What are the Best Credit Cards for Travel to Asia and Africa?

The number one question that Ben and I are asked on a daily basis is “what’s the best credit card for me?” That’s a really difficult question to answer, because there isn’t a good answer! Do you want to go to Nairobi? Do you want to go to Bali? Do you want to stay in nice hotels? What about cash back?

In this post we’ll cover the best credit cards for earning miles and points for travel to Asia and Africa.

Where are those missiles pointing?

Asia

There are a few good options to get miles and points to travel to Asia. The most obvious would be Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Ultimate Rewards points they earn are incredibly valuable to transfer to partners to head to Asia. United Miles are a transfer partner and they have a bunch of routes to get to Asia. Their own cobranded card with Chase is also a win!

Air China, ANA, Asiana, Air India, Eva AIR, Singapore Airlines and Thai all fly to Asia and of course United’s own planes as well can get you there. Coach starts at 35,000 and Business starts at 70,000. Chase can also transfer to Singapore Airlines, a Star Alliance partner.

ANA Business Class Curtain

ANA Business Class Curtain

Another sleeper program that I love for miles is Alaska Airlines and their card from Bank of America. Alaska partners with Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, JAL, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Korean Air. Want to get to Asia? This program is a no brainer. 30,000 miles at signup and you can have multiple cards (we have almost half a dozen between us). Don’t forget about the business version as well!

Coach prices are cheap and First class prices are low too. Just think of flying in Cathay Pacific’s first class for only 70,000 miles. What about JAL? The difference between first and business is a mere 5,000 miles.

Africa

This one is tricky. SkyTeam has Kenya Airways and AirFrance/KLM. Star Alliance has South African Airways, Egypt Air, and Ethiopian, and Oneworld has British Airways. Here’s the problem… Kenya Airways doesn’t have great award availability and British Airways charges ridiculous amounts of fuel surcharges.

Enjoying a meal on the river, South Africa

Star Alliance seems like the no-brainer option. You can route via the US out of Washington DC with South African, out of JFK with EgyptAir, and out of LAX with Ethiopian. You can also use United (or any other partner) to get to Europe, and then try and connect from there. The same cards as before (Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve or the United Cards) are the best bet.

If you’ve already got those, consider also getting the Chase Freedom card or the Chase Ink Cash Business card. The points can transfer between accounts, and often offer huge promotions for everyday spending. The 5x offer at office supply stores is overly generous with the Ink Cash. You’d be surprised how many things you can buy at Office Depot.

Be prepared to do 1 or 2 extra connections as many times it’ll take you a few hops, skips, and jumps to get to where you want to go.

Emirates Hennessy Prive A380 Onboard Bar

Emirates Hennessy Prive A380 Onboard Bar

You can use Emirates to get there using Alaska Airlines miles as well. For me, this is one of the best options… probably because we like flying in style. Emirates flies to many destinations in Africa, so if you want a one-stop connection to head there, Emirates might be your best bet.

We flew from Washington, DC to Dubai and then Dubai to Johannesburg. If you haven’t have the chance to read those trip reports yet, they’re a good read (in my humble opinion)

As always, if you have any questions relating to your own personal situation, but all means don’t hesitate to reach out to us for some guidance!

Happy travels!

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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3 Comments

  1. I have focused exclusively on Asia travel the last year. I agree that Alaska is a great program for travel to Asia, so those cards are a no brainer. Also get the SPG personal/business cards while you can, since SPG transfers 1:1.25 to Alaska. With those signup bonuses and required spend you are most of the way to round trip 1st class on Cathay, which is awesome!

    For UR the best use in Asia I have found is Korean Air first class or Hyatt.

    MR have been really tough to use to Asia for me. ANA business would be a great use, but their availability is really limited, unless you are they type that plans way ahead. After Singapore deval it’s hard to find a good use there too.

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  2. Thai Airways hasn’t flown to the US in about a decade.

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    • You’re right – but reports show they’ve been eyeing flights this year to get to SEA or SFO.

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