Should I Rebook AAdvantage Awards When the Price Drops?

Jul 31, 2016

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TPG reader Dwayne sent me a message on Facebook to ask about changing award tickets:

“If I book an American Airlines award at the standard level and then saver availability opens up, should I rebook at the lower price?”

Most airlines charge a fee for changing award tickets, which can become especially costly when traveling with family or in a group. Each carrier has its own policies, so it’s good to be familiar with all the different strategies for avoiding change and cancellation fees. That can help you save money when your plans shift, but may also help you redeem points and miles more efficiently when saver awards become available.

One great feature of the AAdvantage program is that you can change award tickets for free in certain circumstances. The stipulations are generally that your origin and destination must remain the same, you can’t change to a different operating carrier and you can’t change the award type. Since Dwayne is looking to remain on the exact same flight, the first two factors don’t come into play. However, rebooking from a standard AAnytime award to a MileSAAver award qualifies as a change in award type, so he won’t be eligible for the free change.

Instead, an AAdvantage agent would have to reinstate the original award and issue a new one at the lower level. You’d incur a fairly steep reinstatement fee of $150 for the first ticket, though additional award tickets could be reinstated at a more reasonable cost of $25 each. That fee (along with various other award fees) is waived if you have Executive Platinum status and you’re redeeming miles from your own account.

Even if you can’t avoid the fee, rebooking an award could be worthwhile depending on how much you stand to save. For example, if you booked an AAnytime economy award to Europe for 47,500 miles each way, changing to a MileSAAver award for 30,000 miles each way would be a no-brainer. You’d basically be paying $150 to recoup 35,000 miles; that works out to around 0.43 cents apiece, which is much less than what AAdvantage miles are worth. On the other hand, reinstating a one-way domestic award to save 12,500 miles probably wouldn’t make sense.

Rebooking
The reinstatement fee may be worthwhile if you can snag a MileSAAver award to Europe or other faraway destinations.

Some airlines have more flexible award change policies. For example, Southwest actually lets you rebook on the same flight at no charge, so you can easily save (points or dollars) when the price drops. Still American’s policies can come in handy if you know where you’re going, but your travel dates haven’t been confirmed.

For more on AAdvantage changes and avoiding fees in general, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you.  Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 17.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
Excellent

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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