The American Express Gold Rewards Card for Canadians is an excellent travel card for travelers looking to get some cheap flights to Europe with a low annual fee. It comes with a welcome bonus of 25,000 points—which we value between $500 and $750—plus an impressive travel insurance policy, $100 in hotel credit, and much more.
With an annual fee of just $150, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. This post will show you exactly how to use the American Express Gold Rewards Card to get your next flight to Europe for $75 or less.
Table of Contents
Feb 10-24, Toronto to Europe
Destinations are flexible
Arrival/departure cities must be different
As you learned in our How to Fly from Asia to North America (and vice versa) for $75 post, you can save up to 90% off the cost of your flights by using Aeroplan points if you use them correctly. So today, thanks to Sarah, you’re going to learn how to use your Aeroplan points to their absolute fullest when flying to or from Europe.
The first step is in knowing the best airlines to fly with. These are the top 7 airlines you’ll want to fly with when redeeming your Aeroplan points:
- United Airlines
- Swiss Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Air New Zealand
- Eva Airways (Southeast Asia)
- Air China
As you can see, two of the top seven airlines are based in Europe – Turkish Airlines and Swiss Airlines – which means that their hub cities, Zurich and Istanbul, are great places to start looking. United Airlines services Europe extremely well, too, so the cities that United serves heavily will also be good targets.
A quick search shows that our logic is spot on: Sarah can get to either Zurich or Istanbul for $50.
Here Are 10+ Cheap Flights To Europe From Canada
But Sarah wants more than just two options, so here are two more that work just as well:
What if Sarah was leaving from Vancouver or Montreal instead of Toronto? No problem.
Or what if Sarah wanted to fly from New York to Oslo for $35, or San Francisco to Madrid for an amazing $15?! You got it.
Okay, so we know that we can easily meet Sarah’s needs of getting her to Europe on her ideal date, and she’s got 10+ great options of cities to choose from. Finding cheap flights to Europe using Aeroplan is a breeze!
But what about her flight home? As it turns out, getting home is just as easy.
Just like flying to/from Asia, it’s easy to get to/from Europe for next-to-nothing. But we’ve skipped over the most crucial part: how Sarah got her Aeroplan points in the first place. So here it is: the dead-simple two-step process that Sarah followed to a tee to save over $700 on her trip.
STEP 1 OF 2: GET YOUR POINTS
In November, Sarah got herself an American Express Gold Rewards Card, which gave her a whopping 25,000 points, more than enough to get her to Europe. Her card arrived in 2 days.
STEP 2 OF 2: USE YOUR POINTS
That same day, Sarah got an Aeroplan Card. You’re going to transfer your American Express points into Aeroplan points in order to take the flights above, so you’ll need one of these. Fill out their 60-second online form and you’re all set – everyone gets approved automatically.
And that’s it.
Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so too, until I helped dozens of people like Sarah follow these exact steps and get on flights like the ones above. Not all great things have to come at high prices.
The Germany Limitation
There are just two hiccups you’ll come across when booking your flights to/from Europe, and they’re both easily avoidable. The Germany Limitation comes as a result of the majority of Aeroplan flights in and out of Germany being operated by Lufthansa, which matches Air Canada as the worst airline for redeeming your Aeroplan miles, so you need to change the airlines you fly with. But doing that within Germany is a bit tricky, just like Thailand proved to be in our deep look at flying from Asia to North America for $75, so our recommendation is the exact same – get out of Germany. Even when I did find a Frankfurt to Toronto flight with United Airlines, the German government-imposed fees added nearly $100 extra on to what the flight should’ve costed. Here’s a breakdown of those taxes and fees.
Given how small European countries are and the ease of flying between them – starting from the major cities in Germany, you can fly internationally in multiple directions for under $20 – there’s no real need to fly to Canada directly from Germany. Do yourself a favour and add on a day or two in a nearby city like Amsterdam, Zurich, or Paris; not only will it add colour to your trip, the cost of your flights will drop significantly. That’s what you call a win-win. Here’s a breakdown of the taxes and fees when departing from Zurich instead, a full $75 cheaper.
The UK Limitation
The second hiccup is the Air Passenger Duty applied to flights departing the UK for North America – and it’s a big one – but you have two options for avoiding it. You could take the same approach as with Germany above and just leave the UK before you start your return journey, or you could book a flight that has European connections built-in. Switzerland is nearby so you could jump on a Swiss Airlines flight with a connection in Geneva or Zurich, or find a United Airlines flight that stops in Paris or Madrid. However you do it, just don’t fly directly back from the UK, or you’ll be hit with a fee like the $145.50 one below.
Bonus: Hacking Istanbul
There are a few sweet spots that only those of us really deep in our Aeroplan knowledge know about, and one of them is Istanbul.
When I run a search for Istanbul, things look good at first: since you’re flying with Turkish Airlines – one of the top 7 airlines listed above – you don’t pay any fuel surcharge, which is why the price is so low. But upon a closer look, there’s a problem: the Aeroplan points required for that flight, which are 30,000 for the rest of Europe, now sits at 37,500. That 25% jump is substantial, but luckily for you, you won’t be paying it.
Instead, you’re going to skip a leg.
Let’s open up another search tab and look back at one of our previous destinations: Rome. The search results look like any others, but there’s something highly interesting hidden within them: the Turkish Airlines flights from Toronto to Rome have a stop in Istanbul!
You’ve probably put things together by now: The best way to get to Istanbul is not by buying a ticket to Istanbul; instead, it’s by buying this ticket to Rome and getting out in Istanbul.
But we need to be very clear about something: this method of purchasing a multi-segment flight and skipping the end of it is not viewed positively in the airlines’ eyes. Last year, United Airlines and Orbitz.com, one of the world’s largest online travel agencies, collectively sued a website that was making it easier for travelers to find these types of tickets. So if you’re going to do it, do yourself a favour and don’t flaunt it.
Something else to consider: you should not check luggage when skipping a flight segment. While it is sometimes possible to check your luggage to an intermediate destination, it’s not a sure thing, and assuming you don’t want your luggage to end up in Rome while you’re exploring Istanbul, it’s better to just avoid checking bags altogether. Luckily, at the time of this writing, Turkish Airlines allows one piece of carry-on cabin baggage up to 8kg plus an additional personal item, which is enough for most people.
So what’s the point of all this?
First, to give you the knowledge you need to make smart, informed decisions about finding cheap flights to Europe, and back to Canada as well. If you’ve been trying to buy cheap flights to Europe, or anywhere else, without this type of knowledge, you’ve probably been over-paying by a substantial amount. That stops now.
And second, to show you that flying doesn’t need to be expensive. With the right tools in place, you can cut your flight costs by 50% or more. Invest 5 minutes to save $500-$1,000 on your travels today.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably like its sister post How to Fly from Asia to North America (and vice versa) for $75, or our new post on the best American Express Aeroplan cards.