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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 Class – United 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.
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
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card & Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Ultimate Rewards transfer partners include United, which will help you for both economy and business/first class travel.
- Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card & Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – Marriott Rewards points transfer to Alaska, American, and Delta at a 3:1 ratio.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express & The Business Platinum® Card from American Express – American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Delta Air Lines.
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
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 MileagePlan (Alaska MileagePlus Award Chart)
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 AAdvantage (American AAdvantage Award Chart)
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.
- United MileagePlus (United MileagePlus Award Chart)
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.
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 Signature® 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?
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