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Earning airline miles using the traditional method (actually flying) is just one way to boost your account balance. Fortunately, airlines make it relatively easy to accrue miles without flying, whether through top credit card offers or by utilizing shopping portals and dining reward programs. You can also purchase miles directly from an airline.
Last week, American Airlines announced major changes to the AAdvantage program. Now, the carrier is trying to earn back some of the goodwill it lost by offering incredible flight deals and — starting today — the best mileage purchase rate ever offered. Now through July 8, you can purchase American Airlines miles for as little as 1.72 cents apiece.
Here’s how it works: You can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles and save 10% off when you buy or gift AAdvantage miles. You’ll earn the maximum ~67% bonus (100,000 miles) when you purchase the maximum amount of 150,000 miles. Or, you can earn up to a ~56% bonus (70,000 miles) for buying 126,000 miles. You can even earn a ~23% bonus (2,500 miles) for buying as little as 11,000 miles.
The regular price for buying miles from American is 3.17 cents per mile ($29.50 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% Federal Excise Tax) — before a $30 processing charge per purchase — but with the maximum ~67% bonus offer, it’ll drop your price down to just 1.72 cents per mile.
Here are the sweet spots of this promotion’s bonus chart:
- 11,000 + 2,500 bonus miles for $344 total (2.55 cents per mile)
- 21,000 + 5,000 bonus miles for $629 total (2.42 cents per mile)
- 51,000 + 15,000 bonus miles for $1,486 total (2.25 cents per mile)
- 76,000 + 27,500 bonus miles for $2,199 total (2.12 cents per mile)
- 101,000 + 45,000 bonus miles for $2,913 total (2.00 cents per mile)
- 126,000 + 70,000 bonus miles for $3,626 total (1.85 cents per mile)
- 150,000 + 100,000 bonus miles for $4,311 total (1.72 cents per mile)
Here’s how to take advantage of the promotion:
- Visit American’s Buy, Gift, and Share Miles page.
- Select Buy Miles or Gift Miles.
- Log in to your AAdvantage account.
- Add your credit card details and click Continue.
- Review the information, check the box to agree to the Terms and Conditions and click Pay Now to finalize the purchase.
- Your miles should “post to the designated account immediately.”
Keep in mind that the usual restrictions for purchasing American miles apply to this promotion, including the following:
- Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles up to a maximum of 150,000 miles per year.
- Transactions are nonrefundable and nonreversible.
- Purchased miles don’t count toward elite status or Million Miler status.
American Airlines processes mileage transfers and purchases directly — rather than going through Points.com — so this spending counts as airfare! That means you can earn bonus points if you use a card with a travel or airfare category bonus, such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold’s 3x Membership Reward points on airfare; the Citi ThankYou Premier and the Citi Prestige‘s 3x ThankYou points on air travel; or the Chase Sapphire Preferred with 2x Ultimate Reward points on general travel.
Is This Worth It?
In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs American miles at 1.5 cents apiece. The maximum bonus brings your price down to just 1.72 cents per mile, so this promo wouldn’t seem worth it at first.
Remember that 1.72 cents per mile is the “sticker” rate. You can get an even lower effective rate when you factor in the miles that you’ll earn from purchasing the miles. If you have certain American Airlines credit cards, you’ll also earn a 10% rebate on redeemed miles — stretching the miles you redeem even further.
- If you have a qualifying credit card, you can use AA’s reduced mileage awards to fly to dozens of destinations throughout the US and Canada for just $301 round-trip in economy (17,500 miles x 1.72 cents per mile).
- American has dropped the price for economy award tickets to Caribbean, Mexico and Central America to just 30,000 miles round-trip. At 1.72 cents per mile, you’ll be paying ~$516 before taxes and fees, which can be a good deal for particular routes.
- If you need to fly a one-way flight, buy and redeeming miles might be a much cheaper option than buying a one-way fare ticket — especially for international flights.
- Take advantage of the 16 different economy options where award prices went down in March. Thanks to this price drop and the cheapest-ever 1.72 cents per mile promotion, these award options have never been cheaper!
After AA’s March devaluation, AA miles are less valuable for business and first-class redemptions. However, if you’re only looking to redeem for first/business class, don’t write off American Airlines miles. You can still get plenty of value for certain business/first-class redemptions.
- Grab a seat in business class on the AA Dreamliner between Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago (ORD) for just 25,000 miles each way — or even less if you’re connecting through to one of AA’s reduced mileage award cities.
- Fly American Airlines’ signature 777-300ER business class to Europe. This route costs 115,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip, or less than $2,000 (before tax) if purchasing miles at 1.72 cents per mile.
- As with economy, the value proposition is much better if you need to book international one-way flights. Take American Airlines’ nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR): American Airlines is charging $9,618 one-way every day between now and May 2017! But, if you can find award availability, it’ll cost just 57,500 AA miles + $5.60 when using AA miles. This is a total price of less than $1,000 if you’re buying miles at 1.72 cents per mile.
You can also pair your American Airlines miles (whether existing or newly purchased) with the Citi Prestige Card to get worldwide lounge access. You’ll have access to any Admirals Club when flying on American Airlines — even flying domestically and/or in economy — and more than 850 lounges worldwide through the Priority Pass Select membership. It can really come in handy!
Plus, you’ll get 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months of opening your account. Thanks to the 1.6 cents per point redemption rate for American Airlines flights, this sign-up bonus will get you $800 in free AA flights. The $250 per calendar year air travel credit, hotel 4th Night Free and $100 Global Entry credit can easily justify the $450 annual fee.
Even at the very low rate of 1.72 cents per mile, buying miles speculatively doesn’t make sense in most situations. However, this might make sense for some travelers (i.e., business/first-class travelers or those who book one-way flights).
Due to the low bonus miles offered at most purchase levels, it likely only makes sense to buy the maximum number of miles — unless you need just a few more miles to top off your account for a certain redemption.
Will you be utilizing this buy miles promo?
With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.
- Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- No matter where you're traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
- Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
- There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
- Terms and limitations apply.
- See Rates & Fees