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Earning airline miles using the traditional method (actually flying) is just one way to add to your account balance. While it’s increasingly harder to earn miles from flying, 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. If these methods leave you short of your travel goals, you can also purchase miles directly from an airline.
It’s been a while since American Airlines has run a buy miles promotion. In the meantime, anyone who needed a few more miles for a redemption has had to pay the standard 3.17 cents per mile rate. But, now through October 3, American Airlines is discounting AAdvantage purchases by 10%. Plus, now through October 31, you’ll receive up to 42,500 bonus miles. By maximizing these two promotions, you can buy miles as cheap as 2.02 cents per mile.
Here’s how it works: You can earn up to 42,500 bonus miles and save 10% when you buy or gift AAdvantage miles now through October 3. After October 3, you’ll still get the bonus miles but not the 10% off.
In order to get the maximum 42,500 bonus (up to 42.5%), you’ll need to buy between 100,000-150,000 miles. However, you can also earn a relatively large bonus even at lower purchase levels: 40% when buying 75,000 miles and 37.5% when buying just 40,000 miles. This makes this promotion better than most, which give large bonuses at higher levels but keep small purchases pricey.
The regular price of buying miles from American is about 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. However, if you buy 100,000 miles by October 3, your per-mile price drops to just 2.02 cents per mile.
Here are the sweet spots for this promotion (including all tax and fees):
- 20,000 + 7,000 bonus miles for $601 total (2.22 cents per mile)
- 40,000 + 15,000 bonus miles for $1,172 total (2.13 cents per mile)
- 60,000 + 22,500 bonus miles for $1,742 total (2.11 cents per mile)
- 75,000 + 30,000 bonus miles for $2,171 total (2.07 cents per mile)
- 100,000 + 42,500 bonus miles for $2,884 total (2.02 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s 3x Ultimate Reward points or American Express Premier Rewards Gold’s 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with the carrier; 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 It Worth It?
In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs American AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents apiece. The maximum bonus allows you to buy miles at just 2.02 cents per mile. So, it’s going to be hard to find value at this level. However, buying miles during this promo could make sense if you’re looking for an international one-way flight or a business/first-class flight, especially on pricier routes with available SAAver awards. Just make sure to put any award flights on a five-day hold before actually purchasing miles, so that you don’t get stuck with extra miles if you’re not able to book it after purchasing.
One redemption where it virtually never makes sense to buy AA miles is for domestic economy. Take the example itinerary above for the Sunday after Thanksgiving. One could imagine it’d make sense to redeem miles rather than paying for holiday airfares. But, even at the lowest buy miles rate of 2.02 cents per mile, it’ll cost more than $1,500 to fly one-way in economy from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) — thanks to AA’s higher AAnytime awards levels. Meanwhile, AA is selling one-way economy tickets on this exact flight for $414.
Also, remember that 2.02 cents per mile is the “sticker” rate. You can get an even lower effective rate when you factor in any additional miles you’ll earn from your purchase. 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.
While American Airlines wants to tempt you to “save 10%” and get “bonus miles,” remember that AA’s standard mileage purchase rates are unnecessarily high. So, this promotion just brings the purchase price down to just a slightly inflated level. Considering AA’s recent stinginess with releasing SAAver award flights, we wouldn’t recommend buying miles unless you have a specific expensive flight (i.e., business or first class, one-way international) that has current award availability.
Will you be buying miles during this promo?