What to Do With 5,000 or Fewer American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

Feb 5, 2019

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So, you made the AAdvantage redemption of a lifetime. Maybe you’re jetting off to the Maldives on American partner Qatar Airlines, or maybe you snagged an award in American’s Flagship first class. Whatever the redemption may be, chances are quite good that it didn’t reduce your balance to exactly zero miles. As a result, you may be wondering what to do if you suddenly find yourself with less than 5,000 miles in your AAdvantage account and no plans to earn more.

Your first thought may be to leave the points in your account. However, AAdvantage miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, so it’s tough to keep the miles alive if you don’t have plans to earn more miles. But fear not: AAdvantage gives its members a few ways to redeem small amounts of miles for things other than flights, so you don’t have to let them go to waste.

With that in mind, let’s dive into a few ways to redeem small amounts of AAdvantage miles. These redemptions don’t offer the most value for your points, but they’re far better than letting the points go to waste.

Redeem for Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions

Newspapers were stored at our seat during boarding, prompting many visits from the crew.

One of the most popular ways to redeem a small amount of AAdvantage miles is by redeeming for magazine or newspaper subscriptions. This can be a surprisingly good use of a small amount of miles. For example, a 50-issue subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek is 1,600 AAdvantage miles. This subscription usually costs $70, giving you a 4.4 cents per mile valuation — not too bad considering TPG’s most recent valuations pegs AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents per point.

At this rate, you could snag a few of these or possibly even give one as a gift. Just be sure to pay close attention to the terms of the subscription, as most of these only cover the first year. After that, you’ll be auto-billed with the credit card you provide when you redeem your miles, so either be sure you want to keep the subscription or set a reminder to cancel before the second year.

Donate Your Miles

Alternatively, you can donate your small AAdvantage balance to one of American’s causes. There is no minimum donation, so you can donate any amount of miles you see fit. American Airlines has three donation options:

  • Miles for Our Heroes gives miles to organizations that support veterans, military members, and their families.
  • Miles for Our Well-Being gives miles to organizations that work to raise awareness and funds to medical causes or bring treatments to patients in need.
  • Miles for Our Social Good gives miles to organizations that work to improving the stability, health, and care for people in need.

Donating miles to one of American’s causes can have a real impact on the recipient organizations, so definitely consider donating your small amounts of miles instead of letting them expire.

Redeem For A Domestic Upgrade (With Caution)

5,000 AAdvantage miles is enough to upgrade a full-fare economy ticket to first class within the continental United States. However, full-fare economy tickets are often more expensive than discounted first class tickets, so unless your employer is already booking you in this fare class, this option is likely not a great option for most travelers.

Earn More Miles

If none of these options sound appealing to you, consider keeping your AAdvantage miles from expiring by putting a plan together to earn more. You may not have an immediate plan to fly American, but what happens if you have a death in the family, need a last-minute plane ticket, and American is the only option that isn’t astronomically expensive? What if you suddenly take a new job that’ll require semi-frequent travel on the carrier? You can probably build your account back up more quickly than you imagine. Here are some simple ways to do it:

  • Open a credit card: American has cobranded credit card agreements with both Citi and Barclays, so you could open a card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and take home a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The card also carries numerous perks for flying American, including a free checked bag, 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and at restaurants, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Shop online: If you make online purchases, you should absolutely be using an online shopping portal. While some might prefer the simplicity of cash-back tools like Ebates, I’ve found the AAdvantage eShopping site often provides higher earning rates than other airlines’ portals across hundreds of online retailers. Tip: To quickly compare these rates, use a shopping portal aggregator.
  • Dine out: A third simple way to earn AAdvantage miles is by dining out. American is one airline that participates in the Dining Rewards Network, a series of thousands of restaurants that award you bonus points or miles simply by signing up and linking your preferred credit card(s).

The information for the Citi 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.   

For additional details on these and other options for boosting your American account balance, check out our guide to earning AAdvantage miles.

Bottom Line

If you’ve maximized the AAdvantage program for a recent redemption, you may have an odd number of miles remaining in your account. Fortunately you don’t have to let these go to waste, as there are several ways to put them to use. These redemptions may not give you a ton of value, but they’re far more valuable than letting the miles expire. After all, some value is better than no value at all.

What’s your favorite way to redeem a small amount of AAdvantage miles? Let us know in the comments.

Featured photo by Shutterstock.com

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