Flights to Liberia, Costa Rica on miles and points

Flights from the US to Liberia, Costa Rica on miles and points

Costa Rica on miles

In this post, I’ll go over flight options for Costa Rica using different types of award currencies.  I’ll also explain which credit card sign-up bonuses are best for almost-free flights to Costa Rica!

Costa Rica has 2 major airports.

  • One is San Jose (SJO) which is almost a 5 hour drive to the Guanacaste region where the Andaz is located.
  • The other is Liberia which is about a 30 minute drive to the Andaz.

Obviously Liberia is going to be the better option if possible when you’re staying in the Guanacaste region.

Costa Rica flights on miles

Spend your money on all of the adventures Costa Rica has to offer, not on airfare!

Which airlines fly to Liberia, Costa Rica from the US?

Most major US airlines fly to LIR,  although some routes may be seasonal.

  • Southwest
  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • JetBlue

We flew Southwest, but your best option to fly to Costa Rica on miles (or points) is going to depend on your departure airport and/or availability for your dates.  The list below is not necessarily comprehensive, but it may give you an idea of which airline or loyalty program is best to check for flights.  Keep in mind that some routes may only be offered seasonally.

Southwest flies direct from Houston Hobby (HOU) and Baltimore (BWI) to Liberia, Costa Rica

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio
  • SPG Starpoints and American Express Membership Rewards Points do not transfer to Southwest

Remember, Southwest’s loyalty program prices award flights according to the current paid fare.  In other words, a lower fare will cost a lower amount of Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

This is good and bad.  The good news is that you do not have to worry about award ticket availability.  The bad news is that if the fare is high, the cost in points will be high. In other words, you will always be able to book with Southwest points (unless the flight is sold out), but it might not necessarily be the lowest cost (by cost I mean in points/miles) option.

Cost from US to Liberia, Costa Rica: Varies, based on cash price of ticket.  Mine was about 28,000 points roundtrip and the cash price was around $500.

Costa Rica flights on southwest points

American Airlines flies direct from DFW, Miami, and Charlotte to Liberia, Costa Rica

  • SPG Starpoints transfer to AAdvantage at a 1:1 ratio
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards Points do not transfer directly to American Airlines, but you can still book AA flights with other Chase UR and Amex MR partners.

American Airlines AAdvantage has a fixed, region based award chart.  That means that one region (continental US) to another region (Central America) costs the same amount of miles, regardless of departure city and/or number of stops.

Alternative options if you do not have AAdvantage miles or SPG points to transfer to AAdvantage:

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, or SPG Starpoints to British Airways.

You cannot transfer British Airways Avios (miles) to AA, but you can use British Airways Avios to book American Airlines flights.

If you live in a city with direct flights, it’s less than AAdvantage thanks to the award ticket pricing structure of British Airways Executive Club.  Unlike American Airlines, British Airways charges by distance.   This is good and bad.

Good: Any AA flight within North America under 1150 miles in distance is 7500 Avios.  The greater the distance, the more Avios it will cost.  Since Miami is less than 1150 miles from Costa Rica, the cost is 7,500 Avios each way.  DFW and Charlotte are more than 1150 miles from Costa Rica, so the cost is slightly higher at 10,000 Avios each way.  If you live in MIA, DFW, or CLT, this results in a lower cost than what AAdvantage charges.

Bad: British Airways charges for distance per segment, not for total distance.  So you’ll have to pay for 2 or more segments if your departure airport is not one with direct flights.

For example, New Orleans (MSY)-DFW-LIR is priced as the total of MSY-DFW plus DFW-LIR, not the distance from MSY-LIR as the crow flies.

  • MSY-DFW is 7,500 Avios
  • DFW-LIR is 10,000 Avios
  • Total is 17,500 each way

If both segments are relatively short distances, it may come out equal to or less than what AAdvantage charges.

Cost from US to Liberia, Costa Rica to book American Airlines flights:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage: 12,500 or 17,500 AAdvantage miles per person each way,  depending on peak dates.  These numbers apply to any departure city in the continental US (as long as there is MilesAAVer availability)
  • British Airways Executive Club: as low as 7,500 Avios each way.  Remember that MilesAAver level tickets must be available on AA for all segments if you’re going to use BA Avios to book.  Also, you’ll likely have to call BA after confirming availability on AA.com. There is a glitch in BA’s system right now, but the agents are pleasant and seem aware of the glitch, so any phone booking fees should be waived.  Hopefully the ability to book AA on BA.com will be restored soon!
Costa Rica on American Airlines AAdvantage miles

More pics from our activities will be posted soon!

United flies direct from Houston (IAH) to Liberia, Costa Rica 

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer directly to United at a 1:1 ratio
  • SPG Starpoints transfer to United but at a 2:1 ratio.
  • American Express Membership Rewards Points do not transfer directly to United, but you can still book United flights by transferring Amex MR to other partners

United has a fixed/region based award chart like American Airlines.  Booking through United Mileage Plus costs 17,500 miles each way from the US, regardless of your departure city and/or number of stops.

Alternatives to United miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards:

If you have SPG points or Amex MR points, they do not transfer to United (at least not at a 1:1 ratio).  But you can transfer them to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer at a 1:1 ratio and then use KrisFlyer miles to book United flights for the same price (17,500 miles each way).  You can can check for availability on United.    Remember, you need to make sure there are saver level award tickets available.  Make sure you are logged out of your United account because MileagePlus may show members saver space that will not be available to book with partners.  FYI, KrisFlyer is also a partner of UR.

Cost (each way) from US to Liberia, Costa Rica on United flights:

  • 17,500 United miles
  • 17,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United
  • 17,500 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer

Costa Rica on miles

Delta flies direct to Liberia, Costa Rica from Atlanta (ATL) , New York (JFK), Minneapolis (MSP) and Los Angelos (LAX) 

  • SPG Starpoints and Amex MR transfer to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards do not transfer directly to Delta, but you can still book Delta flights by transferring to other Chase UR partners

Delta Skymiles cost seems to be 22,000 each way at the lowest from the US, but Delta no longer publishes an award chart.  It’s not always easy to predict what their saver price is, because they seem to change from day to day.  When I searched a few different routes, the lowest I could find was 22,000, but that could go up or down depending on the Delta god’s mood on any given day.  Just kidding. Kind of.

Alternatives to booking Delta flights

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Reward to AirFrance FlyingBlue. Since AirFrance/KLM are SkyTeam alliance partners with Delta, you can use FlyingBlue miles to book Delta flights.  Like Delta, there is no published award chart, but the lowest cost seems to be 17,500 each way.  Their prices also seem a little more stable than Delta.

Amex Membership Rewards and SPG Starpoints also transfer to AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue.  Although both programs transfer to Delta, it may make more sense to transfer to FlyingBlue since the award ticket cost seems to be cheaper.  As always, never transfer any points to any program until you’ve confirmed availability and pricing for your dates.

Cost (each way) from US to Liberia, Costa Rica on Delta flights:

  • 22,000 Delta Skymiles.  But remember, their award prices are pretty unpredictable so this could change anytime.
  • 17,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue
  • 17,500 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred to KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue
Costa Rica on miles and points

This is a mess. Kind of like Delta’s award program!

Alaska Airlines flies direct from LAX to Liberia, Costa Rica 

  • SPG Starpoints transfer to Alaska Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards Points do not transfer directly to Alaska Airlines, but you can still book Alaska Airlines flights with other Chase UR and Amex MR partners.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan charges 15,000-17,500 miles each way for flights from the US to Costa Rica.  According to the award chart, the cost is 17,500.  (There is a promotion going on right now so some dates are currently pricing at 15,000 each way).

You can also book Alaska Airlines flights with AAdvantage for 17,500 miles each way and vice versa.

Alternatives for booking Alaska Airlines flights to Costa Rica

You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and then use KrisFlyer miles to book Alaska Airlines flights.

From LAX, the cost is only 12,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles each way.  At first glance, this award chart seems great.  Zone 3 (Texas) to Zone 4 (Costa Rica) prices at 7,500 miles.  But the catch is that this works like British Airways in that you’re charged per segment.  So if direct DFW-LIR was an option, that would be great!  The reality is that from DFW (and any other airport than LAX) you’re looking at 2 or 3 segments each way.

Costa Rica KrisFlyer miles

Cost (each way) from US to Liberia, Costa Rica on Alaska Airlines flights:

  • 17,500 Alaska Airlines miles (less on some dates thanks to a promotion a the time of publishing)
  • 17,500 SPG points transferred to Alaska Airlines
  • (direct to and from LAX only) 12,000 Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • From airports other than LAX, the cost of booking with KrisFlyer miles will vary depending on your departure city.

JetBlue flies direct from New York (JFK) and Boston (BOS)

Im going to be completely honest here.  With me being in DFW and JetBlue being based up north, I just haven’t had enough experience with their award program to give any info.

The best credit cards to earn the points and miles needed for free flights to Costa Rica

Costa Rica on miles

Lexie and I would rather pay to fly through the rainforest than pay for flights to Costa Rica!

This depends on a few factors.

  1. Your Chase 5/24 status*
  2. Your departure airport

*I wrote a whole post about the 5/24 policy as it relates to earning the miles and points needed for Costa Rica, so please read it before applying for any cards!!

The short version: Chase is the issuer of some of the best credit cards for travel. Chase limits the amount of credit cards one can open in a 24 month period.  It is generally believed that anyone who has opened 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months will not be approved for certain Chase credit cards. This includes any credit card account that shows on your credit report, not just Chase accounts. Once you’re at 5/24, Chase will deny an application for a card subject to 5/24 such as Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

If you are under 5/24, I would suggest a Chase Sapphire card to most beginners

The best card for beginners is usually a Chase Sapphire card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.   The sign up bonus on each of these is currently 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after meeting the minimum spending requirement.    The other Chase Sapphire card that earns Ultimate Rewards is the Chase Ink Business Preferred card, so if you qualify for a business card, you should consider that one.

You can have an Ink Preferred card and a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred open, but you cannot have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve open at the same time.

If you’re torn between Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred, click here for more information and a comparison.

Once you have a Sapphire card that earns Ultimate Rewards, the next cards you should consider are any hotel or airline cards issued by Chase that are subject to the 5/24 rule.   Southwest, United, and the personal version of the Marriott card are subject to the 5/24 rule.  The Hyatt card is NOT subject to 5/24.  But I will discuss that in a separate post.

andaz Costa Rica on points

If you’re over 5/24, you still have options for flights to Costa Rica on miles

I would probably suggest opening a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards such as the Platinum Card or the Premier Rewards Gold Card.  The sign up bonus will be higher on the Platinum, but so will the annual fee.  I would do this before going for airline co-branded cards, because Amex points give you flexibility to transfer to different airline programs, whereas airline cards limit you to earning miles in one program.

The last option is to open airline co-branded cards (from banks other than Chase).  Since Chase is the bank that issues Southwest and United credit cards, and these cards are 5/24 cards, you would not be approved if you’re over 5/24.

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta cards are issued by other banks, so you may be able to get those even if you’re over 5/24.

Costa Rica on miles and points

Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards have partners that give you the ability to book flights with several airlines either directly or indirectly

For that reason, I generally suggest getting cards that earn Chase UR or Amex MR before getting airline co-branded cards.  Earning flexible points gives you more options when you’re ready to book your flights. You can check availability on multiple airlines rather than being limited to just one program.  If there are multiple options, go with the program that charges the least amount of miles/points and then transfer.

Note that SPG Starpoints also transfer to several of these airlines, but I won’t discuss that as much since I will not be collecting Starpoints from credit card spending after August 1.

A few tips remember:
  • Confirm availability for your dates before you transfer any points. Transfers are permanent.
  • Although transfers from Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards tend to show up in your airline account immediately, I suggest putting an award flight on hold if possible before you transfer.  Not all airlines allow this, but in the event that there is a delay of the points being received, you can be certain that your ticket will still be available.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer options for Costa Rica flights: 

Chase Ultimate Reward Transfer Partners 2018

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards directly to United MileagePlus and Southwest Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 ratio

Indirect partners of Chase UR:

  • American Airlines by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club and then using British Airways Avios (miles) to book the AA flight.
  • Alaska Airlines by transferring Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and then using KrisFlyer miles to book the Alaska Airlines flight
  • Delta by transferring Ultimate Rewards to KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue and then using FlyingBlue miles to book the Delta flight
  • Delta by transferring Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air Skypass and then using Skypass miles to book the Delta flight. The problem with Skypass is that only roundtrip tickets are allowed.  So you will have to make sure there is availability both ways.  All of the other programs mentioned here allow one way.  I prefer programs that allow one-way because you can use a different airline for your return trip if there is no availability with the airline you use for your departure flight.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer options for Costa Rica flights: 

Amex Mr airline transfer partners June 2018

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards directly to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.  You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards directly to JetBlue but not at a 1:1 ratio.

Indirect partners of Amex MR:

  • American Airlines by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club and then using British Airways Avios (miles) to book the AA flight.
  • Alaska Airlines by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and then using KrisFlyer miles to book the Alaska Airlines flight
  • United by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and then using KrisFlyer miles to book the United flight.
  • Delta by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue and then using FlyingBlue miles to book the Delta flight.  This may result in a lower cost than using Delta, even though Delta is a direct partner of Amex.

There is no way to book Southwest flights with Amex Membership Rewards points.

Summary

If you’re a beginner, you and a spouse/partner can earn a trip to Costa Rica for only the prices of airlines taxes (~$80 each) if you each open a credit card or two and earn the sign up bonuses. You can be on your way to Costa Rica in less than a year if you start today!

Before you apply for any cards, remember to plan around the Chase 5/24 rule.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you’re torn between Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred, click here for more information and a comparison.

  • Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 Months
  • Annual Fee: $95, but waived the first year
  • Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on travel and dining
Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on travel and dining
  • Notable benefits: $300 travel credit per calendar year, $100 reimbursement for TSA or Global Entry enrollment, airport lounge access
Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card
  • Bonus:80,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $5,000 in 3 Months
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Bonus: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $5,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Bonus Categories: 5 points per dollar on flights booked direct through airlines, 5 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com
  • Notable benefits: $200 airline incidental reimbursement per calendar year (click here for more info), $200 total in Uber credits annually, $100 reimbursement for TSA precheck or Global Entry enrollment, airport lounge access
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
  • Bonus:25,000 Membership Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $2,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $195, waived for the first year
  • Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar at US restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.
  • Notable benefits: $100 annual airline incidental credit
AAdvantage® Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • Bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Minimum spend for bonus: none!! You just have to make one purchase.  Even a pack of gum counts.
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Categories: 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases
  • Notable benefits: first checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation, 10% redeemed miles back, preferred boarding group
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
  • Bonus: 30,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $1,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Bonus Categories: 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America purchases
  • Notable benefits: Annual companion ticket, first checked bag free for cardholder and up to six passengers on the same reservation
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
  • Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $99, waived for first year
  • Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on AA purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants and gas stations
  • Notable benefits: first checked bag free for cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation, 10% redeemed miles back, preferred boarding group
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card from Chase

 Click here to read more about how to earn the companion pass from Southwest.

  • Bonus: 40,000 Rapid Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $1,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on Southwest airfare
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card from Chase

Click here to read more about how to earn the companion pass from Southwest

  • Bonus: 60,000 Rapid Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $3,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on Southwest airfare
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