Getting to Europe: Should you use Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards?

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If you’re deciding between using American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards to get to Europe, you might already know that each of these programs is great in their own right.  One of the best things about these rewards programs is that neither is locked into a particular airline.  Points from both rewards programs can be transferred to other airline and hotel programs and even redeemed for cash and gift cards (though this doesn’t offer the best return!).  The flexibility of these programs is very attractive.

So if you’re planning a trip to Europe, which type of points should you use?  Lets take a look…

Using American Express Membership Rewards

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to a number of different airlines and redeem them for a ticket to Europe.

Here’s a great post from One Mile at a Time on Best Uses of American Express Membership Rewards Points by Region: Europe.  This post outlines why transferring Amex Membership Rewards to Delta is often your best bet when traveling to Europe.

Delta charges 60,000 miles round-trip for a coach ticket at the “saver” level, so let’s take a look and see what we can find flying from JFK to London the second week of December.

Here’s a shot of the Skymiles Award Travel Calendar for this route:

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 2.55.29 PM

There is good “saver” award availability in the beginning of the month, but it gets a bit trickier as you move closer to the holidays.

So, for a saver award leaving Friday and returning the following Sunday during the second week in December you would need 60,000 Delta Skymiles and $192.70 for fees.  A pretty great deal considering this ticket would normally cost upwards of $1000!

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 3.05.18 PM

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards 

United is an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and they are known for having great mileage redemption rates and charge the same 60,000 miles routdtrip for a coach “saver” award.  Let’s do a straight comparison and see what United’s award availability from JFK to London looks like in the second week of December.

Here’s a shot of their outbound award availability:

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 2.53.47 PM

And another shot of their return award availability:

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 2.58.11 PM

United’s “saver” availability is pretty great for both the outbound and return flights, even more so than what we found when searching Delta.

And after checking the route through United you can see that 60,000 miles + $195.10 in fees gets you a roundtrip coach seat to Europe with an Economy Saver seat!

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 2.12.41 PM

So which option would you choose?  Is availability and scheduling flexibility always a priority for you when redeeming miles?

In this situation I’d use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to get a ticket on United, primarily because they have the best availability.  That being said, each circumstance is different and you have to figure out what works best for you and your situation.

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