American Airlines offers some of the most generous off peak awards in the world. Off peak awards are discounts (ranging from 20-30%) on economy awards with MileSAAver award space, the capacity-controlled space that we like to book.
To Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Central America, American Airlines charges just 15,000 miles one way seven months out of the year. Two roundtrips cost only 60,000 miles.
Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Just meeting its minimum spending requirement puts you at 53,000 miles. A little more spending gets you to 60,000 miles and two roundtrips.
When are Off Peak Awards Available
Off peak awards are available to the Central America and northern South America for most of the year, including most of winter, spring, and fall.
What Do They Cost
If you fly between January 16 and June 14 or September 7 and November 14, you can take advantage of a 20% discount on MileSAAver awards and pay only 15,000 miles one way or 30,000 miles roundtrip to Central America and Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
Where Does American Fly in the Region
American has the strongest route network to Central and South America. Here are the flights from Miami to cities in the off peak region.
Unique to American Airlines, you can usually book off peak awards on either American flights or its partners flights. By contrast US Airways off peak awards require booking on US Airways flights only. See Master Thread: Off Peak Awards for more information.
One exception to American’s largesse is off peak awards to Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Off peak awards to these countries must be booked on American Airlines flights.
That means that adding on a connecting segment on a partner will increase the price to the normal MileSAAver price of 17,500 miles one way. For instance, adding Lima to Cuzco in Peru onto an American Airlines award that would otherwise cost 15,000 miles makes it cost 17,500 miles. It still might be worth it to pay 2,500 miles to get the segment onto your award, but be aware of this rule.
You can connect from your home airport to Miami or Dallas to start the award for zero extra miles as long as the connecting flights have award space in MileSAAver economy and are operated by American Airlines. If they are operated by US Airways, the price jumps to 17,500 miles that direction.
How to Search for Award Space
Nothing fancy here. Search on aa.com for award space from your home airport to your destination. There shouldn’t even be a need for segment-by-segment searching because aa.com is pretty good at displaying even long layovers on awards like these if necessary. Here’s how to search aa.com.
Award space is generally excellent to these destinations during off peak dates. If it isn’t available on the dates you want, don’t despair, American Airlines open a lot of MileSAAver and off peak economy award space one month before departure.
Getting the Miles
Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. It also comes with a ton of other benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, a 10% rebate on awards, two lounge passes, and more. See my full review.
If you open the card and meet the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have 53,000 American Airlines miles. Spend $7,000 more on the card at your leisure, and you’ll have 60,000 American Airlines miles.
If you normally spend $2,500 per month on a card, getting to 60,000 miles will take only four months. If you spend only $1,000, this will take 10 months. No matter what, sometime in 2015, you should easily get to 60,000 miles.
With that 60,000 miles, you can book two roundtrip (or open jaw) tickets to Central America or northern South America during off peak dates.
You’ll even get a 6,000 mile rebate a few weeks after the booking from the 10% rebate that comes with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®.
Take your friend on a dream trip. Open one card, collect 60,000 miles on it including the 50,000 mile sign up bonus. Then book you and a companion an award trip to Central or South America. Head to Ecuador to see the Galapagos, Peru to see Machu Picchu, Colombia to trek to the Ciudad Perdida, Guatemala to see Semuc Champey, or wherever your dream trip is.
Is there an easier way to get two tickets to an exotic destination? Share it in the comments.