American Airlines Selling Miles At Lowest Cost In Years

Filed Under: American, American AAdvantage
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Obviously this isn’t the time to buy miles speculatively. However, there are also lots of people planning last minute trips to get home, or planning travel way in advance, so if that applies to you, buying miles at a discount could be worth considering. That’s why I’ll keep covering deals to buy points as they arise.

American AAdvantage constantly has promotions on purchased miles. The airline has just published their latest promotion, which offers the lowest cost on purchased miles that I’ve seen from American in a very long time.

American’s Promo On Purchased Miles

Before I talk about this promotion specifically, it’s worth noting that nowadays American Airlines requires you to log into your account to see what offer is available on purchased miles. Therefore it’s possible that some offers are targeted, and not everyone may see the same offers.

With the latest promo, American is offering the following tiered bonuses on purchased miles through April 12, 2020:

  • Buy 2,000-9,000 miles, get a 50% bonus
  • Buy 10,000-49,000 miles, get a 70% bonus
  • Buy 50,000-149,000 miles, get an 80% bonus
  • Buy 150,000 miles, get a 100% bonus

In order to achieve the lowest cost per mile you’d want to purchase exactly 150,000 miles pre-bonus. If you did that, you’d receive a total of 300,000 miles at a cost of $4,794.50, which is ~1.6 cents per AAdvantage 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.

As far as American’s bonuses and discounts on purchased miles go, generally they charge ~1.8-2.15 cents per mile. This current promotion is over 10% better than any other promotion we’ve seen from American in quite a while.

Is Buying American Miles A Good Deal?

Personally I value American AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents each. While American significantly devalued their award chart a few years back, there are still some excellent uses of their miles, especially for travel in business class on partner airlines.

As a reminder, here’s the cost of first and business class awards originating in the US 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 instances where it could make sense to pick up miles during a promotion with a short term use in mind.

For example, last year I redeemed 75,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way Qatar Airways business class ticket from Cape Town to the US, which I consider to be a spectacular value.

Which Credit Card Should You Buy Miles With?

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

CardPoints earned on airfare spend
The Platinum Card® from American Express5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent
Citi Prestige Card5x ThankYou points per dollar spent
American Express® Gold Card3x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent
Chase Sapphire Reserve®3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent
Citi Premier℠ Card3x ThankYou 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.

Other Great Ways To Earn American Miles

There are lots of great ways to earn American miles aside from outright buying them. At the moment there are excellent welcome bonuses on co-branded American Airlines AAdvantage Cards, as follows:

Current American AAdvantage Offers

Buy American Miles Summary

American’s new promotion on purchased miles offers miles at the lowest cost we’ve seen from them in a very long time. Of course that’s for good reason, because I imagine demand for buying miles right now is virtually non-existent.

Generally speaking I wouldn’t recommend speculatively buying American miles without a use in mind, in particular given the uncertainty right now.

However, this promotion is at least worth being aware of, and everyone can decide for themselves if it makes sense.

Do you plan on buying American miles with this promotion?

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  1. A few criticisms on this post, Ben

    1) The chart with the “cost” of rewards is basically not applicable anymore. With the reduction of saver awards and the introduction of Web Specials, one-way business class flights to Europe generally cost 85,000 to 100,000 (or more) not 57,500. Saver inventory isn’t as relevant anymore for a lot of popular routes. This obviously may change in a lower demand environment, but who knows

    2) For people willing and able to spend $4,800, it may make sense to buy airfare directly over the next couple of years due to sales

    In the current environment, lending AA (or other airlines) cash for miles at value above what the points are worth (I think AA miles are worth closer to 1.2 cents) doesn’t make much sense. Better to save that cash, put it in the stock market, etc.
    AA miles

  2. If the airlines could park all their planes and sell just miles, they would do it in a heartbeat (which is not to say that Doug Parker, Scott Kirby et al have a heart). They’re really more mileage programs with auxiliary aviation operations.

  3. Echoing Danny, thanks but no thanks.

    If they wanted to guarantee current miles against future devaluations, I might reconsider. Better yet, if the airlines wanted to sell “mileage devaluation insurance” for like $100 I’d jump.

  4. Why would anyone loan American Airlines cash right now? Their points are only worth 1.1 cents each and AA leadership has shown complete disrespect for customers. Buy AA miles? I don’t think so Scooter.

  5. This is essentially a free loan Given to AA with no repayment terms. Win-Win for them. Caveat Emptor

  6. If you want AA miles right now, far better to donate to the Red Cross and get the 10 miles per dollar. You get to help people, get miles, and some of the donation is still tax deductible even after you discount whatever overvaluation is listed for the miles.

  7. I was always a fan of buying miles on deals like this in the old US Air world. In those days you could get off-peak round trip business class (with decent availability usually) to Europe for 60k in points each. Now days AA wants 115k round trip, even in the winter if you can find award seats and only if they release any of them for the 115k price. Just not worth it and worth even less with an airline that might not even make it past August 2020 if we don’t stop this flu panic soon. I’d prefer to hold on to cash right now. Even if you did want to speculate I’d think buying stock would be a better use of this money as a gamble.

  8. I agree with Anthony. This is a bad idea, Airlines will be having tons of bargains and you will be able to buy premium cabin tickets for much less than normal.

    It is similar to people buying gift cards to support various restaurants. There are no guarantees that they will be worth anything, or they may be worth only a fraction of what you expected.

  9. Interesting idea. Can you shed any light on whether a “voucher” obtained from canceled travel can be applied to “purchase” miles using the above option?

  10. Wake me when the cost goes down to a penny a mile with at least a 100% bonus.

    I’m going back to bed.

  11. Is the web fare special in American business class for 45,000 one way between US and Tokyo a good deal ? Do you get access to the Japan Airlines lounge in Haneda ?

  12. Thanks for the disclaimer at the top but this is just frankly bad advice and you usually dispense pretty good advice. Wake up Ben. The world is not what it was

  13. @ Stvr — That’s hogwash. I added the disclaimer for a reason, and it’s not like I’m getting a commission on people buying these points. This blog has a wide readership, and while this doesn’t make sense for most people, it will make sense to some.

    The reality — whether you agree with it or not — is that some people will get value out of this. For example, if someone could buy miles now so that they can book Qsuites business class for a safari in Africa next year, can you say with absolute certainty that it’s a bad idea?

    If done correctly (factoring in earning 5x points on the purchase), acquisition costs here are well under 1.5 cents each. If you could redeem 150K miles for a roundtrip business class ticket on Qatar Airways to Africa for next year, that’s like paying $2,200 out of pocket.

    Some people will find that to be a good value, and who are you to tell them they shouldn’t do that with their money?

  14. Ben – as I said before, my main problem with the post is that it does not reflect how difficult it has become to redeem AA miles at many of the point values you continue to cite – especially for the average traveler who does not pay for award booking services. If it were relatively simple to redeem points at the cited values, the post would be more defensible. To emphasize, the claim

    “As a reminder, here’s the cost of first and business class awards originating in the US under the current program:”

    Simply is not true anymore

    If you caveat the post by emphasizing where you should get the most value (which is partner flights to Asia or Africa), then it would be fairer. Also, if D3King is right, maybe there are Web Specials worth redeeming now. However as of now the post is incomplete. I personally have bought AA miles before under similar sales and would not do so again.

  15. @lucky

    No, Stvr isn’t full of hogwash. I like AAdvantage a lot — but not to fly AA. I mostly fly to Asia on CX or JL. So if I were buying miles now, it would be with the expectation of flying one of those two partners over the pacific.

    There’s no telling whether or not CX is going to survive this, and if they do, what their route structure will look like.

    Would I park $2200 with AAdvantage right now? Hell no. I’m not getting rid of cold hard cash until this stuff all settles down.

    On its face, $2200 for a round trip J ticket overseas is plenty good value. Now just isn’t the time to leave money in an airline’s coffers that one does not have an immediate use for it.

    And let’s be clear: *NOBODY* has an immediate use for AA miles, period.

  16. Yea. This article is tone deaf for the variety of reasons outlined above. Keep the cash. Who knows what the routes/valuations/partners will look like in a year? Airlines just want to borrow your money right now without committing to how they are gonna pay u back.

  17. After American just went through its membership with a buzz saw, cancelling accounts for alleged “fraud” when people following the terms maximized Citi credit card bonuses, I simply cannot fathom why anyone would trust this program. That’s leaving aside the fact that American may not even be flying a few months from now.

  18. MIA-MXP-MIA for September 230k miles return for Business Class on the non-stop 777-200. Knock yourselves out…

  19. AA should better introduce a life-time first class pass, which allows the holder to fly first class on any flight they offer for free. They did that before.

  20. I don’t know why people are so quick to jump on Lucky. He is just passing along info. I bet the same people would jump on him for not letting them know.

    However, I do agree with others that better opportunities will come in the future, so taking a pass right now.

  21. Writing New Zealand and someone who just picked up a returning kiwi from lon-akl this morning on Qatar airways (which I could not book with points). AA miles at present really have value for me as British airways is still flying from London to Sydney (well for another week anyway) and for 60000 econ, 85000 business that is much cheaper than the current one way fares charged and gave me a real option to book a flight immediately if needed. Luckily Qatar increased their flights and had a direct flight to New Zealand instead of having to transit via Sydney. While I would not spend $4000+ USD on points at present I thank Lucky for keeping me informed

  22. Something to take into account for USA citizens/residents considering booking international travel is that it is very likely that USA citizens/residents will be persona non grata in just about every country in the world for the forseeable future do to the sheer numbers of COVID19 infections in the USA.

  23. I think it’s an amazing deal! I’ve been with AA for five years and haven’t seen any mileage sale this good. Yesterday I booked a December trip to Rome in J on AA metal for 107,000 miles. If I had purchased the miles, instead of having them on hand, the price would have been $1940. Purchasing the flight would have been $3100. Maybe better offers could come along but I wanted to book this trip now and I was happy with my deal. YMMV.

  24. @Donna

    Huh? This conversation is about whether one should *buy* miles for far-out travel, not whether one should *book* far-out travel with miles already on hand… and the actual cost of a revenue J ticket that far out is mostly irrelevant.

    In this environment, locking up cash with an airline doesn’t seem to be wisest idea for a number of reasons.

  25. @TimR

    Nope, not me. What lucky gaveth in the main post, he walked back a little in the comments. He does say that one shouldn’t speculatively by miles, and in this environment, everything is just speculation. You can be planning for that trip next year after things can be assumed to settle down, but there’s no guarantee that any particular city will be served, that the airline you’re flying on remains solvent, etc. In those situations, you’ll get your miles back without a redeposit fee, but those miles are staying in your account and you’re not getting your cash back in your pocket.

    I’ve got miles sitting in my account, and hoping inventory will be free for the taking to get butts in seats. But would I lock up a few thousand bucks? Not right now. Maybe once they economy opens back up for business.

  26. @Dan. Huh? My point was to illustrate that the mileage sale was a good deal for booking now. If I didn’t have the mileage on hand I would have purchased the miles. I never suggested buying miles speculatively.

  27. @Donna

    Except you didn’t illustrate that at all. You said you were “happy with your deal” which wasn’t really a deal… you just redeemed miles you already had in your account, which is something we all do with our miles, otherwise what’s the point?

    Then, you said “Maybe better offers could come along” but I don’t get that at all. If they reduce the number of miles required, then you rebook your ticket and put miles back in your account, yes?

    The bigger question, which is much more germane to this thread topic, is whether one should take the risk of buying miles now, without knowing anything about how things are going to shake out 6+ months down the road. How happy would you be if you dropped $2k out of pocket now, and then AA decides they’re dropping FCO, and won’t rebook you on BA without charging the fuel surcharges? You’ll get your miles back in your FF account, but you’re not getting $2k back in your bank account.

  28. @stvr

    While I do agree with you on many parts, cherry picking flights isn’t one of them.

    Prices of premium cabins have gone down much but still not to a significant point where miles are worthless and you are better paying cash.

    For all I see, it is still a good value for a future trip. But “right now” I see this as speculation the existence of AAdvantage rather than speculation of trips. For that reason to bet on AA future, I think this is NOT a good buy. If they sell me at a cheap price like 0.5 with a minimum of 5MM miles as a high buy-in, maybe I would take the bet.

  29. 40M miles to Hawaii? Not unless you want a circuitous route with multiple stops and long layovers. A direct flight from DFW will run 145M miles on some days. The current award pricing makes purchasing miles not much more than an AA gimmick to separate you from your hard earned money.

  30. I agree that this is a bad time to purchase miles. I recently drained all of our AS mikes for 3 RT tickets to Philippines via CX in August. A little worried that AS mileage program might go revenue based or even for their long term viability.

  31. Just another data point to confirm this is different between people: My 4 bonus amounts (for the same ranges) are slightly different at 50% / 75% / 85% / 100%.

  32. Using the usual template with a few minor tweeks for a new AA miles sale seems inappropriate, or dare I say, lazy, in these extraordinary times.
    There are no short-term opportunities to fly now and in the foreseeable future, and forward planning is futile as no airline can honestly publish a schedule which will stick. Research places you want to visit by all means, but don’t waste your time figuring out how you will get there and back. A fool’s errand for 2020.
    And don’t buy any-ones miles!

  33. Yes, the airlines do themselves a disservice when they constantly devalue points when it suits them, and makes point available flights harder to find. It is fine if you receive points for loyalty…then it is completely up to the airlines to restrict demand or vary the points worth, but when you purchase points, you are basically exchanging cold hard cash for something that comes with a myriad of caveats that gives the airline all the power. However, if your flight dates are flexible, and you travel alone and are prepared to go to places you wouldn’t normally consider, then they can be great value.

  34. Off topic

    I was wondering for a while now. What makes yourself honorable. Isn’t it a courtesy title when someone else calls a judge. Never heard Judge Judy call herself the Honorable Judy.
    No offense, just curious?
    Same as those who put their degree title outside of academia usage, never made sense to me.
    Every time I see people put it on their business card it feels just like seeing this.

    Linda Walker, AA-EXP
    Chris L Martin, MVP75k RCL Pinnacle Club
    CF Frost, DeltaDM HH Diamond Marriott Ambassador
    D. Barrett, UnitedGS IHG Platinum
    Gary Kelly, A-List Preferred
    Lee M. Cardholder, VISAInfinite single dad
    Daenerys Targaryen, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons
    Doug Parker, MBA Never lose money
    Donald J Trump, Billionaire

    Everyone feel free to contribute.

  35. AA is typically charging 375K miles one way for business class from USA to Australia. Not 2 x 80K – but 4.6 x. I have seen it as high as 6x (480K) one way).

    I have redeemed miles to Australia in J or F for the past 30 years (every year). Mostly on Qantas via AA (AA never does at the low levels) – but that has become impossible this year (before the current situation). 2 x 375K is 750K miles roundtrip. Buying 300K miles for $4.7K won’t get you there one way. Better to just buy the ticket.

    I was able to use UA miles (before) this year – since UA opens up seats a various times including close to departure. I view UA miles to be much more valuable.

  36. Ditto Ditto Ditto: Ben – as I said before, my main problem with the post is that it does not reflect how difficult it has become to redeem AA miles at many of the point values you continue to cite – especially for the average traveler who does not pay for award booking services. If it were relatively simple to redeem points at the cited values, the post would be more defensible. To emphasize, the claim
    “As a reminder, here’s the cost of first and business class awards originating in the US under the current program:”
    Simply is not true anymore

    It took me 6 months of on line checking AND calling AA to finally get a QSuite from DFW to DOH

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