The Best Ways To Fly to South Africa With Points and Miles

Cape Town South Africa
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Wine, beaches, Table Top Mountain, game reserves, and safaris are some of the things that come to mind when you think of South Africa. Located at the southernmost point of the African continent, South Africa is a country with so much to do and see.

The country is served by 2 major airports: O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town International (CPT). Most nonstop flight options fly to Johannesburg, though United does operate a single flight from Newark (EWR) to Cape Town (CPT) that was launched in late 2019.

For those of you unable to find a nonstop, you’ll likely route through Europe or another African airport from the U.S.

Best Programs To Use To Book Flights

Even though South Africa is far from the U.S., you still have several flight options in both airports. Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance partner airlines all offer flights between the U.S. and South Africa — great news for those of us who have flexibility in our travel plans.

The award pricing in this article is calculated one-way. Most programs will allow you to book one-way tickets, but both ANA and Korean Air require round-trip award flight bookings.

With that behind us, let’s figure out how best to fly between the U.S. and South Africa!

Air Canada Aeroplan

Swiss Air Lines Business Class
Redeem Aeroplan points to fly SWISS Air business. Image Credit: SWISS Air

Starting off our list of award programs to use to book award flights to South Africa is Air Canada’s Aeroplan. The program is best known for its award pricing for flights between the U.S. and Europe. What you may not have considered is using Aeroplan to fly to South Africa.

Cabin ClassAeroplan Points CostTaxes and Fees
Economy54,100$55+
Premium Economy85,000$55+
Business100,000$55+

As a Star Alliance partner, Air Canada has access to flights from United, Lufthansa, SWISS Air, and Ethiopian Airlines, among others. Be aware that Aeroplan has a variable rate for redemptions, so you’ll find different pricing based on demand.

Aeroplan has partnerships with 3 transferable point programs, making it easy to earn Aeroplan points with American Express, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy. In addition to these partnerships, Aeroplan has a co-branded credit card, the TD Aeroplan™ Visa Signature® Credit Card, that earns airline points directly with your credit card spend.

Hot Tip: You can use Aeroplan’s free family pooling feature to gather together all of your family’s points, which can allow you to quickly earn enough points for a redemption.

Once you have enough Air Canada Aeroplan points to book an award flight, considering flying on one of these example routes:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 100,000 points in Ethiopian Airlines business class
  • New York (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 100,000 points in United Polaris

Follow these steps below to help with your award flight booking process:

  1. Log in to your Aeroplan account.
  2. Search for the flights you’d like.
  3. Book and pay the taxes and fees associated with your ticket.

For those of you wanting to use transferable points, American Express points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One miles transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers can take up to 5 days at a 3:1 ratio. With every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer, you’ll receive a 5,000-point bonus.

If you’re looking to earn Capital One miles, here are the credit cards we recommend you check out:

Recommended Capital One Cards (Personal)

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card - This card is packed with lots of benefits and perks. Earn 60,000 mile sign up bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. We recommend this as a no-brainer card if you even semi-regularly stay at hotels since this card earns unlimited 2x miles on every purchase.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card - This is an excellent card for those looking to earn 1.25x miles per $1 on every purchase. With a 20,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $200 toward travel) after spending $500 within the first 3 months and no annual fee, it's a strong choice.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Flat-Bed
Alaska Airlines miles are great to use to fly Cathay Pacific business class. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Long a fan-favorite in the miles and points world, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is a program that offers value for flights between the U.S. and South Africa. Alaska Airlines is well-known for the ability to book a stopover, not only on its flights but its partner airline flights as well.

Cabin ClassCathay Pacific Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000$244+
Premium Economy60,000$244+
Business70,000$244+
First80,000$244+

Outside of Alaska Airlines miles being challenging to earn, the 2 downsides with this specific redemption are that you have to call Alaska Airlines to book the flight and Alaska Airlines may not see the same award space that you might find on American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.

You can also opt to use your Alaska Airlines miles to fly to Africa with British Airways and Emirates, though British Airways levies high surcharges and Emirates is extremely expensive.

Hot Tip: Familiarize yourself with American Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas search engines as you’ll need them to search for Cathay Pacific award flights. We’ve covered this in our guide on searching for Oneworld award availability

Once you have enough Alaska Airlines miles to book a Cathay Pacific award flight, considering flying on one of these example routes:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 75,000 Alaska miles in Cathay Pacific business class
  • New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 80,000 Alaska miles in Cathay Pacific first class

Follow these steps below to help with your award flight booking process:

  1. Search for flights on American Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas.
  2. Call Alaska Airlines at 800-252-7522 to confirm award availability.
  3. Book the flight over the phone.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees, and be sure to ask them to waive the phone booking fee since you can’t find these flights online.

Earning Alaska Airlines Miles

It’s difficult to earn Alaska Airlines miles because the program has only 1 transferable point program partnership with Marriott Bonvoy and its co-branded card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, does not come with big welcome offers.

If you do have Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfers to Alaska Airlines take 4 days at a 3:1 ratio. Also, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer to Alaska.

Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards 

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn up to 17x total Bovoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card at at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2x Bonvoy points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn up to 14x total Bonvoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Bold card at over 7,000 participating in Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x on all other eligible purchases. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Bottom Line: It’s hard to beat the award pricing offered by Alaska Airlines to fly Cathay Pacific economy, business, and first class flights to South Africa. 

American Airlines AAdvantage

Qatar QSuites 11F 11E Boeing 777
Use your American miles to fly Qatar’s business class Qsuites. Image Credit: Alex Miller

A program familiar to many U.S. travelers is American Airlines AAdvantage. For this redemption, you’ll want to focus on using AAdvantage miles to fly Oneworld partner airline economy and business class flights. First class isn’t as competitive, so we recommend that you look elsewhere to book.

Cabin ClassOneworld Airlines Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$37+
Premium Economy65,000$37+
Business75,000$37+
First120,000$37+

The primary downside with these flights is that you’ll likely be routed through Europe. Oneworld doesn’t offer nonstop flights between the U.S. and Africa, so your travel will be longer compared to Star Alliance and SkyTeam partner airline flights.

Hot Tip: Oneworld partner flights to Africa can only be booked transatlantic. American Airlines has several rules when flying between regions, so we recommend researching all of your options before transferring any points. 

If you’re ready to book a flight to South Africa, here are a couple of example flights to get the ideas flowing:

  • Dallas (DFW) – Doha (DOH) – Cape Town (CPT) for 75,000 American miles in Qatar business class
  • New York (JFK) – Doha (DOH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 American miles in Qatar economy class

Booking award flights with AAdvantage miles is easy by following these steps:

  1. Search for flights on American Airlines.
  2. Book the flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning American Airlines Miles

It’s easy to earn American Airlines miles because the airline has a partnership with Marriott Bonvoy and offers several co-branded credit cards. With co-branded credit cards, you’ll earn American miles directly with your spending.

Otherwise, you can opt to transfer Bilt Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points (until November 13, 2021) to AAdvantage miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 2 days at a 3:1 ratio — consider transferring 60,000 points at a time as you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus.

Bottom Line: The American Airlines AAdvantage program doesn’t have a ton of sweet spots, however, using American miles to fly Qatar business class may be one of them. 

ANA Mileage Club

Ethiopian business class
Fly Ethiopian business class using ANA miles. Image Credit: Ethiopian Airlines

The second Star Alliance program to join this list is ANA Mileage Club. ANA is best known for its competitive award prices when flying its flights to Japan. What you may not have known is that using ANA miles to book partner flights to South Africa can be a good value.

Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy65,000$377+
Business104,000$377+
First195,000$377+

The main drawback of using ANA miles to book partner airline flights is that the flights must be booked round-trip. If you’re looking for maximum flexibility, other Star Alliance partners like Aeroplan and United may make more sense.

Hot Tip: Award pricing for Star Alliance economy and business class flights to South Africa is where ANA shines. The program offers the cheapest economy and business class flights that you can book on this list. 

Here are a couple of Star Alliance partner flight ideas for those of you who are ready to book a flight Remember, these are round-trip prices:

  • Newark (EWR) – Zurich (ZRH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 65,000 ANA miles in SWISS economy class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – Cape Town (CPT) for 104,000 ANA miles in Ethiopian business class

With the required number of ANA miles in your account, follow these steps to book your next award flight:

  1. Search for flights on United.
  2. Confirm the same availability on ANA.
  3. Book the flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning ANA Miles

Earning ANA miles should not be an issue because ANA partners with both American Express and Marriott Bonvoy. When you earn points in these programs, the points can be transferred directly to ANA. Unfortunately, ANA doesn’t offer a credit card for the U.S. market, so you’ll want to focus on earning Amex and Marriott Bonvoy points.

Amex point transfers take 2 to 3 days at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 7 days at a 3:1 ratio. With that said, we recommend applying for these Amex credit cards first:

Recommended American Express Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a new welcome bonus offer of 60,000 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide, including Priority Pass (enrollment required). We leverage ~$4,900+ in benefits and perks from the card every year. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - This card has a new welcome bonus of 35,000 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

We love using this card as it earns 4X Membership Rewards Points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earns 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly; and you'll have access to many benefits and perks. Terms apply and for rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.

Recommended American Express Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a new welcome bonus of 85,000 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

See how we get $4,000+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks, including access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - one of our favorite Amex business cards because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month, such as Facebook or Google ads. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. After that, you earn 1x.

The current welcome bonus is 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Business Gold, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - A super simple, no-annual-fee card that earns you 2x points on everyday business purchases, up to $50,000 in purchases per year. After that, earn 1x. Right now, you can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

Bottom Line: Star Alliance airline partners in this list that offer one-way award flight options include Aeroplan, Avianca, and United. 

Asiana Airlines Asiana Club

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 9 Business Class Middle Aisle Seats
Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9 business class middle aisle seats. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Another Star Alliance program to keep your eye on, and one that often gets overlooked, is Asiana Airlines Asiana Club. For economy, business, and first class flights, Asiana Airlines offers some of the most competitive award prices that you’ll find on this list.

Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$188+
Business60,000$188+
First80,000$188+

What can be frustrating with Asiana Airlines is that partner award flights require a phone call to book. The Asiana Airlines website doesn’t allow you to search or book these flights online.

Hot Tip: United will be the best website to use to search for Star Alliance partner airline flights. You may also find that Aeroplan can be helpful to use to search for these flights as well.

When you’ve decided to make the trip to South Africa, consider booking these flights to get you there:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Zurich (ZRH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 Asiana miles in SWISS economy class
  • Houston (IAH) – Istanbul (IST) – Cape Town (CPT) for 60,000 Asiana miles in Turkish Airlines business class

To make the booking process easier with Asiana Airlines, use these steps when you’re ready to book a flight:

  1. Search for Star Alliance partner flights on United.
  2. Call Asiana Airlines at 800-227-4262 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. PST Monday to Friday.
  3. Book the flight over the phone.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees over the phone.

Earning Asiana Airlines Miles

It’ll be challenging to earn Asiana Airlines miles as the airline only partners with Marriott Bonvoy.

For those of you with Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfer takes 4 days at a 3:1 ratio. Separately, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer.

Bottom Line: Asiana Airlines has competitive award prices for flights to South Africa. The challenge that you’ll have is earning enough Asiana miles to book these flights. 

Avianca LifeMiles

Lufthansa Business Class Cabin
Middle seats provide direct aisle access in Lufthansa business class. Image Credit: Lufthansa

A fourth Star Alliance program to check out is Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is known for the ability to book Star Alliance flights without fuel surcharges. This is great news for flights to South Africa as you can fly Lufthansa with very few dollars out of pocket.

Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$38+
Business78,000$38+
First105,000$38+

For these flights, Avianca business and first class pricing are on the high end, however, your taxes and fees will be lower, offsetting the additional miles you’ll spend.

The main downside with Avianca is that award availability shown on LifeMiles.com will not match what you find on United and Aeroplan. On top of that, calling Avianca is not a pleasant experience, so you’ll want to focus on booking these flights online.

Hot Tip: Lufthansa releases first class award space within 2 weeks of the departure date. If you’re looking to fly Lufthansa first class, you’ll need to be flexible on your travel dates. 

Examples of flights that you can book to South Africa include:

  • Newark (EWR) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 78,000 Avianca miles in Lufthansa business class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 105,000 Avianca miles in Lufthansa first class

When you’re ready to book a flight using Avianca miles, below are the steps that will help with the process:

  1. Search for Star Alliance flights on United.
  2. Confirm the same award availability on LifeMiles.com.
  3. Book the flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees, including the $25 partner award fee.

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Earning Avianca LifeMiles is easy because the airline has partnerships with American Express, Capital One, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy. Also, Avianca has 2 co-branded credit cards that earn Avianca LifeMiles with your spending.

If you have Amex, Capital One, Citi, and/or Marriott Bonvoy points, the transfer times and transfer ratios are as follows: Amex points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One miles transfer instantly at a 2:1.5 ratio, Citi ThankYou Points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 24 hours at a 3:1 ratio. With Marriott Bonvoy transfers, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus with every 60,000 points that you transfer.

With that said, we recommend the following Citi credit card:

Bottom Line: Avianca is one of the best programs to use to book premium cabin award flights on airlines like Lufthansa that have high fuel surcharges. 

Korean Air SKYPASS

Kenya Airways business class
Use Korean Air miles to fly to South Africa on Kenya Airways in business class. Image Credit: Kenya Airways

Korean Air SKYPASS is the 1 SkyTeam partner to make this list. The program has competitive award pricing for SkyTeam partner airline flights, particularly for those of you who want to fly economy and business class to South Africa.

Cabin ClassSkyTeam Airline Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000$425+
Business60,000$425+

2 drawbacks come to mind when using Korean Air miles: Korean Air passes on fuel surcharges, and it’s hard to earn Korean Air miles.

Hot Tip: The SKYPASS program uses region-based charts. This means that it’ll cost the same number of miles to fly from any U.S. city to South Africa on a SkyTeam partner airline. 

When you’ve accumulated enough Korean Air miles for a flight, consider booking one of these options:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 Korean Air miles in Delta economy class
  • New York (JFK) – Nairobi (NBO) – Cape Town (CPT) for 60,000 Korean Air miles in Kenya Airways business class

The process to book SkyTeam flights with Korean Air miles is as follows:

  1. Search for flights on Air France, Delta, or KLM.
  2. Confirm the same award availability on Korean Air.
  3. Book the award flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning Korean Air Miles

Korean Air co-branded credit cards and Marriott Bonvoy will be the combination you’ll need to earn Korean Air miles. The spend that you put on Korean Air credit cards will directly earn Korean Air miles.

When you have Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfer time takes 2 days at a 3:1 ratio. When you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at a time, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus.

Bottom Line: Korean Air economy and business class pricing to South Africa are some of the lowest you’ll find in this list. To confirm that Korean Air has the lowest SkyTeam award prices, we recommend checking the pricing offered on Air France, Delta, and KLM. 

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Polaris seat on Boeing 787 9 Dreamliner
Use United miles to fly to Polaris class to South Africa. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

The fifth Star Alliance program to make our list is United Airlines MileagePlus. Many U.S. travelers are familiar with United but you may not have thought to use United miles to fly to South Africa.

Cabin ClassUnited Airlines Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000$75+
Business70,000$75+

Economy and business class pricing aren’t the cheapest you’ll find, however, you won’t be on the hook for fuel surcharges, similar to Avianca.

One downside with United is that the program uses dynamic award pricing for its own flights. This means the award cost of a United flight will be tied to the cash cost of the flight. Partner airline flights like Lufthansa currently utilize an award chart, though United charges more for partner awards than flights on its own metal.

Examples of Star Alliance flights that you can book with United Airlines miles include:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – New York City (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 70,000 United miles in United’s Polaris business class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Istanbul (IST) – Cape Town (CPT) for 77,000 United miles in Turkish Airlines economy class

When you’re ready to book a flight, follow these steps to help with the process:

  1. Search for the flight on United.
  2. Book the flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees online.

Earning United Airlines Miles

It’s easy to earn United Airlines miles because the airline has partnerships with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Also, United offers several co-branded credit cards that earn miles directly with your spending.

For those of you with Chase points, the points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 2 days at a 3:1.1 ratio. Also, you’ll receive 5,000 bonus miles with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.

Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card - A solid, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then earn 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.

Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.

Bottom Line: Avianca and United are Star Alliance programs to consider if you’re looking to reduce the amount of taxes and fees that you’ll need to pay. 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Delta economy class
Flying Delta in economy is a fantastic way to save big on miles while flying comfortably. Image Credit: Delta

Our last airline program, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, is not in an airline alliance. Instead, Virgin Atlantic has partnerships with individual airlines like Delta, Air France, and KLM.

Cabin ClassDelta Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy45,000$5.60+
Business65,000 (estimate due to lack of availability)$5.60+

The drawback with Virgin Atlantic is that its website can be challenging to use. We recommend familiarizing yourself with how to use the search engine. That way the booking process will be familiar when you’re ready to book a flight.

Hot Tip: Virgin Atlantic charges additional Virgin Points for connecting flights. The award prices shown in the charts above assume nonstop flights between the U.S. and South Africa. 

If your Virgin Points are already in your Virgin Atlantic account, here is an example flight to South Africa:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 45,000 Virgin Points in Delta economy class

Use the steps below to help yourself when booking Delta flights:

  1. Search for Delta flights on Virgin Atlantic.
  2. Book the Delta flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees online.

Earning Virgin Points

Virgin Atlantic has partnerships with American Express, Chase, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to earn Virgin Points. The airline also offers a co-branded credit card for the U.S. market that earns Virgin Points with your spending.

You’ll want to keep these transfer times and ratios in mind if you have transferable points: Amex point transfers take 1 to 2 days at a 1:1 ratio, Chase points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, Citi point transfers take 2 days a 1:1 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 1 day at a 3:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy point transfers of 60,000 points receive a 5,000-point bonus.

Bottom Line: When you need to book Delta flights, we recommend Virgin Atlantic as one of the first places to go to book award flights. 

Final Thoughts

South Africa is a country that you’ll see on many travel lists. What’s likely not covered in those lists is how best to use miles and points to get there. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be one step ahead of the curve.

All in all, we recommend earning transferable American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy points. That way, when an award program devaluation occurs, you can simply look to other award programs to book flights instead.


The information regarding the TD Aeroplan™ Visa Signature® Credit Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, Asiana Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, Asiana Visa® Business Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
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Frequently asked questions

Can I use United miles on South African Airways?

Yes! You can use your United Airlines miles to fly South African Airways to South Africa.

What is the best airline to fly to Africa?

ANA offers the cheapest economy and business class award flights to South Africa. You’ll want to use Alaska miles to fly the cheapest first class flight to South Africa.

Will American Airlines fly to Africa?

American Airlines currently flies nonstop to Morocco but does not offer direct flights to South Africa.

Where do you fly into South Africa?

The 2 major airports in South Africa are Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town (CPT).

Michael McHugh

About Michael McHugh

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Michael took his first international trip in 2013 with friends to the Bahamas. Although he didn't travel much in his younger years, on that trip, he caught the travel bug and has been hooked ever since. Michael first caught wind of the points and miles game in 2014 while at a bar in Washington, DC where the conversation amongst friends was quickly derailed because of an alert on a friend's phone about a mistake fare.  That's where the love affair with points and miles began.

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2 comments

  1. Trying to get to Cape Town from the NY area end of July or August for about 10 days. I have AA miles, Chase UR, and Marriott rewards.

    In searching AA, I see it’s significantly cheaper to go to Johannesburg than Cape Town and trying to figure if it’s easier to fly to Johannesburg and then fly separately to Cape Town once there?

    I’m trying to find the best value, but, the redemptions always confuse me. Trying not to fly through Europe, either.

    I’d rather burn the AA miles first but don’t want to “overpay” just because I want to get rid of them.

    Any better options from NY? Guessing business class due to the length of the flight.

    Thx!!

    Reply

    • Hi Marty,

      Depending on how many AA miles you have, I would opt to fly the Qatar QSuites from NYC to Capetown. If you can find Saver availability on the American Airlines website, the ticket would cost 75k miles each way, and you would have a layover in Doha – allowing you to avoid flying through Europe.

      Reply

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