Best Ways To Get Flights To Israel On Points, Miles, And Credit Cards
It is safe to say that one of the most popular points flight and miles destinations among the Jewish world is Israel. The challenge is that the world of miles, points, and credit cards can be quite confusing for the average person. In this discussion, we provide the best ways to get to Israel on points, miles, and credit cards. Our guide focuses on the different options, their respective pros/cons as well as how to accumulate the requisite miles and points via credit cards and spending. The goal is for readers to gain an understanding of their best options for flying to the holy land at the best bang for their buck (or in this case points and miles).
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A Note On Changes
The miles and points game is quite dynamic and is subject to regular changes and updates. While we hope to update this overview to keep pace with changes, do note that some of the information below might be out of date.
Bottom Line Up Front
1) In our opinion, the best option to get to Israel via points and miles non-stop is on United at a cost of 42,500/each way
2) Turkish Airlines at a cost of 32,000/each way is the next best option but this flight will have a stopover in Istanbul.
3) Aeroplan at 40,000 points each way to Israel is the third-best option in our view.
Scenario Specifics Will Change The Miles & Points Equation
Depending on numerous variables such as time of year, location, and sales among other factors, the best option to get to Israel via points and miles will change. It is therefore essential to review the options and see what works best for your specific circumstance.
Direct Flights Vs. Stopovers To Israel
Direct flights from the United States to Israel are in the most limited supply and are most limited in availability. This is especially true during the most popular seasons for trips to Israel including the main Jewish holidays of Passover and Sukkot as well as the summer months. Making a stopover in Europe, even briefly, opens up many more options, availability, and often lowers in a considerable manner the points required for a trip.
The Starting Point Is That Certain Things Don’t Make Sense
One of the most confusing things about the world of airline points and miles is that the landscape is disjointed and is often not based on common sense. For example, awards redeemed directly from an airline with their point currency might be more expensive than when using that same currency to book a flight with a partner airline. There are many reasons for this state of affairs but it is due at least in part because of the notoriously complex and bureaucratic mergers, partnerships, alliances, and perhaps most significantly ever-changing award program rules and mileage redemption charts. So, certain things just don’t make much sense. This basic starting point will help you to avoid a considerable amount of needless frustration. Instead of trying to understand something that indeed does not make sense, it is best to accept that that the world of airfare in general, and mileage programs in specific is one often lacking in what would seem intuitive.
Getting To Know The Mileage Programs & Corresponding Credit Cards
In the world of miles and points, there are two core varieties of currencies. There are bank-based currencies and program-based currencies. Bank-based currencies include Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. These are generally the most valuable because they are widely transferable to a variety of mileage and points-based programs among other uses such as shopping portals. In contrast, program-based currencies such as Marriott Rewards, American Advantage, United Mileage Plus, etc. are native t specific programs and while they often have transfer partners, they are more limited and also transfer at a significantly worse ratio than Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. The grandfather of all points in our opinion is Chase’s Ultimate Rewards as they are the most valuable because of their flexibility and multitude of use cases.
Understanding Taxes & Fuel Surcharges
When booking flights with miles and points, there will almost always be some of the actual dollar fees in addition to the actual point and miles redeemed. In the best-case scenario, this will be minimal such as approximately $5 as you will see in the case of United. For other bookings, surcharges can amount to more than $1,000 and make the redemption in such scenarios nonsensical. The fees can sometimes be confusing though because much of the reason behind the fees depend on the carrier’s home base government and the fees they mandate (London is notorious in this regard). Therefore, the same route booked on the same mileage program can have substantially different out of pocket costs depending on the airlines chosen. For this reason, it is necessary to get a lay of the land to see which carriers are charging such fees and compare to come up with the best option.
Our Favorite Ways To Use Points To Get To Israel
United Airlines To Israel
Crowned by DansDeals as the overall “best mileage program that exists today,” United’s MileagePlus program packs a powerful punch for getting to Israel. It offers a wealth of availability and options as well as attractive point redemptions. First, it flies one of the few direct routes from the USA to Israel including with their stellar Polaris business class. Further, even when a direct flight is unavailable, as a member of the Star Alliance (largest airline alliance), there are a host of additional options through their partners via connecting flights (usually in Europe).
In contrast to numerous other airlines, United has another major advantage since they don’t levy a fuel surcharge on award bookings. Also, having one of the United credit cards which we discuss in greater detail below makes MileagePlus even more attractive in varying ways including greater award flight availability.
The chart below shows the core mileage structure for one-way flights from New York to Tel Aviv though flights from TLV-NY cost 42.5k as well. Of note, this chart may deviate from the pricing shown on United by a few thousand miles depending on the dates selected since United introduced a dynamic pricing model.
|Class||United NY-TLV||Star Alliance NY-TLV|
|Economy||42,500 miles||42,500 miles|
|Business||75,000 miles||85,000 miles|
While generally points redemption center around the starting point of 42.5k (each way), as stated previously, because of dynamic pricing, flights could be cheaper or more expensive. For example, DansDeals reports seeing flights from TLV to Newark for 29.5k + $44.11 taxes, though such as a low cost is a one-off due to the current COVID pandemic.
In the photo below, you can see the most common point quantity required for economy, which is 42,500. Some other notes include the fact that on this random date, the direct flight from New York to Tel Aviv is the cheapest in terms of both points required, 42.5k and taxes levied, $5.60. The other option highlighted in the below image is that Star Alliance partners can be booked via United including here where Lufthansa would operate the EU-TLV leg. Lastly, as we mentioned, having the United credit card holds unique value for a variety of reasons but especially because it opens up exclusive access to award flights not available to those without the card. As can be seen in the image as well, United highlights the exclusive availability.
While United is attractive for direct business flights on their Polaris product from the USA to Te Aviv, availability is notoriously difficult to find. Where it is available, it ranges from 75,000-180k. Flying via Europe either with a stopover or through United’s partners opens up availability significantly. Often the routes are “mixed cabin” where the USA-EU leg is in business while the EU-TLV leg is economy.
While outside the scope of this discussion, for those more advanced and with an interest in seeing parts of Europe, United offers “the excursionist perk” which holds unique value (great explanation of options and ideas here beyond Israel specific trips). For other airlines, see this discussion about “open jaws.”
United Business Class To Israel
For an illustration of United business availability, view the image below. As you can see, there is a direct business flight operated by United available for 75k. This is relatively uncommon to find. What is more common is the partner business class flight operated by a Star Alliance partner, which in this case is Lufthansa at a cost of 82.5k miles plus $37.10.
Booking Flights On United’s Star Alliance Partners
Booking a flight to Europe via United’s Star Alliance partners when there is no direct United flights and then taking a flight from Europe to Tel Aviv is a popular option especially for those with flexibility and who don’t mind a stopover. Some of the most popular of United’s Star Alliance partners that Jewish travelers utilize are LOT Polish Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Swiss Airlines, and Lufthansa. These can be booked via the United.com booking tool and selecting “book with miles.” The fact that United does not tack fuel surcharges is a notable positive, as many other mileage programs do.
Earning United Points
The best way to attain miles and points to fly to Israel is via one of United’s credit cards that offers a substantial sign up bonus with additional rewards for spending on the cards in strategic ways in specific categories.
Points from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, one of the most ubiquitous and valuable point currencies, can also be transferred to United at a 1:1 ratio.
The United Credit Cards
There are a number of United credit card which each offer a unique sign-up bonus as well as their own suite of benefits. Beyond the differences though, they all open up significantly more availability for point bookings and do away with fees such as baggage fees in varying degrees.
United Quest Card® – A BRAND NEW CARD
100,000 bonus signup United points – earn 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend another $5,000
United Club membership – up to a $650 value per year
4X miles on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 on other travel
Free 1st & 2nd checked bag
$0/1st year, then $525/year
United Explorer Card®
- Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
- 2X miles on United Airlines, restaurants, and hotels
- Free first checked bag
- 2 United Club one-time passes
- $0/1st year, then $95/year
United Club Infinite Card®
- Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
- United Club membership – up to a $650 value per year
- 4X miles on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 on other travel
- Free 1st & 2nd checked bag
- $0/1st year, then $525/year
There are also business versions of both the Explorer and Infinite cards that at times offer larger sign-up bonuses. VIEW THE UNITED BUSINESS CARDS.
United also offers the United Gateway card which has no annual fee but only offers 10,000 miles as a signup bonus.
Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards
As we previously stated, Chase Ultimate Rewards are the most valuable point currency in our view. They can be transferred to United instantly to take advantage of the flight options we listed above. Below are the Chase cards we advise pursuing.
Chase Sapphire RESERVE®
- Get a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
- $300 Annual Travel Credit
- 3X Points on dining and travel worldwide
- $550 annual fee
Chase Sapphire PREFERRED®
- Get a welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
- 2X Points on dining and travel worldwide
- $95 annual fee
Chase Business Cards
The business cards on offer from Chase offer some of the highest sign up bonuses and contrary to what some might think, are available even to those without an incorporated legal entity. Therefore, sole proprietors who sell on the side or have some other less traditional business can also apply for these cards.
Chase Ink Preferred® – FAVE
Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Chase Ink Cash®
Earn $750 in bonus cash after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Chase Ink Unlimited®
Earn $750 in bonus cash after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Turkish Airlines (part of the Star Alliance), up until a few years ago was a relatively underutilized option for getting to Israel on points and miles. There a number of reasons for this but in our view, much of it came down to avoidance due to concerns about the views of Turkey as being unsafe in light of a tumultuous political landscape as well as what at times is seen as a hostile diplomatic stance toward Israel on the part of the country’s longtime leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over the years though, as the Jewish community has taken the jump and experienced Turkish Airlines first-hand, many have been pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the product as well as the overall experience from staff as well as the value of their mileage program. While there are certainly reports of concerning incidents and the possibility for negative developments that will change the equation, right now Turkish remains quite an attractive option for getting to Israel on points and miles.
Their mileage program, called Miles&Smiles, has an award chart, and we have listed the cost for getting from the USA to Europe and Israel below:
|Between The US &:||Economy||Business||First|
As can be seen from the chart, a standard one-way ticket from the USA to Israel would clock in at 32,000 points. There are sales that arise from time to time that can lower the cost, though. As can be seen in the photo below, in light of the pandemic causing an extreme lull in travel, for a limited time, Turkish is running a sale where flights from New York to Tel Aviv can be had for 30% less than the standard 32k, costing only 22,400 miles.
As a member of the Star Alliance, flights on United can be booked via Turkish Airlines and without fuel surcharges. This allows for the booking of flights from the USA to Israel on United for 32k versus what United generally charges, which is 42.5k. Business-class can be even more attractive as booking United via Turkish costs only 47k versus when booked directly on United as they charge 75k.
I just flew Turkish business from TLV. Istanbul’s business lounge was out of this world. They gave me a private suite!Reviewer of Turkish business class experience.
The process of booking United via Turkish can be a little confusing, but this is a great guide that makes the process a lot easier.
Accruing Turkish Airlines Points
Citi ThankYou points transfer to Turkish Airlines thought he transfer is not instant and takes up to 30 hours but Turkish allows for the placing of a hold on award bookings for free. An added 10% rebate on point transfers for a card like the Citi Rewards+ Card makes a transfer even more appealing.
Marriott Bonvoy Transfers 3:1
One can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Turkish Airlines at a ratio of 3 Marriott points to one Turkish Airlines mile, though transfer times can be quite lengthy and therefore the hold on a booking will often not provide enough time. The best way to earn Marriott Bonvoy points is via one of the Marriott credit cards offered by Chase.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan Program
Air Canada’s Aeroplan award program, also a member of Star Alliance, is another one of our favorites for getting to Israel via miles and points awards. As you can see from the chart below, bookings via Aeroplan from the east coast to Israel clock in at 40,000 which is lower than United’s 42.5k. They offer a helpful miles predictor tool to calculate miles required for varying destinations.
|Class of Service To Israel||Miles Needed|
|Premium Economy||67,500 miles|
In 2020, Aeroplan overhauled their program which included the phasing out of what was previously hefty fuel surcharges on some of their partner flights. The other changes were a mixed back including some scenarios where awards would become more expensive and some less. On balance though, for trips to Israel, the change was generally positive.
In the image below, you can see the standard redemption for a one way is 40k plus approximately $50 in taxes. The flights clocking in at 38.9k are not standard rates but are actually because Aeroplan was running a sale on some flights at the time when we ran our search.
Earning Aeroplan Points
American Express and Capital One are the two bank-based currencies that transfer to Aeroplan. AmEx transfers instantly at a ratio of 1:1 while Capital One transfers instantly at 2:1.5.
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Aeroplan at a ratio of 3:1.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 Membership Reward points after spending $4,000 within the first six months. $250 annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 6 months. $550 annual fee
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Earn 60,000 points after spending 3,000 in the first three months of account opening. $95 annual fee
SkyTeam & Oneworld Options
The previous options we discussed were all part of the Star Alliance, which is the largest and in our view holds the best options for getting to Israel. The second largest is SkyTeam and the third-largest in the Oneworld alliance. Here we will more briefly cover some of the best ways to get to Israel via airlines that are a part of these two alliances.
The flagship carrier of Spain and part of the Oneworld alliance, Iberia at the right time and in the right circumstance can be a great option to get from the USA to Israel. There are no direct flights on Iberia though so there is generally a stopover in Madrid. They fly from five cities in the USA, New York, Boston, LA, Miami, and Chicago. Redemptions range from 28,000/each way for NY to 32,500/each way for LA. There is generally a $100 fee for each way which makes it potentially unattractive compared to the previous options.
Chase Ultimate Rewards, AmEx Membership Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred into Iberia Avios. British Airways Avios, such as those accrued via Chase’s British AIrways card, can also be transferred into Iberia Avios.
Part of SkyTeam, Flying Blue is the mileage program of Air France, Alitalia, KLM Dutch, among others. An anomaly, Flying Blue prices Israel as any other European destination and only charge as low as 25,000 miles each way to fly from NY to Israel. Business-class costs 62,500 each way.
As you can see below, the downside is that there is a significant cash aspect to these bookings for the taxes and fees that are charged. It is for this reason that we do not like this option when compared to the Star Alliance options of United, Turkish, and Aeroplan which have lower cash components. Then again, as we also stated, depending on your specific scenario including your miles and points toolbox, this option might work well.
Points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, AmEx Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Capital One can all be transferred to Flying Blue.
Nonstop Routes From North America To Israel
East Coast To Israel
|ElAl||JFK & Newark||Boston||Miami|
West Coast To Israel
|ElAl||San Fransisco||Los Angeles||Las Vegas|
Canada To Israel
- Austrian From Vienna To TLV
- LOT Polish From Warsaw To TLV
- Ethiopian from Addis Ababa to TLV
- Lufthansa From Frankfurt & Munich To TLV
- SWISS From Zurich To TLV
- TAP Portugal From Lisbon To TLV
- Turkish From Istanbul To TLV
- Aeroflot From Moscow To TLV
- Air France From Paris To TLV
- Alitalia from Rome to TLV
- KLM Dutch From Amsterdam To TLV
- British Airways From London Heathrow To TLV
- Finnair From Helsinki To TLV
- Iberia from Madrid to Tel Aviv
- Jordanian From Amman To TLV
Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day…
The expression could not be any more pertinent. In our experience, the biggest impediment to more people not getting into and gaining from the miles, points, and credit card benefits in terms of travel, is the confusion that comes along at the beginning. Everyone is confused at the outset but after taking a bit of time to get acquainted with the core players and options, the dividends for highly discounted travel to Israel and beyond becomes possible. You might even come to enjoy the collection of points and miles and the various strategies.