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Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly business class round-trip to Africa for 104,000 miles or less

March 27, 2022
6 min read
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ANA Mileage Club miles have proven to be one of the most valuable airline currencies around. The airline is largely ignored by travelers who aren’t complete points and miles geeks because of its clunky website — but thanks to its stellar lineup of Star Alliance partners, you can use its miles to get just about anywhere on the planet.

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No matter which continent you’re trying to reach, ANA will often have one of the best rates to get there (excluding Antarctica, of course). Flights to Africa using ANA miles are extra sweet, with business-class awards priced only slightly higher than other airlines charge for economy class.

Why it’s special

The Cape of Good Hope in Cape Town. (Photo by Edwin Remsberg/VWPics/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

If you’re booking a round-trip business-class flight to exciting African destinations like Nairobi or Cape Town in a lie-flat seat, prepare to pay at least 150,000 airline miles round-trip. That’s the going award rate to travel to such a faraway destination in comfort.

The baffling exception is with ANA. The airline manages to publish confusingly low prices everywhere in Africa. Northern destinations like Morocco cost just 88,000 miles round-trip in business class, while farther destinations like Cape Town cost 104,000 miles round-trip. That’s a potential savings of 45,000-plus miles over competing airline currencies like American AAdvantage miles, United MileagePlus miles and Air Canada Aeroplan points.

Flights like these can easily sell for $5,000-plus, meaning you’ll almost always get a solid value of 4.8 cents per ANA mile when redeeming your rewards this way.

The one caveat is that you must book round-trip flights — ANA doesn’t allow one-way awards.

Related: Everything you need to know about ANA Mileage Club

How to book this award

Step 1: Click 'Flight Award Reservations' on the ANA website

Head to the ANA website and click the “ANA Mileage Club” tab near the top of the page.

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You’ll see a list of buttons under the “Use Miles on Flights” section. Select “ANA International and Partner Airline Flight Awards.” You’ll then see three buttons. Click “Flight Award Reservations” to begin the search process.

(Screenshot from ana.co.jp)

Step 2: Enter your travel details

A search engine should appear, with the toggle set to “Award Reservation.”

Enter your desired origin and destination. You’ll have the easiest time finding flights if you search major U.S. hubs.

Before you search for your flights, tick the “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days” box. This will allow you to search for availability one week at a time.

Also, if you’re searching for business-class flights, select it from the drop-down menu.

(Screenshot from ana.co.jp)

Step 3: Find dates that work for you

The more flexible you are, the more favorable an itinerary you’ll find.

You’ll see a one-week schedule for both your departure date and return date. Any dates with “Seats available” have availability for your specific seat class. Click the arrows bookending the calendar week if nothing suits you.

(Screenshot from ana.co.jp)

Step 4: Select your preferred airlines (and choose the lowest fuel surcharges)

ANA passes along fuel surcharges based on the airline partner you’re flying. Depending on the airline, route and class, these fees can be enough to discourage you from booking a flight at all.

When you find a route you like, each direction will often have multiple options operated by varying airlines. Mix and match to find the lowest fuel surcharges, which will immediately refresh at the bottom of the page (under the award price).

As a rule of thumb, the airlines that incur low fuel surcharges are:

  • Air Canada.
  • Ethiopian Airlines.
  • United Airlines.
  • South African Airways.
  • LOT Polish Airlines.
  • Scandinavian Airlines.

For this round-trip business-class flight on Ethiopian Airlines, you’ll pay about $130. That’s not bad at all.

(Screenshot from ana.co.jp)

How to earn miles for this award

(Photo by The Points Guy)

There are two practical and efficient ways to earn ANA miles quickly.

First, ANA is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner. You can transfer Amex points to ANA at a 1:1 ratio (though they may take 48 hours to deposit). That means all Membership Rewards-earning card bonuses effectively earn ANA miles. Here are some current notable offers:

As you can see, a single card bonus can be more than enough for a round-trip business-class flight to anywhere in Africa.

You can also transfer Marriott points to ANA at a 3:1 ratio (3 Marriott points = 1 ANA mile). However, when you transfer in increments of 60,000 points, you’ll receive a bonus 5,000 ANA miles. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points will net you 25,000 ANA miles.

Read our post on how to earn lots of Marriott points.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Bottom line

If you’re a collector of Amex Membership Rewards points, few partners will yield a better return per point than ANA. The ability to travel to Africa in lie-flat seats for between 88,000 and 104,000 miles is incredible. Just be sure to fly on partner airlines that don’t incur high fuel surcharges.

Featured image by (Photo by annick vanderschelden photography via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.