I recently had a reader ask me about the best miles to collect to get from Salt Lake City to Cozumel, Mexico. The answer illustrates the best ways to get to the Caribbean and Mexico, so I thought I’d share and expand upon it here.

Near international destinations like Cozumel can be an excellent deal on region-based award charts like those used by American, United, US Airways, and Delta. They can also be a great deal in distance-based programs like those run by British Airways and All Nippon Airways.

How to Get There

The first step is to determine the actual route one would take from Salt Lake City to Cozumel. You could go to kayak.com and search or go to wikipedia for the options. The three shortest in this case are through Houston on United, Dallas on American, and Denver on Frontier.

image from gcmap.com

There are additional ways to get to Cozumel on Delta, Sun Country, United, American, US Airways, Air Canada, and more. But those ways won’t be cheaper, and will be less fun to fly, so let’s ignore them.

The list of the cheapest ways to Cozumel sheds light on transferable points–especially Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards–and should help you plan your next near-international getaway.

1. 25,000 American Airlines miles from September 7 to November 14

American Airlines offers off peak discounts to Mexico and the Caribbean every year from September 7 to November 14. Each direction is 12,500 miles, for the cheapest flights to Cozumel at 25,000 miles roundtrip.

The 25,000 mile price is valid from anywhere in the continental US or Canada that American serves during the off peak time period.

American Airlines is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

2. 30,000 Frontier Miles

Frontier has an incredibly cheap award chart that I’ve gushed about. The Denver-based airline charges only 15,000 miles each way, year round to Mexico.

The 30,000 mile price is valid from anywhere that Frontier serves.

Frontier is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards.

2. 30,000 British Airways Avios

British Airways has a fantastic program for short hops on flights operated by American Airlines.

Unfortunately British Airways charges per segment, so the exact routing is crucial. Salt Lake City to Dallas to Cozumel is 15,000 Avios because each segment is 7,500 Avios. A roundtrip from Salt Lake City to Cozumel would be 30,000 Avios.

651-1151 mile flights cost 7,500 Avios. Image from gcmap.com.

If you live less than 651 miles from Dallas, it would be a 24,000 Avios roundtrip to Cozumel. If you live farther away, the cost rises to 35,000 Avios. To figure out the price from your home airport, use the “How many Avios do I need?” page.

British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards. There are very often transfer bonuses, including the current 35% transfer bonus. British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards. British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

4. 35,000 American Airlines, United, Delta, or US Airways miles

All four legacy carrier charge 35,000 miles roundtrip to Cozumel from Salt Lake City or anywhere else in the continental US and Canada.

American Airlines, Delta, and US Airways are 1:1 transfer partners of Starwood Preferred Guest, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

Delta is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards.

United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards.

5. 38,000 All Nippon Airways miles

I’ve written before about how to save thousands of miles booking United flights with ANA miles. ANA employs a distance-based chart like British Airways. But unlike British Airways, ANA doesn’t charge based on the cost of each flight, but on the distance of the whole award.

SLC-IAH-CZM-IAH-SLC would be the entire ANA award on United planes.

from gcmap.com

Unfortunately the award just exceeds 4,000 miles flown, which is really bad news when we look at the award chart.

If only the award flew 65 miles fewer, the cost would be only 22,000 miles roundtrip!

For those of us who don’t live in Salt Lake City, that means that a trip to Cozumel with ANA miles can be the cheapest option.

The direct Houston to Cozumel roundtrip would be only 20,000 miles, and from cities near Houston, the cost would only be 22,000 ANA miles.

ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards. ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

Your Strategy

If you had SPG Starpoints, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards, you would have the best ability to fly to Cozumel (or Mexico and the Caribbean more generally), by giving yourself the most options for success.

I specifically suggested to the reader who emailed me that she focus on earning Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards, so that she could access space on the convenient United, American, and Frontier flights through the United, British Airways, Frontier, and ANA programs.

Having some of each would give her a lot of options and ensure that if there was an award seat available on any airline, she could get it. One good way to diversify would be get a Chase Sapphire Preferred (Ultimate Rewards) and a Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum (Membership Rewards).

Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months

  • 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs– United, British Airways, and many more–that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards equals 1,000 partner miles/points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Receive a 7% Annual Points Dividend on all new points earned on purchases–even on points already redeemed
  • Direct access to expert service advisors any time
  • Introductory Annual Fee on $0 the first year, $95 thereafter

Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in three months
  • Membership Rewards transfer to dozens of other loyalty programs including Delta, British Airways, Frontier, and many more
  • $100 credit for Global Entry signup
  • $200 calendar-year airline-fee credit
  • Free airport lounge access (American, US Airways, Delta, Priority Pass)
  • Earns 1 Membership Reward per dollar
  • $475 annual fee, not waived in the first year
  • See Rookie Alli’s piece on maximizing any Platinum Card’s benefits. It is a must-read before applying.

Recap

Near international trips like Mexico and the Caribbean present a dizzying array of redemption choices. Options range from traditional legacy programs to distance-based international programs. Having transferable points like Starpoints, Membership Rewards, and Ultimate Rewards allow you to take advantage of all the options on awards like this.

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