How to Travel to Europe Using Miles

October 26, 2012, In: Travel Near & Far
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We were lucky enough to be able to use miles to buy our plane tickets to Europe. Well, maybe not just lucky. We’ve been accumulating miles since 2000 using a miles credit card.

There’s a lot of discussion about reward credit cards and whether they are worth it. From my experience they’ve been great.

We have the American Airlines Citicard. We chose that card because we lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at the time – one of American Airlines’ hubs. After that we lived in Chicago, another great city for flying American. However, now that we live near the Denver airport it’s not the easiest for traveling with American.

One of the reasons people speak badly about reward credit cards is because of the annual fee that is associated with these cards. Our card has a $50 annual fee. That means in the 12 years we’ve had this card we’ve spent $600 on it. That’s definitely an expensive card if you do not use the rewards.

But we have! Not only have we gone to Europe on miles, we’ve also been able to travel to Guatemala and Brazil and Argentina. Each time we have only paid taxes, which was only $400 for two tickets to Rome and returning from Paris. The card paid for itself on this trip alone! Without miles each ticket would have cost $1300.

So, while it’s not the easiest to fly out of Denver – we had 3 legs of the trip on the outbound and return – it’s been great to travel internationally for just the taxes.

Here are my tips for learning how to travel to Europe using miles.

1. Sign up for a card with a great sign up bonus. Some cards offer up to 50,000 miles if you spend a few thousand dollars in the first 3 months the card is open.

2. Make sure you check on the card’s annual fee. Most of these cards do have an annual fee that will probably be waived the first year. If you call as you near the end of the year, they will often waive the fee for one more year if you are looking to cancel the card. Remember, if you cancel, the reward points will remain in your account so you will not lose these.

3. Consider a card that is not linked to only one airline. I’ve used the American Airlines card and it has worked for us, but there are other cards that are associated with multiple airlines.

4. Transfer your reward points directly to the airlines if possible. Booking through a generic travel portal may be easier, but it may take a lot more miles. For example, a $1300 ticket to Europe may cost 130,000 miles when booked through a travel portal, but when those points are transferred to the airline system, the same ticket might only cost 40,000 miles round trip.

Have you used miles to travel before? Have any more tips you learned along the way? Let me know in the comments below so I can share the knowledge with my readers. 

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