The Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points – Part 10: Best Ways to Fly to South America

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The Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points – Part 10:  Best Ways to Fly to South America

Million Mile SecretsThe Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points – Part 10:  Best Ways to Fly to South AmericaMillion 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 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 many direct airline and hotel partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you several choices for flights to South America And it’s easy to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points from some of the best American Express cards.

The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has many direct airline and hotel partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well!  You can use AMEX points to book award flights on every airline that flies from the US to Hawaii!

Or you can keep it simple and use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and get a fixed amount per point.

AMEX Membership Rewards Points Can Get You to Brazil and Many Other Destinations in South America!

We’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for flights to South America!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

Cards That Earn Transferable AMEX Membership Rewards Points

You can earn AMEX Membership Rewards points with the following cards:

AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights to South America

There are several AMEX direct airline transfer partners that are great for flights to South America.

And from the direct partners, you also get access to fly other airlines within the 3 major alliances:

  • oneworld (includes American Airlines and LATAM)
  • SkyTeam (includes Aerolineas Argentinas and Delta)
  • Star Alliance (includes Avianca and United Airlines)

But before you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to an airline partner consider:

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

Also keep in mind several airlines include prices for First Class award flights.  But not every airline has a First Class cabin on flights to South America, so it’s not always going to be an option!

1.   Air Canada

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

  • Air Canada
  • Avianca
  • COPA Airlines
  • United Airlines
Book a Winter Escape Using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for an Award Flight to South America on Star Alliance Partner United Airlines

The Air Canada award chart separates South America into 2 regions.

From the US to Northern South America, one-way award flights cost:

  • 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 32,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 37,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 52,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

The Northern South America region includes:

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Guyana
  • Venezuela

We found a sample one-way coach award flight from Houston (IAH) to the Galapagos Islands using Air Canada Aeroplan miles to fly on Avianca.  You’ll pay 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$36 in taxes and fees.

Visit the Galapagos Islands for Just ~$36 Out of Pocket When You Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Air Canada for an Award Flight!

And from the US to destinations in Southern South America, one-way award flights cost:

  • 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 40,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

Destinations in this region include:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay

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.

But there are no fuel surcharges on Avianca flights.  For example, I found a one-way coach award flight from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, which costs 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles.  United Airlines flights also don’t have fuel surcharges.

You Don’t Pay Any Fuel Surcharges Using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles on Avianca Award Flights!

Besides fuel surcharges, one thing to watch out for using the Air Canada frequent flyer program is long flight itineraries.  For example, some award flights include travel from the US to Canada.  Then, a flight from Canada to South America.  Even the example above includes a 9 hour, overnight layover in Lima, Peru.  Definitely not ideal if you can avoid it, but it could be the best option available!

Here’s our ultimate guide to Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

2.   ANA

Similar to Air Canada, ANA is part of the Star Alliance.  So you can book award flights on partner airlines to South America.  But you can NOT book one-way award flights using ANA miles.

Although ANA adds significant fuel surcharges to award flights to many regions, you won’t pay fuel surcharges on most award flights to South America.

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

  • 55,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 88,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 165,000 ANA miles in First Class

As an example, we found a round-trip Business Class award flight from Miami to Bogota, which requires 88,000 ANA miles and ~$75 in taxes and fees.

Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to ANA to Book Business Class Award Flights on Star Alliance Partner Airlines to Anywhere in South America!

A great aspect of using ANA miles is you’ll use the same number of miles, regardless of your US departure city and your destination in South America.

3.   British Airways Avios Points

The British Airways frequent flyer program gives you lots of award flight options to South America.  You can use British Airways Avios points to fly non-stop to South America on airline partners American Airlines and LATAM.

British Airways has a distance-based award chart.  So the amount you’ll pay depends on the length of your flight.  This means the closer your departure city to your destination, the fewer miles you’ll pay.

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

Award flights in Business Class require 3X the number of points, and usually aren’t a very good deal compared with using other programs.

To check how many points you’ll need for a specific flight, you can use the British Airways award flight calculator.

Use the British Airways Award Flight Calculator to See How Many Points You’ll Need to Get to Lima, Peru and Other Destinations in South America

If you’re departing from DallasLos AngelesMiami, and New York, you’ll find many good deals on non-stop coach award flights using British Airways Avios points.

From Dallas, you can book a one-way, non-stop award flight to:

  • Bogota, Colombia – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Lima, Peru – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Santiago, Chile – 25,000 British Airways Avios points

For example, we found a one-way, non-stop award flight from Dallas to Bogota for 12,500 British Airways Avios points.

Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to British Airways to Book an American Airlines Award Flight From Dallas to Bogota

From Los Angeles, you can find one-way award flights to:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina – 30,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Lima, Peru – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – 30,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Santiago, Chile – 30,000 British Airways Avios points

From Miami, you can travel non-stop to:

  • Belem, Brazil – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
  • Bogota, Colombia – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Brasilia, Brazil – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Cali, Colombia – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Caracas, Venezuela – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Cartagena, Colombia – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Cordoba, Argentina (begins April 2, 2019) – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Fortaleza, Brazil – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Georgetown, Guyana (begins November 15, 2018) – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Lima, Peru – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
  • Manaus, Brazil – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
  • Maracaibo, Venezuela – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Medellin, Colombia – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Montevideo, Uruguay – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Pereira, Colombia (begins December 20, 2018) – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Quito, Ecuador – 10,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Recife, Brazil – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Rio de Janiero, Brazil – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Salvador, Brazil – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Santa Cruz, Bolivia – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Santiago, Chile – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
Travel to Argentina’s Capital Using British Airways Avios Points

And from New York, you can book non-stop award flights to these destinations:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador – 12,500 British Airways Avios points
  • Lima, Peru – 20,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – 25,000 British Airways Avios points
  • Santiago, Chile – 25,000 British Airways Avios points

To find available award seats to South America on American Airlines or other partner airlines, we recommend searching the American Airlines website for low-level “MileSAAver” seats.  These are the only type of award seats you can book with British Airways Avios points.

For example, we searched the American Airlines award calendar for flights from Miami to Santiago, Chile.

Find “MileSAAver” Available Award Seats, Which Means You’ll Be Able to Redeem British Airways Avios Points

You can then book the award flight on the British Airways website.  For example, we found lots of coach award seats available from Miami to Santiago on the British Airways website.

Log Into British Airways to Book Your Award Flight to South America

4.   Etihad

Similar to British Airways, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Etihad and then book American Airlines award flights.  The transfer ratio to Etihad is also 1:1.

Etihad has 2 zones for award flights to South America.  To Zone 1, a one-way award flight costs:

  • 17,500 Etihad miles in coach
  • 30,000 Etihad miles in Business Class
  • 40,000 Etihad miles in First Class

Zone 1 includes these countries in Central America and South America:

  • Belize
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Venezuela
Use Etihad Miles to Book an American Airlines Award Flight to South America and Visit Machu Picchu!

One-way award flights to South America Zone 2 cost:

  • 20,000 Etihad miles in coach (off-peak)
  • 30,000 Etihad miles in coach (peak)
  • 50,000 Etihad miles in Business Class
  • 62,500 Etihad miles in First Class

Off peak dates are March 1 to May 31 and August 16 to November 30.

Zone 2 countries include:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile (excluding Easter Island)
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay

To find award seats eligible for using Etihad miles, you can search on the American Airlines website or call Etihad.

The trick is to find award seats with eligible booking codes, which means you’ll be able to use Etihad miles.  The eligible codes are:

  • Booking code “T” for coach
  • Booking code “U” for Business Class
  • Booking code “Z” for First Class

Using Etihad miles for American Airlines award flights can sometimes save you miles instead of booking directly with the airline.  But it can be very difficult to find available award seats.

For example, we found an American Airlines award flight from Dallas to Lima, which is eligible to book using Etihad miles.

Use American Airlines Website to Find Eligible Award Flight Booking Codes to Use Etihad Miles

To book your award flight, you’ll have to call Etihad at 877-690-0767.

Note:   You can not use Etihad miles to book award flights on American Airlines partner airlines like LATAM.

5.   Alitalia

Alitalia is part of the SkyTeam alliance.  So you can use Alitalia miles to book award flights to South America on partner airlines like Delta.

Similar to Etihad, Alitalia separates South America into 2 regions.  One-way award flights to zone 1 cost:

  • 20,000 Alitalia miles in coach
  • 40,000 Alitalia miles in Business Class

And you can visit:

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guyana
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Venezuela

For example, we found a one-way coach award flight from Atlanta to Quito on Delta for 20,000 Alitalia miles.  Delta charges 27,000 miles for the exact same flight!  Using Alitalia miles for this flight ends up being 7,000 miles cheaper than using Delta miles.

Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Alitalia to Book Award Flights to South America on SkyTeam Partner Airlines Like Delta

And one-way award flights to zone 2 in South America cost:

  • 40,000 Alitalia miles in coach
  • 80,000 Alitalia miles in Business Class

Destinations in zone 2 include:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Uruguay

Keep in mind, you’ll have to search specific travel dates on the Alitalia website to find available award seats.  This can take patience, but it might save you miles as shown in the earlier example.

And transferring points to Alitalia for a Delta award flight can save you money instead of transferring directly to Delta.  Because you won’t have to pay an excise fee on transfers to Alitalia.

6.   Delta

You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta to book award flights to South America directly on the airline or on SkyTeam partners like Aerolineas Argentinas.

Remember you’ll pay an excise fee when you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta.

And unfortunately, Delta does not publish an award chart anymore.  So you’ll need to search specific award flights to find prices.

The cheapest one-way award flights we found to South America cost:

  • 22,500 Delta miles in coach
  • 40,000 Delta miles in Business Class

But the price for most coach award flights to South America cost 25,000 Delta miles.  And there’s a wide range for the cost of Business Class award flights depending on your destination.

The good news it’s easy to search the Delta award calendar and compare prices for different dates.

For example, we quickly found a non-stop, round-trip coach award flight from Miami to Buenos Aires for 70,000 Delta miles.  This flight is on partner airline Aerolineas Argentinas.

Book a Non-Stop, Round-Trip Award Flight From Miami to Buenos Aires Using 60,000 Delta Miles

The same flight can cost $1,000+ if you paid cash.  So transferring points to Delta can be a great way to save money!

7.   JetBlue

Folks traveling to Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Quito can do well transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to JetBlue, because JetBlue offers non-stop flights from the US to these South American cities.

The AMEX transfer ratio to JetBlue is 5:4.  But the cost of a JetBlue award flight is based on the cash price of the flight.  This means the cheaper the flight, the fewer points you’ll have to redeem.

For example, we found a round-trip flight from Fort Lauderdale to Quito that costs 16,400 JetBlue points and ~$96 in taxes and fees.

You Can Find Great Deals By Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to JetBlue for Award Flights to South America

So with the 5:4 transfer ratio, you’d need to transfer 20,500 AMEX Membership Rewards points to JetBlue to have enough points to book the flight.  That’s a great deal!

And you don’t have to worry about blackout dates because you can use points for any JetBlue flight as long as there’s a seat for sale.

8.   Aeromexico

Aeromexico is a direct AMEX transfer partner and is part of the SkyTeam alliance.

And it’s the only AMEX airline transfer partner with a transfer ratio always better than 1:1.  You get 1.6 Aeromexico Premier points for every 1 AMEX Membership Reward point you transfer.

You can book award flights from the US to South America on Aeromexico if you connect through Mexico City.  Or redeem points for an award flight on a partner airline like Delta.

From Mexico City, Aeromexico offers non-stop flights to:

  • Bogota
  • Buenos Aires
  • Lima
  • Medellin
  • Quito
  • Santiago
  • Sao Paulo

Aeromexico’s award chart divides South America into 2 regions.

From the US to Northern South America, you’ll pay:

  • 35,000 Aeromexico Premier points in coach
  • 70,000 Aeromexico Premier points in Business Class

Northern South America includes these destinations:

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela

And from the US to Southern South America, you’ll pay:

  • 45,000 Aeromexico Premier points in coach
  • 90,000 Aeromexico Premier points in Business Class

These are destinations included in this zone:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay

You can search for award flights online (in Spanish) on the AeroMexico website.

For example, it’s possible to book a one-way Business Class award flight from New York to Buenos Aires for 90,000 Aeromexico Premier points.

Because of the favorable transfer ratio, you only need to transfer ~57,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to book this award flight (90,000 / 1.6).

Folks in the US have to call Aeromexico at 855-412-2650 to book award flights.

Save Points With This Business Platinum Perk

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 use your AMEX Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket.  And folks with The Business Platinum® Card from American Express can effectively get ~1.54 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 35% of points back.

Redeeming points through the AMEX travel portal can potentially save you points for cheap coach or Business Class airfare instead of transferring directly to an airline partner.

For example, we found a round-trip Business Class flight from Miami to Bogota.  This flight costs ~$661 or ~66,100 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Use Pay With Points to Save on Cheap Paid Flights to South America

And folks with the Business Platinum can use the Pay With Points perk to get 35% of the points back on ANY Business Class or First Class ticket.

So in the end you could end up using only ~42,960 AMEX Membership Rewards points for this sample Business Class flight to Bogota.

This perk also works for coach airfare on your selected airline.

Bottom Line

Using AMEX Membership Rewards points, you’ll have lots of great options for flights to South America.

You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards directly to partners like Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alitalia, ANA, British Airways, Delta, Etihad, and JetBlue.

And direct transfer partners open up award flights on other partner airlines.  For example, you can transfer points to British Airways and book award flights on American Airlines and LATAM.

Each AMEX airline partner uses a different method to price award flights to South America.  Certain partners use distance based award charts.  Others designate zones in South America to price award flights to different regions.

You can also use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book cheap coach or Business Class airfare.  This can be an amazing deal for folks with the AMEX Business Platinum booking a coach flight on their selected airline or any Business Class or First Class ticket.

Whats your favorite way to redeem miles and points for flights to South America?

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The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
  • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 11/2017
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees

More Info

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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