Finding a cheap cash fare to the Carribean can be hard to come by, especially during the thick of winter. But that's just a great opportunity to put some hard-earned points and miles to work for a beach vacation.
And there's arguably no better way to use miles to get to the Carribean than the American Airlines AAdvantage program. It's got cheap rates and the most flights to get to any country or island of your choice.
With the new American Airlines co-branded credit cards offering increased welcome bonuses, there has never been a better time to earn AAdvantage miles for cheap flights to the Carribean. So we will break down how to earn and burn your AAdvantage miles for a dream Carribean getaway.
Earning American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
Few credit cards offer a better, more lucrative welcome offer bonus than the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®. Just for opening the card, making a single purchase, and paying the $95 annual fee, you can earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (normally 50,000 miles). These are some of the easiest miles you will ever earn.
Additionally, American Airlines is unique in the fact that they have co-branded credit card relationships with both Citi and Barclays thanks to the merger of American and U.S. Airways a few years ago. For the time being, American has made the decision to continue the relationship with both banks.
This is significant because you can earn the welcome offer bonus on each card, netting you 110,000 American Airlines miles after paying one annual fee (the Barclays AAdvantage Red Aviator Card). You'll earn 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 on the Citi® /AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard in the first three months of card membership.
If the Carribean is on your list, we will show you just how far 60,000 or even 110,000 AAdvantage miles can potentially take you.
American Airlines AAdvantage Award Chart
Unlike the Delta SkyMiles program, American Airlines publishes an award chart. This acts as a cheat sheet, showing you how many miles it will take to fly from point A to point B. And the
All mileage prices below are for one-way flights. This means it is possible to fly to the Carribean for 25,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip during off-peak times (more on this soon), 30,000 miles roundtrip on a MilesSAAver ticket, and more on other tickets when availability isn't great. Below, we will break down what each of these tiers means, and how you can take AAdvantage of them (sorry, not sorry for the pun).
American Airlines defines off-peak dates for travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central American as September 7th to November 14th and April 27th to May 20th. Assuming there isn't a hurricane threat, the shoulder season is a great time to be in the Caribbean, and one of my favorite sweet spots in the AAdvantage program. Not all tickets during this window will fall into this category, as the airline only makes a certain number of these low-priced SAAver level tickets available. It may require a bit of searching to find availability that will work for you.
My wife and I were able to take advantage of this off-peak award pricing for our honeymoon in St. Martin back in 2014 in early November. We booked two roundtrip tickets out of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to St. Martin (SXM) for a total of 50,000 American AAdvantage miles.
Much like the off-Peak category above, not all award tickets will fall into the MileSAAver category. The airline only makes a certain number of SAAver level tickets available and it will require some searching to find them. Unlike the Off-Peak category above, there is no time restriction on when you can travel. That means for 5,000 more miles roundtrip (30,000 total), you can travel during any time of the year as long as you find SAAver availability.
AAnytime Level 1 & Level 2
Booking AAnytime award space on American Airlines is much easier to do as you can book any open seat on the plane versus the more limited availability SAAver seats allow. The downside is it will cost you substantially more miles. Level 2 periods vary by destination, and will generally be for peak-travel times (for the Carribean think winter and major holidays). Expect to pay 55,000 or 75,000 miles for a roundtrip flight in this tier depending on which level (time of year) you are booking.
Where in the Caribbean Does American Airlines Fly?
American Airlines is a great option for travel to the Caribbean as the airline has more than 170 daily flights to 37 different destinations. These flights are operated out of seven of their hub airports, with the focus being Miami (MIA). But that doesn't mean you can only get low rates from these hubs. In general, any airport with American Airlines service can connect through one of these hubs and on to the Caribbean for the same price. Booking Caribbean award tickets should be a breeze.
Booking American Airlines SAAver Award Space to the Caribbean
Let's put this into action with an example.
I searched from my home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to St. Martin (SXM) the first week of November. If you recall, this week falls into the off-peak travel time window to the Caribbean. With some luck, I should be able to find award tickets for 25,000 American AAdvantage miles round trip.
As you can see from the screenshot below, AAnytime award space doesn't always have the most direct routing, but for 12,500 AAdvantage miles one way from Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to St. Martin (SXM), it is hard to argue with the value. The example below does have an overnight stay in Miami (MIA) built-in as well.
On the return flight, the routing is more direct. It requires one stop in American's Philadelphia (PHL) hub for an overnight stay and then back to MSP the next morning.
All said I am able to book this routing for 25,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.25 of international taxes and fees per person. That means, by opening the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, making one purchase, and paying the $95 annual fee you would earn enough miles for two roundtrip flights to the Caribbean with 10,000 miles to spare.
Booking American Airlines AAnytime Award Space to the Caribbean
Of course, having multiple connections isn't for everybody and American provides a way around this through their AAnytime Award space. These are not restricted and you are able to book any seat on the plane with an AAnytime award. Using the same example as above, I will search from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to St. Martin (SXM).
As you can see from the image below, the routing gets cleaned up and doesn't require a stop in New York (LGA), but it also costs 27,500 AAdvantage miles one-way.
The return flight is the same story.
All said I am able to book this routing for 55,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.25 of international taxes and fees per person. That means, by opening the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, making one purchase, and paying the $95 annual fee you would earn enough miles for one roundtrip flight to the Caribbean with 5,000 miles to spare.
This is just one example of many of how you can use AAdvantage miles and the current credit card welcome bonus offers to get to the Caribbean for cheap. You can really stretch the value of your miles by using the off-peak SAAver level awards. Just beware it might cost you some convenience.