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Traveling with points and miles is how Michael and I are able to travel so often (and for free!). If it’s something you’re interested in, check out my travel section and scroll through to the points and miles related posts. A few noteworthy posts that might be of interest:
- The Best Overall Credit Card For Travel
- The Number One Myth About Opening Credit Cards for Travel
- UPDATED: What Credit Cards Are In My Wallet?
- How to Book a Cheap Flight to Italy (my next trip)!
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
- How to Switch from Chase Preferred to Chase Reserve
- How the Chase Sapphire Preferred Travel Protection Saved Me $500
Michael and I make a point to take at least one international trip every year. Last year we did a short trip to Italy. This year: Portugal and Morocco! (We’re currently in Morocco! Follow along on Instagram Stories!)
I wanted to share how we scored super cheap roundtrip BUSINESS CLASS tickets to Portugal in case you’re looking to book a similar trip! I’ll start out by saying that while I dabble in the points and miles world, Michael is the real expert. If you really want a deep dive on how to travel for free with points and miles, check out his blog pointswithq.com. He also writes for upgradedpoints.com.
How to Book a Roundtrip Business Class Flight to Portugal for $54
When looking to book an award flight, I always recommend working backwards and being flexible (on dates and on the cities you’re flying to/from). For example, we knew we wanted to go to Portugal. With that initial point in mind, we then researched what airlines fly into Lisbon and Porto from the U.S. After we had that list, we then researched those airlines’ partners to see which of the partners lined up with any points that we’ve already accumulated. The KEY to traveling with points and miles is to know about transfer partners and airline/hotel partners. Here’s what I mean …
TAP Air Portugal flies direct from a handful of U.S. cities to Lisbon. We knew we wanted to book business class tickets for the long haul flight so we did a bit of research (a simple google search for TAP business class) to make sure the TAP business class was up to snuff. After that checked out, we then researched TAP’s partner airlines. TAP is a member of the Star Alliance. SCORE! This is major.
Why is this major? Since TAP is a member of the Star Alliance, that means you can book TAP flights through other airlines in the alliance of your picking. Here’s a comprehensive list of members of the Star Alliance. Here’s what I mean …
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is part of the Star Alliance. This is huge because I know that you can transfer American Express points directly to ANA. And in turn, book TAP award flights directly on ANA’s website. It’s ALL about knowing the partners! Here’s a comprehensive list of AmEx transfer partners.
Michael and I both utilize our credit cards to always accumulate transferable points. For me, that means I have a bank of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership points. These two currencies are transferable to travel (airline and hotel) partners. You can read about exactly what credit cards I have in my wallet and why here – I never have a card in my wallet that isn’t serving a points accumulating purpose.
The Credit Cards I Used
My AmEx Platinum card + my AmEx Blue Business Plus card have allowed me to accumulate a bank of AmEx Membership points. Learn more about the specific cards below!
AMEX BLUE BUSINESS℠ PLUS
Booking a roundtrip business class TAP flight through ANA from the U.S. will cost you 88,000 AmEx points + the cost of any taxes, fees, and fuel charges. Michael and I both had enough in our individual accounts to cover our own tickets.
How to Transfer Points and Book the Flight
Once you have the correct number of points in your AmEx account, you’ll need to confirm that there is award availability on your desired flight. For us, we were flexible on the dates and just knew we wanted to travel for two weeks this fall. Michael used the United and Aeroplan websites to search for Star Alliance award flights from the U.S. to Portugal. United and Aeroplan have the best online search engines for searching Star Alliance flights. Once he found dates of availability, he then used the ANA website to confirm the availability. Sure enough, with a quick ANA search of the desired dates that we nailed down from the initial search, the roundtrip business class TAP flight showed up on ANA’s website.
Once we confirmed the flight was available to book on ANA’s website, we then went ahead with the transfer of AmEx points from our AmEx accounts to our ANA accounts. Note: Transfer times differ for all airlines. A quick google search will let you know what timeframe to expect. For AmEx to ANA transfers, it generally takes 48-72 hours. Ours took a little over 48 hours to process.
Once my points were in my ANA account, I booked my flight immediately. You don’t want to wait around on booking as award availability may disappear. I booked my flight with the 88,000 AmEx points and only had to pay $54 in taxes and fees. SCORE! Note: You’ll want to google the airline’s (in this case, TAP) taxes, fees, and fuel charges prior to transferring your points so you’ll be aware of how much $$ you’ll owe. Some airlines charge hefty fuel surcharges so definitely keep this in mind!
As I stated above, you do have to be somewhat flexible when booking award travel. The dates and flight that worked best for our schedule flies out of JFK and into Boston. So after booking our roundtrip, non-stop business class tickets U.S. to/from Lisbon, we then had to book two cheap flights – one from Houston to JFK and one from Boston to Houston. We used points to book these flights as well.
As you can see, it does take time, lots of research, flexibility, and patience to be able to score cheap flights, but in the end, it’s totally worth it! And I promise, once you dive in and get your toes wet, you’ll get a handle on it and then you’ll be able to travel for free just as much as Michael and I do!
Remember, the key is to make your everyday spend work for you! Having the right credit cards and earning transferable points is key to being able to have multiple options when attempting to book travel with points and miles. In this scenario, I used the sign up bonuses from my American Express Platinum and American Express Blue Business Plus + the points earned from putting spend on the cards to cover my flight (the bonuses and spend add up to much more than you actually need to book a 88,000 point flight). You can compare all of the American Express cards here.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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