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Update 11/25/2016: American is offering an additional 20% bonus for Black Friday — meaning you can purchase miles today for 1.77 cents each.
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 rewards programs. If these methods leave you short of your travel goals, you can also purchase miles directly from an airline.
Just in time for last-minute Thanksgiving award flight bookings, American Airlines has just launched a new buy miles promotion. Now through November 28, you can purchase American Airlines miles for as little as 1.91 cents apiece.
Here’s how it works: You can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles when you buy or gift AAdvantage miles. You’ll earn the maximum 67% bonus (100,000 miles) when you purchase the maximum amount, 150,000 miles. Or, you can earn up to a 60% bonus (60,000 miles) for buying 100,000 miles. You can even earn a 45% bonus (22,500 miles) for buying just 50,000 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 1.91 cents per mile.
Here are the sweet spots of this promotion’s bonus chart:
- 10,000 + 2,500 bonus miles for $347 total (2.78 cents per mile)
- 25,000 + 7,500 bonus miles for $823 total (2.53 cents per mile)
- 50,000 + 22,500 bonus miles for $1,616 total (2.23 cents per mile)
- 75,000 + 40,000 bonus miles for $2,408 total (2.09 cents per mile)
- 100,000 + 60,000 bonus miles for $3,201 total (2.00 cents per mile)
- 150,000 + 100,000 bonus miles for $4,787 total (1.91 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 should count as airfare. That means you’ll likely be able to earn bonus points if you use a card with a travel or airfare category bonus. The best one of these is The Platinum Card from American Express, which now earns 5x on airfare. However, we don’t have a confirmation that it’ll count for the 5x bonus category yet, so don’t let this make or break the deal for you.
Credit cards with bonuses that have worked in the past include the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card‘s 3x Ultimate Rewards points on general travel; the American Express Premier Rewards Gold’s 3x Membership Rewards 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 it worth it?
In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs American miles at 1.5 cents apiece. At its best, this promotion allows you to buy 250,000 AAdvantage miles at 1.91 cents per mile. Even when buying in bulk, this isn’t a great deal on the surface. 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 decent award availability.
If you’ve got an expensive flight coming up, check to see how many miles an award flight would cost and then confirm that there’s award availability. If it would be cheaper to buy miles and redeem them for the flight, put the award flights on a five-day hold before actually purchasing any miles, so that you don’t get stuck with miles you can’t use.
Also, remember that 1.91 cents per mile is the “sticker” rate. You can get an even lower effective rate when you factor in the 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.
Even with a great-sounding max bonus of 100,000 miles, the purchase rate of 1.91 cents per mile is still well above TPG’s 1.5-cent valuation of AAdvantage miles. American Airlines’ stinginess releasing MileSAAver availability makes it even harder to get value out of this deal. That said, there are some narrow situations there it might make sense: first-/business-class travel (with known award availability), one-way international travel to expensive destinations or if you need just a few more miles to top off your account for a particular redemption.
Will you be utilizing this buy miles promo?
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Credit Rating|
|N/A||16.24%-23.24% Variable||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95||0%||Excellent Credit|