Barclaycard Introduces American “Flight Cents” — Buy Miles At A Discount

Filed Under: American, Credit Cards

I love to see credit card companies get creative, and at the moment Barclaycard is piloting a program that I consider to be incredibly innovative. Unfortunately in my case it’s not actually lucrative, but I appreciate the idea behind it.

Barclaycard issues the $95 annual fee AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, which even has an increased 60,000 mile sign-up bonus after the first purchase at the moment. That’s a heck of a sign-up bonus.

In terms of their American portfolio, they also issue the $195 annual fee AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card, which is what I have. You can’t apply for the card directly, but rather can only upgrade from the Aviator Red Card after you’ve had it for at least 12 months. The advantage of the Silver Card is that you can earn more elite qualifying dollars as well as elite qualifying miles for spend.

View from the Wing reports on a new Barclaycard pilot program called “Flight Cents,” that’s showing up when people log into their Aviator Card account. However, there seem to be different versions of the offer. When I log into my account there’s a pop-up about this offer.

Flight Cents rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar, and turns the rounded cents into AAdvantage miles.

Here’s how Barclaycard describes this:

Flight Cents turns rounded up cents into AAdvantage® miles on top of the miles you already earn on purchases. So at the end of every month, we’ll take the total rounded up amount and multiply that number by 50% to determine the total number of miles acquired. You’ll see that total rounded up amount charged to your account each month. See how far your cents can take you.

In other words, for me this is an opportunity to buy American miles at two cents each. For the time being this is a pilot program, and registration is required by September 30, 2017, while the program runs between October 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018. You’re also limited to having a “monthly round up threshold” of $500, meaning in my case I’d be limited to earning 25,000 miles per month.

At two cents per mile, I’m not a buyer of American miles. However, many people report a different offer — some accounts can buy rounded up miles at a penny each. In other words, the same $3.10 purchase in the above example would be rounded up to $4, and you’d receive 90 miles.

While American miles are most definitely worth less than they once were, I’d still pick them up for a penny each. But of course the math isn’t that straightforward, since the math varies based on how big most of your purchases are, and which categories you spend most in.

When deciding whether or not this is worth it, we can’t just look at whether it’s worth picking up American miles at one or two cents each, but also at the opportunity cost of the actual base spend. The Aviator Cards don’t offer great category bonuses, so you’re potentially forgoing quite a few points by using the card, especially if we’re not talking about small purchases.

In other words, if you got the one cent offer, it could absolutely make sense if you always made $1.01 purchases. However, if you often spend $30+ on dining and have a card that offers triple points in that category otherwise, the math doesn’t work out as favorably.

This is an innovative program and I might feel better about it if I got the offer for acquiring miles at a penny each. But at two pennies each I won’t even bother registering.

Did you get this offer on your Aviator Card, and what do you make of it?

Comments
  1. Have the Red card and got the penny-per-mile offer so I signed up. Will definitely cosnider using this card where I never would’ve before.

  2. I got the 2 cent offer so I am not signing up as it makes zero sense. I would have singed up for the penny offer though.

  3. Same here. 2 cent offer which is a scam… for 1 cent per mile I would definately use this card a lot more. I value AA mile at more than 1 cent and I would consider it as a “vacations savings account”

  4. Got the one cent per mile offer. I was about to put my red card aside as I have enough EQD for the year. Now I am using the card for my daily 7-11 soda refill (1.06)

  5. I don’t see any sort of offer when I log in to my account. Its a new card, but I know that on a $4.31 purchase I got five miles.

  6. Just received the penny/mile offer on my AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card, so I pulled the trigger. I live in a high cost smaller market, so FF miles on average are worth about 1.8 +/- cents flying out of my market. Case-in-point, a FF East Coast to West FF Economy trip is 25,000 FF miles vs $570, so in that instance 2.28 cents/mile.

  7. So to max it each month assuming you could make all your transactions end in .01, you’d have to do around 500 transactions. And the 2¢ per mile is certainly not worth it.

  8. Interesting! After reading your post, I checked my account and got the 1 cent offer, so I signed up. My guess, they might have targeted small spenders with 1 cent and big spenders with 2 cents, even with the threshold.

  9. I like the concept, but $500 monthly threshold?
    Would you really want to be spending $500 a month buying airline miles?

  10. All – I too received the 50% multiplier (2 cent) offer. Not only did I not sign up, I actually called and expressed my extreme disappointment. Apparently, this marketing campaign values some Barclaycard customers more than others. There is no way for them to increase the offer to the 100% / one cent level. I had previously raved about the silver benefits (as I’m an Exec Plat and at $50K spend it’s a great deal) , but no longer will I tell others about the benefits of this card, as this has kind of pissed me off.

    (NOTE; or those that do not see the offer: I was using IE 11, and according to Barclaycard, you should see the offer(s) on the bottom right side of your main page. Once I opened that page using a Chrome browser, I was able to see that and a few other offers as well. Barclaycard’s web support was about useless to figure that out.)

  11. I received the one cent per mile offer. My analysis (http://www.debriantravels.com/blog/2017/9/5/barclaycard-aviator-introduces-flight-cents) is pretty much the same as yours. I will register but I won’t shift spend in order to buy miles, something I generally only do if I have a specific need. I get enough promotional opportunities on this card to use off and on throughout the year so I will test the rounding feature on these occasions where I would use the card anyway.

  12. I got a flyer in the mail for the 1 cent offer. I have the Silver card and would consider myself a high spender. It’s the only credit card we use as a family and put every purchase on it since we need AA miles to go to Europe and visit family every year. Works well for us and I am excited about the 1 cent offer to add more miles. We typically get two free tickets and have to pay for one as we don’t have enough miles.

  13. I got an offer in the mail for the 1 cent per mile. I’ve had this card since 2011 (when it was a US Air card) so I’m sure they’re targeting the longtime users.

    I still bristle at the idea of paying much of anything for airline miles. And I’m also old school and log all of my expenses by hand in Quicken, so I could see this round-up being a nuisance, since I would want to separate the amount I’m paying for miles from my actual purchase. Still I’ll probably sign up just for the uniqueness of it. I don’t use this card very often.

  14. Got the 1 cent offer, 2 months in and I have 100K miles so far. I plan on getting the full 300K miles available. My technique is to refill my Amazon gift card for $1.01 505 times each month, yes it takes a bit of time but you can’t buy miles cheaper anywhere.

  15. I just learned about FlightCents when I received my statement today. It seems great to me: right now I get one mile per dollar I spend, now I can get 1 mile for every 2 cents. That’s a 500% increase! Unless I’m missing something it sounds good to me!

  16. Joseph, if this is the Barclay Card FlightCents program then you actually PAY for the additional miles, they are not the same as spend a dollar and get a free mile. You pay 2 cents for 1 mile. It’s an okay trade. I was lucky to get the pilot program with the better rate and it was a good deal. I am still debating if I sign up now for the program at buying 2 cents per 1 mile for the rounded up amount.

  17. Jan 2020 – Just got the Barclay’s card for the sign-up bonus (even though I have the Citi Exec World Elite MC card too). The terms for FlightCents are now:
    “You’ll get 1/2 AAdvantage® mile for every 1¢ you round up, up to your threshold amount.”

    Seems worse than the initial 2017 offer.

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