Top Transfer Partners for Booking Business Class to Europe
Following up on the list of all the cheapest business class awards to Europe, I figured I’d provide a rundown of the top transfer partners by program for booking these awards. Not every currency lets you transfer to one of the best options, so it’s good to know what your options are for the points you do have.
Unfortunately, some of the cheapest business class awards only have one currency that transfers to them, which makes redemption rather difficult. But every bank currency has at least one top transfer partner for booking business class to Europe that is a reasonably good deal. Here are the top transfer partners by program:
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the top bank programs for award travel enthusiasts. With a good array of transfer partners, including World of Hyatt (by far the best hotel partner associated with any program), I love collecting as many Ultimate Rewards as I can. That being said, I actually find them *weaker* than American Express when it comes to airline transfer options. After Chase lost Korean and Air France decided to go all crazy with their pricing, I find them less useful than I did (although there are certainly Air France deals out there). But here are their top transfer partners if you’re looking for business class to Europe.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Those tied to Delta hubs should not overlook the incredible power of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Besides offering one of the best business class prices for nonstop flights to Europe, they also have extremely helpful agents that are actually pleasant to work with over the phone.
Any nonstop Delta business class flight will cost 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, which is an excellent rate for business class. No other Chase transfer partner provides such consistent value for business class. Here is a map of all the routes on which you can score a lie-flat seat for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards in business using this top Chase transfer partner:
Man, that’s a mess. Delta operates a ton of routes, even some obscure ones like CVG-CDG. Just remember that any flights between the UK and U.S. will have hefty fuel surcharges with Virgin Atlantic. However, to any other European destination, you should just be paying the airport taxes and fees.
This might seem like an odd pick, given that it didn’t make my list of cheapest business class awards to Europe. There are a lot of qualifiers, which really made me waffle between Iberia Avios and United MileagePlus as the better program. If you’re looking to visit a destination that requires a connection or two, Avios won’t be a screaming deal. But if you can fly during off-peak dates and are looking at nonstop options to Spain, they are an excellent transfer opportunity. It’s really situational. I waffled between Iberia Avios and United MileagePlus as the better option, given the lack of fuel surcharges and incredible flexibility MileagePlus offers.
But I stick with Avios, as a decent number of people can probably make them work. If you’re looking to fly between Boston, New York – JFK or Chicago and Madrid or Barcelona, you’ll pay just 34,000 Avios during off-peak dates. Off-peak pricing from Spain to Miami rings in at 42,500 Avios, and flights from the West Coast to Spain cost 51,000 Avios nonstop.
The winning combination here is pairing the pricing with a transfer bonus. We previously saw British Airways Avios as the first-ever Chase transfer bonus offered. This is analogous to offering a bonus to the Iberia or Aer Lingus programs, since you can move Avios freely among the three IAG airlines. As an example, Los Angeles to Madrid in business would cost just 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, assuming a 30% transfer bonus. Just remember that you must have Avios in your Iberia account for 90 days to be able to redeem!
American Express Membership Rewards
In my opinion, American Express Membership Rewards is the top program for earning miles if you want to fly at the pointy end of the plane. With an amazing array of transfer partners in every alliance, and a few other excellent non-alliance options, they are one of the best currencies to accrue. You can also do so easily, with 2x earning on the Blue Business Plus card all the time, up to $50,000, and 4x earning on the revamped Gold card.
ANA Mileage Club
All Nippon Airways is a transfer partner unique to American Express Membership Rewards. No other bank program transfers to ANA Mileage Club. But they are a great option for booking business class flights between the U.S. and Europe, as you’re only looking at 88,000 miles round-trip. You must book round-trip, though. ANA is one program that will not ticket one-way awards.
You can fly United or any Star Alliance partner. Just watch out for ANA passing on the egregious fuel surcharges levied by some partners. I’m looking at you, Lufthansa! If these are an issue, consider booking a “cheaper” airline like LOT. United also doesn’t have fuel surcharges to pass on.
This is probably going to grate on Mark, who has no end of frustration with Avianca LifeMiles, but I will contend that they are the other top transfer partner for Citi ThankYou points. With reasonable business class award prices to Europe capping out at 63,000 miles, the ability to tack on short-haul economy segments that reduces the total price, and no fuel surcharges, they are an excellent pick.
Just hope you don’t end up with a LifeMiles horror story like finding booking impossible or having agents claim you flew a ticket when you never did.
Citi Thank You
I used to overlook Citi Thank You points entirely, as their transfer partners are generally inferior to American Express Membership Rewards, but they do have a couple solid options for booking business class to Europe. Here are the top transfer partners for Citi Thank You for this purpose:
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
The Turkish Airlines loyalty program is my latest obsession. Between booking a flight to Hawaii for just 7,500 miles, to flying round-trip with United across the country in a lie-flat seat, Turkish has some amazing uses. Business class to Europe is another sweet spot, and you can even pull up some space online.
You can fly for just 45,000 Miles & Smiles one-way between the U.S. and Europe, making them an excellent deal for business class and the top transfer partner of Citi ThankYou in my opinion. You can fly with United for just the TSA fee (departing U.S.), or with other Star Alliance partners if you’re not afraid of fuel surcharges.
Etihad is a great option for booking American Airlines business class to Europe, as you’re looking at a cost of just 50,000 miles. Just be warned…this partnership may be coming to a close. But until then, they are one of the top transfer partners for booking American Airlines business class.
Just so you’re aware, technically both Etihad Guest and Avianca LifeMiles are transfer partners of both Citi ThankYou and American Express Membership Rewards, so I could have stuck them with either. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional transfer bonus in either program!
Capital One Rewards
Capital One is a relatively recent option for accruing transferable points, and they have a less-than-ideal transfer ratio for all partners.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, but with options such as ANA in the other program, Aeroplan plays runner up as the top transfer partner. Well…unless you need a one-way ticket.
Aeroplan charges just 55,000 miles to book business class between North America and western Europe. You’re looking at only 57,500 to eastern Europe, which is not a bad deal, either. Aeroplan has been a top pick when I’ve looked at flying SWISS from SFO to Zurich, as they don’t pass on fuel surcharges with that carrier (or with LOT, SAS and a couple others). Fuel surcharges will bite you if you book with Austrian, Air Canada, or Lufthansa.
I’m going to have to repeat one, finally. Given the array of partners, I really don’t see another better option than LifeMiles as a general use. Just know what you’re getting into!
Singapore might have been a contender, but with a 2:1 transfer ratio rather than the 2:1.5 like the bulk of the other partners makes it a #nope.
Barclaycard Arrival Premier
If you decided to pick up the Barlcaycard Arrival Premier before it was discontinued, you’ll know that this is Barclays attempt at offering a decent card with transfer potential. Overall, I consider it a weak program and their options aren’t nearly as solid as other banks. But there are a couple options that still make sense. I would have added JAL, but the transfer ratio is poor at 1.7 Arrival “miles” to 1 JAL mile. The transfer ratio to the other programs is 1.4:1. Here’s what I’d pick:
Air France Flying Blue
Alright, I’ll give Flying Blue a chance. If I had a Flying Blue promo award in my sights, transferring my points to this program would be a top option. Given that this didn’t make the cut for other programs that partner with Flying Blue, this should show just how weak the options are with the Arrival Premier. However, if you’re looking at Air France/KLM business class for the promo price of 45,000 FlyingBlue miles, this is just 63,000 Arrival Premier miles. I’m not sure you can do better than this with their other partners.
Etihad Guest or Aeroplan?
None of the other partners are super compelling, so I guess we need to repeat a couple. As mentioned before, Etihad charges 50,000 miles one-way for American Airlines business class between the U.S. and Europe, and Aeroplan charges 55,000 to western Europe.
I’ll never personally invest in the Barclaycard Arrival Premier card or program, even if it relaunches. But if I did have points, this is likely how I’d put them to use.
Marriott Bonvoy – Unique Top Transfer Partners
Marriott has a very large number of transfer opportunities, many of which are not partners of any bank program. There are two of these in particular that represent excellent award redemption for business class to Europe.
Asiana has one of the most attractive award charts between the U.S. and Europe. You can book business class on any Star Alliance partner for just 40,000 miles. Since no bank program transfers to Asiana, your only way to accrue these miles is by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points.
Since its removal as a Chase transfer partner, the only easy way to accrue Korean Air Skypass miles is through transferring Marriott Bonvoy points. But Korean represents fantastic value, as Delta-operated (or other Skyteam operated) flights cost only 80,000 miles round-trip. This isn’t quite as attractive as Asiana, since you must book a round-trip ticket. Again, Marriott points transfer at a rate of 60,000 points to 25,000 airline miles (as long as you transfer in 60,000-point increments).
Other Top Transfer Partners?
If I had to boil things down even more, I would be left with this shortlist of top transfer partners:
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for Delta flights
- Iberia Avios or Etihad Guest miles for Oneworld/American flights (Etihad only for AA)
- ANA Mileage Club / Turkish Miles & Smiles / Aeroplan for United/Star Alliance flights
Sure, there are plenty more programs that hold value. I can appreciate programs like United MileagePlus for the ease of use and ability to add in a stopover (or do other amazing things with the Excursionist Perk), even though it isn’t the cheapest option. But in many cases, these are the top transfer partners if you’re looking get to Europe in business class.
Which airline transfer programs are your favorite? Why?
Delta One Suites and Air France image used under CC BY 2.0 license.