Buying American Miles Now Counts As Airfare Spend

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I’ve written in the past about which airline and hotel loyalty programs process points purchases directly.

When you buy points directly from an airline or hotel, they’re often processed by, which acts as the third party in these transactions. While the interface is quite easy to use, the downside is that the purchase is processed by them as well. That means the purchase wouldn’t qualify as airline or hotel spend as far as your credit card is concerned.

Conversely, some loyalty programs process points purchases directly. For example, Avianca’s LifeMiles program processes points purchases directly, and that means when you buy miles with them you earn bonus miles as if it’s airfare.


American now processes points purchases directly

Historically American AAdvantage has processed mileage purchases through, though they’re now processing them directly. This has two major implications:

  • Mileage purchases will now qualify as airfare for the purposes of credit card spend
  • Mileage purchases will post to your account instantly, as opposed to taking a few days

Here are the FAQ’s on the new way they process mileage purchases:

What will be reflected on my credit card statement when I receive my monthly bill?

Your statement transaction description will vary based on the type of payment:

American Express: “American Airlines 001-XXXXXXXXXX Description: Frequent Flyer Fee/Purchase”
Visa or Mastercard: “American Airlines 001XXXXXXXXXX Description: Misc”
All others: “American Airlines 001XXXXXXXXXX”

Is American Airlines charging my credit card?


How soon are purchased or gifted miles deposited into the AAdvantage account?

The miles are deposited immediately after the confirmation number is displayed.

Which credit card should you use to purchase AAdvantage miles?

Since this is great news for the purposes of buying miles with credit cards, which should you now use to purchase American AAdvantage miles?

CardPoints earned on airfare spend
The Platinum Card® from American Express5x 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
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
(no annual fee)
2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

Bottom line

Previously this would only qualify as “base” spend, so thanks to this change in processing you’re potentially getting a few percent better “return” than before on points purchases on your credit card. For the time being US Airways mileage purchases are still being processed by

As a reminder, both American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles are offering bonuses on purchased miles through January 2, 2015.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

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  1. It’s pretty amazing how every time you post about which card we should use to buy directly from an airline you forget to mention Citi TY Premier… every time. I’m starting to think this is by design.

  2. you think Amex plat will count this as airline credit? and reimburse me for it? Have $100 credit at US or AA that I have not spent and can’t buy Gift cards in NJ

  3. @ Lantean — Good point, just updated the post to reflect that. Not a card that’s personally on my radar much, but it can be a good option.

  4. @Lucky

    good save. me thinking you don’t promote Citi TY Premier because it’s much better than Sapphire… but i guess that’s just me.

  5. As I just got the US Airways MC which says that it earns 2x on US or AA purchases, so that is an option as well for those w/out an AA card, right…???

  6. @ Lantean — For my spend patterns and redemption goals the Chase Sapphire Preferred is much more rewarding, though everyone looks for different things in cards.

  7. Do you think you could redeem the points using capital one venture points as a travel expense or even arrival card?

  8. Lucky, do AA miles purchsed still count as airline spend? Would it be smart to use my Barclays Aaviator Silver?

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