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If you’re just getting into the world of points and miles, the array of loyalty programs from airlines, hotels and credit cards can be quite overwhelming. However, it’s important to know the basics of all of the major airlines, and as one of the largest carriers out there, chances are quite good that you’ll come into contact with American Airlines and its AAdvantage program at some point in your travels.
If you’re confused by the multitude of ways to earn American miles, you’ve come to the right place, as today I’ll take you through the different methods you can use to boost your AAdvantage account balance. We’ll discuss how to earn miles by flying, through credit cards and through other program partners, including portals like AAdvantage Dining and the AAdvantage eShopping mall.
Earn by Flying
Earning AAdvantage miles by flying may seem like it needs no explanation, but how you earn miles for flying has changed over the years. Here’s how you can earn AAdvantage miles flying on American and airlines in the Oneworld alliance, as well as on non-alliance partners.
Flying on American Airlines
When flying on American Airlines you’ll earn miles according to the base price of your ticket minus taxes and fees. The amount of miles you earn also varies based on your AAdvantage elite status. As you would expect, the higher the status, the higher number of miles earned.
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
So if you buy a one-way American Airlines ticket from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to New York-JFK that costs $120 and includes $20 in taxes (note that these amounts are rounded), you would earn 500 miles as an AAdvantage member without elite status. The math looks like this: (120 – 20) x 5 = 500.
Note that AAdvantage elite status is still earned by the number of miles flown, not the price paid for those tickets. These miles qualify you for elite status, but cannot be used for award flights. The example above would earn 737 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), as that is the distance between Chicago-O’Hare and New York-JFK.
Flying with partners
Flying with an American Airlines partner will earn miles in one of two ways. If the partner flight was booked through American and is ticketed on American Airlines ticket stock, you’ll earn miles the same as if you were flying on an American Airlines flight.
Booking a ticket on a partner’s website and adding your AAdvantage number to the reservation will earn miles based on how long your flight is — just like EQMs. However, the exact earning rate depends on the fare class of your ticket. Here’s an example of the earning chart for Iberia-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 by calling the airline and asking. Once you’ve located the fare class, go to American’s list of partner airlines, click on the operating carrier of your flight and find the corresponding fare class on that list. Then, multiply the mileage flown by the percentage in the Fare Class column. Premium fare classes will also earn the bonus listed in the Cabin Bonus column.
(TIP: Use GCmap.com to quickly calculate the distance between two airports.)
For example, if you’re flying Iberia Premium Economy in the W fare class from New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD), you’ll earn 100% base miles plus a 10% cabin bonus. Since the flight clocks in at 3,589 miles in distance, this comes out to 3,948 miles earned each way.
Earn Through Credit Cards
One of the easiest ways to earn American AAdvantage miles is through cobranded credit cards, both via sign-up bonuses and everyday spending. Both Citi and Barclays currently issue American credit cards, giving you six different options with different welcome bonuses and point-earning abilities.
Citi’s American AAdvantage portfolio is the most attractive of the two banks when it comes to earning bonus miles on everyday credit card spend. Currently, Citi offers four AAdvantage cards:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. ($450 annual fee)
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Earn 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first year)
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard: Earn 60,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first year)
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on grocery store and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. (No annual fee)
Barclays offers two American AAdvantage cobranded credit cards. Bonus categories are not as good as those on the Citi cards, but you only needs to make a purchase and pay the annual fee to earn the sign-up bonus. Here are the two cards by Barclays currently open to new applicants:
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile elsewhere.
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 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 2x AAdvantage miles on office supply, telecom, car rental and American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile elsewhere. ($95 annual fee)
Apply for the credit card that best fits your lifestyle, and be sure that you can meet the minimum spend needed to get the welcome bonus on Citi cards. These offers provide tremendous value, and putting your everyday spend on any of these cards will help you rack up a lot AAdvantage miles quickly.
Earn Through Partners
You can also earn AAdvantage miles through American’s many partners. Each of them offers miles for different activities that you already do like shopping, dining or banking.
In March 2019, American and Hyatt announced an upcoming partnership that would allow Hyatt elites to earn bonus points on American flights and American elites to earn bonus miles on Hyatt stays. This program went live in May; after you link your World of Hyatt and AAdvantage accounts at this page, all American elite members will earn 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on Hyatt stays. While this won’t get you a first class ticket to Asia anytime soon, it’s still a nice double-dip opportunity, especially if you’re already planning a number of Hyatt stays in the future.
AAdvantage eShopping mall
American Airlines’ AAdvantage eShopping mall awards points for everyday online purchases. Using the portal is simple: sign up for an account and find your merchant on the eShopping mall before you make a purchase. 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 credit card you use. Each merchant offers a different amount of miles per dollar spent, so you could get a hefty haul of miles on your holiday shopping.
In addition, the AAdvantage eShopping mall offers spend bonuses occasionally, especially as big shopping periods approach. For example, it was offering 4,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after making $1,200 in purchases the week before Black Friday.
Think of AAdvantage Dining as a shopping portal 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 earn 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent if you are a VIP member, 3 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent as an online member and one AAdvantage mile per dollar spent as a member. You’ll become an online member by signing up for email alerts, and you can obtain VIP status after making 12 transactions within 12 months. If you have not provided a valid email address you are considered a basic member, so I’d strongly encourage you to sign-up with your email (and then don’t just ignore or delete them!).
AAdvantage Dining even has a welcome bonus, too. Currently, you will earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $25 at an participating restaurant within 30 days of opening your account. Just like the shopping portal, these earnings are in addition to the standard rates on the credit card you use, so be sure to swipe one that offers a category bonus when dining out.
If you dine out a lot and happen to frequent restaurants that participate in the program, you can rack up miles pretty quickly with AAdvantage Dining.
Open a BankDirect account
Opening a new bank account can also help you earn a large amount of AAdvantage miles. Online banking company BankDirect offers a few financial products like checking and money market accounts that earn bonus AAdvantage miles. Here’s what the bank currently offers:
New checking and money market account offers
- 1,000 miles when you open a new Mileage Checking or Mileage Money Market account
- 10,000 miles when you set up a payroll direct deposit for a Mileage Checking account
- 5,000 miles when you use BankDirect’s bill pay service or your BankDirect debit card
Certificate of deposit offers
- 1,000 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 2-year Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000
- 500 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 1-year Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000
- 250 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 6-month Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000
Note that these financial products may not earn as much interest as comparable accounts, so do your research before moving your finances to BankDirect. The bank also offers monthly bonuses for some accounts.
Move your cell phone to Sprint
Sprint and American Airlines recently partnered to award AAdvantage miles to new Sprint subscribers. You’ll earn a lump sum of miles up front, as well as an annual award for each year you keep your Sprint mobile service active. Here’s how many miles you can earn:
- Earn 20,000 AAdvantage miles when you activate a new account with Sprint.
- Earn up to 5,000 AAdvantage miles each year your Sprint account is active.
Transfer miles from hotel programs
You can also transfer hotel points from a variety of programs directly into your AAdvantage account. While most of these offer a relatively poor value proposition, an exception is the integrated Marriott/SPG program. Marriott points transfer to American AAdvantage at a ratio of three Marriott points to one AAdvantage mile. However, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to an airline partner, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus. This drops the effective ratio to 2.4:1 when you transfer in increments of 60,000 points.
That’s not all
This was just a sampling of American Airlines’ many partners. You can see the full list on the carrier’s website to find opportunities that will help you pump up your mileage balance with everyday spending.
- Transportation: American also partners with a wide variety of transportation partners, including numerous rental car companies and airport transfer providers.
- Vacations: Another option for earning bonus AAdvantage miles is when you’re planning your next vacation. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by booking a combination of flight, hotel and/or car reservations through American Airlines Vacations. In addition to earning the miles you normally would on flights and gaining access to discounted, unpublished rates, you’ll also earn an additional 250 miles for every package booked through the site.
- Charity: One final way to earn bonus miles is through charitable donations. American currently partners with three different organizations that offer you 10 miles for every dollar you donate:
Despite AAdvantage not partnering with any major transferable credit card programs, miles can be easily earned through flying, cobranded credit cards and numerous retail partners. Once you have your miles, make sure to research the best ways to use them for low-cost domestic flights and international business class, while also keeping a few redemption quirks in mind.
Featured photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy
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