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Despite American miles losing value over the last few years, there are plenty of ways to use your AAdvantage miles for maximum value. After all, not only does the airline have an extensive domestic and international route network, but it’s also a part of the Oneworld alliance and has over a dozen other airline partners. This means that your AAdvantage miles have a ton of flexibility and can even be used for some aspirational awards on Qatar, Cathay Pacific and other airlines with stellar premium class products. While American has continued to add partners to its online award search engine (most recently Etihad), a handful still do not appear, so you need to be creative in how you search.

So with that in mind, today I’ll show you how to redeem your American AAdvantage miles. I’ll touch on redeeming for American and partner-operated flights and then look at other ways to redeem your American miles. Let’s get started.

Redeem on American Flights

A plane sits on the tarmac in front of an American Airlines hangar at La Guardia airport in New York City on Independence Day July 4,2018. (Photo by Eva HAMBACH / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
Using your AAdvantage miles on American can offer some solid value in the right circumstances. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

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. While it appears that the program is moving toward more dynamic pricing, it hasn’t (yet) followed Delta and United in removing its award chart entirely.

American’s uses a region-based chart for pricing awards, and it doesn’t change when you add connecting legs, so those flying out of smaller airports can redeem awards at the same rates as those flying out of American hubs. Here’s a sampling of American’s award chart (prices are one-way and apply to flights starting in the US):

As noted above, the carrier is starting to move beyond these award rates. Last year saw the launch of Economy Web Specials, and it quickly expanded to other cities. These awards started at just 5,000 AAdvantage miles each way, making for awesome low-priced domestic redemptions.

The carrier also publishes reduced mileage awards every couple of months that allow you to save miles on award flights to or from eligible cities, as long as you have an eligible American Airlines cobranded credit card in your wallet, including the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard or the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. You must call to book these, and the discount only applies to saver level awards (though it can be used on both economy and premium class flights). These cities rotate every few months, so be sure to check the above link for up-to-date information.

Actually redeeming American miles for its own flights is simple: just load American’s site 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 to search for this award space up to a week at a time, and if you can’t find it initially, premium subscribers can set alerts to receive an email when a spot opens up.

We’ve covered the best ways to redeem AAdvantage miles here at TPG before, so make sure to check out our articles on the best ways to redeem American miles and best business class awards you can book with AAdvantage miles.

Redeem on Partner Flights

Flights on partner airlines, like Qatar’s incredible Qsuites, can be a terrific use of AAdvantage miles.

Redeeming AAdvantage miles on partner flights requires the same number of miles as redeeming for American flights. However, things differ when you look at carrier-imposed fees and surcharges. For example, British Airways routinely charges $500 or more in surcharges for Europe-bound flights, and these are passed on to AAdvantage members.

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

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

Oneworld airline partners:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

Non-alliance airline partners:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
  • Cape Air
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Interjet
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • WestJet

However, not all of these airline partners can be booked online—the others require you to call in to book. At the time of writing this article, you can book these partner airlines on American’s website in addition to American operated flights:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cape Air
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • S7 Airlines
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

So where do you search for other other partner awards? Good question. You can always search for partner awards on the partner’s own website for saver availability, and then call in to book with American Airlines. Additionally, both British Airways and Qantas show availability for partners like JAL and Cathay Pacific (among others). Check out our full guide on searching for Oneworld availability for more info.

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 up or down depending on the award.

Another tip: Try to have the specific flight numbers available for the agent, especially for partner awards. Instead of saying, “I’m hoping to use my miles to fly from New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) and then relying on the agent to find the award space, say something like, “I’ve found award space on Cathay Pacific Flight X, departing on date Y, but I can’t book it online. Can you please help?” This is an unfortunate reality of booking award tickets with phone agents, who may not be familiar with all of the rules or even know all of an airline’s individual partners. Once again, use one of the best sites for finding Oneworld award availability or consider signing up for ExpertFlyer for these purposes.

Redeem for Rental Cars, Hotels or Merchandise

Car rentals are counted as travel purchases.

You can also redeem AAdvantage miles for upgrades, Admirals Club memberships, merchandise, car rentals and hotel stays. Generally though, these make for a poor redemption value that’s far lower than TPG’s most recent valuations, which pegged American miles at 1.4 cents apiece. Additionally, you can donate AAdvantage miles to one of American’s different charities like Miles of Hope, Miles for Kids in Need and others.

To give you an example or how these “other” options aren’t lucrative, I priced out a one-day economy car rental in Los Angeles through Dollar and was quoted 4,200 miles. However, this same rental costs just $24.93 after taxes and fees, giving you a redemption value of just 0.59 cents per mile — ouch.

Obviously, redemption values for things other than flights will vary, but the general 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.

Bottom Line

As you can see, 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 on one of its many alliance or non-alliance partners. Just make sure to watch out for those pesky fuel surcharges.

Featured photo by Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia

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