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How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program

July 23, 2022
9 min read
American Airlines Boeing 777 JFK
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


American miles have been devalued over the last few years. With limited business class availability and the airline's move to dynamic pricing, it's harder to get value out of your AAdvantage miles. However, there are still plenty of sweet spots in American Airlines AAdvantage.

American offers an extensive network of exciting and practical domestic and international routes. It’s also a part of the Oneworld alliance and has 14 airline partners — many of which offer some of the most coveted experiences in the skies. It’s also the only "Big 3" U.S. airline that hasn’t fully eliminated award charts — at least not yet.

Because of this, your AAdvantage miles are extremely flexible, and can even be used for aspirational luxury on Qatar, Japan Airlines and other airlines with stellar hard products, both in economy and premium classes.

Today we’ll go over how you can redeem American Airlines miles and touch on the process of redeeming for American and partner-operated flights. We’ll also review alternate (and poor) ways to redeem your miles.

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Redeem miles on American flights

Using your AAdvantage miles on American can offer some solid value in the right circumstances. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

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 is shifting toward dynamic pricing, though it hasn’t yet removed its partner award chart (we’ll get to that later).

American uses a region-based chart for pricing awards. While no price is any longer a guarantee, you should still be able to find flights such as:

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  • 50,000 miles for an economy round-trip flight to Chile.
  • 57,500 miles for a business class one-way flight to Europe.
  • 7,500 miles for a domestic economy one-way flight.

The difference is that now you may find the same business class flight to Europe for 200,000-plus miles or as low as 50,000 miles. Or that domestic economy flight for 50,000-plus miles or as low as 5,000 miles. Dynamic pricing rewards those with a flexible schedule and punishes everyone else.

American launched Economy Web Specials in 2018, and it has quickly expanded to other regions and premium cabins. These awards start at just 5,000 miles each way, making for awesome low-priced domestic and international redemptions. In the past, we’ve even seen American offer Flagship First Class tickets to Japan for just 55,000 AAdvantage miles one-way.

Related: Find American Airlines award availability quickly with SeatSpy

Redeeming AAdvantage miles for American flights is simple: Head to the American Airlines website and search for your award ticket. American isn’t known for having plentiful award availability, but you can find good deals when searching for awards far in advance.

You can also use ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to search for this award space for up to a week at a time. If you can’t find it initially, premium subscribers can set alerts to receive an email when a spot opens up.

Make sure to check out our articles on the best ways to redeem American miles and the best business class awards you can book with AAdvantage miles.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Redeem miles on partner flights

Flights on partner airlines, like Qatar’s incredible Qsuite, can be a terrific use of AAdvantage miles. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

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 — no amazing deals, but no 200,000-mile pricing, either.

Also, watch for carrier-imposed fees and surcharges. British Airways is infamous for routinely tacking on $300 or more in surcharges for Europe-bound flights. These are passed on to AAdvantage members in addition to the miles they’ll spend.

That’s not to say there are no good AAdvantage partner redemptions — it’s quite the opposite, in fact. As discussed earlier, American Airlines partners with many world-renowned airlines that offer stellar business- and first-class products with reasonable carrier-imposed fees.

Here’s a list of all of American’s current partners:

Oneworld airline partners:

  • Alaska Airlines.
  • American Airlines.
  • British Airways.
  • Cathay Pacific.
  • Finnair.
  • Iberia.
  • Japan Airlines.
  • Malaysia Airlines.
  • Qantas.
  • Qatar Airways.
  • Royal Air Maroc.
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines.
  • SriLankan Airlines.
  • Oman Air (future member).

Non-alliance airline partners:

  • Air Tahiti Nui.
  • Cape Air.
  • China Southern Airline
  • Etihad Airways.
  • Fiji Airways.
  • GOL Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • IndiGo.
  • JetBlue.
  • Silver Airways.

You can book most of these partners online — only three (China Southern Airlines, Etihad and IndiGo) require you to call. At the time of writing, you can book the following airlines on American’s website in addition to American-operated flights:

  • Air Tahiti Nui.
  • Alaska Airlines.
  • British Airways.
  • Cape Air.
  • Cathay Pacific.
  • Fiji Airways.
  • Finnair.
  • GOL Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Iberia.
  • Japan Airlines.
  • JetBlue.
  • Malaysia Airlines.
  • Qantas Airways.
  • Qatar Airways.
  • Royal Air Maroc.
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines.
  • Silver Airways.
  • SriLankan Airlines.

For the few not on this list, you can search for partner awards on the airline’s own website for saver availability and then call in to book with American Airlines. You shouldn’t encounter this problem often, as the main players are bookable online.

Related: The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

When you call American, the phone agent will give you a quote for both mileage and taxes and fees. Most of the time, these taxes and fees are the same as quoted on the partner’s own website but may vary depending on the award.

Make sure you note specific flight numbers when you locate an available partner award seat. Instead of saying, “I’m hoping to use my miles to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi” and then relying on the agent to find the award space, say something like, “I’ve found award space on Etihad flight X, departing on date Y, but I can’t book it online. Can you please help?”

Redeem miles on American Airlines expenses

You can redeem your miles for a variety of American Airlines fees including upgrades, Main Cabin Extra seating and an Admirals Club membership.

To see how many AAdvantage miles are required to upgrade your next American Airlines flight, check out this page. Unfortunately, on almost all fares, you'll have to pay a hefty co-pay. For upgrades on American's partners, you won't have to pay a co-pay, but the mileage rates are much higher.

Using miles for Main Cabin Extra seating is done at a fixed redemption rate of around 100 miles per dollar. So in this case, you can use 3,500 miles for a Main Cabin Extra seat that would normally cost $37.

The same can be said about the Admirals Club — you can purchase a $59 day pass for 59,000 miles. Both of these options fall far below TPG valuation of American miles, so ideally, we advise steering clear of this option, especially if your AAdvantage status provides Main Cabin Extra seating as a benefit or if you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which entitles you to Admirals Club access.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

Redeem miles for rental cars, hotels or merchandise

(Photo by thegiffary/Shutterstock)

You can redeem AAdvantage miles for many other travel-related things, such as:

  • Merchandise.
  • Rental cars.
  • Hotel stays.
  • Charities (such as Miles of Hope, Miles for Kids in Need, etc.).
  • Luxury experiences.

These redemptions 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.

For example, we priced out a one-day economy car rental in Los Angeles through Dollar and were quoted 7,200 miles. The same rental costs just $44.34 after taxes and fees, giving you a redemption value of just 0.62 cents per mile. Bad idea.

Obviously, redemption values for things other than flights will vary. However, the consensus here at TPG is simple: You should do everything you can to redeem your AAdvantage miles only for award flights. This will give you the most bang for your mile, especially when redeemed for aspirational partner awards.

Related: The best sweet spots in the American Airlines program

Bottom line

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to redeeming AAdvantage miles.

Make sure to do your research and find the best routes for your redemption, and don’t rely solely on American’s website for award availability. After all, the best option for your next trip abroad may not be on American but one of its many alliance or non-alliance partners. Just be sure to watch out for pesky fuel surcharges.

Additional reporting by Benji Stawski, Joseph Hostetler and Kyle Olsen.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023