I used credit card points to fly round-trip from the US to Spain in business class for only $232, thanks to an under-the-radar strategy

Maridav / Shutterstock.comThe royal palace in Madrid, Spain. The author is not pictured.
  • There are three different types of Avios programs: British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus. British Airways is the most well-known, but Iberia has some serious sweet spots.
  • I was able to book round-trip business class from Chicago to Madrid for only 68,000 Iberia Avios points and around $US232 in taxes. That’s less than most airlines would charge in economy.
  • It’s not an easy deal to get – the only easy ways to earn Iberia points through its co-branded Chase card, or through a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Freedom Unlimited. You also have to book through the difficult Iberia Plus website.

If you could sit up front in a lie-flat business class seat for around the same price as economy class (just 34,000 points), would you do it? Of course you would. I know I would!

What if you could do it for less than the price of economy class? At this point, you’re probably paying attention.

This is one of those deals you will really have to work for, but if you’re willing to do the work, you can be sipping Champagne on the way to Madrid.

Iberia offers incredible off-peak deals from the US to Spain

Iberia offers flights from Chicago, New York, and Boston to Madrid for just 34,000 points each way in business class during the “off peak” period. What’s considered off peak? Fortunately, almost everything except the summer.

Better yet, Iberia periodically runs “25% off” promotions, meaning you can score this award for as little as 25,500 points. For purposes of comparison, it’s not unusual for flights on Air France or Delta to cost more than 34,000 points in economy class.

I was able to snag round-trip tickets for me and my boyfriend to take a trip to Spain in May of this year using this deal. I had most of the miles needed in my Iberia account already, but I had to transfer 500 from British Airways to have enough for both of our tickets.

What’s the catch?

You didn’t think this was going to be easy, did you? The best deals require some work, planning, flexibility, patience, and good humour – and you’ll need all of these to book this award.

You must book via the (terrible) Iberia Plus website

The biggest catch is that you have to book via the Iberia Plus frequent flyer program, and not over the phone, but on their website. The Web site is, unfortunately, terrible. Which results in a confusing and frustrating search experience. Once you get the hang of navigating its … unique … user interface, you’ll be able to get it to issue you a ticket.Eventually.

Iberia points are harder to earn, and limit you to Madrid

Another catch is that Iberia points are slightly more difficult to earn than their British Airways Avios cousins, and you can only fly as far as Madrid (connecting flights are possible, but the price goes up).

There are only two easy ways to earn Iberia points: either through the co-branded Iberia card issued through Chase, or through Chase credit cards earning Ultimate Rewards (which can be transferred directly to Iberia Avios). The cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are the:

Transferring points from British Airways to Iberia isn’t easy

It’s possible to transfer points into Iberia Avios in a roundabout way from British Airways Avios, but this is somewhat complicated. You’ll need to establish an Iberia Avios account, and earn points in it through some sort of activity (you could transfer in points from Chase, or by earning points by, for example, crediting a rental car or hotel stay to Iberia Avios).

If you successfully do this, you can transfer points from British Airways Avios after your Iberia Avios account has been open for at least 90 days.

Why would you do this? Other points, such as Capital One, American Express and Citi, can transfer to British Airways Avios, and you can then move those points to Iberia Avios. This is particularly useful when combined with a points transfer bonus.

Iberia isn’t known for its luxury business class

Finally, you’ll be flying Iberia. This definitely isn’t the most aspirational business class product in the world. It is, however, a lie flat seat on nonstop flight to Europe operated on a safe, modern aircraft. Iberia does charge fuel surcharges on these flights, but they are minimal – about $US200 on a round-trip flight.

If you’re going to do it, take advantage of partner transfers

If you are willing to go through the work of setting up and activating an Iberia Plus account and waiting 90 days, why not take advantage of the periodic transfer bonuses to British Airways offered by many credit card partners? Stack a typical 30% bonus with a “25% off” promotion to fly to Europe in business class for under 20,000 miles each way.

This deal definitely isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an easy program to use and an easy award to book, Iberia Plus isn’t your ticket. However, if you can make it work (especially if you can stack a transfer bonus with a discount promotion), there is no less expensive way to get to Europe in business class.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about Chase Sapphire Preferred Card from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Chase Freedom from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited from our partner The Points Guy »

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