How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program
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Editor’s note: At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information needed to make educated decisions about travel and your rewards-earnings strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route network. But we are sharing this information to provide value for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.
This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
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 the largest airline by passengers carried, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across American Airlines and its AAdvantage program at some point in your travels.
Plus, American Airlines’ plethora of Oneworld and non-alliance partners means that you can use your AAdvantage miles to fly in some awesome business-class products. For example, 115,000 AAdvantage miles gets you a one-way ticket from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi (AUH) in Etihad Apartments first class — one of the best premium seats in the sky.
But if you’re confused by the multitude of ways to earn American miles, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll take you through the different methods you can use to boost your AAdvantage account balance.
Let’s get started!
Before we dive in, though, make sure to create a free AAdvantage account on the American Airlines website. You’ll need an account before you can start earning AAdvantage miles using any of the methods we’ve outlined in the article.
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 its Oneworld alliance and 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’d expect, the higher the status, the higher the 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 ($100 x 5 miles per dollar) as an AAdvantage member without elite status.
Note that AAdvantage elite status is still earned by the number of miles flown and fare class, not the price paid for those tickets. These miles qualify you for elite status, but cannot be used for award flights. The example above in economy class (1x miles) 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. This is generally the case if you book a ticket operated by a partner airline on the American Airlines website.
How you earn miles changes when you book a ticket on a partner’s website and add your AAdvantage number to the reservation. In this case, you’ll 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 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 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 British Airways business class in the C fare class from New York-JFK to London (LHR), you’ll earn 100% base miles plus a 25% cabin bonus. Since the flight clocks in at 3,451 miles in distance, this comes out to 4,314 AAdvantage 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 issuers when it comes to earning bonus miles on everyday credit card spending. Currently, Citi offers four AAdvantage cards:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. ($450 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant and on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. ($99 annual fee)
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening. ($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 2x AAdvantage miles on grocery store and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere. (No annual fee)
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
We think the best card for most American flyers is the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. You can use the card’s high welcome bonus for a round-trip flight to Europe, multiple domestic flights around the U.S., or even a round-trip business-class ticket to parts of South America. Plus, the card offers in-flight perks like preferred boarding, a free checked bag and a 25% discount on in-flight purchases on all American Airlines flights.
We’re also big fans of the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard for business owners. Its elevated 65,000 AAdvantage mile welcome bonus and 2x points earning on select business categories like telecom, rental cars and gas stations make this a great all-around card for business owners that fly on American. Plus, you can add employees as authorized users for free, letting you earn miles on all of your business’ purchases.
The 70,000-mile welcome bonus is nothing to scoff at either; TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents per point, making this bonus worth at least $980. You can use the bonus for a one-way business class ticket to Europe or Asia or a handful of domestic trips around the U.S. This can help you save money on business travel, plan a family vacation or subsidize any other travel you’re planning for late 2020 and beyond.
On the other hand, Barclays offers two American AAdvantage cobranded credit cards. Bonus categories are not as good as those on the Citi cards, but you only need to make a single purchase and pay the annual fee to earn the welcome bonus. Here are the two cards by Barclays currently open to new applicants:
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 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 up to 75,000 miles: 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)
The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red and Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Apply for the credit card that best fits your lifestyle, and be sure that you can meet the minimum spending needed to get the welcome bonus on Citi cards. These offers provide tremendous value, and putting everyday purchases on any of these cards will help you rack up a lot AAdvantage miles quickly.
Credit card spending now counts towards Million Miler status through 2020
American Airlines recently announced a promotion where cobranded credit card spending counts towards Million Miler status. This promotion will run between May 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020 and applies to all AAdvantage cards issued in the U.S. and select international cards, giving those close to a million lifetime miles on American an easier way to achieve lifetime status. Typically, you can only earn these miles by actually flying on American Airlines flights.
When you reach you hit one million lifetime miles on American, you get lifetime Gold elite status. This means you’ll have access to space-available upgrades on flights under 500 miles, free checked bags, preferred seating on all American flights and more regardless of how much you fly. You’ll also earn 35,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you cross the one million mile threshold.
Likewise, those who achieve two million lifetime miles earn lifetime Platinum status on American Airlines. This includes elevated benefits like lounge access on international flights. Plus, you’ll get four Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) deposited into your AAdvantage account which can be used to upgrade domestic and international flights by one class of service.
Earn through partners
You can also earn AAdvantage miles through American’s many partners. Each of these partners offers miles for activities that you already do, like shopping, dining or banking.
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 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 rewards 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 shopping.
In addition, the AAdvantage eShopping mall offers promotions 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.
The AAdvantage eShopping mall can be especially lucrative for business owners. The Apple Store, Dell Technologies, Staples and other popular technology providers all offer bonus miles on the AAdvantage eShopping mall. At the time of writing this article, Dell Technologies is offering 5 points per dollar spent on purchases made through the portal. This means you’d earn a huge 6,000 AAdvantage points if you buy a $1,200 laptop for a new employee after clicking through the portal.
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 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 a 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 Bask Bank savings account
In early 2020, Bask Bank unveiled a new savings account that earns AAdvantage miles in lieu of traditional interest. This gives AAdvantage members an interesting new way to earn AAdvantage miles that’s essentially the opposite of earning with a credit card. In short, you earn points based on how much money you save, not how much you spend.
More specifically, you’ll earn 1 AAdvantage point per dollar saved per year. Miles are paid out monthly based on your average monthly account balance, so it can help you earn a steady stream of AAdvantage miles if you fund the account with a considerable amount of money.
Further, Bask Bank is offering a 5,000 AAdvantage mile bonus when you open an account and keep an average balance of $5,000 or more for at least 30 days. You have 60 days from account opening to fund your account with this balance, so there’s some leeway if you need time to accrue the money. The bonus miles will post to your account 6-8 weeks after you qualify for the bonus.
But should you open a Bask Bank account? That depends on how much you value AAdvantage miles.
To put this into context, TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents per point. Since you earn 1 mile per dollar saved per year, you’re effectively getting a 1.4% APY by earning AAdvantage miles if you agree with our valuations. This is higher than the 0.06% APY national average for savings accounts and is comparable to high-yield savings accounts offered by Wealthfront and Marcus.
For example, if you saved $60,000 in a Bask Bank savings account you’d earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles. This is worth $840 per the TPG valuations — on the other hand, you’d earn just $36 in interest in 0.06% APY savings account. So while we don’t advise putting all of your savings into a Bask Bank account, it may be a worthwhile place to hold your vacation fund or other short-term savings.
Move your cell phone to Sprint
Sprint and American Airlines have partnered to award AAdvantage miles to new Sprint subscribers. You’ll earn a lump sum of miles upfront, 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
The 5,000 AAdvantage mile bonus for active Sprint accounts is paid monthly. So, you’ll receive 417 AAdvantage miles per month that your Sprint account is active and in good standing.
Do note that you cannot combine this offer with a corporate discount or another type of Sprint Perks. Additionally, business accounts are not eligible for this offer.
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 Marriott Bonvoy.
Marriott points transfer to American AAdvantage at a ratio of 3 Marriott points to 1 AAdvantage mile. However, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to an airline partner, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus.
Earn bonus AAdvantage miles when you book hotel rooms
There are two ways to earn bonus AAdvantage miles with hotel bookings. The first is booking hotels directly through Best Western, Hyatt, Marriott, InterContinental Hotels and Wyndham. Each of these hotels let you earn AAdvantage miles in lieu of standard hotel points — just make sure to opt for airline mileage earning when you book your hotel stay on the hotel’s website.
You can earn points at the following rates:
- Best Western: 250 miles per stay
- Hyatt: 500 miles per stay
- Marriott: 1 to 2 miles per dollar spent at all Marriott brands; higher-end properties earn 2 miles per dollar spent while lower-end properties — like Aloft, Courtyard, Four Points, and others — earn 1 mile per dollar spent
- InterContinental Hotels: 1 to 2 miles per dollar spent at all InterContinental Hotel properties; stays at Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites earn 1 mile per dollar spent and all other brands earn 2 miles per dollar spent
- Wyndham: Blue and Gold Wyndham Rewards members earn 1 mile per dollar spent at select hotels; Platinum and Diamond Wyndham Rewards members earn 2 miles per dollar spent at select hotels
Make sure to compare the number of hotel points you’d earn with the number of AAdvantage miles you’d earn before you opt to earn AAdvantage miles. Sometimes, you may come out ahead by earning hotel points instead — especially on longer hotel stays at Best Western and Hyatt where you’d instead earn hotel points based on the cost of your stay.
You can also earn AAdvantage miles on hotel stays by booking hotels through RocketMiles. This Online Travel Agency (OTA) awards AAdvantage miles on hotel stays around the world. You can earn up to 10,000 miles per stay, with promoted and more expensive hotels often earning the most points. Boutique and independent hotels are listed on RocketMiles too, so it’s a good way to earn bonus miles on hotels where you otherwise wouldn’t earn points.
For example, the Hotel Julian in downtown Chicago earns 3,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-night stay in November 2020. This hotel is not a part of a larger hotel company, so you wouldn’t earn miles if you booked directly with the hotel.
Do note that RocketMiles sometimes prices hotels higher than if you booked direct, so always cross-check prices before you book a hotel room with the company. But if the price works, this can be an excellent way to earn bonus AAdvantage miles when you travel for work or pleasure.
In March 2019, American and Hyatt announced a partnership that allows Hyatt elites to earn bonus points on American flights and American elites to earn bonus miles on Hyatt stays. After you link your World of Hyatt and AAdvantage accounts at this page, all American elite members will earn 1 AAdvantage mile for every dollar 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.
These miles are earned in addition to World of Hyatt points, so Hyatt and American elite status members can truly get the best of both worlds. We highly recommend enrolling in this program if you have elite status with either company.
Book vacation packages with American Airlines Vacations
You can earn bonus points on vacation packages by booking through American Airlines Vacations. This is American’s in-house vacation booking portal where you can book flights, hotels, and/or car rentals as a package and take advantage of discounted rates. Further, you’ll also earn a minimum of 1,000 bonus AAdvantage miles on all packages booked through American Airlines Vacations. There is no minimum spend required to earn this 1,000-mile bonus.
You can earn more miles by booking hotel stays at “featured hotels”. According to American, you can earn up to 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles per stay when you book at these hotels.
Featured hotels are listed on American Airlines Vacations’ promotions page and are updated regularly. As of writing this article, the vacation booking portal is running a single promotion that offers 20,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you book select hotels in Puerto Rico.
American Airlines frequently runs other special promotions too. For example, the booking portal is running a March Secret Sale that offers up to 25,000 bonus miles when you book by March 18, 2020. The exact number of miles you’ll earn depends on how much you spend on a vacation package, with the lowest spend tier awarding 5,000 bonus miles when you spend between $2,000 and $4,000 on a package. This is in addition to the standard 1,000 miles you’ll earn with all American Airlines Vacation packages.
These limited-time promotions pop up a few times throughout the year, so make sure to check the American Airlines Vacations page before you book your next vacation. Keep in mind that you may not earn hotel points or be able to use hotel elite status benefits when you book hotels through American Airlines Vacations — you usually need to book directly with the hotel in order to take advantage of these benefits.
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.
- Charity: Finally, you can earn AAdvantage miles by donating money to Stand Up To Cancer. You’ll earn 10 miles per dollar donated to the charity which raises funds for cancer research and awareness programs. This is a great way to earn AAdvantage miles while making a real impact on the lives of cancer patients worldwide. As you’d expect, these donations are tax-deductible too.
Despite AAdvantage not partnering with any major transferable points programs, you can easily earn miles through flying, spending on cobranded credit cards, by opening a savings account and through numerous retail partners. Use multiple partners in tandem and you can quickly rack up a sizeable AAdvantage mileage balance.
If you choose to go the credit card route, we recommend signing up for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. This card has a solid welcome bonus and earns bonus points on everyday purchases. Once miles are in your account, 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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