New promo allows you to buy American Airlines miles for as low as 1.76 cents per mile: Is it worth considering?

Jul 1, 2020

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American Airlines has frequently offered bonuses and discounts when purchasing AAdvantage miles, giving you a chance to top up on miles for amazing redemptions like tickets in Etihad and Cathay Pacific first-class seats. The carrier’s most recent promotion ended June 30, 2020, but as we enter the second half of the year, AA is back with a new offer allowing you to purchase miles for as low as 1.76 cents apiece through July 31, 2020.

This is one of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen for American miles, but there is a real risk in buying miles with American (or any other airline) right now. The first is that it just isn’t safe to travel in the immediate future — many countries have closed their borders, airlines have announced massive route cuts and, according to the CDC, the risk of contracting the coronavirus when traveling is high.

We only recommend buying miles for a specific redemption, so it’s only a good idea to take advantage of this promotion if you’re planning a trip for late 2020 or early 2021 and have already found bookable award space. Even then, there’s no guarantee that it will be safe to travel by this time, so make sure you understand American’s change and cancellation fees before you book.

On top of this, American Airlines isn’t in the best financial place right now. The carrier has asked the U.S. government for billions in aid to stay afloat, and its stock price has plummeted almost 70% since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. In the event that American Airlines is insolvent, your miles could be rendered worthless and you’d be due no refund for your purchase.

So in the end, only take advantage of buy-miles promotions if you understand all of the risks involved. Keep the airline’s change and cancellation policies in mind and understand that you could be out of money if American Airlines goes bankrupt.

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Buying American miles for as low as 1.76 cents per mile

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at American’s latest buy-miles promotion. This offer is run a bit differently than ones we’ve seen from the carrier in the past; instead of a set percentage of bonus miles, you’ll get a set cash discount that varies based on how many miles you purchase. And it appears that this isn’t targeted. However, the previously-increased yearly cap of 200,000 miles per member has now been dropped back to 150,000 miles.

Here’s a look at the deal:

  • Buy 6,000-10,000 miles and get 10% off
  • Buy 11,000-25,000 miles and get 10% off
  • Buy 26,000-50,000 miles and get 25% off
  • Buy 51,000-100,000 miles and get 35% off
  • Buy 101,000-149,000 miles and get 40% off
  • Buy 150,000 miles and get 45% off

You’ll get the lowest cost-per-point by purchasing 150,000 miles, which drops your purchase price to just 1.76 cents apiece. This is one of the better rates we’ve seen for American miles, but is still higher than April’s promotion that offered miles at 1.6 cents apiece.

Do note, however, that accounts under 30 days old are not eligible to purchase miles.

Who should buy miles?

As noted above, we’re in the middle of the global coronavirus outbreak, so we don’t recommend buying miles to travel immediately. Instead, only purchase miles if it makes sense for trips you’re planning to take after coronavirus is contained. This will keep you safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

American has issued a travel waiver that allows for flexibility on newly-booked tickets, and recently updated the terms and conditions to waive change and mileage redeposit fees on AAdvantage awards for travel through Sept. 30, 2020. Note as well that the carrier’s new policy on changing and canceling award tickets has now kicked in, allowing all members to adjust their itineraries without any fee at least 60 days prior to departure.

Related: American Airlines joins Delta and United in extending elite status and more

Additionally, there are plenty of ways to earn American Airlines miles aside from buying them, the fastest being through credit card sign-up bonuses. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. If you’re after bonus miles as well as Admirals Club access when traveling on American, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

The information for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Note that on April 13, AA announced it would make it easier to earn lifetime elite status by offering 1 mile toward Million Miler status for every dollar spent on eligible, cobranded credit cards between May and the end of the year. This promotion applies to all Citi / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside of the U.S.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

If you’ve already opened the above cards and aren’t yet eligible for a new bonus, purchasing miles isn’t always foolish. Just be sure you have a particular post-coronavirus redemption in mind, and double-check that you’ll receive greater value for your miles than the price you’re paying for them. It’s possible to buy miles for as little as 1.76 cents each, though be aware that you must purchase at least 2,000 miles to trigger any kind of bonus or discount.

Qsuite seat (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

Leveraging American Airlines reduced mileage awards, Economy Web Specials and expensive business- or first-class flights can net you a significantly higher value per mile. For example, you can book a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Doha (DOH) in Qatar Qsuite for just 70,000 American miles.

This ticket often costs roughly $5,000 so if each mile costs 1.76 cents, you’ve effectively paid $1,232 for this flight. However, keep in mind you won’t earn redeemable or status-qualifying miles with award flights.

Here are a few more examples of the prices you’d effectively be paying for award flights when buying points at 1.8 cents per mile rate through this buy-miles discount:

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

How to buy American Airlines miles

The regular price for buying miles from American can be as high as 4 cents per mile, so this sale represents a decent savings. TPG’s monthly valuations peg American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each — 0.36 cents lower than this sale price. However, if your travel goals are similar to the flights listed above, you may very well save money with this promo.

Buying American Miles Screen Shot
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

If you’re interested in purchasing miles at this rate, head over to American Airlines’ Buy Miles page and sign in using your AAdvantage credentials. Then, enter the number of miles you’d like to purchase and follow the on-screen prompts to pay. The miles should be available in your account instantly but may take up to eight hours to process.

Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Which credit card should you use?

When you buy miles via the American Airlines portal, your transaction is coded as airfare. This means you’ll receive bonus points by using many of the top travel rewards credit cards, such as:

This will also apply to the above American Airlines cobranded cards, so you could earn 2x AA miles on these eligible purchases as well.

Related: The best cards for airfare purchases

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Joseph Hostetler, Jasmin Baron, Victoria Walker, Nick Ewen and JT Genter contributed to this post.

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