Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards to Europe?

Points earned through transferable programs are among the most valuable travel currencies out there due to their vast number of uses. Today I’d like to take a look at American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points and how to best leverage their use for air travel to Europe from different areas of the continental US. This is a complicated topic that involves discussions regarding miles required, fuel surcharges imposed, and airline partners and availability and then ultimately weighing the best option for each scenario.

Today we are going to discuss the miles required for a trip to Europe. Over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at the fuel surcharges and award availability and will provide a conclusion with the best overall choice or two for using Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards to get to Europe. It’s impossible to make concrete conclusions given that the value of time, miles, and cash is so subjective. But after this analysis it is our hope that you are able to make the best choice for you!
As a reminder, Membership Rewards can be transferred to the following airline programs:

• AeroMexico
• Aeroplan
• Air France/KLM
• Alitalia
• All Nippon
• Asia Miles
• British Airways
• Delta
• El Al
• Frontier
• Hawaiian
• Iberia
• Jet Blue
• Singapore
• Virgin America
• Virgin Atlantic

Below you will find the mileage required for three examples from the continental US to Europe along with the transfer ratio from Membership Rewards to the airline mileage program. Keep in mind that the Membership Rewards program often runs promotions, increasing the number of miles you receive with each transfer into a specific program by 20 – 50%. Most frequently we see those bonuses with British Airways, but they do run promotions with other programs as well. This is something we’ll want to keep in mind as we narrow down our partner choice for a trip across the pond!

Roundtrip Mileage Requirements (at the standard redemption level):

MR

*Please note: Aeroplan has two regions in Europe: Europe 1 and Europe II. Mileage indicated is what will be required beginning January 1, 2014 when their reward chart redemption levels change.
** Please note: The British Airways and Iberia redemptions are assuming non-stop flights. Additional stops may change mileage required.
*** Please note: Delta’s award chart is different for travel after June 1, 2014.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the Membership Rewards program, it’s time to examine the opportunities with Ultimate Rewards. As a reminder, Ultimate Rewards transfer to the following airline partners:

• British Airways
• Korean Air
• Southwest Airlines
• United Airlines

Roundtrip Mileage Requirements (at the standard redemption level):

UR

You’ll see that based upon the mileage required only, the best way to get to Europe from the East Coast is either with Virgin America or All Nippon Airways in coach and All Nippon Airways in business class. From the Midwest, the best option is All Nippon Airways, Asia Miles, or Virgin Atlantic in coach and All Nippon Airways and Virgin Atlantic in business class. And from the West Coast, the best option when considering miles only is AeroMexico, Alitalia, or Korean Airlines (all SkyTeam) or Singapore Airlines (if you want to use the Star Alliance) in coach and AeroMexico, Alitalia, or Korean Airlines (all SkyTeam) for business class. However, as you’ll see tomorrow, these aren’t necessarily the best options for you!

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