Home > India > Redeeming Miles for India (Review)

Redeeming Miles for India (Review)

I posted 4 parts that went over what I’ve learned in redeeming miles for India, which can be read here:

Part 1: Star Alliance

Part 2: OneWorld

Part 3: Skyteam

Part 4: Non-Alliance

However, since there’s a lot of information to parse through in multiple posts, I thought I’d write a review, especially for people who haven’t collected miles just yet and want to make a plan for redemptions to India.

1a) United Airlines miles are the best …. hands down. That makes Chase Ultimate Rewards the best as well.

They have a plethora of Star Alliance partners in both Europe and Asia, and allow you to fly over the Atlantic or Pacific (or both!).

They allow one-way awards. They allow a stopover or open-jaw on roundtrips. You can book online pretty easily!

They allow changes outside of 21 days for free. They don’t charge fuel surcharges!

They currently have a 50,000 miles bonus on first purchase via the Chase United MileagePlus Visa! They are partners with my new favorite credit card program, Chase Ultimate Rewards!

If you are opening credit cards and want to use them to go to India, I highly suggest signing up for Chase cards that bank to or allow transfers to United.

1b) US Airways miles can be great if you don’t require flexibility.

Since they are also in the Star Alliance, you have the same award availability as with United.

However, you must book a round-trip award. They don’t have an online engine, so you must pay $50 to phone in. Changes cost $150. Once you start your trip, you cannot make changes.

Barclays has a 40,000 mile on first purchase Mastercard with first year annual fee wavied, which is a great deal since they pull the Transunion credit bureau; this is a very seldomly used bureau for the other card companies, so if you are applying for credit cards, you might as well get a US Airways Mastercard. They also sell miles for cheap throughout the year, and their Grand Slam can make earning miles very cheap.

2) American Airlines AAdvantage is the next best option.

They partner with OneWorld airlines, which have good coverage to India, as well as Etihad.

The best options are via the Middle East with Royal Jordanian or Etihad, which allows for the cheapest mileage redemption and no fuel surcharges. However, these are only 2 partners, as opposed to United’s vast number of Star Alliance partners.

British Airways has great availability, but they charge fuel surcharges. You can reduce these charges by flying American Airlines from the U.S. to London, then British Airways from London to India, but you’ll still pay a few hundred dollars more by flying British Airways.

Flying via Asia will cost more miles but will save you some fees vs. flying British Airways. The fees for Cathay come to under $80 by booking through American Airlines, though you’ll pay a bit more in miles.

AAdvantage miles are easy to earn via Citi AAdvantage Visa/AMEX signup bonuses. You can sign up for 2 Citi cards on one day, and a business card 10 weeks later. With frequent 50K bonuses, this is an easy 100K with some spending.

3a) British Airways miles are plentiful, but they get you on high mileage prices + high fuel surcharges.

British Airways does have a current 50% transfer bonus from American Express membership rewards, but you will have to pay high fuel surcharges and high mileage prices. From L.A. to India, the cheapest redemptions are via Hong Kong (Delhi and Mumbai) and Tokyo (just Delhi). With the current 50% transfer bonus, it’s 120K to 125K Amex points for a roundtrip in business class via Asia from the west coast. Fees for Cathay Pacific cost about $675 in all classes, so not bad for Cathay’s great business class.

British Airways also just announced a repeat offer of their 100,000 mile bonus credit card, which I’ll write about in a later post (it does require a lot of spending, so should be thought of as a 50,000 mile signup bonus with 50,000 spending bonuses attached).

3b) If you have a bunch of AmEx points and there’s no BA transfer bonus and you’re going to pay fuel surcharges, look at Singapore Airlines Krisflyer.

They are a partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Since they don’t have transfer bonuses, a business class ticket from L.A. to India will go for about 153,000 points + $950 in fees. Not bad for a fantastic business class. They often have better award availability using their own points than with other Star Alliance partners (like United/US Airways miles).

3c) ANA and Air Canada Aeroplan are currently sleeper AmEx transfer partners, but can become great partners with better transfer bonuses and transfer timings.

Aeroplan costs 100K for coach, 150K for business, and 210K for first + fuel surcharges on Star Alliance partners. They do have a great stopover policy, but it’s still cheaper to go through United. However, if they run a transfer bonus, you can use less AmEx points (and make up for the fuel surcharges).

ANA’s mileage redemptions cost similar to United’s chart, but they also have fuel surcharges. The main problem with them is that they take a while to transfer from AmEx to ANA, which takes away the point I detail in #5. If that transfer time comes down from several days to several minutes (or even several hours), ANA can pack quite a punch. I just don’t like the risk of losing award space while waiting for a transfer to occur.

4) If you fly Delta Air Lines and don’t mind forgoing Delta elite status (or don’t fly enough for it anyway), try banking to Alaska Airlines. Same thing goes for Emirates and other partners if you only fly them once in a while.

Yeah, I know, I really railed on Delta and Skyteam in Post #3, but for the purposes of booking flights to India, it can be very tough to get value out of that alliance.

As I said in Part 4, Alaska can be great for certain redemptions (such as Cathay Pacific). I don’t see the value of Delta’s lowest elite status, Silver Medallion, so if you fly less than 50,000 miles/year on Delta and Skyteam, I would bank those miles to Alaska, since they tend to have better options for getting to India.

If you fly American Airlines or other OneWorld partners, you can bank those miles to Alaska Airlines if you choose to, but I still see the value in American Airlines miles.

5) This series really underscores the value in programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and American Express Membership Rewards (and possibly Citi ThankYou).

Banking to a transferable pool of credit card points greatly increases the possibilities you have. With Chase, I can transfer to United and British Airways; with American Express, I can transfer to British Airways (sometimes with bonuses up to 50%!), Delta (sometimes with large bonuses as well!), or Singapore Airlines. With Starwood, I can transfer to Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways to top off those accounts.

The best part about this is that most of these transfers (at least with Chase and AmEx) are pretty instantaneous, so you can look for awards before transferring points. If you find a killer redemption that requires United miles one-way and British Airways miles another, you can hold the United award to confirm its availability, transfer AmEx or Chase points to British to book that part of the award, then transfer Chase points to United to book that part.

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