This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

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Italy is known for its history, delicious cuisine and picturesque landscapes, making it a top destination for travelers. However, the expenses associated with traveling there can sometimes discourage people. Luckily, savvy travelers have discovered how to leverage travel credit card rewards to save money on their adventures. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of navigating through the complicated world of travel rewards, don't worry. We've got you covered.

In this guide, we will explore strategies that allow you to use the best travel credit cards to book a budget trip to Italy using points. Whether you're interested in exploring ruins, immersing yourself in Milan's fashion scene or experiencing romantic gondola rides in Venice, your Italian getaway is within reach. We'll provide you with all the information you need to turn this dream into reality.

How to get started with travel points and airline miles

The final descent to Venice Marco Polo Airport
The final descent to Venice Marco Polo Airport © scaliger / iStockphoto / Getty

The cheapest award flights to Italy

Airfare to Italy can be steep during peak summer months and even award rates can skyrocket. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you can score tickets for as low as 20,000 miles round-trip from the US. For less than the cost of a domestic flight, you can fly to Italy and save money. Some travelers like to splurge on a flatbed business class seat on long-haul flights. Using points and miles, you can achieve this with as little as one credit card welcome bonus.

Here’s a look at some of the cheapest award flights to Italy, followed by a breakdown of how to earn the required miles: 

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to Italy: From 24,000 Virgin Atlantic points round-trip 
  • Cheapest business class ticket to Italy: 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to Italy: 135,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles miles round-trip

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Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare © emicristea / Getty

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic partners with Air France and Flying Blue, which offers spectacular deals on award tickets to Italy. An off-peak economy class ticket between the East Coast and Italy costs just 24,000 Virgin points round-trip. Meanwhile, a flight from the West Coast will cost 30,000 miles round-trip. Peak flights are still reasonable at 44,000 and 50,000 points, respectively.

Off-peak business class round-trip tickets to Italy cost 97,000 points from the East Coast and 155,000 points from the West. Peak pricing comes in at 117,000 points round-trip for East Coast flights and 175,000 points from the West. 

  • Economy Class: From 24,000 points round-trip (off-peak)
  • Business Class: From 97,000 points round-trip 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points are easy to earn, thanks to 1:1 transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi ThankYou program. Several of these programs offer enough points from credit card welcome bonuses to cover at least one round-trip ticket to Italy:

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All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is a Star Alliance carrier based in Japan and offers one of the cheapest business-class flights to Italy. For just 88,000 miles round-trip, you can fly to Italy from anywhere in the US. These flights are operated by partner carriers, including United and Lufthansa.

If you decide to fly in a different cabin, you’re in for some of the lowest redemption rates. ANA charges 55,000 miles round-trip for economy and 165,000 miles for first-class flights to Italy.

  • Economy Class: 55,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 88,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 165,000 miles round-trip

So, how do you earn ANA miles? ANA Mileage Club is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. You can easily cover one or two award flights to Italy, depending on which Amex card you apply for. Here’s a look at credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points:

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Turkish Miles&Smiles

Turkish Airlines is another Star Alliance carrier offering excellent flight deals to Italy. While economy and business class rates are reasonable, the first class award from the US to Italy is a bargain at 135,000 miles round-trip. While Turkish Airlines doesn’t offer first class, partner carrier Lufthansa does. If you have a stopover in Frankfurt or Munich, you can even check out the First Class Terminal, where you can hitch a ride across the tarmac directly to your plane. 

  • Economy Class: 60,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 90,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 135,000 miles round-trip

Turkish Miles&Smiles is a 1:1 transfer partner of Bilt Rewards, Capital One Miles and the Citi ThankYou program. As such, there are tons of ways to accrue enough for a round-trip award ticket to Italy. Here are some of the cards you can apply for to stock up on miles:

  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

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Italy hotels you can book with points 

Lodging is one of the most significant expenses when traveling to Europe and Italy is no exception. When making a travel budget with points, you should do so with the understanding that you might only be able to cover some nights on points. Still, you can save substantially by taking advantage of hotel credit cards.

Italy offers exceptional hotels across multiple chains, though they can be pricey. You can usually get a good deal on hotels located far from city centers, though that makes it difficult to get around and see the sights. Using points for hotels is a great way to save money on hotel expenses.

To help you budget, we’ve built an itinerary based on Lonely Planet’s first-timer’s guide to Italy. You can adjust the itinerary based on your interests. Here’s a look at how you can cover lodging in each city using credit card points:

10 amazing hotels around the world you can book with points

Trevi Fountain illuminated at night; Rome, Italy
The ornate Trevi Fountain illuminated at night in the heart of baroque Roma © iStockphoto / Getty

Stop 1: Rome

Rome is a great starting point for a trip to Italy. Since it houses the country’s largest airport (Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport), many airlines offer direct flights or connections to other major European airports. Rome is also filled with historical sights and renowned restaurants you don’t want to miss. Hotels can be pricey, but we recommend staying at the Hotel D'inghilterra using Hyatt points.

This Category 7 hotel is located within walking distance of the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and other famous sights. Room rates range from 25,000 to 35,000 points per night, which is reasonable compared to other hotel loyalty programs. You can cover up to two nights with the welcome bonus from The World of Hyatt Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You can also transfer points 1:1 from your Bilt Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards account.

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Duomo di Milano; Milan, Italy
Overlooking the Duomo di Milano, Milan © RossHelen / Getty

Stop 2: Milan

Known as Italy's fashion and design capital, Milan offers a compelling blend of rich history, style and culture, making it a must-visit destination. The city is a shopping paradise, boasting luxurious boutiques and flagship stores from the world's most renowned designers. Additionally, Milan's vibrant arts scene, lively nightlife and architectural marvels ensure visitors can experience a mix of culture, creativity and fun. Whether you're a history buff or a fashion enthusiast, Milan offers something for every traveler.

The Hotel Indigo Milan - Corso Monforte is an excellent base to explore the city. You can redeem IHG points, though the exact amount will vary since the program no longer publishes an award chart. In test searches, we’ve found rates as low as 36,500 points per night. Remember that those with an IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card, IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card or IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card can get the fourth night free on award bookings. All three cards offer substantial welcome bonuses that will cover at least two nights or more at the Hotel Indigo Milan.

If you’re short on points, you can also transfer IHG points 1:1 from Bilt Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

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overlooking Lake Como in the Villa del Balbianello
A view of Lake Como from the Villa del Balbianello © Stefano_Valeri / Shutterstock

Stop 3: Lake Como

A stunning retreat just an hour from Milan, Lake Como offers a scenic escape from the big city. Visitors can explore quaint lakeside villages like Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio, each offering a unique blend of culture, history and natural beauty. The region's idyllic architecture provides a glimpse into Italy's aristocratic past, while the pristine waters allow for various water activities.

You don’t have to be George Clooney to enjoy the beauty of the Italian Alps. The Hilton Lake Como costs around 63,000 points per night, depending on the travel season. You can cover up to two nights with points from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* or The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. Both cards offer automatic Gold elite status, so you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, room upgrades and other benefits. 

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The canals of Venice
The storied canals of Venice © Alexander Haase/ EyeEm / Getty

Stop 4: Venice

We get it: Venice is unpleasant when overrun by tourists. But visit during the shoulder season and the Floating City is delightful, with its intricate network of canals and gothic architecture. Take a stroll through its magical streets or float in a gondola along the Grand Canal and you’ll find yourself transported to a bygone era of elegance and grandeur. The city's iconic landmarks, such as St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, showcase centuries of art and history, while the local cuisine offers a taste of authentic Italian flavors. 

You can stay at the five-star St. Regis Venice on the Grand Canal for around 76,000 points per night, depending on the time of year. This hotel offers unparalleled luxury and is consistently voted one of the best hotels in Venice and beyond.

With the welcome bonus from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card*, you can earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership, good for two free nights with points to spare. 

If you need to top off your Marriott account, you can do so with one of the other co-branded credit cards or by transferring points 1:1 from Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

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cliffside train station in Manarola, Cinque Terre
Manarola, Cinque Terre - train station in a small village with colorful houses on a cliff overlooking sea © iStock by Getty / Julia Lavrinenko

Activities and ground transportation

When making a travel budget for a trip to Italy, you’ll want to factor in the cost of ground transportation and activities. These expenses can add up the longer your trip is. A great way to offset some of these expenses is by using flexible rewards. For example, the Capital One Venture and Capital One Venture X cards provide exceptional flexibility in using your miles for travel. Simply charge a qualifying travel expense to your card and you can redeem 1 cent per mile towards it. 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card lets you redeem points towards activities and travel expenses through Ultimate Rewards Travel at 1.25 cents each. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a generous 1.5 cents per point. While you can get more value from your points by redeeming them for airfare and luxury hotels, there’s nothing wrong with using them for activities and ground transit. After all, points are supposed to help you save money on travel. So feel free to use your points however you see fit. 

Should you book travel with cash or points?

Biking to Rome's Colosseum
Biking to Rome's Colosseum © TFILM / Getty

Bottom line

Turning your dream trip to Italy into reality is achievable using points and miles. By taking advantage of bonuses offered by travel credit cards, you can cover expenses and even enhance your travel experience. Hopefully, the tips and strategies in this article serve as a starting point for planning your itinerary, devising a credit card strategy and making the most out of your rewards.

Traveling to Europe using points and miles

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

This article was first published October 2023 and updated November 2023

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