The Best Credit Cards for Travel to Europe and South America

The number one question that Ben and I are asked on a daily basis is “what’s the best credit card for me?” That’s a really difficult question to answer, because there isn’t a good answer! Do you want to go to Copenhagen? Do you want to go to Caracas? Do you want to stay in nice hotels? What about cash back?

In this post we’ll cover the best credit cards for earning miles and points for travel to Europe, Central, and South America.

Buenos Aires Congress Building

Central/South America

There is no US airline that has more destinations in South America than American Airlines. From their base in Miami they hit almost every country in S. America and the base in Dallas covers most of Mexico and Central America. They also partner with LATAM out of Chile/Brazil. If you want to get to around, this is the airline to do it with.

OneWorld has by far the strongest alliance for the region, and the easiest way to earn them is with American Airlines miles. Currently there are three American Airlines cards with big signup bonuses. 50,000 and 60,000 on the personal cards, and 60,000 on the business card as well.

Blanket waiting for me

A roundtrip coach ticket to South America starts at 35,000 miles, while Business starts at 70,000. The signup bonus should be good for at least one ticket, perhaps two if you play it right.

While Copa Airlines can get you to Central or South America with United Miles, their product isn’t that great and everything forces you to connect in Panama. You could also look towards Avianca with their large base of operations in Colombia. From there, connect to all points in South America. Flights originate in the US from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, Orlando, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. 

Their subsidiary TACA flies to Chicago, Dallas, LA, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington DC. Hell bent on flying Copa? Then the United Airlines credit card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve are your best bets.

Panama’s Old Town

Europe

Europe is the easiest! Any mileage earning credit card can do it.

American Airlines AAdvantage has their own flights and those of FinnAir and British.

Delta Skymiles can get you there on Alitalia, KLM, Air France, Air Europa, Virgin Atlantic, or even Aeroflot. They are very stingy with their mileage tickets and you might have trouble finding space, but there are still options! If you want to fly in coach, you shouldn’t have too many problems. Delta often opens coach seats on their Europe flights with no problem.

Air France from Clarin.com

Air France from Clarin.com

Both Personal and Business Skymiles cards offer awesome signup bonuses, almost enough for a free flight!

Star Alliance has the largest number of options to Europe. United and Lufthansa are the largest, and Lufthansa is especially generous about opening up space, especially in first and business class, close to departure. Once again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve or United Branded Cards are your go-to.

(from lufthansa.com)

Other options

Recently, airlines have been putting big sales on flights to Europe, sometimes for only $350-500 round trip. If you’re using a card like the Sapphire Preferred/Reserve to earn points, you can redeem those points for your cheap ticket.

This may not be the best use of your points, however. If you were to redeem 30,000 points for a $450 ticket, an argument could be made that you should instead hold on to those 30,000 points and fork over the cash. Miles and points are SO difficult to earn that getting those 30,000 points back again will cost you well in excess of $450.

Email Us!

As always, if you have any questions relating to your own personal situation, but all means don’t hesitate to reach out to us for some guidance! Email us or leave a comment below.

Happy travels…!

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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