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From white sand beaches to incredible resorts, there are plenty of compelling reasons to book a Caribbean vacation. However, flying to the Caribbean can be expensive when using points or miles, as many airline programs treat the Caribbean as a separate region from the U.S. That means award prices are typically set higher than domestic award flights.
But, there's a trick to getting cheap flights to the Caribbean — even for as little as 7,500 points. All you need to do is book through a mileage-based award program, like that of British Airways (Executive Club) or Iberia Airlines (Iberia Plus).
Both programs earn a currency called "Avios," and it's OK if you don't already have a balance in either program. You can still take advantage of this sweet spot. How? Both airlines are 1:1 transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards. That means you can fly to the Caribbean on British Airways with relatively few Chase or AmEx points. Capital One points holders are in luck, too, since the program just announced British Airways as a 1:1 transfer partner.
Here's what you need to know to fly to the Caribbean for 7,500 points.
» Learn more: How to travel to the Caribbean on a budget
British Airways' Caribbean sweet spot
British Airways Executive Club uses a distance-based award chart. Rather than pricing awards based on geographic regions, the price of an award flight depends on the physical distance of the flight. The downside? Each flight prices separately, so this sweet spot is limited to nonstop flights.
British Airways doesn’t currently publish an award chart. However, we’ve found that award flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, two partners of British Airways, cost the following in economy class:
7,500 Avios for flights up to 650 miles in distance.
9,000 Avios for flights of 651 to 1,150 miles in distance.
11,000 Avios for flights of 1,151 to 2,000 miles in distance.
13,000 Avios for flights of 2,001 to 3,000 miles in distance.
After a recent devaluation, Iberia Plus prices American and Alaska awards at the same award rates. However, Iberia award searches currently error out when you try to book one-way awards on partners. And even when you search a round-trip, Iberia's award search process is riddled with technical issues.
To that end, we're going to focus this article on booking award flights through British Airways.
» Learn more: The best Hilton hotels in the Caribbean
Low-cost U.S.-Caribbean routes on British Airways
Because of American's and Alaska's extensive routes to the Caribbean, we found 139 nonstop routes that qualify for this sweet spot. Let's review which routes price out at each tier.
7,500 Avios each way
In order to fly to the Caribbean with 7,500 Chase or AmEx points, you'll need to fly on a nonstop route under 650 miles. That limits the options to 12 American Airlines routes — almost exclusively from Miami.
Eligible routes from Miami include:
Bahamas: Freeport, George Town, Marsh Harbour, Nassau and North Eleuthera.
Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman.
Jamaica: Kingston and Montego Bay.
Mexico: Cancun and Cozumel.
Turks and Caicos: Providenciales.
The only other route that just slips in at just under 650 miles is between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Marsh Harbour, Bahamas.
9,000 Avios each way
American Airlines flights of 651 to 1,150 miles in distance cost just 9,000 Avios each way. That's far enough to cover 29 more American Airlines routes to the Caribbean.
Of those 29 routes, over half are from Miami:
Belize: Belize City.
Colombia: Barranquilla, Cartagena de Indias and San Andrés Island.
Dominican Republic: Puerto Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.
Mexico: Chetumal and Mérida.
Puerto Rico: San Juan.
U.S. Virgin Islands: Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) and Christiansted (St. Croix).
You can fly from Charlotte to seven routes in the Caribbean for 9,000 Avios each way:
Bahamas: North Eleuthera, Nassau and George Town.
Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman.
Mexico: Cancun and Cozumel.
Turks and Caicos: Providenciales.
Or, you can fly from five other cities to the Caribbean for just 9,000 Avios each way:
Austin, Texas, to Cancun, Mexico.
Dallas-Fort Worth to Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Philadelphia to Nassau, Bahamas.
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to Cancun, Mexico.
11,000 Avios each way
The next distance band covers award flights of 1,151 to 2,000 miles in distance that cost 11,000 Avios each way. That covers 77 American Airlines nonstop routes to the Caribbean.
This includes 16 routes from Charlotte to Antigua, Aruba, Belize, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There are 14 routes from Philadelphia priced at just 11,000 Avios each way, including flights to Aruba, Cancun, Cozumel, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands:
American Airlines has added several seasonal flights between New York-JFK and the Caribbean. Routes that price at 11,000 Avios each way include Antigua, Cancun, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Punta Cana, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas.
Additional 11,000-Avios routes include flights from Boston, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth to various parts of the Caribbean. Or, you can fly from Miami to 14 destinations in the Lesser Antilles. You could also take advantage of this sweet spot on flights to Cancun from four other airports in the Midwest, or the Austin to Nassau route.
13,000 Avios each way
The next distance band covers flights of 2,001 to 3,000 miles in distance. That's enough to cover flights between the West Coast and Cancun or Belize on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines. Plus, this unlocks dozens of longer routes from Austin, Charlotte, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth to the Lesser Antilles.
How to book it
Step 1: Assess award availability
You can start your award search right on British Airways' website; however, you might want to check the American Airlines website first — especially for routes that don't operate daily. That's because British Airways award search results are limited to a single day at a time. Meanwhile, American's website will show you award availability for up to a month at a time.
For example, let's take American's route from Raleigh-Durham to Cancun. If you're in Raleigh and want to take advantage of the 9,000-Avios award pricing, you're first going to need to find nonstop award availability.
By searching this route and limiting the results to "Nonstop only," you'll find that this route currently operates on Saturdays only until the holidays — when American switches to daily flights.
Sure enough, when searching for award availability on the British Airways website, you'll find that only Dec. 31, 2021 — which American priced at 12,500 miles — shows partner award availability.
This same process, of determining the frequency of a particular flight and likely partner award availability, can be replicated on the Alaska Airlines website, too.
» Learn more: 4 beach vacations that maximize points and miles
Step 2: Transfer points to British Airways Avios
Again, British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Regardless of which points you have in your name, here are the steps to take to transfer them to your British Airways Executive Club account.
Note that if you don't already have an account with the British Airways loyalty program, you'll want to sign up first. You can do so here.
To transfer AmEx points to British Airways, log in to your American Express account and head to AmEx’s rewards page. Next, click the “Transfer Points” tab and click “View All” to see all transfer partners.
Scroll down until you see British Airways Executive Club and click “Transfer Points.” If you haven't done so already, link your Executive Club account. Then, enter the number of Membership Rewards points you wish to transfer.
You'll likely need to enter a security code from one of your AmEx cards to initiate the points transfer. So, you might want to have one of your cards handy.
To start, log in to your Chase account and then head to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® partner programs page. Scroll down until you see the British Airways tile. Click "Transfer Points" to begin the process.
First, choose yourself (or an authorized user) from the drop-down box. Then, enter your British Airways Executive Club number twice. Click “Continue” to move to the next step.
Next, enter how many Ultimate Rewards points you want to transfer to British Airways and click “Continue” again.
On the final page, you can review the details of the transfer before clicking “Confirm & Submit” to start the transfer.
Step 3: Book your flight on the British Airways site
Now that you have enough Avios in your account and know that a partner award is available for your dates, you can move forward with booking your award flights.
To start the process, go to this British Airways Avios award flight search page. Enter your origin and destination airports and the dates you wish to travel.
Next, select the class of service on the flight you want to book, economy or business.
On the next page, you'll get price quotes featuring different Avios and cash amounts.
On the following pages, you'll need to enter your passenger information, payment data and contact information. Using a credit card that provides travel insurance to pay the taxes and fees is a good option in case you need to change or cancel your trip.
Finally, click "Make booking" to book your award flight.
If you want to book cheap flights to the Caribbean with points ...
British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus offer excellent award rates on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines on nonstop flights within North America. If you're in Miami or Charlotte, you can book award flights to the Caribbean for as few as 7,500 Avios each way.
The deals aren't just limited to Miami and Charlotte. Travelers from 19 cities across the U.S. can book flights to the Caribbean for 13,000 Avios or less. Plus, you can transfer Chase or AmEx points to Avios (and Capital One points to British Airways) at a 1:1 ratio to book these cheap Caribbean award flights.