Best ways to get to cities in the US and Canada using miles

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Airport Suitcase Luggage Baggage

Over the past couple of months, we’ve covered the best ways to get to around the world in premium cabins using miles from transferable currencies, but apart from a post on the Caribbean / Central America, we hadn’t created a similar resource for North America. Since the US carriers just don’t release much premium cabin space domestically, this post will generally focus on economy class travel and indicate when business class pricing is also notable. For the purposes of this post, “North America” either refers to domestic flights within the US or those between the US and Canada where indicated. Awards to Mexico/Caribbean/Latin America are often not included in most award chart definitions of “North America”.

For other posts in this series, see:

Transferable Currencies

If you want to use airline miles, it’s great to have transferable points.  Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs.  This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others.  If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:

Amex Membership Rewards Complete Guide Capital One “Rewards miles” Complete Guide Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide
Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Best ways to North American destinations using miles

The deals below are sorted alphabetically by carrier. Remember that the lowest price isn’t the entire picture: be sure to consider which airlines levy fuel surcharges, change or cancellation fees, and the ease of amassing the miles for your chosen award. See each description for where to search, how to book, and which partners you can use to transfer. It is always best to confirm availability before transferring miles to be sure that the award you seek can be booked with the miles you intend.

For Alaska Airlines flights

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

  • The short story: Alaska offers standard award pricing for American Airlines flights and cheap pricing on some of their own short-distance flights.
  • Miles required: For Alaska flights, varies from 5K each way in economy or 15K each way in business class. For flights on American, 12.5K each way in economy class or 25K each way in business within the US (business class to Canada is 32.5K each way). Ravn flights within Alaska are 7.5K each way in economy class or 17.5K in business class. See the distance bands here by choosing your region of origin and destination.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AlaskaAir.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at AlaskaAir.com.
  • Key warnings: Keep in mind that transfers from Marriott can take 7 days or more.
  • Transfer from: Marriott

British Airways Executive Club (for American Airlines or Alaska Airlines)

  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so short direct flights on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines can sometimes be a great value. Also note that British Airways allows cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for no fee but forfeiting the taxes ($5.60 each way within the US), though they've been known to refund those with some cancellations.
  • Miles required: Varies based on distance. From 9K one-way in economy class / 16.5K in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights. Note that British Airways inexplicably periodically stops displaying AA availability. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Marriott

Singapore KrisFlyer (for Alaska)

  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer has a zone-based chart with some great values for travel on Alaska Airlines, particularly within the Western US and to/from Canada.
  • Miles required: Varies form 7.5K-12.5K each way based on zone combination. See the zone-based chart and region definitions here. Note that Zone 2 includes all of Alaska's Canadian destinations (noted just as "Canada").
  • How to find awards: Search for available Alaska Airlines award space at AA.com (note that Singapore can not book any legs on AA, but AA will show Alaska flights available to partners).
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Alaska awards must be booked over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that AA.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

For American Airlines flights

American Airlines AAdvantage

  • The short story: American now has variable award pricing but sometimes runs web specials, both advertised and unadvertised, which can sometimes present solid value on its own flights.
  • Miles required: Varies from as low as 5K miles one way for economy web specials. Business class web specials start around 20K miles one way.
  • How to find awards: Search AA.com
  • How to book awards: Book at AA.com
  • Key warnings: Note that "web specials" can not be changed or cancelled without a fee unless you have elite status. If transferring from Marriott, note that transfers may take 7 days or more in some instances. American offers award holds for 5 days.
  • Transfer from: Marriott

British Airways Executive Club (for American Airlines or Alaska Airlines)

  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so short direct flights on partners American Airlines or Alaska Airlines can sometimes be a great value. Also note that British Airways allows cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for no fee but forfeiting the taxes ($5.60 each way within the US), though they've been known to refund those with some cancellations.
  • Miles required: Varies based on distance. From 9K one-way in economy class / 16.5K in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights. Note that British Airways inexplicably periodically stops displaying AA availability. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Marriott

Iberia Plus (for American Airlines)

  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions.
  • Miles required: From 11K miles round trip plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American has availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain. Iberia requires round trip booking for American Airlines flights (you will get no results if searching one-way).
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase

Qantas Frequent Flyer (for American Airlines)

  • The short story: Qantas offers better pricing than traditional American Airlines award prices on itineraries with a distance of 1200 miles or fewer each way and has no close-in booking fee. This could be especially good for those who need to connect on short itineraries as Qantas measures cumulative distance rather than pricing segments separately.
  • Miles required: 8,000 miles each way for itineraries covering a distance up to 600 miles or 12,000 miles each way for itineraries covering a distance up to 1200 miles. (See: Strengths of Qantas for AA redemptions).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
  • Key warnings: Avios, either through British Airways or Iberia, might be a better value if you have direct flights if you have access to points which transfer to Avios. However, for flights with connections, Qantas can be a better deal.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

For Delta flights

Air France / KLM Flying Blue (for Delta)

  • The short story: Air France sometimes charges far fewer miles than Delta flights than Delta charges its own members.
  • Miles required: Variable, but starting around 11.5K one-way in economy, or 28K one-way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Use the Virgin Atlantic 5 week award search to find availability (see this post for details). Next, confirm your findings at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone when the website returns errors.
  • Key warnings: Air France's website is buggy and will often return errors when trying to complete a booking. If that happens, try calling.

Delta SkyMiles

  • The short story: Delta has weekly flash sales where it is sometimes possible to get solid value.
  • Miles required: Varies, but enter your starting airport at the Travel is Free Delta mileage calculator to find the cheapest destinations from your home airport.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Delta.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at Delta.com.
  • Key warnings: Delta pricing can be very unpredictable and vary wildly. Transfers from Membership Rewards incur a small excise tax that is not charged when transferring to foreign partners.
  • Transfer from: Amex

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (for Delta)

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers direct Delta flights for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries.
  • Miles required: 12,500 miles each way in economy class or 22,500 miles each way in business class (for nonstop flights) within the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseMarriott

For JetBlue flights

Emirates Skywards (for JetBlue)

  • The short story: Emirates Skywards offers cheap short-haul one-ways on JetBlue.
  • Miles required: From 7,500 miles each way in economy class (varies by route).
  • How to find awards: Search for available "U" space via ExpertFlyer or call Emirates at 1-800-777-3999.
  • How to book awards: Over the phone with Emirates at 1-800-777-3999.
  • Key warnings: It will likely only be the cheapest revenue fares that are available as awards. JetBlue may therefore be charging even fewer TrueBlue points for the same awards. Further, Emirates charges for each segment separately. See this chart for direct/nonstop pricing by route.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Chase, Capital One, Marriott

JetBlue TrueBlue

  • The short story: JetBlue TrueBlue points are typically only worth about 1.43c towards the cost of a flight (See: What are JetBlue TrueBlue points worth?), but in some instances it may be possible to do a bit better.
  • Miles required: Varies by route but can be less than other options when cash prices are low.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at JetBlue.com.
  • How to book awards: Book online at JetBlue.com.
  • Key warnings: JetBlue award cancellation fees vary from $75-$200 per passenger. While that's on par with legacy carriers, this is a key point of differentiation with Southwest (which charges no change/cancellation fees). Note that transfers from Membership Rewards cost a small excise fee. Transfers are free from other transferable currencies.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

For Southwest flights

Southwest Rapid Rewards

  • The short story: Southwest points are typically only worth about 1.5c towards the cost of a flight, but award bookings are totally flexible since they can be changed or canceled with no fee up until about 10 minutes before departure.
  • Miles required: Varies by route but can be less than other options when cash prices are low and can be a standout value for Companion Pass holders. See: Is the Southwest Companion Pass still worth it in 2020?
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Southwest.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at Southwest.com
  • Key warnings: Keep in mind that if you pay for Early Bird Check In and then later cancel or change your flight, you will lose the benefit without a refund.
  • Transfer fromChase

For United flights

Air Canada Aeroplan (for United)

  • The short story: Aeroplan offers decent pricing for awards within the US and between the US and Canada, though they add fuel surcharges to awards on their own flights. Choose United flights to avoid surcharges.
  • Miles required: 12.5K miles each way in economy class or 25K each way in business class. Short-haul flights on some Air Canada/domestic Canada partners can be as low as 7.5K miles in economy / 15K miles in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Flights on Air Canada incur fuel surcharges, so choose United flights to avoid those fees.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Marriott

Avianca LifeMiles (for United)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone is officially 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Singapore KrisFlyer (for United)

  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer charges the same 12.5K miles each way in economy class both within the US and between the US and Canada. While not the best deal in all situations, Singapore miles are easy to accumulate since they are partners with all of the major transferable points.
  • Miles required: 12.5K miles each way in economy class (business class at 34.5K each way is not competitive with the best rates from other programs)
  • How to find awards: Search for available United Airlines space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com (See: Book United flights online with Singapore miles– but note that business class prices have increased since that post was written).
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that United.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check availability at SingaporeAir.com or with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseCapital OneMarriott

Turkish Miles & Smiles (for United Airlines)

  • The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class domestically within the US or domestically within Canada (can include connections for the same price). For North American international flights (e.g. US to Canada or Mexico), 10K each way in economy class or 15K each way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search United.com and look for "Saver Awards". You can also try searching via the Turkish Airlines website, but it does not always show full availability.
  • How to book awards: You can try booking on the Miles & Smiles website, though not all flights are available online. Previously phone bookings have worked and may again be possible. If all else fails, try booking via email. See our guide for booking United flights with Turkish for more detail.
  • Key warnings: Turkish agents occasionally can't see availability even though it is marked as "Saver". You may just have to try again with a different agent.
  • Transfer from: Citi

United MileagePlus

  • The short story: United now offers variable award pricing. That makes for some opportunities to pick up flights from as few as 5,000 miles one way. This can be useful if looking to leverage the Excursionist Perk.
  • Miles required: Varies by route but some itineraries can be just 5,000 miles one way. See: Finding United MileagePlus 5K awards.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at United.com.
  • Key warnings: When one-way prices are higher than 7,500 miles in economy class or 12,500 miles in business class, you may be better off booking with Turkish if you havw Citi points.
  • Transfer from: Chase, Marriott

How to get the miles

The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer Ratio
Air Canada Aeroplan1 to 160K to 25K1000 to 750
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Alaska MileagePlan60K to 25K
American AAdvantage60K to 25K
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Avios1 to 11 to 160K to 25K6000 to 3000*
Delta SkyMiles1 to 1 plus excise tax60K to 25K
Emirates Skywards1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
1 to 160K to 25K1000 to 500
Qantas Frequent Flyer1 to 11 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K1000 to 500
Southwest Rapid Rewards1 to 160K to 25K
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K
United MileagePlus1 to 1
(instant)
60K to 27.5K
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K
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Colabus
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Colabus

Nick – A key warning for using BA Avios on AA is AA will no longer allow you to substitute your Aadvantage number for your BA number to take advantage of your Aadvantage status. So if you are AA gold you can’t look for preffered seating or upgrades to premium economy when checking in.

Greg The Frequent Miler
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Have you tried changing to your AA number through BA or through the Finnair website? https://pointstobemade.boardingarea.com/how-to-alter-your-frequent-flyer-number-in-oneworld-bookings-as-many-times-as-you-want/

Points Adventure
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Points Adventure

Right now and for the foreseeable future, the best way to travel within the US is probably to drive.

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[…] 5/19/20: This morning, we published a guide to the best ways to get to cities in the US and Canada using miles. The sweetest sweet spot in that post is undoubtedly using Turkish Miles & Smiles to book […]