Update 12/17/13: The 50k mile offer is dead. All links in this post go to the following offer:
- Earn up to 35,000 award miles with qualifying transactions
- Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
- Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
- Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
- Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
- Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
- No foreign transaction fees
- $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members
One person can get a family of four tickets to Europe on the same flights by opening credit cards. You need to take the trip in early 2014 to take advantage of US Airways off peak pricing.
This is the best way I’ve ever seen for one family to take an almost free trip to Europe on the strength of one person’s credit card bonuses.
How can you earn four roundtrip award tickets to Europe from one person’s credit card applications?
There are three easy steps to get a family of four to Europe from one person’s credit card bonuses:
- Get the miles.
- Find the award space.
- Book the flights.
Get the Miles
With a few exceptions, any Star Alliance airline’s miles can be used on any Star Alliance airline’s flights. That means we’ll earn miles from three different Star Alliance carriers–United, Lufthansa, and US Airways–and use them all on the same flights.
Right now one person can earn:
- 55k Lufthansa miles, 50k is enough for one roundtrip to Europe
- 30k US Airways miles, 30k is enough for one roundtrip to Europe
- and 113k United miles, 120k is enough for two roundtrips to Europe and the last 7k miles are easily attainable
To get the Lufthansa miles, you need to get the Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard. The Lufthansa card gives 55k miles after $5k in spending.
To get the 30k US Airways miles, you need to get the US Airways Premier World MasterCard before it disappears during the American Airlines/US Airways merger. The card comes with 30k bonus miles after first purchase.
Note that both of the preceding are Barclay’s cards. In my experience, you can get more than one Barclay’s personal card on the same day by applying for them at the same time if you’ve already had a Barclay’s card open for six month that you use.
Barclay’s tends to be stricter than other banks about giving more cards to someone who isn’t really using his first card much or about approving cards if you have many recent credit inquiries. Sometimes Barclay’s will work with you for approval though. I shared my experience getting approved for the Lufthansa card. Another friend reported getting approved for the card after moving over some of his US Airways card’s credit line.
To get the United miles, you need to get two cards: the United MileagePlus Explorer card and the Ink Bold.
The United MileagePlus Explorer Card comes with 50k miles after spending $2k in the first three months and 5k miles for adding an authorized user if you go to a Chase bank branch and ask for the offer.
The Ink Bold comes with 50k Ultimate Rewards after spending $5k in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.
Getting both cards, meeting both minimum spending requirements, and adding an authorized user to the United card is 113k United miles plus Ultimate Rewards. Eventually you’d need to spend $7k more on the two cards to get to 120k United miles, or $1,400 on the Ink Bold at an office supply store, or buy 7k Ultimate Rewards for $175.
Find the Award Space
The 120k United miles are enough for two roundtrips in economy to Europe any time of year and on any carrier without fuel surcharges.
The 55k Lufthansa miles are enough for one roundtrip in economy to Europe any time of year. Big fuel surcharges will be levied if you fly a carrier other than US Airways or LOT Polish Airlines.
The 30k US Airways miles are enough for one roundtrip to Europe using US Airways off peak pricing of 30k miles roundtrip for US Airways cardholders. (Full price is 35k miles, but cardholders get a 5k discount.) To take advantage of US Airways off peak pricing, you need to fly completely on US Airways flights.
The theme is that all four types of miles can get a roundtrip on US Airways flights with no fuel surcharges during the US Airways off peak window of January 15 to February 28.
The best way to search for just US Airways award space is at usairways.com since only US Airways results are shown. Even though only one ticket will be ticketed with US Airways miles, you should search for four tickets on the usairways.com search engine. Here is an example search from Philadelphia to Madrid for four passengers next February.
On many of the routes I checked, award space for four passengers is excellent. US Airways color coding of the days in confusing (intentionally?), but all the lightest blue days have at least four award seats.
US Airways flies to tons of European cities from Philadelphia and fewer from Charlotte. Here are the international flights from Philadelphia.
If your desired destination isn’t on the list, consider flying to a European city with a direct flight on a low cost carrier to your destination.
Once you find four award seats to your desired destination, you are done searching.
Booking the Flights
We will book all four passengers on the flights with our three types of miles by contacting the three airlines whose miles we’re using. This will be a four step process.
- Put two roundtrips on hold at united.com using a United award hold trick.
- Call Lufthansa at 800-581-6400 and book the same roundtrip with 50k Lufthansa miles plus tax.
- Book one roundtrip at usairways.com with 30k US Airways miles plus tax plus a $50 award processing fee.
- Sign into your united.com account, click on Change/View Existing Reservations, click on the held reservation, and click Complete Purchase Now.
If you can do steps two and three simultaneously, by ticketing the one award on usairways.com while on the phone with Lufthansa, you can ensure that you get all four award seats on the same flights or none in case award space disappears.
The taxes on the awards depend on the country visited. A roundtrip to the UK has taxes of about $188. France and Germany are around $150. Spain is only $56.
So four roundtrips to Spain would cost:
- Opening four credit cards and meeting their minimum spending requirements
- Spending extra on one of the cards that earns United miles OR buying $175 worth of miles
- $274 total out of pocket in taxes and fees ($56 * 4 + $50) total for the four awards
1. You want to go to Europe during the summer.
This plan requires flying between January 15 and February 28. If you want to go during the summer, you need 60k US Airways miles to get all four people on the same Star Alliance flights to Europe. To get the extra US Airways miles, you could get the SPG card, which earns 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in three months, in addition to the US Airways card.
Those 30k Starpoints would transfer to 35k US Airways miles because of the 5k mile bonus for each 20k points transferred.
With 120k United miles, 50k Lufthansa miles, and 60k US Airways miles, you can do everything described in this post all year round!
2. You can’t get approved for two Barclay’s cards at once because you’ve never had one before.
Getting the other cards in this post except but getting the SPG card instead of the US Airways card would work equally well but with a higher minimum spending requirment. Now the four cards would be a Chase personal, Chase business, Barclay’s personal, and AMEX personal card, and a person can be approved for all four of those on the same day in my experience.
3. You don’t live in Philadelphia or Charlotte and can’t find domestic award space on US Airways.
The plan in this post relies on flying all flights on US Airways. Otherwise you can’t get a roundtrip to Europe for 30k US Airways miles, since US Airways off peak awards need to be entirely on US Airways flights.
US Airways doesn’t release as much domestic award space as United, so maybe you can only find United and not US Airways flights from your home airport to Philadelphia to connect to the international award space.
In this case, you can book the United and Lufthansa awards with the United domestic space and US Airways international space. For the US Airways award, just book the international flights, and buy the fourth passenger his domestic flights. This will cost some money, but should still leave your total outlay in cash as a tiny number compared to what four revenue tickets would cost.
I always book award flights before award nights at hotels because hotel award space generally is easier to find. While award flights are heavily capacity controlled, most hotel programs allow redemptions for hotel rooms if there are any rooms for sale.
With that in mind, you can put off hotel planning for a while. Eventually you should check out my comparison of What Credit Card Gets You The Most Free Hotel Nights.
Applying for Cards
After deciding which cards you want to apply for and carefully reading the terms and conditions on each, I always recommend applying for cards on the same day as one another when applying for multiple cards.
For any application on which I am not instantly approved online, I instantly call in to the bank’s reconsideration lines.
SPG card 866-314-0237
Lufthansa and US Airways cards 866-408-4064
United card 888-245-0625
Ink Bold 800-453-9719
Usually the call is just a rehash of a few questions from my application and a quick approval. Occasionally I am told that I can’t be approved for a new credit line. In this case I offer to close an existing card with the bank to transfer its credit line to a new card, or the agent may even offer to move part of one card’s credit line to another card.
Usually there is a way to work with the agent. If the agent is firm that there’s nothing he can do, I politely thank him and hang up before I become a memorable customer. I then call back. I was recently approved by the second agent for my Lufthansa card.
Adding up the minimum spending requirements on the five cards needed to book four awards to Europe, you get $17,001 over three months. Here’s a post on meeting minimum spending requirements.
One person can get a family of four award tickets to Europe for next year by opening up four cards. The sign up bonus on the Lufthansa card disappears tomorrow June 30, so you have to act now to get in on the deal.
- Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard
- US Airways Premier World MasterCard
- United MileagePlus Explorer card from Chase branch
- Ink Bold
After getting another 7k United miles through spending as little as $1,400 on the Ink Bold or paying $175 for 7k Ultimate Rewards, you can book four roundtrip awards on the same flights operated by US Airways with the miles for just the cost of taxes (plus $50 on the one award with US Airways miles.)
Where will you take your family of four in Europe?
Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard® with 20,000 Lufthansa miles after first purchase
Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard
US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
- Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles on qualifying transactions
- EXCLUSIVE: Redeem flights for 5,000 fewer miles
- Zone 2 boarding on every flight
- Enjoy 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases
- Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
- Annual companion certificate good for round-trip travel for up to 2 companions at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
- First Class check-in
- Please see terms and conditions for complete details
Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways Premier World MasterCard