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London and Amsterdam from U.S. for $90 + points

What I booked

  • Open-jaw from St. Louis (STL) to London (LHR) & Amsterdam (AMS) to STL with one stop each way (Economy class)
  • One-way short haul flight from LHR to AMS (Economy class)

Total paid: $90 USD

  • 50k points transferred to Air France Flying Blue from AmEx
  • 9,400 Citi ThankYou points

Total saved: $1,668 USD

Here’s how…

Redemption strategy

  1. American Express Membership Rewards points
  2. Citi ThankYou Rewards points
  3. Air France/KLM Flying Blue membership & award search

Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) to Europe – A high value, dark horse redemption option

Hat tip to Abroaders, whose podcast tipped me off to cheap 25k each way redemptions to/from North America to/from Europe on Air France (these flights are all on Delta metal):

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Getting Flying Blue miles for free

Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue is a transfer partner of both American Express’s Membership Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou programs:

Beware high departure fees

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London (LHR), shown above, has notoriously high departure fees, so I decided to depart from Amsterdam (AMS) instead:

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The availability out of AMS was a little lower, but the price difference makes it well worth it if you want to see another city. Points with a Crew has a nice table of departure fees for European airports.

Getting to Amsterdam

If  you want to see more of Europe, you should consider taking the Eurostar train from London, which allows for stopovers in Paris and/or Brussels before heading on to Amsterdam.

However, since I was pressed for time, I opted for the quick flight from LHR to AMS using Citi ThankYou points, booked through Citi’s ThankYou travel portal. I could’ve gotten a better (cheaper) redemption, but I wanted  to optimize my time by choosing a departure from LHR rather than an alternate London airport.

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Citi ThankYou travel portal redemptions are 1.25 cents/point with the Premier card and 1.33 cents/point with the Prestige card

Citi’s ThankYou portal is a little clunky, but resulted in a cheaper redemption option (9.4k) at 1.25 cents/point than a points transfer to Flying Blue (8.5k + $61.52). This is a bit below The Points Guy’s March valuation for ThankYou points, so booking with cash may have been a better option.

American Express’s travel portal was considerably more expensive (11.75k) at 1 cent/point:

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American Express travel portal gives a measley 1.0 cents/point

Getting the Points

Membership Rewards (AmEx)

I like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for its waived first year annual fee, 3x points on travel, and $100 annual airline fee credit. As always, be sure to shop around to find the best sign-up bonus that meets your annual fee requirement and minimum spend capacity. There may be better public or targeted offers for AmEx sign up bonuses.

ThankYou Points (Citi)

I hold the Citi ThankYou Premier and would consider the Citi Prestige if you need the $100 GlobalEntry/PreCheck credit and aren’t already an AmEx Platinum cardholder.

The Math

Here’s how I saved $1,668 for the trip:

Air France airfare (including taxes/fees)

Air France airfare (including taxes/fees)

STL-LHR, AMS-STL (Membership Rewards transfer to Flying Blue)

  • $ saved: $1,641.05 fare – $90.55  spent = $1550.50 saved
  • $1550.50 saved/50k points = 3.1 cents/point

The verdict… A decently good (but not fantastic) redemption!

LHR-AMS (ThankYou Points portal)

  • $ saved: $117.50 fare – $0  spent = $117.50 saved
  • $117.50 saved/9.4k points = 1.25 cents/point

The verdict… A pretty bad redemption!

Overall: STL-LHR, LHR-AMS, AMS-STL

  • $ saved: $1550.50 + 117.50 = $1668 saved
  • $1668 saved/59.4k points = 2.79 cents/point

The combined verdict… This overall redemption value of 2.79 cents/point beats all of The Points Guy’s March valuations for any one program, so I would say I did pretty well. I would look at ways of increasing the value of Citi ThankYou points in the future.

A wasteful mistake?

Could I have eliminated the need to buy a separate one-way ticket from AMS-LHR?

The Points Guy reports that you can book a stopover on Flying Blue award tickets. Flying Blue’s award tickets policy states that “stopovers are not permitted on one-way tickets,” which is to imply that stopovers are permitted on round-trip tickets. However, on Air France’s award search, there is no apparent functionality to support searches that include a stopover.

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How to add a stopover?

This FlyerTalk thread indicates that you can book a stopover, but not online. You have to call the reseravtions telephone number, just like the good old days… Users on FlyerTalk report varying degrees of success with this, including some saying there may be a “telephone booking fee” applied.

Regardless, I should have done more research and called ahead to see if the same itinerary was possible without having to book an additional one-way on KLM using Citi ThankYou points.

Let me know what you think. Have you had success booking stopovers on award tickets with Flying Blue?

Closing Thoughts

Both Citi and AmEx cards are great tools to generate points to transfer to Flying Blue if you’re looking to book transatlantic flights to Europe (only 25k each way)! But sometimes booking through the Citi travel portal can be a better option for cheap flights. Steer clear of the AmEx travel portal.

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