to collect Flying Club miles. You can transfer miles from these programs:
American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio).
Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1 ratio).
Citi ThankYou Points (1:1 ratio).
Marriott Bonvoy points (3:1 ratio plus a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points).
50,000 British Airways Avios from Northeast U.S. to Ireland
British Airways has a distance-based award chart. That means you can take advantage of the short flights between the northeast United States and Ireland to pay just 50,000 Avios one-way on Aer Lingus.
To get this rate, you’ll need to fly on off-peak dates on a route under 4,000 miles in distance. That includes at least the following eight routes:
Boston to Dublin.
Boston to Shannon.
Hartford to Dublin.
New York to Dublin.
New York to Shannon.
Newark to Dublin.
Philadelphia to Dublin.
Washington-Dulles to Dublin.
The catch here is that you can’t book Aer Lingus award flights on British Airways’ website. Instead, you’ll need to connect your British Airways Executive Club account to the Avios website to search and book.
How to get British Airways Avios
Besides flying British Airways, you have a number of options for accruing Avios. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® points or American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. Or transfer Marriott points to Avios at a 3:1 ratio — with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Marriott points.
The bottom line
There are plenty of outside-the-box options for flying business class to Europe for a reasonable number of miles. It takes a bit more time to learn how to hit these sweet spots than it does to just use American or Delta miles. But by taking advantage of airline partnerships to transfer or redeem miles, it’s easier to find a business class award ticket to Europe.
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 2023, 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