American’s First 2018 Bonus On Purchased Miles

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Nowadays American AAdvantage offers bonuses on purchased miles more often than not. On January 4 their last bonus on purchased miles ended (which was one of their best bonuses in a long time), and now American has launched their next promotion. Through January 30, 2018, American is offering up to 50,000 bonus miles when you purchase AAdvantage miles.

With this promotion the number of bonus miles you earn is tiered, and based on how many you buy, as follows:

  • Buy 5,000-14,000 miles, get 1,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 15,000-24,000 miles, get 5,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 25,000-49,000 miles, get 10,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 50,000-69,000 miles, get 22,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 70,000-99,000 miles, get 35,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 100,000-150,000 miles, get 50,000 bonus miles

Ordinarily you’ll achieve the lowest cost per mile through these promotions by buying the maximum number of miles, though this time around you can maximize the promotion by buying 100,000 miles, as you’d receive the equivalent of a 50% bonus. If you do that, you’d receive 150,000 AAdvantage miles at a cost of $3,201.25, which is a cost of ~2.13 cents per mile.

As usual, AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old aren’t eligible to purchase miles. Furthermore, there’s a cap of purchasing 150,000 AAdvantage miles per account per calendar year (pre-bonus), though since it’s the beginning of the year, that limit was reset just over a week ago.

As far as American’s bonuses on purchased miles go, this is one of the less generous promotions we’ve seen. For example, up until last week you could purchase American miles for as little as 1.77 cents each. That was one of the best promotions we had seen in a while, though otherwise typically 2.1 cents per mile is on the high end of their promotions on purchased miles.

Is buying American miles a good deal?

When American devalued their award chart in early 2016, my valuation of AAdvantage miles decreased from ~1.8 cents to ~1.5 cents each. My valuation of American miles has further dropped from ~1.5 cents to ~1.3 cents earlier last year. Ever since the big devaluation, the cost of international first class awards went up in price by the most, by as much as 70% in some instances.

Meanwhile the cost of most business class awards increased as well, though not nearly as drastically. As a reminder, here’s the cost of first and business class awards originating in the U.S. under the current program:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Business ClassFirst Class
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00050,000
Canada & Alaska30,00055,000
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Asia Zone 160,00080,000
Asia Zone 270,000110,000
South Pacific80,000110,000

Qatar Airways business class continues to be a great use of American miles

I find the cost of business class redemptions to still be reasonable in most cases. There are certainly instances where it could make sense to pick up miles during a promotion with a short term use in mind, though I wouldn’t load up at this price. I suspect we’ll see American offer a lower price on purchased miles again sometime soon.

Which credit card should you buy miles with?

American processes mileage purchases directly, which means the purchase of miles does qualify as airfare spend. Therefore you’ll want to consider using one of the following cards for your purchase, since they offer the following bonus miles for airfare spend:

CardPoints earned on airfare spend
The Platinum Card® from American Express5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent
American Express® Gold Card3x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent
Chase Sapphire Reserve®3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

Redeem American miles for JAL business class

For example, I value Membership Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so I view that as an 8.5% return on this spend if you use The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Bottom line

While American miles aren’t as valuable as they used to be, there are still circumstances under which it can make sense to buy them. If you’re in a bind and could use the miles in the short term then buying miles through this promotion isn’t necessarily a bad deal. However, I suspect we’ll see miles for 10-15% less within the next couple of months, if you can wait.

If you are looking to buy miles, keep in mind that American allows five day award holds (meaning you can hold an award ticket, purchase miles, and then ticket the reservation).

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  1. Respectfully, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say…




    But maybe I’ll find a good use for my 300k+ AA miles…

  2. Do mileage purchases count towards the $200 Amex Platinum airline fee reimbursement if you select American as the designated airline?

  3. Only for fools in mots instances
    Not with a ten foot pole
    They devalued their currency and their award availability sucks too
    I can buy other currencies for less and their awards are priced 30% to 40% below what Americans redemption costs are
    They have killed the golden goose
    Even to consider it would have to be 1.8 or below

  4. Is it possible to upgrade from Biz to First on ETIHAD with AA miles? (ticket purchased through corporate egencia/expedia account, likely in Z)

  5. Ditto to what Brenton said.

    Very poor value considering that Saaver award seats trans Atlantic are rarely, if ever, available. I have 350,000 that I keep just for an Anytime emergency, should one ever occur.

  6. A particularly stingy way for AA to kick off 2018.
    On the same day United offers something a tad better.
    There is no point diving in and buying either, thereby using up your whole, or part, annual limit so early on, unless you really, really, really need some extra miles to complete a itinerary for, like, next week.

  7. I was thinking of buying 150K thus getting 200k miles and booking LHR-DOH for QSuites for 85K miles….and still having miles left over for other travel.

    Is it not worth it? I checked AwardHacker to see how many miles needed per flight.

  8. Thank you for the analysis, Ben. Unfortunately, AA miles have become worthless. Can’t seem to find any reasonable use for my 400K miles. Now they have this ridiculous addition of convoluted connections for every “SAAver” flight.
    Maybe Barclay and Citi will finally realize they are buying a worthless commodity.

  9. I need help in deciding the best value. I just received a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard and need to spend $3,000 in first 3 months to get 60k AA miles. (1) I can buy American Air miles under the new promo of 100k + 50k bonus using my Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card for $3,201. That would net me 150k in purchase and 60k for the sign up bonus, or 210k in AA miles, plus 2x $3201 for the cost of the miles or an additional 6400 AA miles. Total AA miles equals 216,400 AA miles.
    Or (2) I can use my AMX Platinum card for 5x $3201 for16k in membership rewards and 150k in AA miles. I would still need to spend 3k on the Citi AAdvantage card within 3 months to get the 60k bonus miles, which should not be a problem. This is all confusing to me and I don’t know how to value the two options.

    Lucky and your readers, which is the best choice of the two? Thanks for your help.

  10. Actually BUY AA miles? Bwahaha… Stop, you’re killing me. 😉

    Sure, if you are 6,000 miles short of a FC TATL Anytime award, you might as well get the bonus thrown in with the purchase. But otherwise, what Brenton and Tony said:

    “Fools Gold”

  11. @old flyer

    Depends on what your redemption goals are.

    I would say it’s a no brainer to use the Amex Platinum card since 16k MR points is significantly more lucrative an an additional 6,400 AA miles, but I’m not sure buying miles qualifies for the 5x MR bonus category. I think it has to be airfare purchased from airlines (buying miles is usually done through a subsidiary).

    Either way, you should only only only even consider buying the 100k AA miles if you have immediate plans to use them (and have confirmed wide open availability). You should under no circumstances purchase these miles just to pad your account without plans of using them asap.

  12. Robj,

    Ben says that the purchase of AA miles qualifies as an airline purchase, so you would get the 5x MR bonus or 16k MR if you used the AMX Platinium Card.

    However, both you and Robert and others are saying don’t buy any AA miles with the 50% bonus unless you plan to use them asap, and especially for First Class Travel, which I don’t plan to for now. Sounds like my question is foolish if this deal is so bad.
    Thanks for the feedback

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