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When to Redeem Arrival Miles for a Business Class Ticket

Does it ever make sense to pay cash for a business class ticket? For the average person, the answer to that questions is “no.” Most of us book our premium cabin seats with frequent flyer miles earned via credit card sign-up bonuses or manufactured spending. Normally, a domestic business class ticket costs 50,000 miles roundtrip (possibly less if you’re booking a distance-based award), a roundtrip to Europe is 50,000, while Asia is around 110,000. This varies somewhat by program, but you get the idea.

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

Every once in a while, airlines will offer heavily discounted business class tickets to Europe. These are not mistake fares but rather a result of airlines duking it out over competing routes. For example, Virgin Atlantic regularly offers round-trip Upper Class tickets to London for under $2,000 round-trip. A few weeks ago there was a fare war between OneWorld and SkyTeam airlines that resulted in sub $2,000 fares between the West Coast and Europe. Booking these fares on the Barclay Arrival Plus card and redeeming miles would require 200,000 Arrival Miles, with 20,000 miles redeposited since it would be classified as a travel redemption. 

Earning 180,000 Arrival Miles would require $90,000 in manufactured spending on the Arrival Plus card. This is at least $10,000 less than you’d typically need for a business class award with a major airline rewards program (100,000+ miles round-trip). Not to mention you’ll be responsible for taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on award redemptions. Some discounted fares do earn miles, so keep that in mind when weighing weather to redeem miles or use Arrival Plus miles for your business class ticket.

Below is a chart outlining the miles required by the major frequent flyer programs for saver level business class tickets to various regions. Below that is a break down of when it makes more sense to pay for a business class ticket and redeem Arrival miles. This is based on the amount of manufactured spending required with a co-branded credit card that earns 1 mile per $1 as well as the SPG Amex with the 5,000 point transfer bonus (for every 20,000 transferred) factored in. 

Business Class Awards (Round-trip)

Note: Delta’s redemption rates are based on their award chart valid after January 1, 2015

 Alaska American United
US & Canada50,000 - 65,000 miles50,000 miles50,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,110 - $1,445


or

$885 - $1,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,110




or

$885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,110
Hawaii80,000 - 95,000 miles75,000 miles80,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,775 - $2,110


or

$1,440 -$1,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,665



or

$1,330 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,775
Mexico60,000 - 65,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,330 - $1,445



or

$1,110 - $1,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330




or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330
Central America60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,330


or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330


or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330
South America70,000 - 125, 000 miles100,000 miles70,000 - 110,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,555 - $2,778



or

$1,330 - $2,220 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,223




or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,555 - $2,445
Caribbean60,000 miles60,000 miles60,000 miles
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $1,330



or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330



or

$1,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $1,330
Europe100,000 - 150,000 miles100,000 miles115,000 miles

140,000 on partner airlines
When to Redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $2,223 - $3,334


or

$1,775 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,223



or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,556



or

$3,110 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Asia100,000 - 150,000 miles100,000 - 110,000 miles130,000 - 140,000 miles


150,000 - 160,000 miles on partner airlines
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $2,223 - $3,334



or

$1,775 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,223/$2,445




or

$1,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,889 - $3,112
Middle East125,000 - 145,000 miles135,000 miles140,000 miles

160,000 miles on partner airlines
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $2,778 -$3,223



or

$1,885 - $2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $3,000




or

$2,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $3,112/$3,556
Africa125,000 - 155,000 miles150,000 miles140,000 miles

160,000 miles on partners
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $2,778 - $3,445



or

$2,220 - $2,775 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $3,334




or

$2,665 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $3,112/$3,556
Oceania/Pacific110,000 - 160,000 miles135,000 miles130,000 - 140,000 miles


150,000 - 160,000 miles on partners
When to redeem Arrival Plus milesTicket costs less than $2,445 - $3,556


or

$2,000 - $2,885 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $3,000



or

$2,440 vs. MS on SPG Amex
Ticket costs less than $2,889 - $4556

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Ariana Arghandewal