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Since pandemic-era travel restrictions have lifted, tourists have been flocking to Europe all summer. While summer has always been a popular time to visit cities like London, Rome and Paris, this resurgence in travel demand has been unprecedented. If you’re looking to travel to Europe at any time this year or next, you’ll see a marked increase in airfare and hotel prices. An excellent workaround for dealing with steep prices is by collecting points and miles

Not only can you save money by using points for your next trip to Europe, you can fly in premium cabins and stay at some of the best hotels in the world. All at a fraction of the cost of a budget vacation. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Europe using points and miles.

How to make a travel budget using points and miles

shutterstock_644797780.jpg
Plane landing over the Vlacherna Monastery in Kerkyra in Corfu, Greece © Marcin Krzyzak / Shutterstock

The cheapest award flights to Europe

Flying to Europe can be expensive, but points and miles can save you a substantial sum – especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates. The cheapest award flights to Europe are typically found during off-peak travel season (typically winter and early spring). Airlines like American, British Airways and Air France offer discounted award tickets during these times, saving you money and points.

But even if you hope to travel in the summer, you can find decent award space by booking far in advance. Meanwhile, Lufthansa has been known to release award space within 1-2 weeks of travel for business and first-class travel. Knowing these things can make booking flights to Europe with miles a less stressful experience. 

Here’s a look at the cheapest award flights to Europe and how to earn enough miles for a redemption:

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to Europe: From 20,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles round-trip to the UK.
  • Cheapest business class ticket to Europe: From 68,000 Iberia Avios round-trip to Spain.
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to Europe: 165,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip.

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Downtown London
The bustle of Downtown London © Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

London

Award space to London is usually plentiful due to a slightly annoying reason: fuel surcharges. Airlines like Virgin Atlantic and British Airways add these pesky fees to flights passing through UK airports like London Heathrow (LHR). Fuel surcharges are egregiously high on business and first-class tickets (which can go well over $1,500 round-trip). However, they’re not too bad on economy flights or flights originating in cities outside of the UK.

A popular way to avoid fuel surcharges is by flying into London and then returning from Paris, which has much more reasonable taxes. Virgin Atlantic offers the cheapest economy flights to London, at just 20,000 miles roundtrip. 

If you want to upgrade to business class, All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club offers a bargain of just 88,000 miles round-trip. A first-class ticket will set you back 165,000 ANA miles. At this rate, you’re better off sticking to business class for a flatbed seat that offers plenty of comfort on the transatlantic flight. Here are the best rates by class for travel to London: 

  • Economy class: From 20,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles round-trip
  • Business class: 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip
  • First class: 165,000 ANA miles round-trip

How to make a travel budget using points and miles

A British Airways flight takes off from LAX
A British Airways flight takes off from LAX © Zach Griff / The Points Guy

How to earn miles for a flight to London

Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to earn, thanks to transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi ThankYou rewards.

If you’re not a Bilt cardholder, you can transfer points to Flying Club at a 1:1 ratio with the following credit cards:

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • 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.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card*: Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card*: Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Meanwhile, ANA Mileage Club only partners with Amex Membership Rewards. You can transfer points earned from the Amex Platinum, Gold and Green cards.

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A street scene of cafes and bars in Madrid, Spain
A street scene of cafes and bars in Madrid, Spain © fotoVoyager / Getty

Madrid 

Between the art scene of Barcelona and the sandy beaches of Majorca, Spain has much to offer travelers. Iberia Airways offers one of the best ways to fly to Spain on points and miles, with direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. 

Iberia Airways offers especially great deals on air to Spain in the off-season. Even award tickets are incredibly affordable, with round-trip business class costing the same as most airlines charge for one-way business class awards. 

  • Economy class: From 34,000 Avios round-trip on Iberia Airways
  • Business class: From 68,000 Avios round-trip on Iberia Airways

How to travel to Spain using points and miles

How to earn miles for a flight to Madrid

The Iberia Plus program earns Avios, which you can transfer from your British Airways or Aer Lingus account. This also means you get access to a vast network of transferable currencies you can tap into to earn those miles. Iberia Plus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can earn points from cards like the Amex Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

Iberia also has its own Iberia Visa Signature® Card, which has a $95 annual fee and features a time offer to earn 85,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within the first 12 months of account opening.

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The bustling Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy
The bustling Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy © iStock

Rome

If you have dreams of visiting a fashion-forward city, exploring the picturesque countryside and refilling your water bottle in a historical fountain (just kidding, don’t do that!), then Rome is a great place to start your European adventure. Thanks to ANA Mileage Club, you can fly to Rome on a Star Alliance carrier like United or Lufthansa from just 55,000 miles round-trip. Business class is your best bet at 88,000 miles. It’s worth noting that ANA doesn’t allow one-way award redemptions, so you need the total miles for a round-trip to be able to book these flights.

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

How to travel to Italy with points and miles

The scene outside the Colosseum
The scene outside the Colosseum © Belenos / Shutterstock

How to earn miles for a flight to Rome

You can earn enough miles for a round-trip flight to Rome by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to ANA MileageClub at a 1:1 ratio. With the welcome bonus from The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you can cover up to two round-trip economy class tickets or one business class. 

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An afternoon stroll through the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France
An afternoon stroll through the Jardin des Plantes in Paris © dennisvdw / Getty

Amsterdam or Paris

Thanks to Air France and KLM’s joint Flying Blue loyalty program, using points for flights to Amsterdam and Paris is fairly easy. The program prices out award flights differently based on distance, but there isn’t a massive difference in price for West Coast vs. East Coast flights. Flying Blue’s rates are already affordable, but you can save even more with Promo Rewards. These discounted fares are updated monthly and offer savings as high as 50%.

  • Economy class: From 30,000 miles round-trip
  • Business class: From 113,000 miles round-trip 

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How to earn miles for a flight to Amsterdam or Paris

Transfer partnerships allow you to stock up on Flying Blue miles for award tickets to Amsterdam or Paris. Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou rewards. With the right credit card, you can easily cover at least one round-trip flight with points – maybe even two. 

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • 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.
  • American Express Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

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The facade of The St. Regis Rome
The facade of The St. Regis Rome © The St. Regis Rome

Iconic hotels you can book with points 

Now that airfare is covered, it’s time to focus on hotels. No matter where you travel to in Europe, the continent has a massive hotel market, so you’re bound to find something for your budget and travel needs. When using points, you can’t go wrong with IHG, Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott – these chains have thousands of properties worldwide, including some of the most iconic hotels in Europe. These hotels are especially attainable if you sign up for a new hotel credit card.

If you’re looking for an upscale experience and don’t want to pay the high price tag, there are lots of exceptional hotels to choose from. Here’s a look at some of the most upscale European hotels you can book with points and miles:

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St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London
A lounge at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London © St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London is a landmark property that opened in 1873 and combines grandeur with convenient access to everything the city offers. The hotel shares a building with St. Pancras station, from which you can hop a train to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and more. It’s an ideal base to explore Europe without stepping foot in an airport.

Guests can enjoy resort-like amenities, including the on-site gym, spa, pool, sauna and steam room. For 44,000 Marriott points per night, you can book a Deluxe room in the Barlow House wing with soundproof windows and beds fitted with down mattress toppers and Egyptian cotton sheets.

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How to earn points

You can earn Marriott points by transferring them from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. Marriott also has six different credit cards offering welcome bonuses as high as 150,000 bonus points:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card: Earn 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ credit card: Earn 85,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Limited Time Offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards, valued at up to 50K points each for eligible stays. Offer ends 7/10. Resort fees & terms apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® credit card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.

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The lobby of the St. Regis Rome
The lobby of the St. Regis Rome © St. Regis Rome

St. Regis Rome

When in Rome, you might want a hotel that provides the opulence of a 19th-century palazzo. The award-winning St Regis Rome delivers just that. Built in 1894, the hotel offers lavishly appointed rooms with marble bathrooms, nightly turndown and butler service. Rates start at 80,000 points per night. While steep, you can save 20% by taking advantage of Marriott’s fifth-night free benefit on award stays.

The hotel is within walking distance of the National Gallery of Ancient Art and close to tourist attractions like the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum.

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The Principal Madrid
The Principal Madrid © The Principal Madrid

The Principal Madrid

Hyatt has some great hotel options in Madrid at very reasonable rates. The Principal Madrid Hotel hotel is a great choice, with rooms starting at just 21,000 Hyatt points per night. Standard rooms are relatively small at just over 200 sqft but boast plenty of natural light. The Principal has the distinction of being the first five-star hotel in Madrid’s famed Gran Via, close to shopping and tourist attractions.

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How to earn Hyatt points

Earning Hyatt points for a stay at The Principal Madrid is as easy as transferring Bilt or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can also top up your account with one of Hyatt’s co-branded credit cards, which can cover up to three nights at this hotel.

  • World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
  • World of Hyatt Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 Bonus Points per $1 on qualified purchases at Hyatt hotels & up to 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member.

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Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
A room at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam © Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

The Waldorf Amsterdam strikes a perfect balance between embodying the city’s renowned charm in a luxury setting. The hotel is located inside six 17th and 18th-century palaces on the UNESCO heritage site of Herengracht Canal. The hotel boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants and provides easy access to the city’s main tourist attractions, like the Hermitage Museum. Guests are also just a 12-minute tram ride from the city’s Centraal Station, making getting around the city and to the airport easy. 

Award rates start at 110,000 Hilton points per night for a Superior Room, which is spacious by European standards at 301-355 sqft. Superior rooms are outfitted with Egyptian cotton sheets, a marble bathroom and large windows to let in lots of natural light.

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How to earn Hilton points

The Hilton Honors program is a 1:2 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, though this isn’t the best use of points. A better way to boost your Hilton points balance is by acquiring one of the Hilton credit cards. You can piece together multiple nights with the welcome bonus, annual spending bonus and generous earn rates on everyday spending. You’ll even get valuable elite status perks that can translate to room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and other enhancements to your travel experience.

  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® CardEarn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Welcome Offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card within the first six months of Card Membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.

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Intercontinental Paris Le Grand
Intercontinental Paris Le Grand © Intercontinental Paris Le Grand

Intercontinental Paris Le Grand

Paris has no shortage of exceptional hotels that provide grandeur and comfort. If you’re looking for old-world luxury with a historical background, you can’t go wrong with the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand. This hotel opened in 1862 (sans the Intercontinental brand) and hosts the famed Café de la Paix, the preferred hangout spot for renowned writers like Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo.

Award rates at this iconic property start at 66,000 IHG One points per night for a 215 sqft. “Cozy room” with a courtyard view. The hotel boasts an excellent location across the street from Palais Garnier and a short walk to tourist hot spots like the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. Whether it’s your first time visiting The City of Lights or your tenth, the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand is an excellent choice for a point stay.

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How to earn IHG points

If you want to earn enough IHG points for a stay at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt points to IHG at a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, you can pick up an IHG credit card to earn 140,000 points and elite status perks. Cardholders also get the fourth night free on award stays, along with other valuable perks.

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Night city view of Amsterdam
Night city view of Amsterdam © Getty / iStockphoto

Bottom line

Travel to Europe is more expensive than ever, but you can reduce the cost with points and miles. A European vacation can fit anyone's budget with flights starting at just 20,000 miles round-trip and luxury hotel options like the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand.

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* 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 Sep 8, 2023 and updated May 23, 2024.

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