The complete guide to American Web Special awards
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American Airlines is — for right this second — one of the airlines doing dynamic pricing right.
For now, the carrier has stuck with an award chart for most of its tickets. But American added a limited form of dynamic pricing when it introduced Economy Web Special awards in 2018. Although the pricing is no longer limited to economy tickets, these discounted tickets are issued on a route-by-route basis. And the discount varies by day and when you book.
American usually discounts Web Special awards below the cost of a MileSAAver award ticket, but it can sometimes be more. You’ll usually see higher prices when only AAnytime — American’s “last seat” award ticket — award space is available.
Here’s everything you need to know about American Airlines Web Special award tickets including what Web Special awards are, how to find them and the restrictions surrounding them. Being able to make use of Web Special awards will help to maximize your American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
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What are American Web Special awards?
As discussed earlier, Web Special awards are a product of American’s move towards dynamic pricing where the cost of awards varies just as paid ticket prices vary. These awards usually provide a discount over MileSAAver awards but also include more restrictions around changing your ticket.
In the past, we’ve seen a few crazy cheap Web Special awards. For example, the airline once offered 10,000-mile round-trip economy flights to Australia and New Zealand. I’ve personally booked New York-JFK to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) via Los Angeles (LAX) for just 45,000 miles in business class with Web Special awards.
Generally, however, deals won’t be quite this good.
In most cases, expect to save 5,000 to 10,000 miles per ticket. For example, I found a Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) to Cancun (CUN) 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 price.
Further, you’ll sometimes find that Web Special awards are more expensive than the published MileSAAver rate. This higher cost usually happens when the flight is out of MileSAAver award space. As such, American is effectively offering you a discounted AAnytime ticket. You may find this option useful when booking a last-minute ticket or flying on high-demand routes.
For example, this flight from Charlotte (CLT) to London-Heathrow (LHR) didn’t have available MileSAAver award space in business class. This flight would typically cost 57,500 miles one-way. An AAnytime ticket costs a huge 180,000 miles one-way, but American is offering a Web Special award for 104,500 miles one-way.
This still isn’t a great deal, but a good option to have if you need to fly on a specific day.
Web Special awards are slightly more restrictive than MileSAAver
There is one significant restriction to Web Special awards: you can’t change your ticket. So if you want to make changes, you’ll need to cancel your trip and book a new one once your miles are refunded.
Thankfully, American Airlines recently removed cancellation fees for Web Special tickets. You can cancel your flight online and American Airlines will automatically refund your AAdvantage miles to your account.
The inability to change Web Special awards isn’t a massive deal in the end. The only thing you have to lose when canceling and rebooking a ticket is — possibly — the cost of the new flight being higher than your original flight. This is far better than the high fees American Airlines used to charge for Web Special cancellations, making Web Special awards a lot more flexible now than before.
How to find Web Special awards
Finding Web Special awards is simple: search the American website like you would for any other award ticket by selecting “Redeem miles”. Web Special awards will appear alongside MileSAAver and AAnytime awards.
Start your search by heading to AA.com and entering your search details. Make sure to check the “Redeem Miles” box before starting your search.
If your dates are flexible, use the calendar search tool to find the lowest award price for the month. This tool shows you pricing for all the dates in a given month. You can access it by clicking the “Calendar” button at the upper right-hand corner of the search results screen.
American Airlines highlights the lowest price in green, which generally indicates a Web Special award if it’s less than other prices displayed that month. If you’re interested in booking, click the date and then click the blue “Apply Changes” button at the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
You can’t tell which awards are Web Specials from the initial search results. Instead, you’ll get this notice when you click on the award you’d like to book. Here, American will sell us a Web Special or MileSAAver Main Cabin award.
If you’re comfortable with the Web Special restrictions, click the Confirm button under the Web Special option and continue your booking as usual.
How to earn AAdvantage miles
If you’re interested in redeeming miles for Web Special awards, you might want to earn AAdvantage miles first.
There are several cobranded American Airlines cards you can use to earn these miles quickly. These cards let you earn AAdvantage miles on every purchase you make. Even better, some of these cards offer lucrative travel perks like free checked bags, priority boarding and even Admirals Club access.
Here’s a look at some of the best American cobranded credit cards and current signup bonuses:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you make $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles plus a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening.
The information for the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select and CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you’re interested, you could consider opening a Citi Premier® Card and earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The points may or may not post in time for you to transfer them, but you’d be ready if the opportunity arises again.
Related: The best airline credit cards
American’s Web Special awards are a great way to maximize your AAdvantage miles. You can use them to save miles on international and domestic award tickets in economy class and premium cabins. I’ve personally used Web Special awards to save tens of thousands of American miles over the years.
These awards got even better when American Airlines removed cancellation fees. Now, Web Special awards have almost as much flexibility as MileSAAver awards. Remember, you can cancel a Web Special award and redeposit miles for free, but you still can’t change a Web Special award.
Featured image by EQRoy/Shutterstock.com.
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Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $815. 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.
- 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 up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
- 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
- Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible mile earned from 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 16.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.