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Here’s how to fly to London using points and miles

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 7/29/2021 Eric Rosen
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London regularly ranks among the world’s most-visited city thanks to its historical sights, world-class museums, fabulous hotels, a dynamic dining scene and a diverse patchwork of up-and-coming neighborhoods.

With the U.K. dropping quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers on Aug. 2, 2021. This makes traveling to London much easier, since you no longer have to quarantine for up to 10 days and undergo multiple covid tests during your stay. If you’re looking forward to traveling to London now once the quarantine requirement has been dropped, here are all your options for getting there using points and miles.

In This Post

Budget

The good news is, the exchange rate of British pounds to U.S. dollars remains steady at a favorable £1: $1.39 or so.

Now for the bad news. Traditional airline award tickets that begin or end in London are often subject to hefty fuel surcharges that can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the price of a ticket on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, specifically.

You might consider saving regular airline miles and forgoing transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, or Marriott Bonvoy to one of their airline partner programs. Instead, we’ve been seeing some solid flight deals to London, including $484 round-trip fares this fall on TAP Air Portugal.

If that falls within your budget, consider booking it using a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You can then redeem your miles at a fixed value for a statement credit toward the travel purchase. That $484 flight? It would cost you 48,400 Venture miles.

Certain airlines (like Norwegian) that tend to offer the lowest fares are not typically bookable through Amex Travel or the Citi ThankYou Rewards travel portal, so that does restrict your options somewhat.

However, now that Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal is on an Expedia platform, they should be bookable there using points from a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. If you do have the Sapphire Reserve, remember you can redeem points directly for travel through the portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. So a $484 round-trip airfare would cost just 32,266 points — another bargain.

If you still want to use traditional airline miles, Delta has in the past posted cheap flash award sales, including ones to London for just 30,000 miles round-trip. The program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards if you have a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express.

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Finally, don’t forget about Air France/KLM Flying Blue Promo Awards, which chops 25%-50% off regular award prices to Europe from a variety of North American gateways that change every month. Flying Blue has reintroduced these awards after discontinuing them at the start of the pandemic, though U.S.-departing awards have not returned to the fold.

It’s hard to peg down award rates now that Flying Blue has begun pricing awards dynamically, but economy awards should range up from around 11,000 miles each way, and business class can be found for as low as 26,500 miles each way.

Just beware taxes and surcharges that can be several hundred dollars. The program is especially useful, though, as it is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase, Citi and Marriott.

diagram: An example discounted Flying Blue award in business class from Montreal to London (screenshot courtesy of airfrance.fr) © The Points Guy An example discounted Flying Blue award in business class from Montreal to London (screenshot courtesy of airfrance.fr)

Moderate

Have a few more dollars and points to spare? Even a small stockpile will get you a lot more luxury when flying to Europe.

As with the budget traveler, if you’re looking to save some money on your airline ticket, your first order of business should be to avoid British Airways. Not only is the airline’s business class looking quite old at this point (though improvements are imminent), but the airline also imposes fuel surcharges that can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the class of ticket you book.

Instead, consider redeeming ANA Mileage Club miles for United flights to/from the U.K. The program is a 1:1 Membership Rewards transfer partner and will charge just 55,000 miles in economy, or 88,000 miles in business class for a round-trip award ticket to Europe.


Gallery: 10 Signs That It’s Time To Ditch Your Credit Card (GOBankingRates)

Virgin Atlantic has decent mileage redemption rates but also charges high fees for award tickets to/from the U.K. For example, here’s a round-trip economy award from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR) in September for 30,000 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $474 in taxes fees.

graphical user interface, text, application, email: (Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com)

Versus 80,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $205.95 in taxes and fees.

graphical user interface, application: (Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com)

Luxury

Given the high taxes and fees on many award tickets to London specifically, this could be one instance where it’s worth the splurge to pay to fly business or first class. Rather than talking too much about how miles will save you a bundle, let’s cover some ways to score premium tickets at a discount.

But first, if you do want to go purely points and miles for a business- or first-class redemption, we have a few posts for you to check out. Those include Booking first class awards to Europe, top 5 ways to fly to Europe in first class and top 10 ways to fly business class to Europe using miles.

If you have the money and miles to spare, it could also be worth considering the British Airways Visa Signature Card and its Travel Together Companion Ticket.

But to summarize, if you have the British Airways card and spend $30,000 within a calendar year, you get a two-for-one award voucher. What that means is, when you use British Airways Avios to book an award ticket on BA metal, including in business or first class, you get a second equivalent award ticket for a companion on your same reservation for no additional Avios. The one caveat is that you have to pay taxes and fees on the tickets, which can be well over $1,000 round-trip in business and first class.

That said, you could save a significant amount of Avios and pay a fraction of the price of what a full-fare business class or first class ticket would normally cost. It’s also a sound points strategy overall because British Airways releases quite a lot of business and first class awards on its flights to and from the U.S.

If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you could consider paying for your tickets too. Both cards participate in Amex’s International Airline Program, which can include significant discounts on premium economy, business class and first class tickets on 27 participating airlines.

Use the Platinum Card’s International Airline Program to score discounts on airlines like Air France. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Use the Platinum Card’s International Airline Program to score discounts on airlines like Air France. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Partner carriers include Air France, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Delta, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic, among others. In our tests of the International Airline Program, we found savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars on flights to Europe.

Again, this is a good option only if you wanted to pay for your ticket anyway; you might as well save money and points when doing so, while still earning airline miles and elite credit.

Bear in mind that Business Platinum cardholders can enjoy a 35% points rebate on business- and first-class redemptions when using Amex’s Pay With Points feature when booking through amextravel.com (up to 500,000 points per calendar year). So if you find a reasonable cash fare, this could be a way to put your Membership Rewards points to use.

Stocking up on points and miles

That’s a lot of options, but it can also be a lot of miles. If your balances aren’t quite up to it, the good news is that there are some incredible card offers currently available to top off your account. Many feature historically high sign-up bonuses that can put the awards you want within reach. Among those to consider based on the strategies above are…

Transferable and fixed-value points cards

If you want Amex Membership Rewards points that transfer to British Airways Avios, Delta SkyMiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, you could consider getting The Platinum Card® from American Express, which is offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways Avios, United MileagePlus and Flying Blue, among other partners. The Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Though its annual fee is $550, you get up to $300 worth of travel credits each calendar year and enjoy a wealth of additional perks.

With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you earn 2x miles per dollar on every purchase and can redeem them at a fixed value of one cent apiece for statement credits or transfer them to over a dozen partners. The card has a  $95 annual fee. It currently carries a sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card also has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Though it has a $95 annual fee, you also get up to $100 in airline incidental fee statement credits each year, which can save you on things like checked bags or seat assignment charges.

The card earns 2x points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1.5x points on everything else. Miles are worth one cent apiece when redeemed for statement credits and travel purchases, among other options.

Airline credit cards

At the moment, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is offering 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold from American Express has a current welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months from account opening.

For its part, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is offering 50,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 10,000 bonus after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership.

The taxes and surcharges British Airways levies on award tickets are tough, but there are still some great ways to get value from British Airways Avios, including the “Travel Together” ticket mentioned above. If you want to stock up on Avios, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is offering a bonus of 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee.

Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal.

Featured image by Maridav/Shutterstock

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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