I used points for a $10,000 seat in international business class, and it convinced me all over again that credit card points can be worth their weight in gold

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cheese course

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Holly Johnson/Business Insider
  • Writer Holly Johnson has flown economy class more times than she can count, but she recently flew international business class for the first time.
  • By transferring credit card points to United Airlines, she was able to pay for seat that would have cost her $10,000 had she been paying in cash – and she loved every minute.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are some of the credit cards that let you transfer points to airlines for experiences like this.

In early 2019, I was lucky enough to fly United Polaris business class from Washington DC to London Heathrow. My jaunt to London included my first 8-plus hour flight in a lie-flat seat, which was more than welcome considering I was flying overnight. This trip is also one that could have set me back up to $10,000 round-trip had I paid in cash.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

United Airlines offers a flexible award chart that makes it easy to book luxury flights like this one with a reasonable number of rewards. One-way flights to Europe with one of their Saver awards will set you back just 60,000 miles – miles you can earn with a co-branded United credit card or any premier Chase travel card that lets you transfer points to airlines and hotels, like the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred.

It’s true you could book a one-way international economy flight on United for 30,000 miles, so why pay more than you have to? A lot of frequent business travelers would snap back with “because I can,” but I’ll go a step further and explain why a cheapo like me is willing to splurge for business class – at least part of the time.

1. The leg room is incredible

I’m only 5’3″ and fairly petite, so lack of leg room is not an issue I normally grapple with. Still, there’s something absolutely decadent about having so much room you can extend your legs in full without touching anything or anyone.

When you fly in a roomy business class seat, you don’t have to worry about your seatmate spilling over into your personal space or manspreading into your leg room. You get to do more than relax with your own space – you get to spread out.

legroom luxury flights

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Holly Johnson/Business Insider

2. You can sleep like a normal person

I have flown overnight in international economy too many times to count. I normally catch a few winks here and there, but it’s hard to snooze when you’re sitting up – even if you have one of the best travel pillows money can buy.

But with the lie-flat seat, you can fully recline and lie down like you would at home. You may even sleep a few hours and – gasp – arrive in your destination refreshed instead of miserable and unkempt.

I slept a good three or four hours on my flight, and it was ahhh-maa-zing.

3. The food actually tastes good

Long haul flights always serve some sort of meal, and those in international economy are usually stuck choosing between two Hungry Man-style frozen meals (a chicken dish and a pasta). These meals almost always come with the world’s saddest salad and a tasteless dinner roll. It’s good enough to fill your belly before you try to doze off, but not enjoyable in the least.

In United Polaris business class, however, the food was more than edible – it was memorable. I had an Asian shrimp salad appetizer followed by a tasty salmon main dish. And – get this – they followed up with a cheese course and a sundae bar! I basically died and went to heaven.

sundae bar

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Holly Johnson/Business Insider

4. You get unlimited booze and snacks, plus extra amenities

The food was delicious, but international business class also includes unlimited booze in your fare. I may have had a few glasses of champagne as I cozied up in my luxury Saks Fifth Avenue bedding to watch Game of Thrones. Okay, I had five glasses of champagne and I’m #notsorry.

I was way more comfortable thanks to my amenity kit. The tiny take-home pouch I received came with a toothbrush and toothpaste, soft travel socks, an eye mask, lotion, lip balm, and a moist towelette.

The seat next to me was empty, so I also snagged an extra amenity kit to take home. Don’t tell anyone!

5. Business class turns something you must endure into an experience you actually enjoy

Where flying economy is something you do to get where you want to go, business class is an experience you get to savor. It’s a few hours of pampering yourself in peace and quiet without having to deal with your boss or your bills. You’re 30,000 feet in the sky where nobody can reach you, so why not enjoy it?

The best part? You don’t have to fork over thousands of dollars to feel like a movie star. You can pick up an airline or travel credit card and pay with miles instead. Business class flights may seem like a ridiculous splurge, but airline miles make this indulgence one almost anyone can enjoy.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card from Insider Picks’ partner, The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card from Insider Picks’ partner, The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card from Insider Picks’ partner, The Points Guy.