The Best Airline Rewards Programs for Trips to Europe

By Holly Johnson. Last updated 12 October 2017. 0 comments

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If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Europe but can’t stomach the cost of airfare, now is the perfect time to rethink your travel goals. Scoring a round-trip flight to nearly any European city may be easier than you think. The following airline loyalty programs offer great deals on their award seats.

If you’re trying to decide which airline program to join to get to Europe, consider these (and the credit cards that help you accrue points faster with them). (See also: 6 European Destinations Finally Cheap Enough to Visit)

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

With Flying Blue, a round-trip flight to Europe is only 50,000 points from most American cities. And if you’re worried that Air France or KLM don’t fly out of your home airport, don’t despair. You can book Air France and KLM flights with Delta Air Lines, which is part of the SkyTeam Airline Alliance with Air France, KLM, and others.

For this summer, I booked round-trip flights into Munich, Germany and home from Zurich, Switzerland using 50,000 Flying Blue miles for each of my family members. Keep in mind you’ll still need to pay government-mandated airline taxes and fees in addition to your miles. For our summer trip using Flying Blue miles, our taxes worked out to around $93 per person.

British Airways Avios

British Airways flights to Europe can cost varying amounts based on the class of ticket and when you fly. However, you can find off-peak round-trip tickets to most European cities for less than 50,000 BA points, called Avios, plus taxes and fees.

While anything less than 50,000 miles to Europe is a steal, you must keep an eye on those taxes and fees. British Airways is notorious for its larger-than-life fuel surcharges on transatlantic itineraries, and there’s no way around them. Before you transfer points to British Airways, make sure you have a handle on the fees you’ll pay.

Air Canada Aeroplan

You can pick up an economy flight with Air Canada to most western European countries for 60,000 miles round-trip. You’ll also need to pay government-mandated taxes and fees.

Air Canada is also part of Star Alliance, meaning you can use them to book flights on European partners like Lufthansa. The number of miles you’ll need will vary depending on when you travel and the country you’re traveling to.

Delta SkyMiles

The bad news about Delta Air Lines is that they no longer publish an award chart. The good news is, you can occasionally find round-trip flights to Europe for 50,000–60,000 miles. It helps to do some digging, be flexible with dates and times, and be willing to fly into and out of alternate airports.

Since Delta is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, you can use points to book flights on KLM or Air France. Again, the number of points you’ll need will depend on your destination and travel dates.

Etihad

Award availability on Etihad can be extremely limited. If you’re considering this strategy, make sure to start looking early and stay flexible in terms of dates and times. Once you’re able to find a seat, you can fly round-trip to Europe for 60,000 miles plus taxes and fees.

Credit cards that transfer to airline partners

Joining the loyalty program of an airline that will fly to your desired European destination is just the first step. Loading up on miles and points is the next. The credit cards below transfer to the programs mentioned above. Use them for your everyday purchases and start planning your European adventure. Sometimes the bonus alone (after the spending requirement) can be enough for one round trip ticket!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on your card within the first three months from account opening. Those points are worth $625 if you use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, but they can be worth considerably more when you transfer them to a partner airline (includes Air France/KLM Flying Blue and British Airways Avios). This card does charge a $95 annual fee, but the fee is waived the first year.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card today!

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

For a limited time, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is offering 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases with your new card in the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you make an additional $1,000 in purchases within your first 6 months. Offer expires on 11/8/2017. Redeem miles toward travel on Delta and more than 15 airline partners. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Terms apply. See rates and fees.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express today!

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The current welcome offer on the Platinum Card® from American Express makes it possible to earn 60,000 points after you use your card for $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. While you could potentially afford a flight to Europe by booking through the AmexTravel.com portal (where 60,000 points is worth $600 in flights), you’ll have a better shot at getting to Europe with an Amex transfer partner (includes Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Etihad, and KLM/Air France).

This card comes with a $550 annual fee. However, it also include up to a $200 airline credit, access to over 1,000 lounges around the world, up to $200 for Uber rides, and a global entry credit do add up to more value than that, but only if you actually use it. Terms apply. See rates and fees.

Click here to learn more and apply for the The Platinum Card® from American Express today!

(See also: How to Get a Free Vacation in 9 Months through Credit Cards)

Tips for getting to Europe with points

Before you dive in, there are a few things you should know. Consider these tips:

  • Start earning points early. Airline miles are notoriously difficult to use due to limited award availability, blackout dates, and the general wonkiness of their online booking portals. The best strategy for anyone planning to use miles is to start earning them early — then book ahead. Booking at least nine months in advance will make finding the flights you want easier.
  • Check for award availability before you transfer points. Even if an airline promises you can get to a specific destination on miles, that doesn’t mean it offers the award availability. Before you transfer points to an airline, check to make sure the flights you want are available.
  • Compare taxes and fees with different transfer partners. Some airlines tack ridiculous fees on award bookings, and these fees can make using your miles especially expensive. Make sure to compare fees and availability with different airlines before you settle on an award flight with high fees.

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The Best Airline Rewards Programs for Trips to Europe

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