Getting to Miami on points and miles

Nov 18, 2019

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Whether you’re traveling for spring break, summer vacation or to escape the cold winter weather farther north, Miami is a popular destination for travelers all year round. Today, we’re going to take a look at your best options for getting to Miami using points and miles.

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Airlines that fly to Miami

Miami is home to two major airports: Miami International (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). They’re about 40 minutes apart by car, and both provide easy access to popular areas like South Beach and Aventura.

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Miami is one of American Airlines‘ largest hubs, with the carrier operating approximately 350 mainline and regional flights a day. This is also where you’ll find most long-haul international flights arriving and departing, though many shorter international flights to the Caribbean and South America go through Fort Lauderdale. You’ll also find some Delta and United flights to MIA, though these are primarily from hub cities like Chicago (ORD) and New York (JFK) respectively.

Related: Best credit cards for flying American Airlines

Fort Lauderdale also has a large American Airlines presence, but it faces stiffer competition at this airport from both Southwest and JetBlue. Many of Southwest’s international flights depart from Fort Lauderdale, which means a lot of passengers connect through the airport en route from other parts of the country.

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale is one of the few cities that receives JetBlue’s Mint business class product, though it’s only available on select transcontinental flights. In addition to the major US airlines, low-cost carrier’s Spirit and Frontier both fly to Fort Lauderdale, and Frontier flies to Miami as well.

Best mileage options

Ultimately the best mileage options for flying to the Miami area will depend on where your trip originates and what airline you choose to fly, but given American Airlines’ massive presence in South Florida, we’ll start by looking at your top Oneworld redemption options. Normally American charges 7,500 miles for one-way economy saver flights that cover less than 500 miles and 12,500 miles for longer domestic flights, but AA is moving closer to dynamic award pricing with every passing week.

For example, one-way economy awards from Chicago to Miami during November range from 5,000 miles on the low end to the standard 12,500 miles each way at the high end.

Depending on what American is charging, you might be better off redeeming British Airways Avios instead. Assuming American Airlines has saver level award space, flights up to 1,151 flown miles can be booked for only 9,000 British Airways Avios each way.

Related: The best airline credit cards of 2021

All of the following flights cover less than 1,151 miles, making them eligible for this sweet spot. Alternatively, you could turn your attention farther south and use Avios to fly from American’s hub in Miami to countries in the Caribbean or South America.

Delta uses fully dynamic award pricing for its flights, making it hard to speak in general terms about how much travel to and from Miami should cost. You can see this in action by looking at one-way awards from JFK to Miami in December, where the price fluctuates by more than 4x depending on the day.

United might offer a more stable pricing option, though it too is switching to dynamic pricing for its award flights. Even within the same day, some award flights from Newark (EWR) to Miami will cost 7,000 miles while others will cost 15,000.

From some cities, you might be able to come out ahead booking United-operated flights through Avianca LifeMiles, especially for shorter flights, but you should check pricing through both programs before you decide.

Southwest uses a revenue-based award pricing system, meaning that the cost of a ticket in points will always be tied to the cash price. You’ll generally get about 1.5 cents per Rapid Rewards point you redeem, and there isn’t much you can do to boost this number (other than get the Companion Pass and fly two-for-one). Still, Southwest is known for offering good fares, especially during sales. During the busy December travel season, you’ll find nonstop flights from Chicago (MDW) to Fort Lauderdale for only 8,902 points or $137.

Related: Best credit cards for flying Southwest

JetBlue uses a similar revenue-based award pricing system to Southwest, and it creates some cheap economy awards on longer transcontinental flights, though the carrier’s top-notch Mint business class is priced much more expensively.

For those looking to fly Mint — arguably the best business class product in the US — at a more affordable rate, there is another option. When cash fares are low on routes to or from Miami, you can consider paying with points to get a cheaper deal than you would by transferring your points to a travel partner.

As a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder I get a 50% bonus when redeeming my points for flights directly through the Chase portal. This means I can book that same JetBlue Mint flight for only 46,553 points, and because these portal redemptions are treated like cash bookings, you would even earn JetBlue TrueBlue points on this flight.

Related: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Bottom line

So what’s the best way to use miles to fly to Miami? It depends. But, you certainly have options with almost every North American airline offering service to one of Miami’s two main airports.

American Airlines has the largest footprint of the three legacy carriers, but you can also use your points to fly Delta, United, Southwest or JetBlue, depending on who services your city. If you’re planning on redeeming transferable points, make sure you check the cash cost of the ticket first to see which would be a better deal.

Featured image by Leo Patrizi/Getty Images

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