How to Earn and Maximize 100,000 American Miles

Apr 18, 2016

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Even after the recent devaluation, American’s AAdvantage program offers plenty of value, and several awards are actually more affordable than previously. Below, TPG Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr shows you how to easily earn 100,000 AAdvantage miles and then put them to use with some great redemptions.

You don’t need a huge account balance to enjoy free travel from your loyalty points and miles. In fact, we’ve even argued that you shouldn’t amass huge quantities of miles with no plans for utilization. That said, it’s relatively easy to earn a significant stash of miles with the help of credit card sign-up bonuses, shopping portals and other strategies, so you should by all means take advantage of the plentiful award travel options if you have a trip in mind.

Today, I start a new series examining how you can quickly accrue 100,000 points or miles with the major loyalty programs and then discussing strategies for maximizing that balance. With the American Airlines devaluation having just gone into effect, let’s start with the AAdvantage program and see how quickly you can earn, and then expertly burn, 100,000 miles in the new program.

Earning 100,000 AAdvantage Miles

Credit card sign-up bonuses are without a doubt the quickest way to earn big miles in your loyalty program of choice, and the AAdvantage program is no exception to that rule. Citi offers co-branded credit cards with sign-up bonuses sometimes reaching 100,000 miles. Meanwhile, Barclaycard administers the AAdvantage Aviator cards, which were originally US Airways Dividend Miles cards, but you can no longer sign up for these products.

Here’s a rundown of the current credit cards that can earn you mega AA miles:

1. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

I used the 100,00 bonus miles from last year's Executive World Elite Mastcard to fly Japan Airlines Business roundtrip to Tokyo.
I used the 100,000 bonus miles from last year’s Citi AAdvantage Executive offer to fly Japan Airlines business round-trip to Tokyo.

In many ways, this is the cream of the crop of American Airline cards. It’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months of account opening. In addition to bonus miles, the card offers the following features:

The card comes with a steep $450 annual fee, but you can easily recoup that with the above benefits and by using the 75,000 miles with the strategies we’ll discuss below. From time to time, Citi also offers statement credits up to $200 in addition to miles as a sign-up bonus.

2. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

This card offers great benefits to American flyers with a much more reasonable annual fee: $95, though it’s waived for the first 12 months. Though you just missed your chance to earn a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus — it’s currently offering 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening — this card is still worth a look for boosting your account balance. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

3. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

The business version of the Platinum Select card is currently offering a limited-time sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

The increased sign-up bonus for the business card makes it a worthwhile option, along with the ability to earn bonus miles on specific category spending with no foreign transaction fees. If you’re in the market for an AA card to boost your bonus and you qualify for a business card, this should be a priority for you.

Citi ThankYou Points

While you can’t transfer ThankYou points earned from the Citi Prestige Card and Citi Premier cards to American, you can still redeem them toward American flights — and you’ll even be able to earn AAdvantage miles on these awards.

You can redeem ThankYou points through the Citi travel center for 1.25 cents each toward free flights. Even better, points earned with the Citi Prestige Card can be redeemed for 1.3 cents each toward free flights, and 1.6 cents each toward free flights on American Airlines. The wonderful perk about these free flights is that the airlines treat them as revenue fares, allowing you to earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles in loyalty programs.

Applying for two of the above-mentioned credit cards will put you within striking distance of 100,000 AAdvantage miles. To get the rest of the way there, you can shop through portals, join the AAdvantage dining program, credit rental cars to your AA account and use the co-branded cards for everyday spending. You could also redeem 215,000 to 250,000 Marriott points for 100,000 AA miles and either 5 or 7 free nights in a Category 1-5 property.

Maximizing 100,000 AAdvantage Miles

There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there when it comes to the recent devaluation — and rightfully so, in many cases. However, it’s not all bad news, and 100,000 miles can still get you an incredible amount of value if you redeem them smartly. Let’s look at a few scenarios where you can stretch 100,00 miles into a ton of free travel.

1. Fly to the Caribbean in Business Twice

American flies to St. Thomas and St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
American flies to St. Thomas and St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The new cost of business award flights from the contiguous 48 states to the Caribbean represents a 5,000-mile decrease each way. Round-trip flights will cost 50,000 miles, meaning your 100,000 miles can get you and your special someone to a Caribbean escape in style and comfort for free. American advertises 30 different Caribbean destinations — I searched a few round-trip business flights from different US gateways and found fares costing anywhere from $1,300-$2,300 per person. $4,600 in value for 100,000 miles is a great redemption!

2. Fly Short-Haul on American

All of the nonstop destinations you can fly from Washington Reagan for 7,500 miles each way.
Nonstop destinations you can fly to from Washington Reagan for 7,500 miles each way.

In a move I personally love, American dropped the costs of flights within the contiguous 48 states and Canada under 500 miles in length to 7,500 miles each way at the MileSAAver level. It’s great that these flights now cost less, especially because these include commuter jet routes to smaller airports that suffer from a lack of competition and have sky-high prices. I’ll be able to fly DCA-GSP or DCA-CHS for 15,000 miles round-trip to see family on routes that can quickly get expensive.

Your 100,000 miles will get you 13 free flights for routes that are less than 500 miles in length! That can add up to huge savings in your wallet.

3. Off-Peak Economy to Europe for Two

Travel round-trip to Europe in economy for 45,000 miles per person.
Travel round-trip to Europe in economy for 45,000 miles per person.

When I first saw news of the March 22 devaluation, I feared the incredible off-peak deal to Europe would be killed, or at least increase in price. And while there was indeed an increase, you can still fly two people round-trip to Europe for less than 100,000 miles.

The price for off-peak economy to Europe only increased 2,500 miles each way, for a total of 45,000 miles round-trip per person. 90,000 miles for two people to fly to and from Europe is still a great value, and it leaves you enough miles left for a short haul-flight in the US or Canada. Just note that the new off-peak dates to fly this award are January 10-March 14 and November 1-December 14.

4. See the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and Two Places in Europe from the US

Each Etihad A380 economy seat includes USB and power outlets.
Each Etihad A380 economy seat includes USB and power outlets.

With the recent award chart changes, economy prices for flights from the US to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent dropped to 40,000 miles each way. Meanwhile, flights from the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent to Europe cost 20,000 miles; intra-Europe is 12,500 miles; and a return flight to the US on American Airlines on off-peak dates will cost you 22,500 miles for a grand total of 95,000 miles.

This means you could fly PHL-DOH-MLE, MLE-DOH-TXL, TXL-CDG and CDG-PHL, letting you visit the Maldives, Berlin and Paris all for less than 100,000 miles. That’s a heck of a trip, and there are plenty of places you can go utilizing both Etihad and Qatar!

5. US to South America 1 in Business, Plus a Trip to Hawaii

A trip to The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort could be the bonus after business class to South America!
A trip to The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort could be the bonus after business class to South America!

Business-class flights to the region designated South America 1 — which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru — will cost 60,000 miles round-trip from the US on either American or Oneworld partner LAN, which offers lie-flat seats on its 787 Dreamliner. This conveniently leaves you 40,000 miles, which you can use for a round-trip from the US to Hawaii in economy during the off-peak dates of December 29-March 12, August 11-November 18 and November 24-December 10 (note that there are different off-peak dates for travel from Hawaii).

Bottom Line

These are just a handful of the many possible strategies to get the most out of 100,000 AAdvantage miles — for more information on how to leverage the most recent program changes, see TPG Contributor Eric Rosen’s posts on American awards that went down in price and award chart region changes. While some may be despairing about some of the AAdvantage program’s latest changes, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of value to be had, and thanks to credit card offers, it’s relatively easy to earn the rewards in the first place. Hopefully this post has given you some inspiration for earning miles and redeeming them toward fantastic awards.

How would you maximize 100,000 miles with the new AAdvantage award charts?


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