This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Mark emailed me about booking an award ticket to South America using American Airlines miles:

“I wanted to book a trip to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires with AA miles in December, but business class awards are only available at 100,000 each way! Will I ever be able to get my whole itinerary for 100,000 round-trip? And what’s the best way to track when award availability opens up? Thanks for any advice.”

American is typically difficult when it comes to redeeming long-haul international awards on their own flights. I’d recommend setting an ExpertFlyer alert, which will notify you when low-level availability opens up. This is a great tool that frees you from having to check daily for flights, but sometimes they don’t release a lot of award availability until right before the time of departure. For peace of mind, you might want to book the peak award, and then if you get an alert that the lower award has opened up, you can switch the booking.

Usie Expert Flyer to set award availability alerts.
Use Expert Flyer to set award availability alerts.

You can also get a little creative by expanding your search. Check award availability to Sao Paulo, which is just a cheap, short flight away from Rio. Try different cities, different partners, and check on LAN Airlines. LAN won’t show up on, so try calling and see if maybe you can route through Santiago, Chile, or Lima, Peru. Remember that whenever you book at the partner level, it’ll be for that low 100,000-mile round-trip level.

Try finding a flight via LAN.
Try finding a flight via LAN.

American will also allow you to have a stopover in a North American international gateway city, so if you fly via Miami you can always build in a stopover and then continue on to South America at your leisure, depending on award availability. Search the legs from the international gateway, then work backwards from there.

The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.
The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

These are just a few tips. For related posts, see below. And good luck, Mark – if you try these tips, I’m sure you’ll be able to get your trip at the Saver level!

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, tweeting me or emailing me at

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR
Regular APR
16.24%-23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: 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.