This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

If you miss the AAdvantage program’s old mileage-based earning structure, there’s still a workaround: AA Special Fares. By booking your flights with points through a travel portal, you’ll get a percentage of the miles you fly as award miles rather than based on the amount you paid for your ticket. As we confirmed in November, you can still get credit based on the Special Fares even if you only pay for part of your flight with points.

When these Special Fares were first released, the chart was rather straightforward. It consisted of just four groups: full-fare business/first class, discount business/first class, full-fare economy class and discount economy class. Unless you were buying very expensive seats on a nearly full or last-minute flight, you were surely going to get credit based on the “discount” fare group.

However, in early December, the fare code structure was changed for flights departing on or after January 11, 2017. For flights departing on or after that date, the new earning structure is:

Fare booking code Award Miles
per mile flown
Class of service
bonus miles
EQM per
mile flown
EQD per
mile flown
Changes from prior chart (if any)
First (F) 100% 50% 3.00 30%
First (A, P) 100% 50% 2.00 30%
Business (J) 100% 50% 3.00 30%
Business (D, R) 100% 25% 2.00 25% Reduction in class of service bonus and EQD rate
Business (I) 100% 2.00 20% Reduction in class of service bonus and EQD rate
Economy (Y) 100% 1.50 20%
Economy (H, K) 100% 1.00 20% Increase in award miles rate and EQD rate
Economy (L,M,W,V) 75% 1.00 15% Increase in award miles rate and EQD rate
Economy (G,N,S,Q,O) 50% 1.00 10%

As you can see, the changes were actually beneficial for economy flyers — with rates staying the same or increasing — while they’re a bummer for discount business-class flyers. While you could assume that you were going to get credit based on the “discount” rates for flights before January 11, knowing which fare code you’re booking can have a bigger impact after this change. If you’ve got a long-haul business-class flight, the difference between 20% Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) and 30% might make the difference between earning your EQDs from flying or needing to generate EQDs through credit card spend.

Also, it’s important to note the code before you book. Once you’ve booked your flight, it’s going to be a pain to retrieve this fare booking code. The code won’t be listed on your AA.com itinerary and most travel portals don’t retain this information. If you need to reference this booking code on a flight you already booked, note that I’ve had success calling American Airlines Reservations to get the fare booking code.

Now that we know why it’s important, let’s look at how to figure out the fare code.

Citi Travel Portal

Example booking through the Citi Travel Portal. Do you see the fare code?

The Citi Travel Portal makes it pretty easy to figure out the fare booking code before you book a flight. Once you search for flights, click “Show Outbound Details” on the itinerary you’re interested in seeing. In addition to the flight number, aircraft type and a link to the seat map, there’s also going to be a small letter in parentheses after “Economy Class.” In the example above, this is a O code fare. Going to the chart, we can see that O fares earn award miles at 50%, EQMs at 100% and EQDs at 10%. Here’s how this ends up:

Chicago-Denver low-cost example Earnings Formula to Determine
Flight Miles 886
Award miles (member) 443 = Flight Miles x 50%
Award miles (Gold) 620 = Flight Miles x 50% x 140% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Platinum) 709 = Flight Miles x 50% x 160% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Executive Platinum) 975 = Flight Miles x 50% x 220% (elite bonus)
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) 886 = Flight Miles x 100%
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) 89 = Flight Miles x 10%

That’s not bad for a $43 one-way flight!

However, not all options are going to earn at the lowest tier. Let’s say that you needed to book a last-minute trip from New York to Los Angeles (LAX).

The extra mileage earnings should help soften the blow of the $253 one-way price.

In this example, the cheapest flight is a $253 one-way V code fare. According to the chart, you’ll earn award miles at 75%, EQMs at 100% and EQDs at 15% on this V fare code flight. Here are the earnings:

New York-LA mid-cost example Earnings Formula to Determine
Flight Miles 2,469
Award miles (member) 1,852 = Flight Miles x 75%
Award miles (Gold) 2,592 = Flight Miles x 75% x 140% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Platinum) 2,963 = Flight Miles x 75% x 160% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Executive Platinum) 4,074 = Flight Miles x 75% x 220% (elite bonus)
Elite Qualifying Miles 2,469 = Flight Miles x 100%
Elite Qualifying Dollars 370 = Flight Miles x 15%

Note that if you fly a V fare before January 11, you’ll only earn 50% award miles and 10% EQDs — reducing the benefit of the Special Fares.

American Airlines Vacations

AA Vacations makes it easy to tell what fare code you’re booking.

While not all Citi travel portal bookings will count as “Special Fares,” there’s one website where you can count on getting credit for flights based on Special Fares: AA Vacations. Thankfully, it’s very easy to see what your fare booking code will be. After entering your search terms, AA Vacations will display the suggested flight pairing, including the fare booking code.

In the example above, we’re flying domestic business class from New York’s JFK to Orlando (MCO) for the week. As this is being booked far enough ahead, the flights are booked into a discount business-class fare code (I). While AA Vacations doesn’t mention the flight miles, you can use the Great Circle Mapper to estimate the flight distance, or run an example booking through AA.com to determine exactly how many miles AA will credit you for the flights. In this particular case, both sources agree that the flight miles are 1,900. Plugging that into the Special Fares formulas, we get the following earnings for this round-trip:

New York-Orlando first class example Earnings Formula to Determine
Flight Miles 3,800
Award miles (member) 3,800 = Flight Miles x 100%
Award miles (Gold) 5,320 = Flight Miles x 100% x 140% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Platinum) 6,080 = Flight Miles x 100% x 160% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Executive Platinum) 8,360 = Flight Miles x 100% x 220% (elite bonus)
Elite Qualifying Miles 7,600 = Flight Miles x 200%
Elite Qualifying Dollars 760 = Flight Miles x 20%

Considering this flight+hotel (for seven nights) package starts at just $772 per person, that’s some solid mileage earnings for these flights.

Chase Travel Portal

Unfortunately, the Chase travel portal doesn
Unfortunately, the Chase travel portal doesn’t show the fare code information.

While we haven’t been able to confirm flights booked through the Chase travel portal will count as AA Special Fares, we have early indications on two bookings that these flights will indeed post based on the Special Fares chart. Specifically, the itineraries booked through the Chase travel portal are showing up on AA.com without the fare-related information. For the testing we did on Citi travel portal flights, this was an indication of how the flights would post.

However, the Chase travel portal doesn’t list the fare code anywhere through the booking procedure. So, it’s going to take a few more steps to get this information. Let’s take the example above — where you can reserve an international business-class seat on a domestic route for just $68 one-way!

aa-77w-business-mia-jfk
You’ll need to do a sample booking through American Airlines to find the fare code.

The most straightforward way I’ve found to determine the booking code is to start your search on Google Flights. Set your route (i.e,. MIA to JFK) and date (February 17), then narrow by airline (American) and departure time (between 1-2 pm). Click on the result and click through to AA.com to see the same flight option bookable through American Airlines. In this particular case, the cheap one-way fare is booking into Q code. That means the earnings on this flight would be:

Miami-New York example Earnings Formula to Determine
Flight Miles 1,089
Award miles (member) 545 = Flight Miles x 50%
Award miles (Gold) 762 = Flight Miles x 50% x 140% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Platinum) 871 = Flight Miles x 50% x 160% (elite bonus)
Award miles (Executive Platinum) 1,198 = Flight Miles x 50% x 220% (elite bonus)
Elite Qualifying Miles 1,089 = Flight Miles x 100%
Elite Qualifying Dollars 109 = Flight Miles x 10%

Bottom Line

For flights after January 11, it’ll be even more important to know which fare code your AA Special Fares book into. Before January 11, you could pretty much assume that you were booked into the discount fare bucket. Now, there are more potential crediting rates for both business and economy tickets. The exact rate will be especially important if you’re trying to maximize your flight purchase and decide between buying directly from AA or purchasing through a travel portal. If you’re trying to plan out your 2017 elite qualification, make sure to note the fare code before booking.

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.