How to book round-trip flights to the Caribbean starting at just 8,000 points

Sep 27, 2019

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Although it’s still warm across the country, there’s no denying it: Winter is coming. And what better place to head to when it gets cold than the Caribbean.

While most airline programs charge around 30,000 miles round-trip between the U.S. and the Caribbean, there’s a way to fly there for much less. And that award redemption is currently even better thanks to an ongoing transfer bonus. Now through Oct. 1, you’ll get a 40% bonus when transferring American Express Membership Rewards to Aer Lingus, British Airways or Iberia Avios.

This transfer bonus elevates all kinds of sweet spots in the Avios award chart, and recently we’ve been diving into the best of these awards. So far, we’ve shown you how to fly to Ireland for 10,000 points each way, try out American Airlines lie-flat business-class seats for just 12,000 points each way and how to book round-trip flights to Hawaii for just 19,000 points.

Now, let’s show you how you can fly to the Caribbean for as little as 8,000 American Express Membership Rewards points round-trip.

In This Post

The Avios sweet spot

This sweet spot requires transferring American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways or Iberia in order to book an American Airlines award flight. Don’t worry. We will walk you through the steps to do so below. But, first let’s talk about why you’ll want to go through the hassle.

Unlike many airlines’ region-based award charts, both British Airways and Iberia’s award charts are based on the distance of the flight, and the Caribbean isn’t far away from parts of the U.S. For those wondering how these two European airlines factor into flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean, that’s thanks to both British Airways and Iberia being Oneworld partners with American Airlines — which operates flights all around the Caribbean.

First, let’s look at the British Airways award chart. BA’s new partner award chart can be a bit confusing, but here’s how it breaks down for one-way American Airlines award flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean:

Distance in Miles
(One-way)
British Airways Avios
(Economy)
British Airways Avios
(Business)
1 – 650 7,500 15,000
651 – 1,151 9,000 16,500
1,152 – 2,000 11,000 22,000

Keep in mind that British Airways prices each award flight separately, so you’re going to want to focus on nonstop flight options when possible.

American Express Membership Rewards need to be transferred to partners in increments of 1,000 points. So, during the 40% transfer bonus, here’s how many Membership Rewards points you’ll need to transfer to book a nonstop economy award through British Airways:

Distance in Miles
(One-way)
Membership Rewards Points
(One-way)
Membership Rewards Points
(Round-trip)
1 – 650 6,000 11,000
651 – 1,151 7,000 13,000
1,152 – 2,000 8,000 16,000

Iberia also has a distance-based award chart, but there’s a big difference in how it works vs. British Airways’ chart. Instead of pricing each award flight individually, Iberia looks at the total flight miles for the itinerary regardless of the number of stops. That makes Iberia the go-to way of booking award flights when there isn’t a nonstop option. The downside: you must book a round-trip award on certain partners, and American Airlines is one of those partners.

Distance in Miles
(Round-trip)
Iberia Avios
(Economy)
Iberia Avios
(Business)
1 – 600 11,000 22,000
601 – 1,000 12,000 24,000
1,001 – 2,000 17,000 34,000
2,001 – 4,000 23,000 46,000

Again, you’ll have to transfer Membership Rewards in increments of 1,000 points. Factoring in the 40% transfer bonus, here’s how many MR points you’ll need to transfer to book round-trip awards through Iberia:

Distance in Miles
(Round-trip)
Membership Rewards Points
(Economy)
Membership Rewards Points
(Business)
1 – 600 8,000 16,000
601 – 1,000 9,000 18,000
1,001 – 2,000 13,000 25,000
2,001 – 4,000 17,000 33,000

Routes

So, where can you go with this sweet spot? Let’s take a look at where American Airlines flies in the Caribbean, breaking these flights into buckets based on the flight distance.

Under 300 miles (11,000 Iberia Avios round-trip)

If you want to get the amazing rate of just 8,000 Membership Rewards points round-trip, you’re going to need to be flying on an itinerary that’s 300 miles or less each way. That might not sound like it’s going to get you very far, but American Airlines has at least seven of these routes out of Miami (MIA):

  • Bahamas: Nassau (NAS), Freeport (FPO), Marsh Harbour (MHH), North Eleuthera (ELH)
  • Cuba: Havana (HAV), Santa Clara (SNU), Varadero (VRA)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

But you don’t have to be flying out of Miami to make this sweet spot work. Iberia prices awards based on the total miles of the itinerary, and there’s at least one itinerary from another Florida airport that’s under 300 miles each way. You could originate in Key West (EYW) and connect through Miami to Freeport, Bahamas (FPO), as this is just 238 flight miles each way.

Although this itinerary errors out when I try to search it on Iberia’s website, you should be able to book over the phone for just 11,000 Avios — or just 8,000 transferred Membership Rewards points — round-trip.

Between 300-500 miles (12,000 Iberia Avios round-trip)

Next, let’s take a look at the flights that are between 300 and 500 miles each way. If you can find award availability, you can book these itineraries for 12,000 Iberia Avios round-trip. During the Amex transfer bonus, that’s going to require a transfer of just 9,000 MR points for the round-trip awards.

  • Bahamas: George Town (GGT)
  • Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman (GCM)
  • Cuba: Camagüey (CMW), Holguín (HOG), Santiago de Cuba (SCU)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

Not in Miami? You may be able to book connecting flights through Miami to some Caribbean destinations. Your itinerary just needs to be under 1,000 miles round-trip to get this rate. For example, you can book from Tampa (TPA) through Miami to Nassau (NAS) for just 12,000 Avios:

Under 650 miles (7,500 British Airways Avios each way)

While Iberia requires round-trip awards to get a great rate, you can use British Airways Avios to book one-ways separately. This gives you the chance to fly one way on a cash fare or fly back to a different airport after a trip to the Caribbean.

Remember that British Airways bookings price each leg separately, so you’re limited to nonstop options out of Miami to get this rate. That’s a bummer for those not in Miami, but it’s good news for those that are: There are at least 15 routes from Miami that you can book for just 7,500 British Airways Avios each way. These awards require just 6,000 transferred Avios for a one-way or 11,000 for a round-trip (or two one-ways):

  • Bahamas: Nassau (NAS), Freeport (FPO), George Town (GGT), Marsh Harbour (MHH), North Eleuthera (ELH)
  • Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman (GCM)
  • Cuba: Camagüey (CMW), Havana (HAV), Holguín (HOG), Santa Clara (SNU), Santiago de Cuba (SCU), Varadero (VRA)
  • Jamaica: Montego Bay (MBJ)
  • Mexico: Cancun (CUN)
  • Turks and Caicos: Providenciales (PLS)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

Note that award flights to Cuba don’t show on British Airways’ website. You’ll need to call BA to book these flights with Avios. Flights to other destinations can be searched and booked right on the British Airways website:

Between 500-1,000 miles (17,000 Iberia Avios round-trip)

As we expand the search radius even further, we get even more flight options from Miami at the rate of 17,000 Iberia Avios round-trip — or just 13,000 transferred Amex points. I’m finding at least 12 Caribbean airports that American Airlines flies to out of Miami that are between 500-1,000 miles away:

  • Belize: Belize City (BZE)
  • Dominican Republic: Puerto Plata (POP), Punta Cana (PUJ), Santiago de los Caballeros (STI), Santo Domingo (SDQ)
  • Haiti: Port-au-Prince (PAP)
  • Honduras: Roatán (RTB)
  • Jamaica: Kingston (KIN), Montego Bay (MBJ)
  • Mexico: Cancun (CUN), Cozumel (CZM)
  • Turks and Caicos: Providenciales (PLS)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

Also, we finally find options that don’t require originating or transferring in Miami. There are at least three flight options from Charlotte (CLT) to the Caribbean under 1,000 miles each way.

  • Bahamas: Nassau (NAS), George Town (GGT), North Eleuthera (ELH)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

While it’s a stretch to call Bermuda part of the Caribbean, flights from New York-JFK and Philadelphia (PHL) and Washington National (DCA) to Hamilton, Bermuda (BDA) fall in the range of under 1,000 miles in each direction.

Again, remember that Iberia prices connecting itineraries based on the total mileage. That means that a number of airports throughout the southeast can fly through Miami to the Caribbean for just 17,000 Avios round-trip — requiring just 13,000 transferred Membership Rewards points. For example, you can fly from Nashville (BNA) through Miami to Nassau for just 17,000 Avios:

Between 651-1,151 miles (9,000 British Airways Avios each way)

For the last batch of routes, let’s take a look at which nonstop flights you can book for 9,000 British Airways Avios each way between the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Yet again, Miami leads the way with the most route options. Ignoring flights under 650 miles — which are covered above — there are at least 13 flight options between 651 and 1,151 miles in distance to Caribbean destinations:

  • Aruba: Oranjestad (AUA)
  • Belize: Belize City (BZE)
  • Colombia: Barranquilla (BAQ), Cartagena (CTG)
  • Dominican Republic: Puerto Plata (POP), Punta Cana (PUJ), Santiago de los Caballeros (STI), Santo Domingo (SDQ)
  • Haiti: Port-au-Prince (PAP)
  • Honduras: Roatán (RTB)
  • Puerto Rico: San Juan (SJU)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Thomas (STT), St. Croix (STX)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

For those based in Charlotte, there are at least seven destinations bookable for just 9,000 BA Avios each way:

  • Bahamas: Nassau (NAS), George Town (GGT), North Eleuthera (ELH)
  • Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman (GCM)
  • Mexico: Cancun (CUN), Cozumel (CZM)
  • Turks and Caicos: Providenciales (PLS)
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

For flights out of Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), there are two options to the Caribbean. Both Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico are just inside the 1,151 mile band.

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

Out of Philadelphia, there’s just one nonstop option: Nassau, Bahamas (NAS).

There are also nonstop options from five U.S. airports to Bermuda (BDA) for just 9,000 BA Avios each way. You can find options from Charlotte, Miami, New York-JFK, Philadelphia and Washington National (DCA).

Remember, as British Airways prices each leg individually, you’re going to need to fly on these routes nonstop. If you need to connect to get from your home airport to these Caribbean destinations, you might want to consider booking through Iberia instead.

Searching award availability

While you could start searching for awards right on the British Airways or Iberia websites, there’s a better option. The easiest way to search award availability on these routes is right on AA’s website. AA has two different award searching tools — which can return different results — that both allow you to search availability for a whole month. That makes the search process a lot easier than searching on either British or Iberia.

Given a choice, I’d recommend starting your award search using the old search tool, as it’s a little bit cleaner of a search and easier to visualize which dates do and don’t have availability.

If you’re booking awards through British Airways, you’re going to want to choose the “non-stop only” option from the drop-down to limit search results to those that have nonstop availability.

Transferring points

In order to get the Avios to book these awards, you’re going to need to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to either British Airways or Iberia. But first, make sure to confirm that there’s award availability on the route that you want before transferring points.

To transfer points, log in to your American Express accountnavigate to the point transfer page and select “Transfer Points” under the British Airways or Iberia tiles. In our experience, Amex Membership Rewards transfer to British Airways Executive Club instantaneously. However, transfers to Iberia take around 48 hours.

If you have active British Airways and Iberia accounts, you can shortcut this transfer time by transferring points to British Airways first and then transferring BA Avios to Iberia Avios. While this adds an extra step, both transfers are instantaneous.

For those able to take advantage of the cheapest 11,000 Iberia Avios round-trip award options, you’ll need to transfer just 8,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Iberia:

How to book

Now that you know the routes, how to search award availability and transfer points, it’s time to actually book these excellent award options.

British Airways awards

Here are our step-by-step instructions on how to book British Airways awards — which we are going to quickly recap here. Once the Avios are in your British Airways Executive Club account, search for the award flight you found on AA’s website, select your flight option from the search results and then click “continue” at the bottom.

Read and agree to the terms on the next page, clicking “continue” again to progress. On the next page, your personal information should be populated from your account profile. Update as needed and click “continue” again. On the final page, complete your payment information to finalize the booking.

Iberia awards

To take advantage of the Iberia sweet spot, you’ll want to start on this award booking search page. If you aren’t already logged into your Iberia account, you’ll be prompted to log in first. Then enter your origin, destination, dates and number of travelers and click “search” at the bottom.

On the results page, select the award flights you prefer from the list and click “view” at the bottom to price out the award. Then click “continue” to move forward with booking.

On the next page, Iberia will confirm the itinerary that you want to book. If everything looks good, click “continue with the ticket reservation” to move to the next step:

Next, fill in the name, date of birth, airline award number, contact information and other necessary information for the passenger(s). Click “continue” at the bottom to advance. On the next page, decide whether or not to pay for travel insurance. If you book with the right credit card (see below), you shouldn’t need to purchase insurance through the airline.

Click “continue with my purchase” to move to the payment page. Enter your payment information, agree to terms and conditions and click “pay now” to complete the booking.

Which card to use

Remember to use a credit card with trip delay and baggage delay insurance protection. Citi recently slashed its travel protections, which really shortened the list of top choices: Chase Sapphire Reserve (up to $500 per ticket reimbursement for a six or more hour or overnight delay), the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or United Explorer Card (both offer up to $500 per ticket reimbursement for 12+ hour or overnight delays).

Earning Points

Since this transfer bonus is almost over, these sweet spots are best for those who already have Membership Rewards points already in their account. But if you don’t have points in your Amex account — or want to resupply after taking advantage of this deal — here are three great card welcome bonuses that are currently available:

Bottom line

While American Airlines charges up to 30,000 AAdvantage miles for round-trip saver awards to the Caribbean, there are better ways to book these awards. Thanks to their distance-based chart, both British Airways and Iberia can provide cheaper alternatives for those on the East Coast to book award flights to the Caribbean.

These awards can be booked for even fewer transferred Amex Membership Rewards points during the 40% transfer bonus ending soon. Act now to take advantage of these great award options, and make sure that you transfer Amex points to Avios by Oct. 1 to take advantage of this transfer bonus.

Featured photo by Pola Damonte/Getty Images

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