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Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9: Africa

Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9: Africa

Million Mile SecretsUltimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9: AfricaMillion Mile Secrets Team

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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline partners when you’re ready to book.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  

The AMEX Membership Rewards program has 17 direct airline partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you many choices for flights to Africa!

Or you can save time and points by using AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for a Flight to Beautiful Cape Town, South Africa

I’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for flights to Africa!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights to Africa

Link:   Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?

There are several AMEX airline transfer partners that are great for flights to Africa.  But before you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to an airline partner consider:

  • Destination you’d like to visit
  • Which airlines fly from your home airport
  • Your airline & alliance preferences

Because Africa is a huge continent (2nd largest by area), you might not have lots of choices for award flights to certain destinations.  So you’ll need to be flexible if your goal is to redeem points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Africa Is the 2nd Largest Continent. You’ll Likely Need to Be Flexible to Get a Good Deal on Award Flights!

And keep in mind only a few airlines offer non-stop flights from the US to Africa.  You’ll probably have to connect via Europe or the Middle East to get to your final destination.

Award flights to Africa can often require a lot of points or miles.  And you’ll be traveling for a long time to get there.  So I recommend confirming all the details with the airline partner before transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points.

If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.

1.   Air Canada

Link:   Air Canada Award Chart

Link:   How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Tickets

Air Canada is a direct AMEX airline transfer partner and is also part of the Star Alliance.  This means you can redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles for award flights on partner airlines like:

  • Egypt Air
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • South African Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

And because many flights to Africa require a layover, you might fly on multiple Star Alliance airlines before getting to your final destination.

Keep in mind, you’ll pay fuel surcharges when you redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles on certain airlines.  These charges can range from ~$50 up to several hundred dollars.

The Air Canada award chart separates Africa into 2 regions.

From the US to North Africa, one-way award flights cost:

  • 40,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 67,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 82,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 115,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

Air Canada considers the Middle East & North Africa the same region for award flights, which include these destinations:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen

For example, I found a non-stop, round-trip Business Class award flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo for 165,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$162 in taxes and fees.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Use 165,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for a Non-Stop, Round-Trip Business Class Award Flight From the US to Egypt

A similar flight could cost more than $2,300 if you paid cash.

And from the US to East, West, and South Africa, one-way award flights cost:

  • 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 65,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 105,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

Award flights to this region can get you to these countries:

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo
  • Chad
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Republic of Congo
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
If You’re Looking for a Romantic Getaway, You Could Use Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for an Award Flight on Partner Airline Turkish Airlines to Get You to Seychelles

Here are examples of non-stop flights to Africa on Star Alliance airlines that you can book using Air Canada Aeroplan miles:

  • Newark and Washington, DC to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines
  • New York (JFK) to Cairo on Egypt Air
  • New York (JFK) and Washington, DC to Johannesburg on South African Airways
  • Washington, DC to Ghana on United Airlines
  • Washington, DC to Senegal on South African Airways

One thing to watch out for when using Air Canada Aeroplan miles for award flights to Africa are multi-class flight itineraries.

For example, part of a sample one-way Business Class award flight from Newark to Cape Town includes a coach flight from Newark to London.  Then, you switch to Business Class from London to Cape Town.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Check the Details of Your Itinerary to See If Any Flights Will Be in Coach

You still pay the regular Business Class award flight price (75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles) even if part of your trip is in coach.

A nice aspect of the Air Canada program is you’ll pay the same number of miles regardless of your US departure city.  So an award flight from the West Coast to Africa costs the same as from the East Coast.

2.   ANA

Link:   ANA Award Chart

ANA is also part of the Star Alliance, which means you can book award flights to Africa on partners like Egypt Air and Turkish Airlines.

You can NOT book one-way award flights using ANA miles.  And ANA adds significant fuel surcharges (up to ~$1,000) to many partner award flights to Africa.

For a round-trip award flight to Africa, you’ll pay:

  • 65,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 104,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 195,000 ANA miles in First Class

But instead of using ANA miles to fly on a Star Alliance partner, you might consider using them to book an award flight to Africa on Etihad.

Because ANA has a partnership with Etihad and does not add fuel surcharges to these award flights.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
You’re Better Off Using ANA Miles to Book an Award Flight to Africa on Etihad Because You’ll Pay NO Fuel Surcharges

To get to Africa on Etihad, you’ll connect through Abu Dhabi.  Then, you can fly non-stop to these destinations:

  • Cairo
  • Casablanca
  • Dar Es Salaam
  • Entebbe
  • Johannesburg
  • Lagos
  • Rabat

But you’ll need to call ANA at 800-235-9262 to book Etihad award flights.

3.   Etihad

Link:   Etihad Award Flight Mileage Calculator 

Link:   How to Find Etihad Award Seats

Instead of booking Etihad award flights with ANA miles, you could also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio.

Etihad doesn’t publish an award chart for their flights.  But you can use the Etihad mileage calculator to quickly find out how many miles you’ll need to fly in coach, Business Class, and First Class.

For example, I searched a one-way coach award flight from Los Angeles to Johannesburg.  This flight requires 92,743 Etihad award miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Enter Your Departure City and Destination to Quickly Find Out How Many Etihad Miles You’ll Need for an Award Flight

Generally, Etihad award flight prices will increase the more distance you travel.  For example, flying from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg requires ~10,000 fewer Etihad miles.

It’s relatively easy to use the Etihad website to find available award seats.

For example, I searched a one-way coach award flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo.  This flight requires ~60,000 Etihad miles and includes a layover in Abu Dhabi.

When using Etihad miles, you’ll also have the option to select multiple types of fares.  For example, you can use additional miles to reduce the out of pocket taxes and fees expense.  Or use even more miles for a refundable fare.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
You Can Use Additional Etihad Miles to Reduce the Out of Pocket Taxes & Fees Expense

4.   Delta

Delta is a great transfer partner for award flights to Africa because they are part of the SkyTeam Alliance, which means part of your journey can be on partner airlines like Air France or KLM.

But Delta does not publish an award chart.  So you’ll need to search specific award flights to find prices.

I searched several routes and found the cheapest one-way award flights to the Africa cost:

  • 35,000 Delta miles in coach 
  • 80,000 Delta miles in Business Class

That said, it can be very difficult to find award seats at those prices.  So you’ll need to be flexible with your travel dates.

For example, I searched one-way coach award flights from Salt Lake City to Johannesburg in April 2017.  In the first few weeks of the month, there are only 6 dates that have award seats available at 40,000 Delta miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
You’ll Need to Be Flexible If You Plan to Use Delta Miles for Award Flights to Africa

If you’re planning a trip to Ghana, Delta miles can come in handy.  Because Delta has a non-stop flight from New York (JFK).

The cheapest one-way award flight prices I found for this non-stop route were:

  • 35,000 Delta miles in coach
  • 180,000 Delta miles in Business Class

The Business Class cost is very expensive.  But if you don’t mind flying coach, you can get there and back for 70,000 Delta miles plus taxes and fees.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
You Can Fly Round-Trip Non-Stop From New York (JFK) to Ghana Using 70,000 Delta Miles

Delta also offers a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg.

5.   Flying Blue

Link:   Flying Blue Promo Awards

Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM.

If you’re planning to visit Northern Africa, you can find amazing deal using Flying Blue miles.

That’s because each month Air France and KLM discount award tickets on certain routes to Europe by 25% to 50%But destinations in Northern Africa, like Morocco, are considered in the same region for purposes of the Flying Blue Promo Awards.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Flying Blue Promo Awards Can Be a Great Way to Save Lots of Miles If You’re Visiting Northern Africa

For example, when there’s a 25% discount on Business Class award tickets from your departure city, you can book a round-trip award flight to Morocco for 93,750 Flying Blue miles plus taxes and fees.  That’s an incredible deal!

Keep in mind, the taxes and fees vary by flight, but usually range from ~$200 in coach to ~$500 in Business Class.

6.   Direct Transfer Partners With Drawbacks

Link:   Don’t Pay Fuel Surcharges, Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

There are other direct AMEX airline transfer partners that can get you to Africa too.  But these partners have drawbacks like:

  • Difficult to find award seats
  • Less favorable transfer ratio to certain partners
  • Longer and inconvenient flight itineraries
  • More miles or points required for an award flight
  • Significant fuel surcharges

This includes AMEX airline partners like:

  • Alitalia
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • Emirates
  • Singapore Airlines

For example, I found lots of available coach award seats on a sample Emirates flight from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg, which costs 82,500 Emirates miles and ~$332 in taxes and fees.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
You Might Find Lots of Available Award Seats on Emirates Flights, but You’ll Have to Pay Significantly Higher Taxes and Fees! And the Award Flights Require More Miles!

The same flight costs ~$900 if you pay cash, so this is not a good use of AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Similarly, British Airways add significant fuel surcharges to their award flights.  On a sample round-trip coach award flight from New York to Cape Town, you’ll pay 58,500 British Airways Avios points and ~$582 in taxes and fees.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
British Airways Adds Significant Fuel Surcharges to Their Award Flights

Plus, the AMEX transfer ratio to British Airways is 5:4, which is less favorable.  This means you’ll have to transfer more AMEX Membership Rewards points for an award flight.

On the other hand, Alitalia award flight prices to Africa are reasonable.  But it’s extremely difficult to find available award seats.  And if you do, you might only find 1 seat, which isn’t good unless you’re traveling alone.

Save Lots of Points With This Business Platinum Perk

Link:   AMEX Pay With Points 

Link:   Now Get 50% of Your Points Back With AMEX Business Platinum

Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you redeem points through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket with most cards.

But with the AMEX Business Platinum card, you can effectively get 2 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 50% of points back.

This is a great option for folks looking to save time and avoid blackout dates.

For example, I found a round-trip Delta coach flight from Boston to Johannesburg in April 2017.  This flight costs ~$1,081 or ~108,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Africa
Use AMEX Pay With Points to Book Any Flight as If You Were Paying Cash

You could book this same flight by transferring points to Delta.  Assuming award flights are available on the same dates, you’d pay 70,000 Delta miles.

But with the Business Platinum, you’ll get an amazing deal using Pay With Points if Delta is your selected airline.

Because you’ll pay ~108,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to Johannesburg.  But you’ll get 50% of your points back.  In the end, you’ll only use ~54,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a round-trip flight to Africa!

Bottom Line

For award flights to Africa, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada or ANA and book award flights on Star Alliance partner airlines like Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, or South African Airways.

Don’t forget certain airlines add fuel surcharges on partner award flights.  So do the math to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

You can also use ANA miles to book Etihad award flights to Africa and pay no fuel surcharges.  But you’ll have to call ANA to book these flights.

If you’re looking to visit Northern Africa, you can do well transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue and booking Flying Blue Promo Awards.  During certain months, you can book a round-trip flight from designated US cities for 25% to 50% off.  And you can fly to destinations like Morocco!

Or you can use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book cheap coach airfare.  This can be an fantastic deal for folks with the AMEX Business Platinum booking a flight their selected airline.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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With (UK) Amex MR Points what is the best way to get flights on EgyptAir LHR-HRG or Turkish Airlines LHR-HRG ?????

This is gold, however what if I am based in South Africa? I don’t really see much info on how to maximize points or use them for flights being based in South Africa. I have a Platinum Charge card if that helps.

Thanks again 🙂

Hi, what are the redemption rates on Egyptair from Cairo to SSH (Sharm El Sheikh) or HRG (Hurghada) ?

How would you rate Egypt air? We can use our United points for Egypt Air but know nothing about this airline.

Does FlyingBlue allow stopovers in Paris and open Jaws when flying to Morocco on points?

Yes, Flying Blue allows stopovers in the same region on round-trip award tickets. But you’ll have to call the airline at 800-375-8723 to book award flights with stopovers.