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Your ultimate guide to American Airlines AAdvantage

Nov. 12, 2022
20 min read
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Editor's Note

We've updated this guide with current information.

American Airlines AAdvantage miles have seen some devaluations over the last few years. But, if you know how to maximize AAdvantage redemptions, you can still get a ton of value out of the program.

American AAdvantage now uses Loyalty Points as the sole metric that matters if you want to earn American Airlines elite status. However, note that you'll only earn Loyalty Points when you earn base American miles (not bonus American miles). So, keep an eye out whether the miles you earn are base or bonus miles.

This guide will show you everything you need to know about the loyalty program, including the ins and outs of earning and redeeming AAdvantage miles. Let’s get started.

American Airlines partners

American is a Oneworld member, so you can earn and redeem miles with many international airlines. JT GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

American Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance, so you can earn and redeem miles with a handful of international partners. American elite members often get benefits when flying with partner airlines, such as lounge access, an extra baggage allowance and more.

These are American’s current Oneworld partners:

  • Alaska Airlines.
  • British Airways.
  • Cathay Pacific.
  • Finnair.
  • Iberia.
  • Japan Airlines.
  • Malaysia Airlines.
  • Qantas.
  • Qatar Airways.
  • Royal Air Maroc.
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines.
  • SriLankan Airlines.

The airline also partners with a handful of airlines outside of Oneworld, including:

  • Air Tahiti Nui.
  • Cape Air.
  • China Southern Airlines.
  • Etihad Airways.
  • Fiji Airways.
  • Gol Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • IndiGo.
  • JetBlue.
  • Silver Airways.

Elite status

American Airlines elite status can help you get upgraded to business class. CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY

American has four public levels of elite status — Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum — plus an invite-only level called Concierge Key.

AAdvantage completely changed how you earn American Airlines elite status earlier this year. Now, you care about just one metric: Loyalty Points.

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You earn Loyalty Points when you fly on American, spend with a cobranded credit card or earn with select AAdvantage partners. In general, one base mile earned is equal to one Loyalty Point. So if you earn 500 base miles on an American flight, you earn 500 Loyalty Points. Likewise, spending $1,000 on an American cobranded credit card would earn 1,000 Loyalty Points.

Here's the number of Loyalty Points you must earn in the current qualification period — Jan. 1, 2022, through Feb. 28, 2023 — for each elite status tier:

  • Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points.

As an AAdvantage Gold member, you’ll get a 40% status mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats at check-in when available, complimentary Preferred seats at booking when available and one free checked bag on itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines.

Meanwhile, Platinum members get a 60% status mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats at booking when available and two free checked bags on itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines.

Platinum Pro members get an 80% status mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats at booking when available and three free checked bags on itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines. Additionally, Platinum Pro members get a Loyalty Choice Reward when they qualify for status and fly 30 qualifying segments during the qualification period.

Finally, Executive Platinum members get a 120% status mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats at booking when available and three free checked bags on itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines. Additionally, Executive Platinum members get a second Loyalty Choice Reward when they qualify for status and fly 30 qualifying segments during the qualification period.

All AAdvantage elites have access to complimentary upgrades on American-marketed and -operated flights within and between the U.S. (including Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Central America for themselves and one companion. However, only Executive Platinum members get complimentary upgrades on award flights.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members also get space-available complimentary upgrades on Alaska Airlines flights, except when flying on Alaska Airlines Saver Fares.

AAdvantage elites get Oneworld status, which gives perks when flying on other Oneworld airlines. Specifically, AAdvantage Gold members get Oneworld Ruby, Platinum members get Oneworld Sapphire and Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members get Oneworld Emerald.

Related: What is American Airlines elite status worth?

How to earn AAdvantage miles

There are many ways to earn AAdvantage miles. In this section, we'll consider some of the most popular ways you can earn AAdvantage miles.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Fly on American Airlines

When you fly on an American-marketed flight, you’ll usually earn miles according to the base price of your ticket — that means without taxes and fees. The miles you earn also vary based on your AAdvantage elite status. The higher your status, the more miles you will earn.

Here’s how many miles each status tier earns per dollar spent:

  • No status: 5 miles.
  • Gold: 7 miles.
  • Platinum: 8 miles.
  • Platinum Pro: 9 miles.
  • Executive Platinum: 11 miles.

For example, if you booked an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles that costs $192 plus $20 in taxes, you would earn 960 miles ($192 x 5 miles per dollar) as an AAdvantage member without elite status. However, if you were an Executive Platinum member, you’d earn 2,112 AAdvantage miles ($192 x 11 miles per dollar).

Some American Airlines flights earn miles based on fare class and distance as "special fares." You may earn at "special fares" rates when you book bulk fares, cruise fares, consolidator fares, discounted or inclusive tour packages, vacation packages and other tickets where the fare isn't disclosed.

Fly on partner airlines

Earn AAdvantage miles with American’s worldwide partners. NICOLAS ECONOMOU/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

You can also earn AAdvantage miles on flights marketed by American's partners. For most partners, you’ll earn miles and Loyalty Points based on flight distance. However, the exact earning rate depends on the fare class of your ticket. Here’s an example of the earning chart for British Airways-operated flights:

AA.COM

As you can see, the lower economy fare classes earn smaller percentages of miles. You can see the fare class booked by looking at your e-ticket or calling the airline and asking. Elite members earn extra miles based on their status tier.

Here’s an example. Say you’re an Executive Platinum elite and fly British Airways one-way from New York to London in E fare premium economy. The flight is 3,451 miles long, so you’d earn 3,451 base miles. You’d also earn a 120% bonus with your elite status, totaling 7,593 miles and Loyalty Points earned.

To see how many miles you can earn, check out the AAdvantage partner-earning page for the airline and fare class you plan to fly.

Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Get and use American Airlines credit cards

Quickly earn American miles with a cobranded credit card. JOHN GRIBBEN/THE POINTS GUY

One of the easiest ways to earn American AAdvantage miles is through American Airlines credit cards.

Citi and Barclays both offer AAdvantage cards; here are the sign-up bonuses and earning rates on some of our favorite American Airlines cards:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on gas station, restaurant and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases plus telecom merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rentals and gas stations. Earn 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on grocery store and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®: Earn 80,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and a $95 statement credit after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on office supply, telecom, car rental and eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, AAdvantage Aviator Red and AAdvantage Aviator Business cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuers.

Remember that the sign-up bonuses and bonus category earnings won't get you Loyalty Points toward AAdvantage elite status. You'll only earn one Loyalty Point per dollar spent on American Airlines cards.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Click through the AAdvantage shopping portal before shopping online

When you click through the AAdvantage shopping portal, you can earn extra miles when making purchases with select online merchants. Using the portal is simple: Sign up for an account and then click through the portal to your merchant of choice before shopping online.

By clicking through the AAdvantage shopping portal instead of going directly to the merchant, you’ll take home American miles and Loyalty Points in addition to the earnings you’ll get by putting the purchase on a rewards credit card.

Related: Maximizing shopping portals for your online purchases

Use SimplyMiles

American offers a program called SimplyMiles that allows you to earn miles when shopping online or in person with select merchants. You'll first need to sign up for SimplyMiles, link one or more Mastercards to your profile and enroll in offers.

Then, when you use a linked Mastercard to make an eligible purchase at a merchant for which you've enrolled in an offer, you'll earn AAdvantage miles.

Dine at restaurants that participate in AAdvantage Dining

FERTNIG/GETTY IMAGES

AAdvantage Dining is similar to the AAdvantage shopping portal but for eating out. Just sign up for an account and link your favorite cards for dining. Once you do so, you’ll earn miles when you dine at participating restaurants.

You can earn 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent as a VIP member, 3 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent as a Select member and 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar spent as a basic member.

You’ll qualify for Select member status by opting in for email communications from AAdvantage Dining. Then, you’ll qualify for VIP status after dining with the program at least 11 times in a calendar year.

Book through AAdvantage travel partners

American Airlines partners with major car rental companies so its members can earn miles on car rentals. Check out AAdvantage's car rental partner page for information on partners and earning rates.

You can also earn AAdvantage miles on hotel stays as follows:

  • American Airlines Hotels: Earn up to 10,000 miles each night.
  • Hyatt: Earn 500 miles each stay.
  • IHG: Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent at select hotels.
  • Marriott: Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent at select hotels.
  • Rocketmiles: Earn up to 10,000 miles each night.

Additionally, Hyatt and American loyalists can earn more rewards by linking accounts. After linking accounts, AAdvantage elites can earn one AAdvantage mile for every eligible dollar spent on qualifying Hyatt stays and experiences.

In addition to the hotel and rental car partners mentioned above, you can earn miles on vacation packages booked at aavacations.com. You can also earn American miles on cruises booked at bookaacruises.com.

Open a savings account

If you open a savings account with Bask Bank, you can elect to earn AAdvantage miles instead of cash as the interest on your account. You can read our analysis here: Introducing Bask Bank, a new way to earn miles. Unfortunately, miles earned with Bask Bank do not count as Loyalty Points.

Take surveys

You can earn AAdvantage miles for each survey you take with Miles for Opinions.

Donate to charity

If you donate to Stand Up To Cancer, you can earn 10 miles per dollar donated, as long as the donation is $25 or more.

Buy AAdvantage miles

Finally, you can buy American Airlines miles. Keep an eye out for promotions that allow you to buy American Airlines miles with a bonus or a discount.

Related: You can currently buy points and miles with up to a 100% bonus — but should you?

How to redeem AAdvantage miles

American has an award chart but also employs dynamic pricing. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

You'll usually get the best value from your American miles when you redeem for flights, so that's what we'll discuss in this section. TPG’s most recent valuations estimate American miles to be worth 1.77 cents apiece, so try to get at least this value when redeeming miles.

Redeeming miles for American-operated flights

One of the most straightforward ways to redeem AAdvantage miles is on American-operated flights. To find out how many miles an American-operated flight will cost, head to the American Airlines website or mobile app and do an award search.

That said, American still has award charts with AAnytime and MileSAAver rates. You can see these award charts on the American Airlines website. The rates you see are for one-way travel, and each award is subject to taxes and fees starting from $5.60 per person.

You may get a great deal if you snag a MileSAAver off-peak award. For example, you can book American Airlines off-peak awards to Europe for 45,000 miles round trip.

But, when you do an award search, you'll likely see many other award rates for American-operated flights. And that's because the airline also offers Web Special awards that cost less than either the AAnytime or MileSAAver award level. You can't change a Web Special award, but you can cancel and reinstate your miles for free.

Related: Best sweet spots in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Partner awards

American partners with over a dozen airlines, many of which are world-renowned for their excellent premium-cabin products. That means you can use your American miles to fly products such as Japan Airlines’ first class from New York to Tokyo (80,000 miles each way) or Qatar Qsuite to the Maldives (70,000 miles each way).

SAMANTHA ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

One of the major differences you'll notice when booking awards on American Airlines' partners is consistency in price. For example, you can expect to pay 57,500 miles when flying to Europe in business class. However, watch for carrier-imposed fees and surcharges when you book on partner airlines. British Airways is infamous for routinely tacking on $500 or more in taxes for Europe-bound flights.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on American Airlines

American Airlines Business Extra

The American Airlines Business Extra program lets companies with at least three employees earn rewards for their employees’ travel.

This program is free, and the registration process is easy. Once you sign up, your business can “double dip” on American and select Oneworld flights. Business Extra members earn 1 point per five dollars spent on qualifying flights on American, British Airways, Iberia and Japan Airlines, and Finnair and Qantas flights sold by American.

The redemption options in the program vary from high quality to low value. But the best value is using your Business Extra points for free flights and upgrades. Redeeming for award travel on American, British Airways, Iberia and Japan Airlines is possible.

Upgrades are only valid on American metal. Note that you must be booked in a specific fare class to redeem your upgrade, and upgrades from discounted fare classes often cost more than full-fare tickets.

AA.COM

Related: Guide to earning and burning with American Airlines’ Business Extra program

Sweet spots

There are some hidden gems in American’s award chart — let’s take a closer look.

Premium cabin flights to Japan or South Korea

American Airlines divides Asia into three award regions: Asia Region 1, Asia Region 2 and South Pacific. Asia 1 covers Japan and Korea, while Asia 2 includes China and Hong Kong.

The lower prices on premium flights to Asia 1 apply to Oneworld partners such as Japan Airlines. So, you can book JAL first class from San Francisco to Tokyo for only 80,000 miles.

AA.COM

Related: Best sweet spots in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Qatar Qsuite to the Middle East

Another of my favorite redemptions is Qatar’s fantastic Qsuite product — arguably the best way to get to the Middle East on points and miles.

BECCA MANHEIMER/THE POINTS GUY

Awards cost 70,000 miles each way between the U.S. and the Middle East or Indian subcontinent. 75,000 miles each way from the U.S. will get you to destinations in Africa like Seychelles, Mauritius or South Africa.

Off-peak awards

Another fantastic sweet spot is to use off-peak awards for travel outside the country. These are known as MileSAAver off-peak awards. That means you can save quite a lot of miles if you can be flexible with your dates.

AA.COM

For example, you can fly from the U.S. to Providenciales International Airport (PLS) in sunny Turks and Caicos in Main Cabin for just 10,000 miles one-way in January 2023.

AA.COM

Or you can fly to Seoul, which falls under Asia Region 1, in March 2023 for 32,500 miles in Main Cabin:

AA.COM

Related: How to use off-peak pricing to save on American Airlines awards

Web Specials for premium flights

As discussed, while American still has an award chart, much of the AAdvantage program consists of variable Web Special award pricing.

Web Specials can sometimes save you a few thousand miles per ticket. For example, I found a flight from Dallas to Cancun for 10,000 miles one-way in economy. In this case, you’d get a nice 5,000-mile discount from the standard 15,000 MileSAAver rate.

AA.COM

But that’s not all — you can also find premium award availability. For example, I ran a search between New York-area airports and Fort Lauderdale. I first saw the AAnytime Level 1 pricing of 20,000 miles each way in Main Cabin.

AA.COM

But after scrolling down a bit, I found several one-stop Web Special awards for 6,000 miles in Main Cabin and 16,000 miles in domestic first class.

AA.COM

Bottom line

The American Airlines AAdvantage program is far from perfect. But if you know how to make it work, there's still plenty of value.

If you’re thinking of earning miles with the AAdvantage program, we recommend applying for an American Airlines credit card. Doing so can give you a big stash of miles from the sign-up bonus and the ability to continue to earn miles with your daily spending. It's also worth using the AAdvantage shopping portal and SimplyMiles, especially if you want to earn Loyalty Points and qualify for American Airlines elite status.

Additional reporting by Ehsan Haque and Andrew Kunesh.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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