The best uses of 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles
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If you’ve been waiting for a great opportunity to earn a lot of American Airlines miles, you’re in luck. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That sign-up bonus is worth $840, according to TPG’s latest valuations. This card only charges a $99 annual fee and comes with no foreign transaction fees.
If you plan on applying (or better yet, were already approved), here are some of the best ways to redeem your 60,000-mile welcome bonus to jumpstart your next getaway.
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Round-trip economy to Europe
A round-trip saver economy ticket to Europe only costs 60,000 American Airlines miles. Depending on where you’re headed, you can fly either on American Airlines or a Oneworld partner, but you’ll be best off avoiding British Airways and the massive carrier surcharges it imposes on award tickets (including those issued through partners). American has continued to expand its route network to Europe, including flights from Philadelphia (PHL) to Dubrovnik (DBV) and Bologna (BLQ) along with Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Athens (ATH).
If you happen to be traveling Nov. 1 through Dec. 14 or Jan. 10 through March 14, these flights actually drop even lower thanks to American’s off-peak pricing. A one-way economy award ticket from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in Europe will set you back just 22,500 miles, bringing your round-trip total to just 45,000 miles.
One-Way business class to North Asia
If you’re looking to travel in a bit more comfort, your 60,000-mile sign-up bonus could also get you a one-way business class ticket (60,000 miles) to the “Asia 1” region, which American defines as Japan and Korea. American operates almost all of these routes using their shiny new 787s, which offer a comfortable ride in business class. But if you’re heading to Tokyo, you definitely want to look for a seat on Japan Airlines (JAL) instead. For the same price as a flight on AA metal (except for any small differences in taxes), you can fly in JAL’s spacious Sky Suite on any of their 777-300ER and select 787 aircraft. The window seats in this configuration are incredibly private, almost as good as Qatar’s fully-enclosed Qsuite.
AA, along with a number of other U.S.-based airlines, are in the process of realigning their service to Tokyo after the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded U.S. airlines about a dozen new slots to fly to Tokyo’s close-in Haneda airport. As such, expect to see American Airlines flying more of its flagship Boeing 777-300ER to Tokyo, the only plane in its fleet to feature a true international first-class cabin. While award space is very hard to come by, you can book a first-class award on either American or JAL for only 80,000 miles each way.
Two round-trip tickets within the U.S.
If you’re looking to stay a little closer to home, you can also use your sign-up bonus to book two round-trip tickets anywhere in the contiguous U.S., excluding Alaska and Hawaii. You can even stack this with AA’s reduced mileage awards to get an even better deal if your award ticket departs from or arrives into an eligible city during your month of travel.
Using these discounted awards — which are only available to customers with certain cobranded American Airlines credit cards — you’ll pay only 6,500 AAdvantage miles for one-way flights under 500 miles in distance. Longer one-way awards are also a terrific deal, as you’ll save 3,750 miles each way, meaning you can potentially get up to four round-trip tickets out of this bonus and still have miles left over.
Just be forewarned that trying to find saver-level award space, especially for multiple people, is likely to give you a headache. American also appears to be following the path blazed by Delta (and most recently United) in shifting to more variable award pricing with its Web Specials. While award charts are still available on AA.com, the carrier has copied moves by its legacy counterparts before, though only time will tell what exactly this means for the AAdvantage program.
Transcontinental first or business class
Airlines compete heavily for a share of the lucrative transcontinental market, but American Airlines has one of the most impressive products on this route (outside of JetBlue’s Mint class). The carrier flies a specially-configured, three-cabin A321T between New York-JFK and both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). It also recently launched the same service from Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles. First class consists of 10 reverse herringbone seats in a 1×1 configuration, similar to what you’d find in international business class, while the business-class cabin has 20 flat-bed seats in a 2×2 layout. If you’re lucky enough to find saver level space, a one-way business-class ticket will cost you 32,500 miles, while a first-class seat runs 50,000 miles each way. While that’s a lot to pay for a domestic flight, it sure beats shelling out $1,500+ in cash.
As an added bonus, business-class passengers will get access to American’s Flagship Lounges on the ground in New York and Los Angeles, and first-class passengers will even get an invite to American’s exclusive Flagship First Dining space. This sit-down restaurant hidden inside the Flagship Lounge is only accessible to passengers traveling in true first class, which would mean international passengers on one of American’s 777-300ER aircraft or transcontinental first class. Elite status won’t get you in, even if you hold AA’s exclusive and mysterious Concierge Key status (though the carrier has sent dining passes to those members in the past).
Round-trip economy to Central or South America
Despite Delta’s recent coup in stealing LATAM from the Oneworld alliance with a large equity investment American Airlines has by far the strongest route network to Latin America of any of the major U.S. airlines. In the last year the carrier has commenced service from Miami (MIA) to Pereira, Colombia (PEI) and Córdoba, Argentina (COR) along with a long-haul flight from LAX to Buenos Aires (EZE). The Caribbean, Central America and Northern South America even have off-peak award rates during select times of the year.
There are several ways you could use your miles here:
- Round-trip economy to South America (35,000-60,000 miles, depending on the destination/time of year)
- Two round-trip economy flights to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean on American Airlines metal (25,000 to 30,000 miles, depending on the time of year)
- One-way business class to Southern South America (57,500 miles)
One-way from Abu Dhabi to Seoul in Etihad Apartment
One of my favorite ways to use American miles is on Etihad’s fantastic first-class Apartment. If you’re based in the U.S., you’re probably familiar with the JFK-AUH route, which costs 115,000 American AAdvantage miles one-way. But there’s another way to get the full experience without flying on a shorter route, like Paris (CDG) to Abu Dhabi.
If you can find award space, you can fly between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Seoul (ICN) for just 50,000 American miles each way. Yes, each way. Not a bad way to use that sign-up bonus.
American AAdvantage miles can sometimes be difficult to redeem, but if you have some flexibility in terms of when you travel and where you go, the 60,000 miles you can currently earn on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® can take you pretty far. TPG values this bonus at $840, but you could easily get double that with the right premium-cabin redemption.
Featured photo courtesy of Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
Victoria Walker contributed to this post.