Buy American Miles For Less Than Two Cents Each

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American has just announced the details of their latest bonus on purchased AAdvantage miles. American’s new bonus on purchased miles is valid for purchases through April 30, 2019, so it’s valid for well over a month.

With this promotion you get a tiered bonus when you buy miles. You get a bigger bonus the more miles you buy, as follows:

  • Buy 10,000-19,000 miles, get 4,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 20,000-29,000 miles, get 7,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 30,000-39,000 miles, get 15,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 40,000-54,000 miles, get 22,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 55,000-69,000 miles, get 30,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 70,000-84,000 miles, get 40,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 85,000-119,000 miles, get 55,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 120,000-149,000 miles, get 75,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 150,000 miles, get 100,000 bonus miles

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 250,000 AAdvantage miles for $4,794.50, which is a cost of 1.92 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, this is the best promotion they’ve offered so far this year, but not the best they’ve offered ever. For example, so far this year during previous promotions the lowest cost per mile has ranged from 2.03-2.15 cents per mile.

So 1.92 cents per mile is quite a bit better than that. However, for context, last year they sold miles for as little as 1.72 cents each. It’s anyone’s guess when they’ll sell miles at that price again, though.

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 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
Hawaii40,00065,000
Caribbean27,50052,500
Mexico27,50052,500
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Europe57,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Africa75,000120,000
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, recently 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.

However, if you are going to buy miles, ideally you’d do so when they sell them at the lowest cost possible. Right now we have the lowest cost so far in 2019, though we’re not quite at the lowest cost we’ve seen in the past 12 months.

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
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

Bottom line

While I wouldn’t buy American miles without a specific use in mind, there are circumstances under which it could make sense to buy them.

This is the best promotion on AAdvantage miles for 2019, so if you’ve been holding off, this is a better opportunity than the previous promotions we’ve seen so far this year.

While 1.92 cents is significantly more than I (conservatively) value American miles, the reality is that I’ve been redeeming a lot of their miles lately, and I’m actually pretty low.

For example, in the past few months I’ve redeemed:

  • 75,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way Qatar Airways business class ticket from Cape Town to Doha to Dallas
  • 70,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way Etihad business class ticket from Male to Abu Dhabi to New York
  • 57,500 AAdvantage miles for a one-way British Airways and American business class ticket from Mykonos to London to Miami (with low surcharges)

So I keep finding exceptional uses of their miles, to the point that I’m low on miles with them. As much as there are aspects of AAdvantage that frustrate me, there’s no shortage of good deals with their miles.

Do you plan on buying American miles with this promotion?

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Comments

  1. Seriously? You buy for 2 cents each so you can use the 37000 miles for one way domestic coach? Be honest that what they advertise = 12.5K mikes way way saber award is almost non existent for long time. Or use 80000 miles for one way international that has 10 connections and $2000 in surcharge ? The real time value of AA mile is 0.05 cent or half a cent for each mile.

  2. “I keep finding exceptional uses of their miles” – You really must be Lucky! However, most of us don’t have the fortune to decide that they are going to pick up and fly Cape Town to Dallas on a random weekday 11 months out. Genuinely wish I could have such a schedule but reality is AA miles are a waste for the majority. They’ve gutted their “loyalty” program, if one could even call it that. But, If saver level space opened up at a reasonable rate on routes people want to fly then sure I would buy some but that just is not the case.

  3. @Jim,
    I would love to have your AAdvantage miles for half a cent each. May i please have 280,000.
    I need 4 tickets in QSuites @ 70,000 miles each so for me it would be an exceptional value.

  4. @ Tom — While people can certainly argue that my last minute trip planning isn’t representative of the average person, I’d actually argue this particular trip is. I planned a safari about eight months in advance, and I think that’s very much how a “normal” international traveler would plan their trip, no? Like I said, not everyone should buy American miles, but with a specific use in mind it can make sense. And just in the interest of full transparency, I don’t get anything out of people buying American miles…

  5. @ Jim — You should (almost) never buy American miles for travel on American. That’s why all my examples are for travel on partner airlines.

  6. @Lucky I wasn’t suggesting you get kickbacks from AA. I genuinely enjoy your blog and understand you publish these sales to keep your readers informed. I am just speaking to my experiences with AA. I used to fly them a lot but in recent years they have given me no reason to use their program and I really tried for a long time to justify using their program but no longer can. If you can find saver space on their partners within reason then more power to you. It’s just left a bitter taste in my mouth seeing how AA has treated those who gave them so much business.

  7. I’ve signed up for several Citi cards and Barclays cards, meeting the minimum spend on purchased miles when they were less than $.02 per mile, taking the cost down to $.015 or below.. I’ve taken cruises over the last couple years in SE Asia, the Med and next in Scandinavia. To get there, I’ve redeemed for business class flights on Qatar, Cathay Pacific and, yes, upcoming on American in a few days. To Amsterdam, it’s ATL-DFW-LHR on AA, LHR-AMS on BA, home from Copenhagen , CPH-LHR on BA, LHR-JFK, LGA-ATL on AA. That involves traveling on dates with little flexibility, but I’ve had no trouble finding award space for two with AAdvantage miles. Yeah, there’s some circuitous routings, but it’s only my time and I deliberately flew to Singapore via Doha on Qatar to see if they were as good as claimed. (Answer: absolutely). So, while trying to use AA awards can be a pain, to me it’s well worth the effort and still way below the price of purchased economy tickets. Just sayin’.

  8. As some others mentioned, using AA miles is tough. Especially for someone that prefers to travel from the US to Europe. I have nearly 400,000 miles and am finding it hard to use them for 2 tickets (business class or better).

    Most recently I had my girlfriend using 40,000 for a domestic first class R/T ticket since I wasn’t sure what else she would be able to use them for and the going rate for that ticket was $1,000+.

    Not to mention some ridiculous layovers or airport changes on their awards. And the BA flights have the huge taxes/fees applied to them.

    I’ll have to do some searching this weekend and hope I find something useful.

  9. And now with premium economy awards to Europe pricing at 75,000 one-way, business award one way is pricing at 115,000 one way.
    Already have too many miles that are not usable reasonably.

  10. Def. interested in purchasing AA miles as someone based in the Middle East only as long as it can be guaranteed QR remains in Oneworld… also the end of AA-GF partnerships was very disappointing, hope AA revives that partnership .. or maybe with Oman Air instead?

  11. @ onemileatatime, the truth is it is extremely hard to find partner awards that doesn’t have multiple connections and high surcharges! Many of you try to sound like if Etihad biz classs is there up for grab with AA miles. It is almost non existent and AA mile is a rip off. Only worth half a cent a mile . 370000 mile one way non stop domestic coach and 80000 one way international metal or partner cost with 4 connections and high fuel surcharge in many cases. One in a thousand time is not a regular thing so your one or two times good partner award find is not normal!

  12. @Jim,
    Why would you fly domestic coach using the miles? That is not a good use of the miles. In terms of partners, i agree if you are flying to Europe. But outside of that, there are plenty of options. You just have to be flexible and strategic. I have used AAdvantage miles exclusively every year since 2015 to fly with Qatar, Etihad, American, Gulf and Cathay. All in business and all around the dates i wanted to fly. Always 4 tickets. Always the most direct flights.

  13. I’m impressed Lucky was able to book business class 8 months out. My experience trying to get business class from the US to Buenos Aires was terrible. I was going on an Antarctic cruise and started checking as soon as award inventory was loaded (we booked the cruise 18 months in advance) We even hired a search firm to search for us. Month after month nothing showed up in saver class. Finally, in desperation, we paid about 600k miles for two round trip business class tickets, almost triple the “saver” rate. A thoroughly frustrating and awful experience.

  14. Jan 2019 roundtrip LAX to PHL to AMS. AMS to LHR to LAX. AA Business class 120K miles
    Mar 2019 roundtrip LAX to KOA AA coach 36K miles
    Sept 2018 confirmed 1st class upgrade SFO to MIA to UIO. AA $75 & 15K

  15. On the miles-purchasing front:

    Do those miles show up as an AA purchase? Or as Points.com? Because the latter tends not to get the “travel” category needed for juicy earning from most CCs.

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