Winter is near. As I write this I’m sitting on a plane crossing Asia from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, but when I left Chicago a few days back it was in the 50’s. It hadn’t been in the 50’s for a while, possibly signaling the beginnings of a change in the wind. I think this is winter pretty much providing us in the Midwest with its first warning. While a nearing winter for most can be a depressing thought, it does open many possibilities travel-wise. Many take advantage of low season travel to fly as far as possible from the cold and enjoy themselves at hot Caribbean destinations. Others embrace the chill and head to ski destinations in the US (for which United has increased service) or elsewhere in the world. Of course, the Swiss Alps being one of the most coveted of said destinations. If this interests you, there are great news in terms of availability from the US on business class to Geneva.
See below how United’s calendar looks between December and March. Availability could be either flying United or a Star Alliance partner, like Swiss.
Award pricing and routing
What will determine the amount of miles needed per one-way is whether you fly United or a Star Alliance partner. United’s current business class award redemption rate is 57,500 miles (though this is changing in November with MileagePlus’ most recent devaluation), and will usually be through either Amsterdam or Brussels. One-way redemptions on Star Alliance partners will price at 70,000 miles, Swiss and Lufthansa being the most probable for this route, through Zurich or Frankfurt/Munich.
Earning the miles
You can earn this amount of miles relatively easily via credit card sign-up bonuses; and in this particular case the main two avenues are both Chase and American Express credit cards. Of course, Chase has co-branded cards with United aside form Chase Ultimate Reward cards. But remember that Amex does provide an equally simple way to redeem Star Alliance flights, including the three airlines mentioned above by earning Membership Rewards or SPG points and transferring them to Air Canada’s Aeroplan. If you don’t have an Aeroplan account, you can create one for this purpose for free here. The benefit to booking with Aeroplan is that regardless of the airline, Aeroplan prices these one-ways at 55,000 miles.
Amex Platinum card – 60,000 Membership Rewards points (transferable to Aeroplan)
Amex Business Platinum card – 60,000 Membership Rewards points (transferable to Aeroplan)
SPG card – 25,000 SPG points (transferable to Aeroplan)
SPG Business card – 25,000 SPG points (transferable to Aeroplan)
Chase Ink Business – 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transferable to United)
Chase Sapphire Preferred card – 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transferable to United)
Chase United Explorer card – 40,000 United MileagePlus miles
Chase Business United Explorer card – 50,000 United MileagePlus miles
Keep in mind that there are other methods to earn United miles that don’t involve credit cards.
Book through United or through Aeroplan
This will largely depend on you. The flight availability is going to be quite similar if not identical, so I don’t think one wins over the other in that regard. There are more cards with good offers to earn United miles with, but it’s unlikely that most would be able to get them all and meet the minimum requirement all for this winter. Aeroplan has the advantage of saving you some miles. In any case, it really depends on you. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer here, although 5/24 will certainly have a say on many folks’ strategy here. If you’re concerned about the higher annual fee cards in the list, read this post about how the benefits far outweigh and offset the annual fee, particularly in the first year of membership.
There’s also alternate ways to go about all this. Read my post about Marriott’s air + travel packages.
For an example of how your booking could go this winter, take a look at this trip to Germany on miles and points.
In the next couple of weeks, I’ll show you which are my favorite properties to book with points in the Swiss Alps.