Airborne and satellite remote sensing is the only practical approach for deriving a wide area, regional assessment of glacier mass balance. A number of remote sensing approaches are possible for inferring the mass balance from some sort of proxy estimate. Here, we review the key methods relevant, in particular to Andean glaciers, discussing their strengths and weaknesses, and data sets that could be more fully exploited. We also consider future satellite missions that will provide advances in our observational capabilities. The methods discussed include observation of elevation changes, estimation of ice flux, repeat measurement of changes in spatial extent, snowline elevation and accumulation-ablation area ratio estimation. The methods are illustrated utilising a comprehensive review of results obtained from a number of studies of South American glaciers, focusing specifically on the Patagonian Icefields. In particular, we present some new results from Glaciar Chico, Southern Patagonian Icefield, Chile, where a variety of different satellite and in-situ data have been combined to estimate mass balance using a geodetic or elevation change approach over about a 25 yr period.