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

March 15, 2022
8 min read
Colombia
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Editor's note: This post has been updated with the latest information.


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 popular destinations like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

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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.

(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

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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.

(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.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

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.

(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, there are a handful of ways to earn AAdvantage miles. 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 earning them with an American Airlines credit card.

Transferring points

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Right now, you can only transfer one transferable points currency to AAdvantage: Bilt Rewards. Transfers process at a 1:1 transfer ratio and generally happen near-instantly, but could take up to 24 hours.

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 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 image by 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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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
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

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
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

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more