Miles & Points for Beginners: Sweet Spots


Here in Part 7 of our Miles & Points for Beginners series, we’ll continue looking at options and strategies regarding the redemption phase of your points journey.

In Part 6, we went over how to define a “good deal,” how to assess if the award flights you find in your searches are providing you with good value, and how to balance all this information with your own personal travel priorities and desires.

In support of your hunt for good deals, this article will dive into redemption “sweet spots” to build your knowledge on these incredibly helpful and valuable award flight options.

By being tuned-in with existing and potential sweet spots, you’ll be even more well equipped to make high-value redemptions and to enjoy your first (and second and third) business class flight for close to free.

Loyalty Programs & Sweet Spots

As you begin to research different loyalty programs to invest in, and you build your knowledge on how to find award flights that represent a good deal, one of the most important things to look for in each program is their sweet spots.

When we say “sweet spot,” what we’re referring to is the best possible way (in terms of points or cash value) to book a particular flight, especially when compared to other programs. To help give you a good understanding of what a sweet spot entails, we’ll go over a number of examples throughout this article.

As you journey further into Miles & Points, knowing and leveraging sweet spots within each program will help you maximize your redemptions, save points, and have some outstanding experiences to boot.

Miles & Points can unlock incredible experiences

In many of our loyalty program guides, we list sweet spots and how to book them with points, but in this article, we’ll focus exclusively on a few of our favourite programs that are easily accessible, have excellent award pricing, and solid sweet spots.

We’ll also give you some insight into how to identify sweet spots in general, which builds nicely on Part 6’s lesson on “what’s a good deal.”

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada’s Aeroplan is a versatile program that’s particularly easy to access in Canada since there are many co-branded credit cards, and since you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points (MR points) to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.

Aeroplan also enjoys the benefit of over 45 airline partners, so there are redemption options in nearly all corners of the globe.

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Aeroplan has more than 45 airline partners, including All Nippon Airways

As a hybrid distance- and zone-based program, Aeroplan redemptions become more expensive the further the total distance of the flights on your itinerary.

Accordingly, if you can arrange for your flights to remain within the first few distance bands of Aeroplan charts’ geographic zones, there are plenty of sweet spots to be found.

As we mentioned in Part 6 of this series, Aeroplan uses a dynamic pricing structure for Air Canada redemptions, so sweet spots are often award flights that cost as close to the low end of the points range as possible and fly as close to the maximum number of miles for any given distance band.

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For redemptions with partner airlines, Aeroplan uses fixed pricing, and the sweet spots depend on award availability existing in the first place, and for redemptions to various parts of the world.

An example of a short-haul sweet spot within Canada is 12,500 points for a cross-country flight in economy, 19,000 points for a cross-country flight in premium economy, or 25,000 points for a cross-country flight in business class. Sometimes, you can even find flights for less than that.

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For a medium-haul sweet spot in the Aeroplan program, you could look for opportunities in the North America to Atlantic zones chart.

Flights from Eastern Canada to Europe tend to measure under 4,000 miles, which means that a one-way business class flight can be booked for as few as 60,000 Aeroplan points on a partner airline, or sometimes with Air Canada (if you can find flights at the lower end of the dynamic range).

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In terms of long-haul sweet spots, Aeroplan has a few notable opportunities between North America and Asia.

For only 55,000 Aeroplan points, you could potentially fly ANA business class from Vancouver or Seattle to Japan.

(At the time of writing, these can only be booked over the phone, so you’ll need to find ANA award availability on another Star Alliance program website (e.g., United MileagePlus), and then call Aeroplan to book it using Aeroplan points.)

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Fly ANA business class from Vancouver to Tokyo for just 55,000 Aeroplan points

If you’re flexible and can wait until within a month of travel for last-minute award availability, you can also find United Airlines Polaris business class to fly from San Francisco to Tahiti for 55,000 points too.

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If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you should be aware of the so-called “Asia 3” sweet spot on the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart, which refers to the third distance band on the chart.

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Leveraging the third distance band on this chart gives you up to 11,000 miles to fly between North America and anywhere in Asia or the South Pacific, which is an exceedingly generous distance for the associated points range. By keeping your flight distance within this band, you’ll pay just 87,500 Aeroplan points to fly in business class with partner airlines.

This means that you can fly from North America to Australia over the Pacific, or take the long way around to Asia by flying through Europe or the Middle East, and you’ll still pay just 87,500 points (or sometimes less, if dynamic pricing skews in a favourable direction).

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Additionally, if you’d like to explore a new country or city along the way, you can add a stopover for just Aeroplan 5,000 points more.

For these and many other reasons, Aeroplan is widely considered to be one of the best loyalty programs available, especially if you’re willing to put the time in to learn about how it works and the many sweet spots that lie within.

British Airways Executive Club

Another of our favourite programs is British Airways Executive Club.

This program is quite accessible in Canada since you can easily earn British Airways Avios through the RBC® British Airways Visa Infinite† or by transferring RBC Avion points or American Express MR points at a 1:1 ratio.

Avios points are flexible points that can help you access award flights within the oneworld alliance.

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British Airways Executive Club gives you access to oneworld airlines, including Cathay Pacific

There are a number of excellent sweet spots within the British Airways loyalty program, which mostly involve non-stop flights. That’s because British Airways uses additive award pricing, which means that you pay for each segment that you book.

One sweet spot in the program shows up when you redeem points for short-haul flights within Europe (on British Airways or Iberia), within Asia (on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines), and within Australia (on Qantas Airways).

For example, flying from London to Rome comes in at 11,750 Avios plus $1 (all figures in CAD) in taxes and fees. You could also choose to pay more in cash and less in Avios, since British Airways allows you to customize your redemptions.

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A unique feature of the British Airways loyalty program is that there are multiple loyalty programs (Aer Lingus AerClub, Iberia Plus, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Finnair Plus, Vueling Club, and British Airways Executive Club) that use the same currency (Avios), and you can instantly convert them from one “flavour” to another at 1:1 ratio.

This feature allows you to access sweet spots within each one of the above airlines’ loyalty programs.

Most notably, the transferable Avios feature opens up access to one of the most sought-after sweet spots – Qatar Airways Qsuites.

By transferring points to Qatar Airways Privilege Club, you could access the following redemption sweet spots in the world’s best business class:

  • North America to Doha: 70,000 Avios
  • North America to elsewhere in the Middle East: 75,000 Avios
  • North America to South East Asia: 95,000 Avios
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Book Qatar Airways Qsuites for as few as 70,000 Avios

Another sweet spot example that can be easily accessed thanks to the ability to transfer Avios between different flavours is with Iberia Airlines.

By transferring Avios to Iberia Plus, you can book a one-way business class flight from the Eastern US to Madrid for only 34,000 Avios.

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The ability to transfer Avios also lets you take advantage of booking award flights with airlines that have taxes and fees that are lower than those charged by other airlines.

For example, if you were to book a one-way business class flight from Finland to North America using Finnair Avios, it would cost 62,500 Avios, plus $140 or so in taxes and fees.

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If you were to book the same flight using British Airways Avios, the taxes and fees would jump up to around $1,400.

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That means that the little extra step of transferring your Avios can save you literally a thousand dollars or more.

It’s also important to note that there are often transfer bonuses at play when you move your points from RBC Avion or Amex MR points to British Airways Executive Club.

By timing your points transfer, you can leverage these bonuses to effectively book your award flight for less.

Air France KLM Flying Blue

The Air France KLM Flying Blue program is a bit harder to access in Canada since the transfer rate from American Express MR points is 1:0.75 and the only co-branded credit card in Canada is the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®.

Flying Blue uses a dynamic pricing model, so the cost of a route can change from day to day; however, although this makes the prices unpredictable, the benefit to this model is that every seat on a flight can be booked with Flying Blue miles.

Flying Blue also harmonized all award pricing between Europe and North America in October 2023, which means that a longer routing from Vancouver to Istanbul via Amsterdam will be priced in the same way as a much shorter non-stop flight from Toronto to Paris.

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Fly Air France business class between North America and Europe

Despite being a bit difficult to earn in Canada, Flying Blue is still an excellent program with some great sweet spots.

In particular, Flying Blue offers the following “starting at” rates for flights from North America to Europe, which are amongst the best in the business:

  • Economy: 20,000 Flying Blue miles
  • Premium economy: 35,000 Flying Blue miles
  • Business class: 50,000 Flying Blue miles

If you’re able to score any of these flights at this low end of the dynamic pricing range, you’ll have captured a sweet spot (and a fabulous trip to Europe).

Flying Blue also stands out among loyalty programs in that it offers monthly Promo Rewards which give a 25–50% discount on the already competitive award rates.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Flying Blue program, its sweet spots, and the monthly Promo Rewards, we keep updated guides on almost all the major airline loyalty programs.

In each guide, we dive into the loyalty program’s best sweet spots to help highlight key ways for you to get excellent value from your points.

Honourable Mentions

In addition to the most popular sweet spots listed above, there are a few more that you should be aware of as you continue your journey with miles and points.

Booking WestJet Flights with Delta SkyMiles

If you’re planning on booking a flight with WestJet using points, your first instinct might be to look at WestJet’s own loyalty program, WestJet Rewards.

While you can certainly book any WestJet flight using WestJet dollars, the truth is that there’s no way to get outsized value from this loyalty program. In fact, the best way to book WestJet flights with points may come as a bit of a surprise.

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The best way to book WestJet flights with points is by using Delta SkyMiles

To access a great WestJet sweet spot, you’ll need to take advantage of the WestJet and Delta Air Lines partnership. Through this partnership you can earn and redeem each airlines’ miles and points on the other’s flights.

Additionally, the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, and points can be transferred at a 1:0.75 ratio.

With Delta SkyMiles, you’ll pay a fixed price of 12,500 SkyMiles for any WestJet routing in Canada or the United States.

For example, you’ll pay just 12,500 SkyMiles (or 16,667 American Express MR points with the transfer ratio taken into consideration) to fly from Vancouver to Toronto, Calgary to Atlanta, Toronto to Los Angeles, and so on.

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If you were to book the same Vancouver to Toronto flight shown above with WestJet dollars, you’d need to redeem at least 225 WestJet dollars.

Without going into the minutiae, suffice it to say that it’s much easier to earn enough Delta SkyMiles to book WestJet flights than it is to earn enough WestJet dollars.

Cash Sweet Spots Exist, Too

As we mentioned earlier in this series, it’s always a good idea to compare the cost in miles and points with the cost in cash since sometimes it makes more sense to pay cash than to redeem points.

One of our favourite examples of this is booking Emirates First Class, which is one of the most sought-after aviation products out there.

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Emirates First Class is a highly sought after experience

When you think about the Dom Perignon Champagne, unlimited caviar, private suite, and even being able to take a shower in the sky, you may think a flight like this would cost a small fortune.

While it’s certainly true that long-haul flights in Emirates First Class can cost upwards of $10,000, you might be surprised to learn that you can book this experience for less than $2,000, without using points.

Emirates has a number of fifth-freedom flights between cities all over the world. These tend to be shorter flights; however, they also offer the same experience that you’d get with longer flights.

For example, you can fly in Emirates First Class between Bangkok and Hong Kong for less than $2,000 round-trip. While that’s a lot to pay for a pair of short flights, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to enjoy one of the best First Class experiences out there.

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In total, you’d get around six hours of flying time to eat as much caviar and sip on as much expensive Champagne as you possibly can, and you’d also be able to enjoy the thrill of showering at 36,000 feet on both the flights.

Of course, there are even more sweet spots in these and other programs, as well as many other cash sweet spots that you’ll discover along your points-collecting journey. Your job is to now set forth and immerse yourself in the world of Miles & Points to get out of it more than what you put in.

Keep Flexible Points Flexible

Earlier in this series, we looked at why flexible points matter, and in large part, it’s for the sake of diversification.

As a general rule, it’s best to keep your points as flexible as possible. This means holding points in programs that allow you to transfer these points to multiple other airline loyalty programs as needed.

In Canada, the two flexible points programs are American Express Membership Rewards and RBC Avion.

With flexible points programs, once you’ve found a flight that you want based on your own travel goals, you can then transfer your points over to your associated loyalty account for immediate use.

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It’s best to keep your flexible points in your account until you’re ready to redeem them

For example, when searching for award flights using the programs we mentioned above, you might only find availability in one program for the dates that you want.

By keeping your points in flexible programs like RBC Avion and American Express Membership Rewards, you can quickly and easily transfer your points from the one program to the one with the flight availability rather than being limited to a singular program.

This is especially important because loyalty programs are constantly changing, and the devaluation of airline redemption options is pretty much guaranteed over the long-term.

If you put all your eggs in one loyalty basket, you run the risk of losing value; however, by keeping a balance of flexible points around, you can help defend against these unavoidable shifts and move your points to the best basket at the best time.

Given that there are quite a few loyalty programs and a fair number of sweet spots to choose from, if you’re ever looking for help to nail down the best deal or if you’d just like some help figuring out which sweet spots are best for your specific location and travel dreams, our knowledgeable Points Consultants would be more than happy to help!

Conclusion

Loyalty program sweet spots are the best ways to leverage your points for maximum value.

As you look to make your first big redemption (or your hundredth), knowing about the sweet spots can help you get the most out of your hard-earned points.

We hope you feel even more equipped for your Miles & Points journey and that you feel like you have the knowledge to make an educated redemption decision.

In the next and final part of this series, we’ll look at how to make the most of your business class flight redemption once you’re ready to depart!





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