Free flights to Brazil or spend just $303.45 for your year-round ticket

Posted on July 16, 2014 by in Best use American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Hotels

Brazil is a captivating destination – with a tropical climate, pretty beaches and the Amazon region that has inspired travelers for generations. It's one of my favorite places.

However, Brazil is also a really expensive vacation destination – so why not take the sting out of the price by getting a free flight to Brazil?

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Option 1 – Get the LANPASS credit card

The LANPASS credit card is issued by US Bank. You can apply through this link.

The annual fee is waived for the first year.

Once you are approved for the card, you will need to run 45 transactions on this card. There is no specific pattern amount needed so small everyday purchases are fine. Btw this card also gives you 20% off your first LAN purchase (up to $1,000).

The LAN award chart charges just 48,000 kilometers (not miles!) for flights from anywhere in the US to Brazil as long as you are using LAN and TAM flights only.

Once you have 48,000 kilometers in your account you can call LANPASS to redeem your free flight to Brazil. LAN flies to a number of US destinations so you will need to find the one closest to you. Most of my trips on LAN have been from Los Angeles and New York. Sadly the San Francisco service stopped before I could make use of it.

Next, pull up ba.com and search for availability for each leg individually. Usually the best connecting point is Lima (LIM). The only direct flight from Lima is now Sao Paulo (GRU). In theory you are free to use TAM or LAM flights, though so far only LAN flights priced out for me at the 48,000 kilometers level. From GRU you can connect to almost anywhere in Brazil using TAM. However, flights inside Brazil are cheap (especially given the inflated price level in Brazil in general).

The agent may give you some pushback and determine that only results for the round-trip that come up in their search engine at 48,000 kilometers are valid. This is nonsense though, so hang up and call again until an agent prices it correctly.

Taxes and fees should price under $100 – often much below that.

And there is your free flight!

Option 2 – Apply for the Starwood credit card

American Express usually gives you 25,000 points if you open a new card and spend more than $5,000 on it. This yields 30,000 Starpoints for you (incl. the one point per $1 spend).

American Express issues both a Personal and Business card. You can apply for the Personal card here and the Business card here.

You can transfer Starpoints to LANPASS kilometers. It usually takes about 10 business days for the transfer to complete.

Starwood throws in 5,000 points if you transfer more than 20,000. The transfer rate is 1 Starpoint to 1.5 kilometers, so you will need to transfer about 25,250 points for the 48,000 kms. The exact amount depends on your status with Starwood.

You can call Starwood and let them make the transfer over the phone. They may be in a better position to determine the exact number of points needed.

Once the 48,000 kilometers hit your account you can go to Option 1 and call LANPASS and book your free flight.

Option 3 – Manufacture points

In our recent article we showed you how to accumulate one million miles with just about $6,000. You can use the same technique to accumulate Starpoints if you already have a Starwood card.

All you need to do is to find a store that lets you buy gift cards using a credit card. Here in San Francisco a number of grocery stores allow you up to $3,000 a day.

Since we need 25,250 Starpoints, we need to spend $25,250 using a Starwood card. Using gift cards, making purchases of $3,000 a day is 8 days of 'work'. The fees for the gift cards will accumulate to $303.45. To get your money back you may have an additional cost (depending on the way you choose) but it should be insignificant. Please refer to our original article 'How to make one million airline miles with just 2 credit cards and $6436.75'.

Once the 25,250 Starpoints are credited with the next statement, go to Option 2 and start the transfer.

Disclaimer: No credit cards have been harmed in this post and no banks have been wrung out of their dollars!

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