Your ultimate guide to American Airlines AAdvantage
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American Airlines AAdvantage miles have been devalued over the last few years, but you can still get a ton of value out of the program.
And now might be the time to do so. American has made several consumer-friendly changes in recent months, including extending elite status for AAdvantage members, eliminating most change fees and pausing mileage expiration. That’s on top of major changes like simplifying the AAdvantage elite status program and adding six months to the mileage expiration policy. If you’re switching your airline loyalty to American, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start earning and redeeming American miles.
Interested in the program? Here, I’ll show you everything you need to know about the program, including the ins and outs of earning and burning AAdvantage miles. Consider it your one-stop shop for everything AAdvantage.
Let’s get started!
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American Airlines partners
American Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance, so you can earn and redeem miles with a handful of international partners.
Likewise, American elite status members will have some reciprocal elite status benefits with these airlines. Think airline lounge access, extra baggage allowance and other perks. The perks you receive depend on your elite status level with American — don’t worry, we’ll discuss this more in-depth later in the article.
These are American’s current Oneworld partners:
- Alaska Airlines.
- British Airways.
- Cathay Pacific.
- Japan Airlines.
- Malaysia Airlines.
- Qatar Airways.
- Royal Air Maroc.
- Royal Jordanian Airlines.
- S7 Airlines.
- SriLankan Airlines.
The airline also partners with a handful of airlines outside of Oneworld. These include:
- Air Tahiti Nui.
- Cape Air.
- China Southern Airlines.
- Etihad Airways.
- Fiji Airways.
- Gol Airlines.
- Hawaiian Airlines.
- Silver Airways.
American Airlines also partners with the major car rental companies like Hertz, Avis and Budget to earn miles on car rentals. Check out the airline’s car rental partner page for information on how many points you’ll earn. In some cases, those with elite status or an American Airlines credit card earn more points than other members.
Further, you can earn AAdvantage miles on hotel stays, too:
- American Airlines Hotels: Earn up to 10,000 miles each night.
- Hyatt: Earn 500 miles each stay.
- InterContinental: 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.
You’ll remember World of Hyatt previously awarded American Airlines Executive Platinum status to some lucky Globalist members. American Airlines Concierge Key members (the top tier in AA’s program) get automatic Hyatt Globalist status, so the benefits go both ways.
American has four public levels of elite status: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum.
Concierge Key, which is invite-only, can be earned typically by spending at least $50,000 on qualifying flights in a calendar year. That said, this number has not been officially published.
American reduced the requirements for earning elite status (or moving up a tier) in 2021 due to the pandemic. However, earning levels returned to normal for 2022, in addition to a complete overhaul of how you earn American Airlines elite status. Now, you care about just one metric: Loyalty Points.
You earn Loyalty Points when you fly on American, spend with a cobranded credit card or earn with many of its partners. In general, one base mile earned is equal to one Loyalty Point. So if you earn 500 miles on an American flight, you earn 500 Loyalty Points toward elite status. Likewise, spending $1,000 on an American cobranded credit card would earn 1,000 Loyalty Points.
You need to earn the following numbers of Loyalty Points for the corresponding elite status level:
As an AAdvantage Gold member, you’ll get several perks like upgrades on flights under 500 miles; a 40% elite mileage bonus; priority check-in, security and boarding; and more. Plus, if there are Main Cabin Extra seats available at check-in, you can have them.
On the other hand, Platinum members receive a 48-hour upgrade window, a 60% elite mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats (without waiting to see if these are available at check-in) and two free checked bags.
In a positive move this year, American Airlines made the upgrade process simpler for elite members. Rather than Gold and Platinum members needing to use limited numbers of upgrade stickers to upgrade on longer flights, these passengers are now automatically added to the upgrade lsit. That said, your ability to upgrade still depends on how many travelers are in front of you on the waitlist.
Platinum Pro is effectively an upgraded version of Platinum status. These members receive a 72-hour upgrade window, an 80% elite mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats and three free checked bags. Additionally, you get a choice of one Loyalty Choice Reward when qualifying for this status, and you get complimentary same-day flight changes.
Finally, the top-tier status level is Executive Platinum. Executive Platinum members will receive two additional Loyalty Choice Rewards, upgrades (when available) on award flights, complimentary same-day flight changes, a 120% elite mileage bonus and 100-hour clearance for upgrades.
Note that Executive Platinum members can keep earning additional Loyalty Choice Rewards by earning additional Loyalty Points during the year.
Each of these elite status tiers is assigned Oneworld elite status too. Each of these tiers entitles the elite status member to benefits on partner airlines.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Gold: Oneworld Ruby.
- Platinum: Oneworld Sapphire.
- Platinum Pro: Oneworld Emerald.
- Executive Platinum: Oneworld Emerald.
How to earn AAdvantage miles
You can earn AAdvantage miles by flying on American Airlines flights or partner flights, opening a cobranded credit card and spending through shopping portals and dining programs — and lots more. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can earn AAdvantage miles.
Fly on American Airlines
When you fly on American Airlines, you’ll earn miles according to the base price of your ticket — that means without taxes and fees. The amount of miles you earn also varies based on your AAdvantage elite status. The higher your status, the higher the number of 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 a round-trip American Airlines ticket from Philadelphia (PHL) to Los Angeles (LAX) 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.
Fly on partner airlines
You can earn AAdvantage miles by flying with American’s partners. How you earn miles changes when you book a ticket on a partner’s website and add your AAdvantage number to the reservation.
For most partners, you’ll earn miles and Loyalty Points based on how long your flight is. 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:
As you can see, the lower economy fare classes earn smaller percentages of miles, while certain premium-class fares earn bonuses beyond 100%. You can see the fare class booked by looking at your e-ticket or calling the airline and asking. Plus, elite members earn bonus miles based on their status tier. In the case of Executive Platinum, you earn a whopping 120% bonus miles on your partner tickets.
Here’s an example. Say you’re an Executive Platinum elite and fly British Airways one-way from New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) 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, for a total of 7,593 miles and Loyalty Points earned.
However, some of AA’s non-Oneworld partner airlines follow different earning structures. Here’s a look:
- You only earn miles and Loyalty Points on these airlines if the flight is marketed by AA (with an AA flight number): Air Tahiti Nui and Cape Air.
- You earn miles based on distance and fare class but don’t earn Loyalty Points for status: China Southern Airlines, Etihad, Fiji Airways and Hawaiian Airlines.
- You earn miles and Loyalty Points based on the price of your ticket, just like you would with AA flights: JetBlue and Silver Airways.
Earn AAdvantage miles through credit cards
One of the easiest ways to earn American AAdvantage miles is through sign-up bonuses and everyday spending on cobranded credit cards.
Between Citi and Barclays, there are currently six American credit cards with different welcome bonuses and points-earning abilities.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere ($450 annual fee).
- 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 elsewhere ($99 annual fee, waived the first year).
- 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 elsewhere ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months).
- 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 elsewhere (no annual fee).
- Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere.
- Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard: Earn up to 70,000 miles: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and earn another 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card. Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on office supply, telecom, car rental and American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere ($95 annual fee).
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red, and Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuers.
Earn AAdvantage miles through partners
You can also earn AAdvantage miles through American’s many partners, including online shopping and dining rewards programs.
AAdvantage eShopping mall
American Airlines’ AAdvantage eShopping mall awards bonus miles for everyday online purchases. Using the portal is simple: Sign up for an account and find your merchant on the shopping portal before purchasing.
By clicking through this site rather than going directly to the merchant, you’ll take home bonus miles in addition to the earnings you’ll get on the rewards credit card you use.
Each merchant offers a different amount of miles per dollar spent, so you could get a hefty haul on your shopping. Plus, the AAdvantage shopping portal occasionally offers spending-based bonuses.
If you sign up for SimplyMiles, link a Mastercard and activate the offers, you can earn AAdvantage miles for your purchases made with the available merchants.
You can earn AA miles with the following retailers:
- FTD: Earn bonus miles when buying flowers, often 20-25 miles per $1 spent.
- PreFlight Airport Parking: Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent.
- SimpliSafe: Earn up to 7,000 bonus AA miles for using their security systems.
- 1-800-Flowers: Earn bonus miles when buying flowers, often 20-30 miles per $1 spent.
- Vinesse: Earn 2,000 bonus miles after your first purchase of wines, plus 5 miles per $1 spent after that.
- Vivid Seats: Earn 1 AAdvantage mile per $1 spent on event tickets.
- Shell Fuel Rewards: Instead of earning Shell’s own loyalty rewards, you can opt to earn AA miles.
Several different financial services have partnerships through which you can earn AAdvantage miles:
- LifeLock: Earn up to 13,000 miles when enrolling for a membership.
- LendingClub: Get 1 mile for every $1 you borrow.
- Miles From Home: Earn 2,000 miles for every $10,000 of the value of a home you sell or purchase (not available in all states).
AAdvantage Dining is similar to the AAdvantage shopping portal, but for eating out. Just sign up for an account and link your favorite credit cards, and you’ll earn miles when you dine at a participating restaurant.
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 member.
You’ll qualify for Select member status by simply opting in for email communications from AAdvantage Dining. Then, you’ll qualify for VIP status after dining with the program 11 times.
In addition to the hotel and rental car partners mentioned above, you can earn miles on vacation packages booked at aavacations.com and on cruises booked at bookaacruises.com. Additionally, you can earn 50 miles on a one-way booking or 100 miles round-trip when using SuperShuttle for rides to and from select airports.
Open a savings account
If you open a savings account with Bask Bank, you can elect to earn AAdvantage miles in lieu of cash as the interest on your account. You can read our analysis of this here: Introducing Bask Bank, a new way to earn miles. Unfortunately, miles earned with Bask Bank do not count as Loyalty Points.
Change your energy or electricity provider
By changing to one of the following providers, you can earn bonus AAdvantage miles:
- NRG: Earn 12,500 bonus miles for electricity, 2,500 bonus miles for natural gas and 2 miles for every $1 spent on electricity supply.
- Reliant (an NRG company): Earn 15,000 AAdvantage miles for signing up and 500 bonus miles each month for the next 24 months.
- Xoom: Earn 10,000 miles after two months as an energy customer and 2 miles per $1 spent on the supply portion of your electric bill; earn 5,000 miles after two months as a natural gas customer and 2 miles per $1 spent on the supply portion of your bill.
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 $1 donated, so long as the donation is $25 or more.
While not generally recommended, if you’re just a few miles short of a redemption, you can buy American Airlines miles. Check here for the latest deals, since there are often promotions to buy miles with a bonus or a discount.
How to redeem AAdvantage miles
One of the most straightforward ways to redeem AAdvantage miles is on American-operated flights. American charges relatively reasonable mileage rates for international flights, though domestic flights are relatively standard amounts for the travel industry.
The program shifted to dynamic pricing on some tickets but kept an award chart for MileSAAver and partner award tickets.
Things to know
I’ll talk more below about the best ways to spend your miles, but there are some redemptions you’ll want to avoid.
Redemptions like Admirals Club memberships, flight upgrades or hotels almost always provide a poor rate.
TPG’s most recent valuations estimate American miles to be worth 1.77 cents apiece, and the above options are usually significantly lower.
Additionally, if you hold the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, you’ll get Admirals Club membership anyway, so it’s best to avoid wasting your hard-earned miles this way.
MileSAAver is the airline’s version of “saver” award space. All MileSAAver and partner award tickets price according to American’s award chart.
American’s award chart is broken down into the following regions:
- Contiguous 48 U.S. states and Canada.
- Central America.
- South America Region 1.
- South America Region 2.
- Middle East.
- Indian subcontinent.
- Asia Region 1.
- Asia Region 2.
- South Pacific.
If it all sounds confusing, American publishes award charts for each region and even partner awards (more on that below). For example, if you wanted to fly from Dallas (DFW) to Rio de Janeiro (GRU) on American metal, it would fall under South America Region 2, including all of Brazil except for Manaus. Oddly, note that there is no region for Africa. When we discuss award pricing later, the information for flights to Africa has been pulled from real bookings over time.
Keep a few things in mind: The number of miles shown is for one-way travel, and each award is subject to taxes and fees starting from $5.60 per person. Also, three segments are permitted for each one-way award redeemed in the United States and Canada.
American partners with over a dozen airlines, many of which are world-renowned for their excellent business- and first-class 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).
You’ll notice some differences when booking American Airlines partners, one of which 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: Searching Oneworld availability
Web Special and AAnytime awards
The airline also offers Web Special awards that are usually priced well below the MileSAAver rate. There are some excellent deals to be had here, including ultra-cheap domestic awards.
I’ll show you more sweet spots later, but here’s a quick example. This flight from Philadelphia to Charlotte (CLT) is just 8,000 miles one-way:
Not all Web Special tickets are cheaper than MileSAAver rates. Sometimes they’re discounted AAnytime awards. AAnytime awards are American’s “last seat” award tickets, and are significantly more expensive than MileSAAver or Web Special awards, but give you more choice in tickets.
For example, this last-minute flight from New York to London doesn’t have MileSAAver space (which would cost 57,500 miles). Instead, you can book a Web Special award for 78,000 miles one-way or an AAnytime award for 400,000 miles. The only major difference is that you cannot change Web Special tickets, but you can cancel and reinstate your miles for free.
Web Special and AAnytime awards appear in award searches like any other award ticket. Just search for your ticket of choice and you’ll find them mixed in with MileSAAver tickets.
American Airlines Business Extra
The American Airlines Business Extra program lets companies with at least two employees earn rewards for their employees’ travel and any AAdvantage miles the employees earn.
This program is free, and the registration process is easy. By signing up, you can “double dip” on American and select Oneworld flights. Business Extra members earn 1 point per $5 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. And, depending on how many points you have at your disposal, you might be forced to pick some mid-tier redemptions before your points expire every two years.
Two of the worst possible redemption values involve Admirals Club access and elite status. An Admirals Club day pass requires 300 Business Extra points (after spending $1,500), while a full membership costs 3,300 points (after spending $16,500).
The cash prices of these would be $59 and $650, respectively (assuming you don’t have American Airlines elite status).
There are other ways to access Admirals Clubs, like opening the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. This card provides full Admirals Club membership to the primary cardholder, plus club access for up to 10 authorized users (which you can add to the card for free).
Another redemption option from Business Extra is to redeem 3,200 points ($16,000 of flight spending) for AAdvantage Gold status. This might make a nice gift for an employee who wouldn’t ordinarily qualify on their own, but you aren’t likely to get much value out of it.
The best value is using your Business Extra points for free flights and upgrades. It’s possible to redeem for award travel on American and on British Airways, Iberia and Japan Airlines.
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.
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.
Flights to the former are slightly cheaper in premium cabins (prices are for one-way flights):
|Cabin and region||MileSAAver Off-Peak||MileSAAver||AAnytime Level 1||AAnytime Level 2|
|Main Cabin – Asia Region 1||32,500.||35,000.||62,500.||80,000.|
|Main Cabin – Asia Region 2||32,500.||35,000.||62,500.||85,000.|
|Premium economy – Asia Region 1||–||50,000.||80,000.||105,000.|
|Premium economy – Asia Region 2||–||50,000.||85,000.||115,000.|
|Business class – Asia Region 1||–||60,000.||120,000.||155,000.|
|Business class – Asia Region 2||–||70,000.||140,000.||175,000.|
|First class – Asia Region 1||–||80,000.||170,000.||200,000.|
|First class – Asia Region 2||–||110,000.||180,000.||210,000.|
The lower prices on premium flights to Asia 1 apply to American-operated flights and those on Oneworld partners such as Japan Airlines. This means you can book JAL first class from San Francisco to Tokyo for only 80,000 miles.
That same ticket for the exact date is pricing out at nearly $12,000, so it’s an incredible deal.
Qatar QSuite to the Middle East
Another one of my favorite redemptions is Qatar’s fantastic QSuite product — it’s why I opened my AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard.
Awards cost 70,000 miles each way between the U.S. and the Middle East or Indian subcontinent. Seventy-five thousand miles each way from the U.S. will get you to destinations in Africa like Seychelles, Mauritius or South Africa.
First class between the Middle East and Asia Region 1
No discussion of American Airlines sweet spots would be fair without pointing out that you can take the luxurious Etihad Apartments (first class) from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Seoul (ICN) for just 50,000 miles one-way. Even crazier, you can connect onward from Seoul to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) with Japan Airlines business class for zero extra miles.
When these routes and cabins return to the air, this is one ticket you should consider booking.
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. Nine regions are eligible for MileSAAver off-peak awards and start at just 12,500 miles each way, but keep in mind that you’ll have to fly AA metal for almost all regions.
Using the calendar above, you can search for flights that fall within the dates. That means you can fly from the U.S. to sunny Turks and Caicos (PLS) in Main Cabin for just 10,000 miles in October or November, as it falls under the Caribbean off-peak dates:
Or from Seoul, which falls under Asia Region 1, to the contiguous U.S. for 32,500 miles in Main Cabin:
Web Specials for premium flights
As discussed, while American still has a traditional award chart, much of the AAdvantage program consists of variable award pricing (called “Web Specials“) for its flights. That sometimes works in your favor — especially when there are flights for as low as 5,000 AAdvantage miles one way.
But that’s not all — you can also find premium award availability as well. For example, I ran a search between New York-area airports (including John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and nearby Westchester County Airport) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). I first saw the AAnytime Level 1 pricing of 20,000 miles each way.
But after scrolling down a bit, I found several premium Web Specials for 6,000 miles in Main Cabin and 16,000 miles in domestic first class. The trade-off is adding a connecting flight and flying from a different airport, so make sure you read the details before booking.
The American Airlines AAdvantage program is far from perfect. But if you know how to make it work, you can get value through premium seats on American or partner flights.
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 welcome offer, and the ability to continue to earn miles with your daily spending. Once the miles are in your account, make sure to research the best ways to use them for low-cost domestic flights and international business and first class.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.
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