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Should You Buy AAdvantage Miles at a 35% Discount?

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American Airlines is running a flash sale today through May 11, offering up to 35% off AAdvantage miles (depending on how many miles you purchase). Buying 6,000 to 14,000 miles nets you a 15% discount, but the real value comes when you purchase 100,000 miles or more.

Purchasing miles through this promotion should count as AA spend, so if you have a card that earns a bonus on American or airfare purchases, such as the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card (3x on airfare), the Citi ThankYou Premier card (3x on airfare) or the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard (2x on AA), you may earn bonus miles on your purchase.

Buy miles at up to a 35% discount through May 11, 2015.
Buy miles at up to a 35% discount through May 11, 2015.

My Thoughts

As always, mileage discount promotions aren’t necessarily a good value across the board. Per my recent points and miles valuation post, I value American AAdvantage miles at 1.7 cents each. With American’s current promotion, buying 100,000 miles works out to 2.1 cents per mile. So in the case of this sale, it’s really only worth it if you’re buying 100k miles that you plan to use for a specific redemption—otherwise, you’re likely better off paying with cash and earning miles on the paid ticket.

New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) for 25,000 miles roundtrip.
New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) for 25,000 miles roundtrip.

For example, a roundtrip economy flight from JFK to LAX this May will run you 25,000 miles plus $11.20 in taxes. At 2.1 cents per mile, you’ll pay $536.20 to book the flight with this current promo, assuming you’re buying the full 100,000 miles.

New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $386 roundtrip.
New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $386 roundtrip.

If you were to buy that same flight using cash, however, you’d spend just $386.20. You’d also earn frequent flyer miles on the paid flight, so in this case you’re much better off not purchasing miles.

New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific first for $28,390.
New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific first for $28,390.

On the other hand, for an international redemption such as New York to Hong Kong round-trip in Cathay Pacific first class, this AAdvantage promotion makes a lot more sense. Booked through Cathay’s site, this itinerary costs more than $28,000, compared to 135,000 miles for an AAdvantage award ticket, which works out to a fantastic value of 20.7 cents per mile.

This isn’t the most lucrative purchase miles bonus American has offered—earlier this year you could buy AAdvantage miles with a 60% bonus, making them about 2 cents each—but if you have a specific redemption in mind it could make sense to buy.

Do you plan on taking advantage of this offer, and if so what redemptions do you have in mind?

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Apply Now
  • Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy Group 1 Boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases.1
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 14.24% - 22.24%* (Variable) $95, waived for first 12 months* 0% Excellent/Good