Pro Tip – Using AMEX MR to the Caribbean – Extremely Low Award Pricing and Multiple Island Stops Allowed!

by Enoch

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.33.13 AM

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.

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While ANA does impose fuel surcharges, travel to the Caribbean is excluded from these fees (among others) since ANA charges no fuel surcharges for travel entirely within the Americas.

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.

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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.

Thanks to Juicy Miles booker Enoch for this guest post. Need help planning an award trip? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Points with a Crew February 6, 2015 - 10:50 am

No fuel surcharges, but you’re going to have some pretty good airport taxes and fees unfortunately. I was surprised at how much some of those airport taxes were on my “free” award ticket.

I’m thinking most of those might be better for a paid ticket on sale or using FlexPerks or Arrival miles

Paul February 6, 2015 - 11:06 am

Aren’t you going to pay taxes regardless?

AndyTLe February 6, 2015 - 11:13 am

Used the AmEx Avios bonus to transfer MR for flights to the Caribbean.

Mike February 6, 2015 - 11:26 am

The only destinations I can get to pull up on ANA’s site are USA/Mexico and Japan. How do I get Caribbean destinations to display?

Burhan February 6, 2015 - 1:09 pm

@mike: just type in the Airport Code of the destination in the box.

Booked myself a Houston-San Jose (CR)-Panama City-Cancun-Houston trip on Thanksgiving for just 22k miles but $300 in taxes :((

Kenny February 8, 2015 - 1:28 pm

Unfortunately there are surcharges on Copa and Avianca flights. Only UA flights to Central America and the Caribbean are surcharge-free.

CaitlinFinnegan February 6, 2015 - 3:33 pm

This works well from East Coast and Midwest. The Caribbean from the West Coast is 8,000+ miles. That’s a LOT of points/miles, even for economy.

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