Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Central America is a particularly interesting part of the world, home to several vibrant countries and 7% of the planet’s total biodiversity, despite occupying just 0.1% of Earth’s land.
Travelers flock to the region to see sights like the Great Blue Hole in Belize, Mayan pyramids in Guatemala and Honduras, and the picturesque beaches of Costa Rica. You can even find bustling metropolises in Panama if you’re a city slicker.
Regardless of what ends up drawing you to Central America, let’s review all of the best ways to fly to this fascinating region using points and miles.
Thanks to the region’s proximity to the U.S., plenty of airlines fly nonstop between the U.S. and Central America.
In our guide, we’ve defined the following countries to be part of Central America:
Like we mentioned, numerous airlines, including low-cost carriers Frontier, Spirit, and Volaris, fly nonstop to the region. However, we’ve excluded these from this guide, which will focus on the best ways to get outsized value from your points.
The main foreign carriers offering nonstop flights to Central America are Avianca and Copa Airlines.
In addition, nonstop flights are offered by major U.S. carriers, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. JetBlue even offers some flights with its lauded Mint business class.
Check out the domestic airlines offering nonstop flights:
* Mint service available
And here’s a look at foreign carriers’ nonstop routes between the U.S. and Central America:
You may be wondering, “What in the world is Emirates doing in a guide to flying to Central America with points?”
Well, we’re here to inform you that redeeming Emirates miles is the best way to book JetBlue Mint using points.
Thanks to a close partnership between the 2 airlines, there’s finally an alternative to booking JetBlue Mint using points apart from redeeming JetBlue TrueBlue points at a poor, fixed value or using the Chase travel portal to redeem Ultimate Rewards points at a fixed value.
Here’s the award chart for booking JetBlue flights with Emirates Skywards:
|One-Way Distance (Miles)||JetBlue Economy Cost||JetBlue Mint Cost|
|0 to 250||8,000||16,000|
|251 to 500||10,000||20,000|
|501 to 1,000||14,000||28,000|
|1,001 to 2,000||20,000||40,000|
|2,001 to 3,000||26,000||52,000|
|3,001 to 4,000||32,000||64,000|
|4,001 to 5,000||38,000||76,000|
|5,001 to 6,000||44,000||88,000|
|6,001 to 7,000||50,000||100,000|
|7,001 to 15,000||60,000||120,000|
Additionally, any JetBlue Mint ticket in the “I” fare class can be booked using the award chart above.
Here are some great example JetBlue redemptions you can make:
These flights can exceed $1,500 in price, opening up the possibility to get around 3 cents per point in value!
Here’s how to book JetBlue Mint tickets with Emirates miles:
Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One and Brex transfer to Emirates almost instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
Marriott Bonvoy transfers to Emirates at a 3:1 ratio, taking around 3 business days. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Emirates, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 Emirates Skywards miles.
Recommended Chase Cards
A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.
Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.
The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options. Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.
Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!
American Airlines is another major operator of nonstop flights to Central America.
With nearly 20 nonstop flights, you’re bound to find a flight suitable for you, whether you live in one of the cities from which AA flies nonstop or one of the many other cities American connects with its hubs across the country.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program offers great redemption prices on American’s longer flights, while British Airways Executive Club (discussed in the next section) has the best prices for shorter flights.
|Cabin Class||Asia Miles Cost|
Here are some great American Airlines redemptions you can make using Asia Miles:
Unfortunately, Asia Miles requires you to submit an award request form or call the customer service phone number in order to book.
Given this extra step, here’s what we recommend you to do:
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are easy to earn.
Amex transfers at a 1:1 ratio in a few hours, Citi and Brex both transfer at a 1:1 ratio within 1 business day, and Capital One transfers at a 1:1 ratio within 2 business days.
Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Transfers to Asia Miles process in 5 business days.
Recommended American Express Cards
The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.
This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.
With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.
There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.
With the British Airways Executive Club, it’s best to compare the merits of this program to those of Asia Miles.
In this case, partner American Airlines is going to be the major airline we examine.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles offers attractive mileage prices compared to British Airways Executive Club on flights longer than 2,000 miles. But, on the other hand, British Airways Executive Club offers phenomenal award prices on flights up to 2,000 miles in flight distance.
Here’s the award chart for partner-operated flights (including American Airlines) booked with Asia Miles and British Airways Avios:
|Distance Bracket||Cabin Class||British Airways Avios Price||Asia Miles Price|
|Zone 3 (1,152 to 2,000 miles)||Economy||11,000||15,000|
|Zone 4 (2,001 to 3,000 miles)||Economy||13,000||15,000|
As you can see in the chart above, British Airways costs 8,000 Avios less than Asia Miles for American Airlines business class flights up to 2,000 miles in flight distance, while Asia Miles costs 8,750 miles less than British Airways for American Airlines business class flights longer than 2,000 miles in flight distance.
Additionally, flights can be booked 100% online and it’s easy to earn British Airways Avios.
Here are some great example routes you can book using British Airways Avios:
Follow these steps to book your American Airlines ticket using British Airways Avios online:
Chase and Amex transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly, while Capital One transfers to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly.
Marriott Bonvoy transfers to British Airways at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus if you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Recommended Capital One Cards
The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is the premium Capital One travel rewards card on the block.
Points and miles fans will be surprised to see that the Capital One Venture X card packs quite the punch when it comes to bookings made through Capital One, all while offering the lowest annual fee among premium credit cards.
Depending on your travel goals and preferences, the Capital One Venture X card could very well end up being your go-to card in your wallet.
Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular rewards cards on the market. It’s perfect for anyone in search of a great welcome offer, high rewards rates, and flexible redemption options.
Frequent travelers with excellent credit may benefit from this credit card that offers a lot of bells and whistles. And it offers easy-to-understand rewards earning and redemption.
The card offers unlimited miles at 1.25x per $1 and no annual fee. When you consider the flexible rewards, frequent travelers come out on top.
Interested in a travel rewards credit card without one of those pesky annual fees? Then say hello to the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, the no-annual-fee version of the more popular Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
In addition to no annual fee, the Capital One VentureOne card offers no foreign transaction fees.
But is this card worth its salt, or is it merely a shell of the more popular Capital One Venture card?
Delta SkyMiles is a polarizing loyalty program. Associated with an airline with extremely high customer satisfaction, it’s somewhat unintuitive to think that its mileage prices aren’t all that attractive, especially for long-haul, premium cabin travel.
Still, for regional flights in first or business class, it’s possible to get solid value overall. More importantly, you’re almost always guaranteed a “floor” value with your miles, meaning they will be worth at least 1 cent apiece in redemption value.
Booking Delta flights to Central America is best done with Delta SkyMiles. It’s not unheard of to book economy flights for 10,000 miles in each direction, though you’ll generally redeem around 30,000 to 50,000 miles in each direction for a first class flight.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how much you’ll pay for a flight until you actually search due to Delta SkyMiles’ dynamic award pricing system.
Nonetheless, if you maintain a high degree of flexibility, you should be able to get some good deals on nonstop first or business class flights to Central America.
Additionally, since Delta SkyMiles members have the best access to award availability, you have the option to redeem more miles for a flight that works better with your schedule, while partner programs like Air France/KLM Flying Blue wouldn’t have that option.
Here are some great example redemptions you can make:
If you’re ready to book your Delta flight, follow these steps:
Hot Tip: Delta SkyMiles is very much a “what you see is what you get” program. Enhance what you see by searching using the award calendar.
Amex Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly, while Marriott Bonvoy points transfer within 1 business day at a 3:1 ratio.
Also, Amex issues several Delta SkyMiles co-branded credit cards that also come with perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, and more.
This card provides bonus SkyMiles on all purchases, along with a free bag, priority boarding, and discounted award flights.
Frequent Delta flyers will love the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. The card offers great benefits that will help save you money, effectively mimics low-level elite status with Delta SkyMiles, and helps you earn miles even faster, all for a low annual fee. Let’s dive into the benefits to see if the Delta Gold card is a good fit for your needs.
Frequent Delta travelers will enjoy this card's bonus categories, benefits, and ability to reach higher levels of elite status.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can be a great option for those seeking additional ways to obtain a higher level of status — or to maintain their current status — with the airline.
A key feature of this card is the ability to earn bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that are essential for earning Delta status. This could help you get closer to earning free flights and other valuable rewards.
Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a stellar option for frequent travelers who always fly with Delta thanks to its lounge access, status boost, annual companion certificate, and many other great benefits.
Here is a full look at everything the Delta Reserve card can offer to you to help you decide whether the card deserves a place in your wallet.
In certain situations, it makes more sense to book Delta flights using Flying Blue miles instead of Delta’s own SkyMiles.
When we’re discussing flights to Central America, Delta’s Saver-level award tickets are also bookable with Flying Blue miles.
Flying Blue miles are generally easier to earn than Delta SkyMiles, but Flying Blue members can only access a small chunk of award availability, making it a bit more challenging to book award flights on Delta metal.
Delta SkyMiles charges lots of miles on select nonstop routes, even in the Saver award category. Get around this by redeeming Flying Blue miles on some of these great example routes:
Here’s how to book Delta tickets using Flying Blue miles:
Air France/KLM Flying Blue has transfer partnerships with all the major transferable currencies, including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Miles, Brex Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Brex have the best transfer ratios of 1:1 — they also transfer instantly.
Marriott has a 3:1 ratio transfer ratio, and transfers take 3 business days. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Flying Blue, you’ll get an extra bonus of 5,000 miles.
Flying Blue also has a co-branded credit card issued by Bank of America that earns miles directly.
Recommended Citi Cards
Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.
The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!
This no annual fee card rewards cardholders for everyday purchases. Earn bonus points at supermarkets and gas stations, plus your points are rounded up on every purchase.
Great card for the average spender with no specific focus category; worry-free cash-back earning on everything!
The Citi Double Cash® Card has long been one of the top cash-back credit cards on the market, and the card now has the ability to earn Citi ThankYou Points!
This means that cardholders of the Double Cash card will now earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. Cash back is earned in the form of ThankYou Points. This means each billing cycle, you will earn 1 ThankYou point per $1 spent on purchases and an additional ThankYou point for every $1 paid on your purchase balance as long as there is a corresponding balance in your Purchase Tracker.
Citi has turned the Double Cash card into a top choice for those who are looking for an everyday, no-fuss credit card.
Earn big on purchases in your top eligible spend category, up to the first $500 each billing cycle, with no annual fee!
The Citi Custom Cash® Card is inventive when it comes to cash-back credit cards. Instead of earning a set amount of cash-back on predetermined bonus categories, the Citi Custom Cash card earns 5% cash-back on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, without an annual fee.
Thanks to that unique perk, you’ll never need to worry about whether you’re using the right card for the right purchase, as your Citi Custom Cash card will always pay you 5% back on whichever category you end up spending the most on each month.
Air Canada Aeroplan is our go-to frequent flyer program for Star Alliance flights between the U.S. and Central America because it has plenty of transfer partners, some of the best redemption rates for economy and business class, and even permits one-way stopovers for an extra 5,000 points!
Not only can you book United flights with Aeroplan points, but you can also book Avianca and Copa Airlines flights.
Here’s the award chart for partner-operated flights:
|Distance (Miles)||Air Canada Aeroplan Points Cost (Economy)||Air Canada Aeroplan Points Cost (Business)|
|0 to 500||6,000||15,000|
|501 to 1,500||10,000||20,000|
|1,501 to 2,750||12,500||25,000|
Here are some great example redemptions you can make:
Follow these steps to book your award ticket:
Earning lots of Aeroplan points is easier than ever.
Thanks to lucrative transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy, you’ll have many ways to rack up points.
Amex, Capital One, and Chase maintain 1:1 transfer ratios. Marriott Bonvoy is 3:1 with a 5,000 points bonus after transferring 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Aeroplan.
Amex, Chase, and Capital One transfer instantly while Marriott Bonvoy takes 5 business days to transfer to Aeroplan.
The last frequent flyer program we’ll be looking at is United MileagePlus. United’s website is fantastic because it’s capable of showing virtually all of the available options you can book within the Star Alliance.
However, we generally recommend only using United to perform award searches; rarely do we recommend you to book your ticket using United miles.
But if you have a bunch of United miles or need to access award availability beyond partner-level Saver awards, the only way to book United flights with points is through United MileagePlus.
Sure, you’ll end up paying more miles for your flight, but you’ll get to adhere to the schedule/availability that fits your needs best.
In any case, you’ll avoid fuel surcharges, which is great news. Here’s how much award flights cost (remember, you’ll very rarely find premium cabin awards at that starting price):
|Cabin Class||United Miles Cost|
|Economy||From 17,500 miles|
|Business||From 30,000 miles|
Here are some great example flights you can book using United miles:
Follow these steps to book your United flight online with United MileagePlus:
Chase transfers at a 1:1 ratio almost instantly, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1.1 ratio in 3 business days. Also, if you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to United, you’ll get a bonus of 5,500 miles.
You can also earn United miles through Chase’s co-branded credit cards.
Recommended United Cards
With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.
You travel United all the time, but you have heard that there could be ways to make your travel experiences even better, including priority boarding, free bags, and more miles.
You should consider the United℠ Explorer Card, because this card does all that and more!
Perfect for frequent United flyers who want premium perks like United Club access and free baggage benefits.
The United Club℠ Infinite Card is a premium card designed for the most dedicated of United frequent flyers who are looking for a card that provides the opportunity to earn extra United MileagePlus miles and receive lounge access via a yearly United Club membership.
United frequent flyers will find that the United Club Infinite card provides an enhanced experience on their United flights thanks to the money saved on each flight and the conveniences it provides.
The United Quest card is a fantastic option for United flyers looking to earn more miles and enhance their flights.
The newest addition to United’s lineup of cards is the United Quest℠ Card. With it, you can bolster your United MileagePlus miles, thanks to the bonus categories, while enjoying the card’s many perks designed to help save you money on each United flight.
The United Gateway card is a great option for those looking to earn more United miles without paying an annual fee.
The United Gateway℠ Card is a great option for those looking to earn more United miles without wanting to pay a credit card annual fee. Plus, the card offers other solid benefits like a 25% back on United inflight purchases, purchase protection, and rental car insurance.
The United Club Business card is a great option for frequent United flyers looking for United Club access.
The United Club℠ Business Card is a premium card option for dedicated United loyalists seeking a card that offers complimentary United Club access, helps them earn and retain status, and doesn’t skip on the benefits.
From free checked bags to upgrades on award tickets and the ability to earn Premier qualifying points, there is plenty to the United Club Business card that United flyers are sure to love.
There are many ways to fly between the U.S. and Central America using points and miles.
We’ve focused on major U.S. airlines in this guide, though Avianca and Copa Airlines also operate nonstop flights.
And with a dizzying network of routes, it can feel overwhelming to try to get the best deal with your points.
If you’re looking for a lie-flat business class opportunity, redeem Emirates miles on JetBlue Mint or Aeroplan points on Copa Airlines’ lie-flat business class (on Boeing 737 MAX planes only).
But know that regardless of how you plan on getting there, you have plenty of options for getting to Central America with minimal cash outlay.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
The best airline to fly in business class to Central America is JetBlue, offering its Mint product on select routes. Alternatively, all of the major U.S. airlines have recliner seats available in business or first class.
Yes, there are plenty of flights to Central America. Most nonstop flights are bound for Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. However, there are nonstop flights to many major airports, including San Salvador in El Salvador, Managua in Nicaragua, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, and Guatemala City in Guatemala.
Nonstop flights to Central America can be anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, depending on the route you’re taking. If you fly from Florida, Texas, or New York, your travel time will be shorter than if you flew from California or elsewhere on the West Coast.
The best way to fly lie-flat business class to Central America using points and miles is booking JetBlue Mint using Emirates Skywards miles.
Otherwise, longer flights on American Airlines in business class can be booked with Asia Miles, while shorter flights on American Airlines in business class can be booked with British Airways Avios.
To book Delta flights, we recommend using Delta SkyMiles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles.
Finally, United miles or Aeroplan miles can be used to book United business class.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.