Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 5: Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
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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 and hotel partners when the time comes.
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 20 direct airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well! This means you’ll have several choices when planning flights to Canada or Alaska!
Or you can keep it simple and use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and effectively get up to 2 cents per point.
I’ll show you the best ways to use American Express Membership Rewards Points for flights to Canada & Alaska!
The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:
- Part 1 – Transfer Partners
- Part 2 – How to Transfer Points
- Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
- Part 4 – Best Ways to Fly to Hawaii
- Part 5 – Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
- Part 6 – Best Ways to Fly to Caribbean & Mexico
- Part 7 – Best Ways to Fly to Europe
- Part 8 – India & Middle East
- Part 9 – Africa
- Part 10 – South America
American Express Membership Rewards Points for Flights to Canada & Alaska
Link: Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?
In a moment, I’ll share a few AMEX airline transfer partners that are great options to get you to Canada & Alaska. Remember, sometimes you can transfer points to a direct AMEX airline partner. Then, book a flight on a different airline thanks to alliances and partnerships.
The best transfer partner will depend on:
- Available award seats
- Which airlines fly from your home airport
- Your airline & alliance preferences
You’ll also want to consider your desired destination and the time of the year you plan to travel.
For example, there are 3 major airports in Alaska, in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. But many flights from the continental US to these destinations are only seasonal. This means you’ll want to plan ahead to have the best chance at finding award seats.
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 great transfer partner for award flights to Canada & Alaska. But the best deals are usually with Air Canada partner airlines and NOT directly with Air Canada.
That’s because Air Canada adds fuel surcharges to their own award tickets, but not on certain partner airline award tickets like United Airlines.
Air Canada charges the same number of miles for award flights to Canada & Alaska, regardless of your US departure city. And the amount you’ll pay for partner airline award flights is the same too!
For short-haul round-trip award flights (ex.. Seattle to Vancouver), you’ll pay:
- 15,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 20,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
- 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
Air Canada short-haul flights are not based on specific flight distances. Instead, the airline publishes a list of specific regions you can fly to and from at the reduced mileage amount.
And, the short-haul award flights are only available on Air Canada, Air Canada Express, and certain Canadian partner airlines.
For regular round-trip award flights (ex. Newark to Anchorage), you’ll pay:
- 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 40,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
- 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
- 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class
Even with fuel surcharges on Air Canada award flights, it can sometimes make sense to book an award flight directly on the airline. Because using miles and paying a surcharge might be a better deal than booking an otherwise expensive flight. Or Air Canada might be the only airline that flies a certain route.
For example, I found a round-trip, non-stop coach award flight from Newark to Montreal in January 2017 for 15,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$147 in taxes and fees.
If you paid cash, this same flight would cost ~$941. So even with the high taxes and fees, using miles can save you a significant amount of money out of pocket. I always recommend doing the math to see if using miles makes sense for your situation.
And folks planning a trip from the US to Alaska can find a sweet spot in the Air Canada award chart.
Because using Air Canada Aeroplan miles, you can book a United Airlines award flight to Alaska for 5,000 fewer miles than booking directly with United Airlines.
For example, a one-way United Airlines award flight from Orlando to Anchorage costs 12,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles. But the same exact flight would cost 17,500 United Airlines miles if you booked directly on the airline website.
Keep in mind United Airlines flies non-stop to Anchorage from Denver, and seasonally from Chicago, Houston, Newark, and San Francisco. But as shown in the Orlando example, you can connect from most major airports in the US and you’ll pay the same number of miles for an award flight.
2. British Airways
Link: British Airways Award Flight Calculator
Link: How to Fly to Alaska With British Airways Avios Points
You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways to book American Airlines and Alaska Airlines award flights to Alaska or Canada.
British Airways has a distance-based award chart. So the amount you’ll pay for an award flight to Alaska or Canada depends on your flight distance.
For example, one-way coach award flights cost:
- 7,500 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,151 miles
- 10,000 British Airways Avios points for flights between 1,152 and 2,000 miles
- 12,500 British Airways Avios points for flights between 2,001 and 3,000 miles
This means folks in the Northwest US will get the best deals to Alaska. And folks in northern US states will get good deals to destinations in Canada.
To Alaska, you can fly non-stop from 10 US cities using British Airways Avios points.
American Airlines flies non-stop to Anchorage seasonally from Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
From Dallas, you’ll pay 20,000 British Airways Avios points. And flights from Los Angeles and Phoenix cost 12,500 British Airways Avios points.
Alaska Airlines has the most non-stop routes to Anchorage. From the continental US and Hawaii, you can fly there from:
- Chicago (seasonal) – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Honolulu – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Kahului – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Kona – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Las Vegas – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Los Angeles – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Phoenix – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
- Portland – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
- Seattle – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
You can also fly non-stop from Seattle to Juneau and Ketchikan for 7,500 British Airways Avios points. Or to Fairbanks for 10,000 British Airways Avios points.
To Canada, you can fly non-stop on Alaska Airlines from Seattle to:
There are also non-stop flights from Portland to Vancouver.
One-way flights all cost 7,500 British Airways Avios points.
American Airlines offers non-stop flights from the US to these destinations in Canada:
The amount you pay will vary based on your US departure city and the flight distance.
For example a flight from Philadelphia to Quebec costs 7,500 British Airways Avios points. And a flight from Dallas to Vancouver costs 10,000 British Airways Avios points.
To find available award seats to Alaska or Canada on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines, I recommend searching the American Airlines website for low-level “SAAver” seats. These are the only type of award seats you can book with British Airways Avios points.
You can book American Airlines flights on the British Airways website.
But for Alaska Airlines flights, you must call British Airways at 800-452-1201 to book your award tickets.
You can also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways to book a Cathay Pacific award flight from New York (JFK) to Vancouver. You’ll pay:
- 12,000 British Airways Avios points in coach
- 25,000 British Airways Avios points in Premium Economy
- 37,500 British Airways Avios points in Business Class
- 50,000 British Airways Avios points in First Class
Cathay Pacific has an amazing First Class. So this could be a great redemption for folks flying between these 2 cities.
You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to Delta or Flying Blue at a 1:1 ratio to book Delta flights to Canada or Alaska.
Remember, you’ll have to pay an excise fee to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta because it’s a US airline.
All else equal, you’ll want to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue to book a Delta award flight to save money on the excise fee.
Delta offers non-stop award flights to Anchorage from:
- Atlanta (seasonal)
- Salt Lake City (seasonal)
Delta no longer publishes an award chart! So you’ll need to search specific routes and dates to find the price of an award ticket. The cheapest one-way flights I found cost:
- 12,500 Delta miles in coach
- 25,000 Delta miles in Business Class
Watch out for limited-time award flight sales where Delta discounts the price of certain routes. This can help you save miles!
And if you’re visiting Canada, you can find non-stop Delta flights from the US to:
I found short-haul flights from Seattle to Vancouver for 5,000 Delta miles. But most other routes to Canada cost:
- 12,500 Delta miles in coach
- 25,000 Delta miles in Business Class
Folks living in Portland or Seattle who plan to visit Alaska might consider transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to JetBlue. Because JetBlue will launch non-stop flights to Anchorage from these 2 cities starting May 25, 2017.
Although the transfer ratio to JetBlue is not 1:1, you can still find great deals.
For example, I found a round-trip flight from Portland to Anchorage in June 2017 that costs 17,600 JetBlue points.
So with the 5:4 transfer ratio, you’d need to transfer 22,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to JetBlue to have enough points to book the flight.
Remember, the price of a JetBlue award flight is based on the cash cost of the flight. So the cheaper the flight, the less points you’ll have to redeem.
5. Virgin America
Link: Alaska Airlines Award Chart
Link: You Can Now Transfer Virgin America Points to Alaska Airlines!
Virgin America is a direct AMEX airline transfer partner. Unfortunately, the transfer ratio is less favorable at 2:1. This means you’ll get 1 Virgin America point for every 2 AMEX Membership Rewards points you transfer.
But this transfer might make sense for folks looking to visit Alaska now that you can convert your Virgin America points to Alaska Airlines miles at a ratio of 1 : 1.3.
Plus, Alaska Airlines now uses a distance based award chart, which means you can find great deals on shorter flights. For example, if you’re flying within Alaska.
For a one-way coach award, you’ll pay:
- 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles for flights under 700 miles
- 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles for flights between 701 and 1,400 miles
- 10,000 Alaska Airlines miles for flights between 1,401 and 2,100 miles
- 12,500 Alaska Airlines miles for flights more than 2,100 miles
This means a flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks costs 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles. So let’s look at how an AMEX transfer would work.
You could transfer 8,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to 4,000 Virgin America points. Then, convert the points to 5,200 Alaska Airlines miles because of the 1 : 1.3 ratio. This would give you enough to book a flight within Alaska that’s less than 700 miles.
Use AMEX Pay With Points to Avoid Blackout Dates
Link: AMEX Pay With Points
Link: Now Get 50% of Your Points Back With AMEX Business Platinum
Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.
When you use your AMEX Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket. And folks with the AMEX Business Platinum card can effectively get 2 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 50% of points back.
This is helpful for folks looking to avoid award flight blackout dates.
For example, I searched the AMEX Travel Portal and found a round-trip Delta coach flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver in March 2017. This flight costs ~$552 or ~55,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points
And if Delta is your selected airline on the Business Platinum card, you’ll get a rebate of 50% of the points. This means you’ll effectively pay ~27,500 AMEX Membership Rewards points. And that’s a better deal compared to the 34,500 Delta miles you’d pay if you transferred points to the airline.
You can use AMEX Membership Rewards points to book award flights to Canada and Alaska by transferring to airline partners like Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, JetBlue, and Virgin America.
The best transfer partner depends on which airline has available award seats and the airline options you have from your home airport.
And sometimes the best deal involves booking a partner airline award ticket. For example, you’ll use fewer miles for a United Airlines award flight to Alaska by booking through Air Canada instead of directly with the airline.
Or you can transfer points to British Airways to book an amazing First Class award seat on Cathay Pacific between New York and Vancouver!
You can also use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book paid airfare to Canada and Alaska. You’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket on most AMEX cards. Or effectively 2 cents per point with the AMEX Business Platinum if you book a Business Class flight or if the coach flight is on your selected airline.
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