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Non-flight rewards are nothing new, but they usually offer very little value (less than a penny a mile return). However, American launched their new portal and at first glance, it seems to have the potential to offer great value for those frequent flyers who may not want to use their miles for flights. They are even offering 10-20% introductory discounts if you have AA Elite Status, thus enhancing the value of these rewards.
Initial research (I don’t have AA Elite status)
I always get slammed with hefty bills while renting cars in NYC, so I did a search for a compact rental picking up this Saturday at LGA.
Cost from AA Rewards- 3,200 miles+tax
Cost from Nationalcar.com for the same car- $68 (plus tax)
Value of AA mile: 2.1 cents (WOW)
I checked out Los Angeles hotels for Nov 20-21 and saw an “Exclusive deal” for the Intercontinental Century City
Cost from AA Rewards- 18,500 miles (which includes taxes)
Cost from intercontinental.com for the same room- $249 (without tax)
Value of AA mile: 1.4+ cents depending on final tax (which was not shown on intercontinental.com)
I wanted to see if I could book a suite at the W South Beach Dec 15-20 and sure enough, multiple room types, including suites, were available. Not only that, but they have a buy 4 nights, stay for 5 promotion.
Cost from AA Rewards- 241,500 miles (which includes taxes)
Cost from spg.com for the same room- $4005 (incl tax, $801/night)
Value of AA mile: ~1.7 cents
While this wasn’t the most comprehensive sampling, I think this program is a serious enhancement to the AAdvantage program.
Things to note:
1) I doubt stays/rentals will earn points and count towards elite status, but it’s possible
2) Most reservations are non-refundable but can be changed for $30 change.
3) Boutique hotels are not included in the program. It seems to be all major chains.
4) Suites can be reserved, which is a nice feature
5) Exclusive specials seem to generally be a great value
6) For Hilton redemptions, remember that you can transfer AA miles to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio. So if you want to stay at a Hilton, check to see if transferring and redeeming through Hilton will require less miles.
7) Some car rentals don’t include tax, but hotels do. Resort fees may apply for hotels.
8 ) No blackout dates- if theres a hotel room/car available, it should be available through the portal.
Please feel free to post your comments/experiences with the program below. Overall, I see this as a win and hope the other Car/Hotel portals (ah hem, that means you Delta and United) up their game!