One of the often overlooked and underrated redemptions is using ANA Mileage Club (an AMEX Membership Rewards partner – 1:1 ratio) for booking trips to the Caribbean. As we get farther into the winter, many people are looking at trips to warmer destinations and this tip will lower the number of points needed for your Caribbean getaway…and you can even go island hopping!
Between United and Copa Airlines, Star Alliance offers great options for flying from the U.S. mainland to the Caribbean/Mexico/Central America. Since ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, they have access to award spaces that United and Copa release to partners; these are usually the same spaces that you will find under United’s “Saver Award.” If you have access to AMEX Membership Rewards points, there are actually quite a few benefits to booking the awards with ANA instead of United.
1. Lower Award Prices
United operates a region-based award chart, whereas ANA has a distance-based award chart. In many cases, you can use the ANA award chart to your advantage! For roundtrip travel from the U.S. to the Caribbean, Costa Rica, or Mexico, United charges 35,000 miles in Economy, and 60,000 miles in Business class.
Meanwhile, here is ANA’s award chart. Note the rates for trips of 2001 – 4000 and 4001 – 7000 miles.
Since the roundtrip flights to many destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America add up to less than 4,000 miles, you can redeem ANA miles at the 22,000/43,000 level, instead of redeeming United miles at the 35,000/60,000 level! Some people do value AMEX Membership Rewards points a bit higher than United miles, but this still amounts to a significant saving.
For example, roundtrip flights from New York to Aruba are just 3,951 miles—a trip you can redeem with just 22,000 ANA miles in Economy.
2. Free Changes and “No-Fee” Cancellations
United charges non-elite members $100 to change a ticket, or $200 to cancel a ticket and redeposit the miles. ANA, on the other hand, allows changes to your itinerary free of charge. If you want to cancel your ticket and redeposit the miles, there is no fee, but they do deduct 3,000 miles from the balance. Most people value ANA miles at less than 2 cents a mile, so this is a significant “savings” compared to canceling a United ticket! Of course, once you have transferred your AMEX Membership Rewards points to ANA, those points stay with ANA.
An award ticket is good for one year (no extensions), and you must make all changes 4 days prior to departure (e.g. if you are departing on the 20th, changes cannot be made after the 16th).
3. Stopover, Stopover, Stopover
Yup—three stopovers! ANA has very generous routing rules, and allows you to make three stopovers (not counting your destination). Note that under ANA’s routing rules, you cannot stopover in the country of origin on an international ticket; this means that you cannot travel from Chicago to Houston, stop, and then Houston to Panama City, Panama on one ticket. Your overall itinerary can contain a maximum of 12 segments. Also note that you can only stopover once in each city, so you cannot backtrack to “re-visit” a city.
For example, this trip is completely allowable! You can fly from Chicago to Cancun, then on to Panama City, then to Aruba, and back to Chicago, stopping in each city. Since this itinerary adds up to 5,384 miles, you can redeem only 38,000 ANA miles to fly in economy roundtrip.
There are a few restrictions in using ANA to book your journey to the Caribbean.
Roundtrip Travel is Required
ANA does not allow one-way bookings, which is partly why their distance-based award chart makes sense. If award availability is only available on the outbound or the return of your journey, ANA may not be a good choice. Additionally, while you are allowed to have an open jaw, you must return to the country of departure (e.g. if you depart from Houston, you cannot return to Toronto).
Plan Before April 12, 2015
On April 12, 2015, ANA is transitioning into a zone-based award chart, similar to what United, Delta, and American currently offer. This means that after that date, you will not be able to take advantage of this redemption option.
Transfers are NOT Instantaneous
While you can confirm award availability with ANA immediately, you cannot hold the award while the points transfer over. Unfortunately, AMEX MR transfers to ANA typically take 48-72 hours so this is a risk.