Best Points and Miles to Get to Australia & New Zealand Best Points and Miles to Get to Australia & New Zealand

Best Points and Miles to Get to Australia & New Zealand

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Getting to the South Pacific from the United States using points and miles can be one of the most difficult challenges a points and miles enthusiast can ever encounter. There is a limited selection of flights that operate by a limited number of airlines and it takes a heck of a long time to get there.

The best points and miles are the ones that'll actually get you there at a price you're willing to pay. Like any destination, flexibility is key to get the best value from your rewards, but especially so with Australia and New Zealand.

Which Programs We Like Best for Travel to Australia & New Zealand

  • Economy ClassUnited MileagePlus. You'll pay 80,000 miles round-trip and can travel on either United or Air New Zealand non-stop or with other partners as well through Asia. Yes, United will allow you to route through Asia to get to Australia/NZ.
  • Business Class/First Class – This is a toss up across multiple programs, but our favorites are Alaska MileagePlan, American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, and United MileagePlus. We'll go into more detail below for each.

Qantas a380

How to Accumulate the Right Miles

The key to making your trip happen is accumulating points and miles in programs that give you the best options

Each of the rewards programs listed transfer to other programs, in addition to the ones we've listed.

Economy Class to Australia & New Zealand

There is no way around it — it is a heck of a long flight regardless of how you get there. Either a couple of 8+ hour flights through Asia or a 15+ hour flight non-stop. If you're doing it in economy it isn't going to be luxurious, but it'll get you there, and at a price that you can afford.

We like United MileagePlus best for economy class to Australia and New Zealand for a few reasons: (United MileagePlus Award Chart)

  • Both United and Air New Zealand actually have economy class award availability from their U.S. gateway cities to Australia and New Zealand.
  • If you can't find award availability on a non-stop flight you can always route through Asia for no additional miles which include airlines like Thai, ANA, Air China and EVA.
  • United doesn't pass on fuel or carrier-imposed surcharges. The taxes and fees you'll pay will be the lowest out there
United Award Availability to Australia December 2016
United Award Availability LAX to SYD December 2016

While there isn't availability every day for Saver Awards, there is a mix of both economy and business class space out there on United and their partners.

Business & First Class to Australia & New Zealand

If you're planning a dream trip to the other side of the world, you might be looking to include business or first class airfare as a part of the journey. Out of pocket, you could easily spend $8,000 per person, but with flexibility and proper planning, you can do it for much less by using the right points and miles. There is no perfect program, but the key is to have options, so here we go:

Alaska stands tall because of its partner network. While the price you'll pay will vary depending on the partner you choose to travel with, you've got options with Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong, Delta Air Lines, Fiji Airways through Fiji, Korean Air through Seoul, and Qantas. The best value to be had is probably with Qantas at 110,000 miles in round-trip business class or 140,000 in round-trip first class. You'll get some of the best routing available and an excellent flight experience. Remember, with Alaska you're allowed to have a stop-over on your travels, even on a one-way award. So, if you opt to fly through Hong Kong, Fiji, or Seoul you might look at adding another destination to your trip.

American doesn't have much of an advantage over Alaska as they partner with Fiji and Qantas as well, however you can cash in your AA miles for flights on American to Australia & NZ. While you'll have a difficult time finding that premium cabin award availability with AA you do have the additional options of their non-stop flights to Sydney and Auckland, both have which been added in the past year.

  • Delta SkyMiles

It's no secret that Delta makes it tough to keep track of figuring out how much you'll pay for an award ticket — they don't publish an award chart, and you can't redeem SkyMiles for flights in first class. However, in addition to their flight to Sydney, they partner with Virgin Australia for other non-stop flight options to Australia. Their partner, Korean Air, is known to have excellent award availability and is a strong option as Delta allows routing on them through Seoul as a single award ticket.

Much of what is great about United for travel on economy class holds true for business/first class flights. You'll pay a small premium (10,000 miles) to travel on a partner in business class, versus traveling on United's own aircraft. If you opt for first class you'll pay a steep 50,000-mile premium to travel with a partner versus on United's planes. Yes, it is a premium, but award availability is typically very good.

AirNZ Business Class
photo credit: Fly For Fun Air New Zealand via photopin (license)

Why We Like These Programs

The main reason we like these programs is that their miles are relatively easy to accumulate. Whether it be with a co-branded credit card, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, or a flexible travel reward earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, these miles are attainable and provide great value.

These aren't the only options out there, but by being easily attainable and with award programs that are relatively straightforward, we like these best for trying to redeem your miles to Australia and New Zealand. What's your favorite point or mile to use for travel to Australia or New Zealand?

4.5 / 5 - (23 votes)
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  • Barry Schnur says:

    One approach I have found which can work is to break out the trip to Australia and/or New Zealand.

    That is fly out to Hawaii (mid week economy on HA can be as little as 17,5K miles using Hawiaian Airline miles. Lay over a couple of days to break up the travel.

    The fly from Honolulu to either Sydney or Brisbane on Hawaiian Airlines using American airline miles — they 65K with reasonable availability in business class — the Hawaiian A330’s are now lie flats. One consideration here is that the flights get in at 7:30PM — so plan to stay in Sydney that evening and go on from there. (We did this and flew on the next day to Cairns — within 24 hours so the 65K miles included the continuation flight on Qantas).

    Return flights can be a bit trickier. For our big vacation we took miles to fly from Cairns to Melbourne. Then we paid out of pocked to fly economy plus on Air New Zealand to Auckland – they had a noon flight. For the return home we found a good ‘out of pocket’ price in HA business class ($1500 each) to fly from Auckland to Kona by way of HNL. We have a timeshare on the big island.

    One can then arrange flights back to the mainland from there (either with FF miles or out of pocket.).

    The payoff for us was to break up the longer flights so we did 10 hours, not 14 or 16 hours on a plane and also avoided the change plane / terminal hassle.

    • Barry, great example here! Thank you for sharing.

      • Barry Schnur says:

        I would note that sometimes you can get a ‘bargain miles’ flight with HA miles (we collect AA miles, Alaska Miles and Hawaian Miles).

        If your schedule is totally open, it is possible to fly from HNL ro AKL business class on HA for 65,000 miles – with HA’s new lie flats – that can be an nice flight to take.

        Looking over the thread, I will note that our first trip to Australia was using Alaska Miles on Cathay Pacific first class out of LAX — I will tell you first class on Cathay Pacific seriously can spoil one.

  • Kwang-Woo Hong says:

    I currently use American Airlines, but business/first class redemptions can be quite hard to come by. Good to know there is another option in Alaska.

  • Howie, Jetstar Airways has a non-stop from HNL-MEL. Can you tell me anything about this airline? eg: Comfort, reliability, alliance with US frequent flier programs?. In a perfect world, I would route MSP-HNL nonstop on DL, then connect to this airline to get to MEL. Could a routing like this be created?

  • What is the likelyhood of getting business on Qantas Australia to the states? using AA miles in early November 2018. I’m going to be going to Hawaii on the way there for a few days first. Looks like HNL- SYD via AKL has great availability. Thanks!

    • Australia to the US and the other way around are some of the hardest routes to get premium cabin award space. Your odds: better than 1%, worse than 99%. Plan as far in advance as you can and search every day. Your saving grace is coming from Hawaii instead of the mainland, which I think would increase your chances.

  • I’m heading to NZ and Australia soon buisness points from AA. I hope the trip goes smoothly and I don’t get bumped by someone paying cash. Fingers crossed! Booked late so used loads of points, but the trip will be worth it.
    Thanks for this information regarding trading points etc it sure takes some research to get the most out of points.

  • We’ve been relying on AA (with Amex and SPG) to get us to Europe in recent years. Their chart is quite advantageous and the call centre customer service is amazing compared to Qantas.

    Hoping the SPG conversion lasts a bit longer as AA are hard to come by for Aussies!

  • Thank you, Howie. Based on your response, I will plan to use United or Korean (to find DL flights). As for AA Miles, if I told you my two most desired places to visit in the next five years are the UK and Australia and seated in either BC or FC… based on what you told me about the difficulty finding BC/FC seats using AA miles to Australia, combined with my desire to pick/use the airline that keeps the extra fees/taxes to the UK to a minimum, should I even consider AA, or should start accumulating miles for a different airline/alliance? Thank you very much.

  • Howie, regarding using AA miles to Australia, could you further explain your comment, “While you’ll have a difficult time finding that premium cabin award availability with AA…..” Should I give up hope that I won’t be able to use AA miles to fly on AA in BC or FC to Australia? I thought I read that using AA miles for Qantas to Australia will only be possible for Economy seats. Could you please clarify? Thank you very much.

    • I would be pleasantly surprised if you find Business/First class award space with AA or Qantas to Australia. It happens, but not often and typically comes and goes quickly. Personally, I’d look to use United or Korean miles and route through Asia

  • Hi,

    I wanted to get to New Zealand, unfortunately at peak travel date. 12/27/2017 returning between 1/15-1/19 2018. Hoping to do business. Or alternatively same date 2018-2019

    I have $155K UR points.
    65K AA miles
    220K United Miles

    Is it possible to do round trip business round trip without cashing out everything?

  • Howie, how much are the prices for your Award Booking Service to do a specific search, and/or a general search. How far out can they search for possible FC/BC options from mainland to Australia or New Zealand?

  • I tried to find Space in F from Germany to SYD – but its always only in BIZ – is there any Chance in getting it in F?

  • Thanks for the thoughtful article. Would your recommendation for programs change if one wanted to add Tahiti to either the outbound or return from Australia/NZ?

  • What about going all out and trying to fly First Class in a Suite in either Cathay Pacific or Singapore with a stopover? I have 200,000 AMEX points, 50,000 Citi Thank You points, 60,000 Alaska miles, and at least 70,000 AA miles. Plus I am not trying to do this myself-I am using your award booking service to fly to Auckland and back late November 2017, and I have a little flexibility about when I leave. Is this a pipe dream?

    • Stephanie – it’s viable with what you have. The hardest thing is figuring out how to get the best value due to some of your balances. What you have with Alaska is just under the desired threshold … but the folks at the Award Booking service handle this stuff and can give you the best plan and let you know what makes the most sense — especially with your flexibility.

  • I definitely recommend the Japan Airlines option stopping over in Tokyo and then flying to Sydney – which Alaska and American Airlines frequent flyers can access. They are both exciting places to visit and JAL provides fully lie-flat seats in business class and a great service on board.

  • I’m a fan of using United miles to get to Australia and New Zealand. As someone living in the Bay Area, I take United’s non-stop evening flight from SFO. If you can sleep on the plane (at your natural sleep time), the long flight doesn’t seem so long and you arrive in the morning (actually two days later because you cross the International Date Line).

  • Which one provides more bang for your buck for non-US user?

    • It depends on where you’re collecting your points/miles and how quickly you can accumulate them. There are several options listed and however, you’re collecting your points/miles will likely dictate which is the best bang for your buck.

  • I am surprised I do not see the best Australia value out there right now while it lasts, Virgin America at only 40k miles on Virgin Australia. Get it before Alaska Airlines ruins the relationship and the loyalty program.

    • Jeff, you make an excellent point — especially if you’re transferring from SPG to Virgin America, at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 25% bonus effectively giving you 1:1.25. I wish Membership Rewards had such a transfer ratio, but if you’re heavy with SPG points this is an amazing deal, you’re correct. Thanks for sharing!

  • Is there any benefits of using one over another?

  • We used our United miles in Feb for our upcoming Dec trip to NZ/AU. Flying to Auckland from IAD via SFO and back from Sydney. Slightly tricky as one way flights and using two accounts for Business Class. Then UA has rescheduled several times. LOOONG trip, so Business is worth it and cashing FF miles makes sense. Considered New Zealand Air, but less control and potentially more miles.

  • I have a bunch of friends in New Zealand now, they’re making me jealous enough that I’ll have to get there in the next year or two.

  • Peter Brooks says:

    I used AADvantage to fly to, from, and around Australia over the summer. I flew back on Qantas (thru AA) business class, and I didn’t want the flight to end! It was spectacular, from beginning to end!

  • In my opinion, OW’s biggest advantage is Qantas. Makes getting to Australia from anywhere in the world so much easier.

  • We were able to use our AAdvantage miles for two business class tickets to Australia and New Zealand in October 2015. We flew to Honolulu first class on American, overnighted and caught a Hawaiian Airlines flight in business class to Brisbane, Australia the next day. On the return, we flew Qantas business class from Sydney to Honolulu and then first class on American to Dallas. American now has non-stop lights from LAX to Sydney and Aukland. We are going back next April and were able to secure business class tickets with our miles on American’s 787 Dreamliner to Auckland, and then return on their 777 from Sydney.

    • Traci Giuliano says:

      Hi Ray,

      How far in advance did you book your tickets for April from LAX-AUck-SYD-LAX? Looking to do something similar for next December.


  • Last year I flew to Auckland, NZ using 35k United miles flying on Air New Zealand. The trick here was booking a one-way flight to Fiji which is cheaper in miles, and then not taking my connection from Auckland. In order for this strategy to work, you must not have any checked bags.

  • Flying to Perth later this month on AA and Qantas.
    We booked our trip before the AA devaluation.
    We decided to book business class to get there, so we could sleep, and fly coach back, no business class availability on the return, 100,000 miles per person.

  • Looks like I’ll be applying for an Alaska Mileage Visa to start saving up for a trip down under!

  • Theresa Marko says:

    This trip would definitely need to be in business class. I find it difficult to use my Citi TYP. I wish they would just transfer to AA since they have a relationship. I don’t get why they dont.

    • Theresa – there are a lot of us that want this to happen. The good thing about TYP is that you can transfer to other partners as well (like Air France) where you could then book a flight with their partners to Australia as well.

  • This is great information. I hoped to plan a trip to Hawaii in the future, but might re-consider and think about Australia or New Zealand. Thank you!

  • I lived in New Zealand in 2003, but my partner has never been. We’re looking at June 2018. Hoping to buy one business class ticket and use points/miles for the other. He just got the Sapphire Reserve, and we’re piling points on it pretty quickly. So, we’re probably looking at using United miles (I love flying Air New Zealand, though.). I find they’re one of the easiest to search for awards with. Bummed about some of their routing changes, though. Managed to book round trip business to Thailand with a 3 day stopover in Tokyo for June 2017 before the new region rules went into effect.

    Although, if Fiji Air has another one of their terrific business class sales, we could probably pay for both tickets for less than the cost of buying one and add in a stopover in Fiji as a bonus.

  • I’m encouraged by some of the tips here and will start planning soon!

  • Norman Henriquez says:

    Our family of four were able to fly American on economy award tickets from Miami to Osaka. Somehow we were able to grab those few seat available to do it with the minimum required miles and during high season. Just dont give up and keep your eyes and flexibility open to fulfill a dream come true vacation.

  • Really want to go to Australia and NZ

  • Richard Pomerantz says:

    Great timing. We’re on the Big Island and were talking about where we want to go next. We both said Australia and New Zealand in 2017.

  • If you have a Delta AmEx, another option is to use Delta Pay with Miles to bring down the price of a ticket to Oz on Delta, which also allows you to avoid the fuel surcharges and fees. We’re flying to Sydney direct from LAX in 10 days and by using Pay with Miles, we were able to get coach-class round-trip tickets for just about $650 per person.

  • Travelled to Hobart Tasmania as well as Newzeland .Used Delta sky miles

  • Jamie Morris says:

    I flew on United to Sydney using miles in economy and connected through SFO. My connection was long enough to take a grey tour of the city, plus get a room for a nap and a shower before my flight.
    I the service on my flight was excellent and I will use them again on my trip to New Zealand.

  • Arlyne Dehning says:

    We are going to Australia and New Zealand to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Using airline miles is a new experience for us so information on the process is very helpful. Thanks

  • What about using Virgin America Elevate points to fly business on Virgin Australia (80k round trip)? Or is this award just in name only and never available?

  • That’s what I’ve been saving up all those miles for all those years! No way I’m making that trip in coach.

  • I’ve always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand. Hoping to use Alaska miles, but we’ll see what availability is like when things get closer.

  • A long flight to Australia is definitely worth redeeming the extra points/miles for business class!

  • I totally agree with the writer. I used American Airline to Aust and stopped over for a few days in Japan with 80,000 points in off season.

    Thanks American Airline – Enjoyed it.

  • I was considering using Citi or AMEX and using the points to book through their rewards centre, would that be better than using SPG or one of the AA cards? I fly with AA since I live in Dallas so they’re pretty much my best choice.

    Also, I flew back from Sydney to DFW in first class on their non-stop AA flight. Great experience definitely one of the best flights I’ve done

    • Rob, it all depends on the class of service you’re looking to travel, award availability and how many points/miles you have. Our Award Booking experts can definitely help ( make sure you get the best value of your rewards.

      • Would you recommend either though? I liked the idea of using rewards points as that would still allow me to gain status with AA (currently don’t have any status). Also, I would prefer to travel business or even first but I know first can be outrageous to obtain.

        • Rob, I wouldn’t recommend contacting either Amex or Citi to complete the booking — to get the best value from your points for long-haul international premium cabins you’ll want to transfer to airline travel partners and then book — that’s where the booking experts we have come in.

          • Which is better to transfer to AA? American Express or Citi? I’m between those two, Citi has better fitting bonus categories (entertainment) but I’ve heard great things about American Express.

          • Rob, neither American Express Membership Rewards nor Citi ThankYou Points can be transferred to AAdvantage. SPG Points are the only flexible travel rewards currency that can be used to transfer to AAdvantage.

      • The AwardBooking link appears to be wrong; can you tell us more about this service?

  • Steven Schwartz says:

    We did this two years ago. Used AA miles to get First Class NYC to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Business Class from HKG to Melbourne and the return from Auckland to HKG. Seems to be a bit harder now but at 135,000 miles per person then, it was pretty amazing. My wife hates flying but would do Cathay First anytime!

  • One thing to consider: I just returned from OZ a week ago. I bought my one-way ticket there on Hawaiian Air. You have to overnight in Honolulu, but I can think of worse things to do. For my return trip, I used 40k miles to fly home on United.

    • Nicely done! There are definitely worse places to spend a night 🙂

    • Barry Schnur says:

      What we have set up for next year is a composite trip using miles from American and Hawaii and paying for some flights.

      We fly from Phoenix to Honolulu — using minimal Hawaiian Air miles (17.5K economy for each of us)

      Then we stay two nights at a timeshare we have access to. That sets us up for Australia.

      Using American miles we fly business class on Hawaiian Airlines (they now have lie flats) to Sydney. We’re staying overnight at the Rydges hotel connected to the international terminal since the flight gets in at 7:30PM

      The next day we fly up to Cairns — as a continuation of the AA frequent flyer miles flight (65K x 2) for business class from Honolulu to Cairns via Sidney.

      Three days in Cairns, then we fly to Melbourne using Alaska miles on Qantas — business class -20K x 2). We stay there for a week.

      Originally we were using AA miles on Qantas to fly to Auckland — but Qantas messed around on flight times (we were NOT going to try to take a 7AM international flight). So I decided to bite the bullet and pay for an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland ($300 x 2 for Premium Economy).

      After a couple of weeks in New Zealand, we fly back to our primary timeshare in Kona. Knowing how difficult getting that flight with miles, and seeing a bargain price with Hawaiian — we booked that on dollars ($1400 x 2) business class to Kona via Honolulu.

      After a week in Kona at our time share, we fly home to Phoenix on American Airlines — paid for that out of pocket — economy with an upgrade to economy plus. Those flights ran about $375 each.

      The combination of frequent flyer miles, and selective choices of paid flights meant about $4200 plus miles for a special vacation — it has been fun to schedule.

      I also like reducing those long Pacific flights into smaller segments, using Hawaii as the break point.

      Further, there is a lot more availability from Hawaii to Australia or NZ using miles than you get from the mainland.