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Travel Iceland is open to Americans: Here’s how to get there on points and miles

01:30  18 march  2021
01:30  18 march  2021 Source:   thepointsguy.com

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Starting March 18, 2021, Iceland is finally welcoming American tourists who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Iceland became a popular destination over the last few years, thanks to a big tourism push, incredible scenery and cheap fares. All of that came to a screeching halt last year when the pandemic forced Iceland to close its borders and then reopen them to tourists from the Schengen Area only.

While Americans will be able to travel to Iceland, they need to furnish proof of vaccination. TPG’s Zach Honig was able to confirm that a vaccine certificate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will suffice. You may still be waiting to get vaccinated, but in the meantime, we can help you plan your trip to Iceland using points and miles.

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Airfare booked with flexible rewards

There are many options for redeeming miles for a flight to Iceland. While using points and miles can sometimes be the best option to get to your destination at the lowest cost, Iceland is one of those destinations where fare sales pop up quite often, so you might actually find that this particular journey is more cost-effective by paying cash rather than booking a traditional award ticket.

Be sure to consult TPG’s valuations when comparing paid fares against mileage redemptions.

Your points and miles might help you get to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. (Photo by Friðþjófur M./Getty Images) © The Points Guy Your points and miles might help you get to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. (Photo by Friðþjófur M./Getty Images)

American Express Membership Rewards

The value of American Express Membership Rewards points redeemed for flights is 1 cent apiece if you have a card like the Platinum Card® from American Express. However, if you have the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you get a 35% rebate on Pay With Points redemptions for eligible first or business-class fares booked through Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year), as well as on all flights booked on the same airline that you have designated for your $200 annual airline fee rebate.

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Barclaycard Arrival Miles

Arrival miles you earn with a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for travel, including airfare. Redemptions start at 10,000 miles and can only be used for travel purchases within the last 120 days.

The information for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Capital One Venture miles

Capital One miles like those earned with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can be redeemed at a rate of 1 cent apiece for statement credits, including airfare purchases. Depending on how cheap fares to Iceland price out, Venture miles could be better than airline miles.

For example, Turkish Airlines offers round-trip economy fares between New York (JFK) and Helsinki (HEL) as low as $572 in late March. Meanwhile, American Airlines requires 60,000 miles round-trip. Since TPG values American miles at 1.4 cents each, you’re giving up $840 worth of value. In this case, you’re better off saving your AAdvantage miles and redeeming 57,200 Capital One Venture miles instead.

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Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards points’ value ranges from 1–1.5 cents apiece depending on the card you have. For instance, those earned from the Chase Freedom Flex only merit 1 cent apiece, while those earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents apiece.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi ThankYou points earned on cards like the Citi Prestige® Card and the Citi Premier® Card are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for airfare.

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Discover

If you have the Discover it Miles, you can redeem your points for statement credits at a rate of 1 cent apiece for travel and any other purchases, so this is something to consider if you want to use your points to save some cash on a simple basis.

Now let’s get to mileage redemptions on specific airlines.

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Airfare booked with airline miles

Redeeming miles for a flight to Iceland makes sense if paid fares are high or you don’t have access to the redemption options outlined above.

Cheap Oneworld awards

(Photo by The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by The Points Guy)

The Oneworld alliance isn’t always the best option for redeeming miles to Europe, but Iceland is the exception, with Finnair being a member. You can redeem AAdvantage miles at 30,000 each way in economy or 57,500 in business. Just watch out for those British Airways flights that might sneak in there and tack an extra $700 to your award ticket.

British Airways Avios might work out cheaper, depending on your origin and whether you can score a direct flight. We found economy fares as low as 22,000 Avios between New York (JFK) and Helsinki. Business-class award space was limited throughout the year.

(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

If you’re flying out of the West Coast, you’ll still need 34,000 miles each way. Because of the higher number of miles and taxes, you’re better off redeeming AAdvantage miles since the taxes are just $25.70 on the outbound flight.

graphical user interface: (Screenshot courtesy of Britishairways.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of Britishairways.com)

Cheap Star Alliance awards

The easiest option for booking Star Alliance awards to Iceland is United MileagePlus. Economy awards start at just 30,000 miles each way, while business class starts at 49,500.

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You can stock up on MileagePlus miles with their co-branded credit cards or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

But there’s a cheaper option and one that’s too often overlooked: ANA Mileage Plan. While United requires 60,000 miles round-trip for an economy class award to Iceland, ANA requires just 55,000 miles. Business-class awards are also a bargain at just 88,000 miles round-trip.

You can transfer ANA miles from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. If you don’t have any Amex points, The Platinum Card is a great option to look into. The card currently offers 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first six months of account opening. That’s enough for a round-trip flight, with points to spare for a hotel booking.

Cheap SkyTeam award

When you think SkyTeam, you typically think of Delta. While Delta SkyMiles could be a good option for flights to Helsinky, they’re not the cheapest. You can book flights from both the West Coast and East, starting at 40,000 SkyMiles each way.

table: (Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com)

SkyMiles are also fairly easy to earn, thanks to elevated welcome bonuses from cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. You can also transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards.

For a cheaper SkyTeam award, you’ll want to look at Flying Blue redemptions. These will set you back as little as 24,00 miles each way in economy from the East Coast and 27,500 from the West.

graphical user interface, text, application: (Screenshot courtesy of airfrance.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of airfrance.com)

You can also book premium economy starting at 57,500 miles each way from both coasts.

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FlyingBlue miles happen to be some of the easiest miles to earn, thanks to transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Related: Easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines is set to join Oneworld by the end of March 2021. There’s no telling how (or if) the Mileage Plan award chart will change. But until it does, you can redeem 30,000 Alaska miles each way for a flight to Helsinki. Alaska partners with Finnair and Icelandair, so you have plenty of options for getting to Helsinki on points.

The only downside is that the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is your only option for earning Alaska miles with a credit card. The card currently offers 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within 90 days. That’s almost enough for a round-trip award ticket.

The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa and Alaska Airlines Visa Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Hotels you can book with points

Finland isn’t a huge hotel market, but all the major hotel chains have established properties there because of its increased popularity. Most of these hotels are found in Helsinki, which will be your base for a Finland trip anyway. Here are some hotel options using points and miles:

Hilton

Hilton has three hotels in Helsinki, including one at the airport. The Hilton Helsinki Strand is located in the city center, within walking distance of the most popular tourist sights. At 40,000 points per night, it might not be an ideal use of Hilton points.

For the next few months, room rates are under $190 per night and TPG values Hilton points at 0.6 cents each. So you’re better off saving your points for a different award. Instead, consider using a currency like Capital One Venture miles or the Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free benefit on longer stays.

IHG Rewards Club

With six properties, IHG Rewards Club has the second largest hotel footprint in Helsinki. IHG no longer publishes an award chart, but redemption rates are fairly consistent and generally range from 12,500 – 30,000 points per night.

The Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre is the cheapest option in the center of town, at 20,000-22,000 points per night. The Crowne Plaza Hesperia is the high-end option, requiring 30,000 points per night. It has a great location near the bay and public transit options nearby.

Hotel Indigo is great if you want a boutique hotel with a great price and location near Helsinki Central Station. You’ll redeem just 27,500 points per night.

While these rates are solid, you can knock an extra 25% off with the fourth-night award benefit from the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Marriott Bonvoy

If you have a few Marriott 35,000-point certificates burning a hole in your pocket, Finland may be the place to put them to use. Marriott has five properties throughout the country, ranging from Category 2 to 5. Your best bet will probably be the Category 5 Hotel St. George or Hotel U14, which are bookable for 35,000 points per night on several dates in March and April 2021.

Both properties are located in the heart of the city, close to popular attractions, shopping and dining.

Radisson Rewards

Radisson Rewards often gets overlooked, but they have a pretty expansive portfolio, especially in Europe. In Finland, they have eight hotels, which is more than any other major chain. Their paid rates also tend to be lower and at 20 base points per $1 spent, you can earn a ton of points for future redemptions.

In Helsinki, you have  five hotel options ranging from 38,000 – 50,000 points per night:

  • Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel, Helsinki – 38,000 points
  • Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Helsinki – 44,000 points
  • Radisson Blu Aleksanteri Hotel, Helsinki – 44,000 points
  • Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Helsinki – 50,000 points

Any of these properties would be a great choice. Just be sure to compare the awards against cash rates. TPG values Radisson points at 0.4 cents each, so award redemptions at the top-tier Radisson Blu Plaza would make sense if the rates were at least $200 per night.

If you’re looking to stock up on Radisson points for an award night in Helsinki, consider the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card. The card offers 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. You’ll also get 40,000 bonus points every year you renew your card. In addition, you ca n earn a free night certificate valid at U.S. hotels when you spend $10,000 on the card, up to three times.

The information for the Radisson Rewards Premier Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

World of Hyatt

Hyatt has two hotels in Finland: The Hotel Lilla Roberts and Hotel Haven, both in Helsinki. The redemption rates are pretty reasonable, with the Hotel Haven requiring 20,000 points per night and the Lila Roberts going for 15,000. Depending on the paid rate (right now, it’s around $200 per night in the spring), the Lila Roberts could be a great use of the annual free night award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Activities

Once you’ve made it to Finland, you’ll probably want to go sightseeing, visit a sauna or venture out to see the Northern Lights. One of the best ways to cover these expenses is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel site. Not only do they offer competitive rates on tours and museum tickets (they are powered by Expedia, after all), but you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents each if you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder and 1.25 if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

a harbor filled with boats: (Photo by Carlos Grury Santos Photography) © The Points Guy (Photo by Carlos Grury Santos Photography)

Another option is to charge your activities to your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Assuming your purchases get coded as travel, you can redeem miles at a rate of 1 cent each to offset these purchases. I like the second option better because you’ll also earn 2 miles per $1 during the process, but be sure to compare prices and go with the option that works out most economically.

Bottom line

Due to year-round low fares, Iceland might be a destination where it’s better just to purchase your ticket outright and save your points for on-the-ground redemptions or premium awards elsewhere, especially given the lackluster business-class seats several airlines offer on their routes to Reykjavik. If you decide to make the trip, here are some mistakes to avoid and where to stay and what to do.

Additional reporting by Eric Rosen

Featured image by Peerasit Chockmaneenuch/Getty Images

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These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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