I’m all about the sweet spots in award charts when it comes to redemptions. They’re great because you get to save a ton in points and it’s even sweeter when they allow you to save on fuel surcharges, too. Here’s a look at some of my favorite sweet spots to different destinations all around the globe (many with very little in fees) that I think everyone should know about.
You can find region-specific sweet spot lists here:
- Miles and points to Europe
- Miles and points to Japan
- Miles and points to South Africa
- Miles and points to South America
- Miles and points to Australia
1. South America
Economy to South America flying American Airlines using Alaska Airlines
Using Alaska miles to get to the following countries flying American Airlines is one of the best redemptions available at 30,000 miles roundtrip (off-peak). I should note that Flying Blue also has redemptions for 35,000 to northern South America, so they should be a consideration, too.
Now take a look at the redemptions for a round trip to deep South America (below). That’s 15,000 fewer miles in business class and 20,000 fewer miles in economy than what American Airlines requires for their SAAver Award. I think the economy redemption at 40,000 miles is definitely among the best use of miles to get to deep South America.
Business class using ANA miles to South America
ANA makes no distinction between upper and lower South America for its partner awards. Since ANA doesn’t bother to distinguish between upper and lower South America, it makes no surprise that the bargain lies with bookings to the lower parts of South America. 50,000 miles roundtrip to lower South America in economy is pretty good but 80,000 in business class is a bargain.
While ANA does pass on surcharges to many airlines they do not pass them on when booking when United. Take a look at the booking below, where a round trip in business class with United is booked with only $87.66 in fees! And if you wanted to add a stopover you could still work that in.
ANA to Japan in business class
Booking ANA flights with ANA miles is a superb way to get to Japan because the hard product of ANA is one of the best and the fees are actually pretty reasonable. When booking on ANA’s metal, the mileage requirements will differ depending on whether you’re booking on low, regular, or high season.
Chart showing seasons for ANA.
The mileage requirements to get to Japan from North America are as follows:
- Low: 75,000
- Regular: 85,000
- High: 90,000
The rates for booking an ANA flight for only 75,000 miles roundtrip in low season in business class also come with only $86 in fees! This is an absolute steal of a redemption but availability can be an issue sometimes so try to plan in advance and be flexible.
ANA in business class to Australia
Booking ANA flights to Sydney from the United States is a super way to get down under. First, the mileage requirement for a roundtrip in business class can be as low as 105,000! That’s another great bargain, as other carriers like United and American will charge 120,000 to 160,000 respectively. Also, the fees are very reasonable at about $200. Considering that you could throw in a stopover on this trip, I think ANA miles on ANA is one of the best ways to get to Australia with miles and points.
Economy to Dublin on Aer Lingus
This is one of the well-known sweet spots. You can fly from NYC/Boston/Chicago/Hartford/DC/ to Dublin for as little as 26,000 Avios roundtrip if you fly economy during off–peak times, which is pretty incredible considering a domestic roundtrip award ticket often runs 25,000 miles.
The following months are considered peak dates:
- Jan 1-4
- Apr 7-23
- Jun 17-Sep 10
- Dec 16-31
I called in with British Airways to inquire about using British Airways Avios for the flight above and was told that the fees would come out to $169 total, which is cheaper than the $237 USD that Avios.com showed, so fees can remain pretty manageable so long as you call in.
Business Class to Madrid on Iberia
You can use Iberia Avios to get to the following cities in business class for only 68,000 Avios roundtrip:
- Boston to Madrid
- Chicago to Madrid
- New York to Madrid
This is a tremendous sweet spot for using Iberia Avios to book business class, especially if your trip falls within the off-peak calendar. 68,000 Avios for a roundtrip in business class to Europe beats some of the best redemption rates like Korean Air and ANA and the fees are reasonable so don’t overlook this option!
Business class on United Airlines using ANA miles
The mileage requirement for 88,000 miles to Europe in business class is one of the best sweet spot redemptions out there. As stated, ANA will pass on heavy fuel surcharges with many of its partners but United is an exception. I found flights in economy flying on United to Paris with fees of only $113. I wasn’t able to pull up an all business class United flight on ANA’s website but the total fees for such a flight shouldn’t be unreasonable since there shouldn’t be surcharges.
5. The Caribbean/Mexico
Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest now has an emerging presence all over the Caribbean, including Mexico and some of their rates come out to be ridiculously cheap with the Companion Pass factored in. For example, below is a redemption from HOU to CUN for 4,248 points for a one way award. For a round trip, that’s about 9,000 points. If you’ve got the Southwest Companion Pass (which I highly recommend), then that means you’ve got two round trip tickets to Cancun for merely 9,000 points!
Now that I have the Companion Pass, Southwest is my go-to for Caribbean destinations for the most part but even if I didn’t have the Companion Pass, I’d always be sure to give Southwest a look for trips to the Caribbean.
Here are some other examples of great redemptions from Southwest:
- 20,000 Rapid Rewards BWI to SJU
- 22,000 Rapid Rewards MDW to MBJ
- 25,000 Rapid Rewards DEN to CUN
British Airways Avios
Using Avios to get to the Caribbean is one of the best uses of Avios, in my opinion. Avios is distance-based meaning that your mileage requirements will depend on how far you’re going to travel. For getting around the Caribbean with Avios, you’ll likely be making bookings with One World partner American Airlines.
Thus, I suggest that you follow these steps to find the flight for you:
- Locate American Airline hubs you might fly out of .
- Then use this extremely helpful American Airlines route finding map to see what kind of direct routes go out of those airports to Caribbean destinations. You can do this by selecting “Destinations” and the inserting the airport into the “Leaving From” field.
- Uncheck the boxes in the image below for “AA Connections” and “AA Partners”
Doing that will allow you to see only the non-stop flights from that hub. You can then use the Great Circle Mapper to measure the distance for these non-stop flights and then use the British Airways Award Chart I made to determine how many Avios you will need to book that flight.
Once you start playing around with the map and looking at the British Airways Award Chart, you’ll be able to know exactly what the mileage requirements will be for different trips. Anything under 3,000 miles be 25,000 Avios for a round trip and will likely be a good redemption. Once you go over 3,000 miles the redemptions jump up to 40,000 round trip and you’d probably be able to find better deals with other programs.
I’ve included some examples of redemptions below.
- 15,000 MIA to MBJ, SJU, AUA (Aruba)
If you depart from Miami, you can hit many of the Caribbean destinations for only 15,000 round trip. Going from Miami to Aruba (1,133 miles) is just under the 1,150 mile threshold for the next Avios zone, so it’s a great sweet-spot to hit.
Here’s a look at what the American Airlines route finder will show you when looking for direct flights out MIA — it can look a bit messy, but it’s an easy way to check if non-stops go to your desired destination.
- 20,000 Avios ORD to MBJ, CUN, (Cancun), PUJ (Dominican Republic)
The flight to to PUJ from ORD is just 19 miles under 2,000, although straight shots appear to be somewhat limited.
- 20,000 Avios JFK to CUN, SJU, STT, ANU
- 15,000 Avios DFW to CUN, CZM
- 20,000 Avios DFW to BZE, NAS, MBJ, GCM
Some of these redemptions can be pretty valuable. For example, for the DFW to CZM flight you’d spend $27.74 taxes, fees and carrier charges. Factoring in those fees to the lowest cash rate for this flight with American Airlines (seen below), and that 15,000 Avios redemption is worth 4.2 cents per point, which is very good.
Cost of flights from DFW to CZM
Redeeming Flying Blue miles to get from North America to Israel
The most valuable redemption Flying Blue has to offer is probably the 50,000 economy award to Israel. Now, you will still have to pay some fees and/or fuel surcharges to take advantage of this redemption but the value is still unbeatable.
Here’s what you’d pay flying Air France and KLM:
You can get an even better bargain flying via partner airlines like Russian’s Aeroflot and Delta.
Edit: Turns out there are some roundtrip economy tickets to Tel Aviv that can be bargains. Be sure to check cash prices, but if you’re departing from certain destinations in the US, you might still be getting a great deal.
These are not all of the sweet spots out there in the miles and points universe. For example, many other airlines like JAL and Asiana have come exceptional redemption rates but they are much harder to earn miles for since they are only transfer partners with SPG. Most of these sweet spots above should be easily obtainable due to the many different ways you can earn miles for them and I think you should consider these redemptions when planning your next miles and points get-a-way.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.
These are all great points. The biggest complaint I have with the ones on this list are the AA award availability in business to South America. It’s been a good deal for years but I never can seem to find any availability over the past few years. I admit I haven’t tried very hard but what searching I’ve done makes me think that they don’t release much business space.
Nice post btw.
Thanks. When I was trying to put together a South America trip about 1.5 years ago I found a ton of Saver awards to Brazil and Chile in first and biz. I may have just caught it at a great time or something, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to find limited business class availability on AA. Economy should be much better though.
AsiaMiles – much of NA to Europe in business class for 45,000 one way.
That will be a good one to add. Love the flexibility of one way awards, too. Thanks!
“If you snagged a paid fare for the JFK to TLV flight you would pay $2,267.99”.
Where did you get this figure from? Most months, this fare on AF/KL is available less than $1000, quite a few weeks show it to be less than $750 even.
It was taken from a prior article so probably outdated. I’ll update accordingly. Thanks.
Are those prices for RT? edit: there’s a good chance that was taken from a business class fare. Updated.