Cheapest Way to Get to Asia on Miles

Cheapest Way to Get to Asia on Miles

Despite its distance, Asia is remarkably reasonable on miles. If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest option, American Airlines offers off-peak awards to Japan and Korea that require just 50,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip. If you’re a newbie and this number doesn’t ring a bell, this means you’re just one-credit card sign-up bonus away from a trip that would otherwise cost well over $1,000.

Even traveling outside the off-season, American Airlines offers the lowest redemption rates throughout Asia. The ability to acquire AAdvantage miles so easily makes this a no-brainer for economy awards to Asia. However, some folks have preferred airlines they want to travel to or a sizable balance in one of their other mileage accounts. Those factors, combined with award availability, may dictate which program you ultimately use for your award ticket to Asia. Below is a breakdown of the miles required, how to earn them, and where to search for award space:

Airways:Economy:
Alaska60,000-85,000 miles
50,000 miles off-peak
(Oct.1-April 30) to Japan, Korea
American Airlines65,000-70,000 miles
50,000 miles off-peak
(Oct.1-April 30) to Japan, Korea
Delta70,000-80,000 miles
United70,000-80,000 miles
US Airways60,000-80,000 miles

How to Earn Miles

Alaska
As a partner of the American Airlines AAdvantage program, Alaska Airlines allows members to redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel on American at the off-peak level. If you’re able to get the 50,000-mile version of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you’re golden because its enough for a round-trip, off-peak award. The publicly available offer for the card grants just 25,000 miles after first spend. This offer is still decent because you can use it for a one-way award and then utilize any AAdvantage miles you may have for the return–all for 50,000 miles round-trip.

For another 10,000-35,000 miles, consider picking up a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. After meeting $5,000 in spending requirements within six months, cardholders get a total of 30,000 Starpoints. Transferring these points to Alaska Miles would result in 35,000 miles total (there is a 5,000-point bonus per 20,000-point transfer).

awaeds-table-asia
American Airlines off-peak award chart

American
American Airlines off-peak awards can offer tremendous value, especially when they are combined with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card. Not only does the card offer 53,000 AAdvantage miles after spending requirements are met (enough to cover an off-peak economy trip to Asia), but cardholders get 10 percent of their redeemed miles back, bringing the total cost of the award to 45,000 miles round-trip.

If the off-season doesn’t appeal to you or you’d like to travel outside of Japan and Korea, you can get additional miles by picking up the business version of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card or a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Of course, transferring Starpoints to AAdvantage is an option, but the co-branded AAdvantage cards have much lower spending requirements.

Delta
Depending on which region you’re traveling to, you’ll need either 70,000 or 80,000 points for an economy-class ticket to Asia. The Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card gets you a nice start with 35,000 miles after $1,000 is spent within three months. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card gets you a total of 30,000 SPG points after the spending requirement is met and when you factor in the 5,000 point transfer bonus, this results in a total of 35,000 Skymiles. With these two cards, you have enough for an award to North Asia. If you’re hoping to travel elsewhere in Asia, you can make up the 10,000-point deficiency by earning it the old fashioned way–putting all spend on the card until you hit $10,000–or by picking up another credit card. The Gold Delta Skymiles American Express comes with another 30,000 miles after $1,000 spent within three months.

United
If you get the United Mileage Plus Explorer card when it is offering a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus, you’ll have 57,000 miles after the $2,000 spending requirement is met and an authorized user is added to the card. Combining this with the sign-up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (40,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months) is more than enough for an award to anywhere in Asia.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card

US Airways
The 60,000-80,000 miles required for an economy award to Asia can be acquired rather easily thanks to the instant 40,000-mile sign-up bonus from the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card gets additional 35,000 Dividend miles, which is just 5,000 miles short of the top-tier award level. Putting another $5,000 of spending on the Starwood card (household bills, every day purchases, mortgage/rent, etc.) for several months is a good strategy. Plus, transferring a total of 40,000 Starpoints to Dividend miles would result in 50,000 miles total.

How to Redeem Miles

The basic rule of thumb for award search tools is that oneworld award space (American Airlines and US Airways) is best searched on the British Airways website, and Delta on the Air France site. While United has a decent award search tool, they have dropped several partners from their search, making Air Canada’s Aeroplan a more competent tool. Below is a quick summary of the award search tools that correspond to each rewards currency:

American

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Qantas
  • US Airways

Delta

  • Delta Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Air France

United

  • United
  • Aeroplan
  • All Nippon Airways

US Airways

  • US Airways
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Qantas