Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly to South America for 35,000 American Airlines miles round-trip

Nov 7, 2021

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Not only is American Airlines one of the last U.S. carriers to still publish award charts, but it also continues to offer some valuable hidden gems like off-peak awards. MileSAAver off-peak awards enable you to save up to 25% off the standard economy award prices between certain regions during select travel periods.

We’ve previously looked at how you can leverage off-peak awards to book flights to Hawaii for 40,000 miles round-trip, Europe for 45,000 miles round-trip and flights to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America for the price of a domestic award. Today, we’ll turn our attention to booking off-peak awards to South America Region 1 for 35,000 miles round-trip. This region includes some popular destinations like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

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In This Post

Why it’s special

An economy-class award ticket to South America normally costs around 40,000 to 60,000 American AAdvantage miles round-trip, depending on the destination. However, off-peak awards to South America Region 1 cost just 35,000 miles round-trip.

While a 5,000-mile discount might not seem like much, that savings could be enough to cover a one-way domestic Web Special award. It’s also worth pointing out that South America Region 1 has some of the broadest off-peak dates, with a whopping seven-month off-peak period.

Machu Picchu
(Photo by Kelly Cheng Travel Photography/Getty Images)

South America Region 1 includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Manaus (Brazil), Peru and Suriname. This means you can book discounted awards to Bogota, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Quito, Ecuador and a handful of other amazing cities.

This redemption is made even more attainable due to how easily you can earn AAdvantage miles. Plus, the discount is applied automatically, as opposed to via a rebate, so you’ll be able to book these awards even if you don’t have enough miles to book them at the standard rates.

Related: How to fly to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America for the price of a domestic award

How to book this award

Booking an off-peak award is just like any other AAdvantage redemption. It can be done online and there are no tricks to find these rates.

The only thing you need to be aware of is what dates are considered off-peak. The current off-peak period for South America Region 1 is Jan. 16 to June 14 and Sept. 7 to Nov. 14. While not the case here, note that the off-peak dates can sometimes vary whether you’re leaving the U.S. for a region or returning.

Simply proceed with your search on aa.com as you normally would. Enter your route, select your dates and check off the “Redeem miles” box.

AA search
(Screenshot from aa.com)

If there’s saver availability, you’ll automatically see the discounted rates. If you’re having trouble finding saver availability, you can use the calendar search tool to check alternate dates. Another option is to subscribe to ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) and set alerts to be notified when award space opens up.

Unfortunately, MileSAAver off-peak awards do require you to fly American Airlines, so you won’t be able to get these rates if you connect through a partner airline. Also note that on some days, you may be able to score lower rates by booking a Web Special – so be sure to consider all options.

AA results
(Screenshot from aa.com)

The final step is to log in to your AAdvantage account and complete the booking. The taxes and fees vary by country but are generally reasonable. You’ll want to pay these surcharges with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve to get perks like trip-delay reimbursement and trip-cancellation and interruption protection.

Related: The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

How to earn miles for this award

This sweet spot is ideal for travelers who already have American Airlines miles in their account. That said, if you’re short American miles, you can top off your account through a variety of methods. For instance, you can earn American miles by shopping online, dining out or buying them outright. However, our favorite options are by transferring them from a partner program or by earning them with American Airlines credit cards.

Transferring points

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you act soon and have a card like the Citi Premier® Card, you can transfer points to AAdvantage from Citi ThankYou Rewards. Transfers are instant and process at a 1:1 ratio for Citi Prestige and Premier cardholders and a 2:1 ratio for Citi Preferred and Rewards+ cardholders. The catch is that this is a limited-time promotion currently set to end on Nov. 13, 2021. However, you don’t need to redeem your miles by that date.

Otherwise, you can transfer your points from Marriott Bonvoy. Transfers are at a 3:1 transfer ratio, but you get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. You can earn all the points you need for a round-trip redemption (and even have points left over) by applying for one of the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards.

Earning with American Airlines cards

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

An even simpler way of racking up AAdvantage miles would be by applying for – and spending on – a cobranded American Airlines credit card. Most of the cards are offering sign-up bonuses large enough to cover a round-trip award and still have miles left over, including:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, AAdvantage Aviator Red and the AAdvantage Aviator Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In addition to giving your AAdvantage account a nice boost, these cards can help you get valuable “elite-lite” perks, such as free checked bags, priority boarding and even lounge access in the case of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive card. Just remember that you’ll need to meet the minimum spending requirements on your new card and then wait for your bonus miles to post. So, signing up for a new card is only a good option if you’re planning your trip well in advance.

Related: How TPG staffers would spend 1 million American Airlines AAdvantage miles

Bottom line

Off-peak awards to South America Region 1 are a great way to maximize your AAdvantage miles. American is quite generous with this sweet spot in that it classifies the majority of the year as an off-peak period for this region. Just remember to always compare the award rates with Web Specials as they may sometimes be cheaper.

Featured photo by Smartshots International/Getty Images.

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