Buying American miles for up to 35% off: Is it worth considering?
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest promotion.
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American Airlines frequently offers 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. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the carrier is back with another one of these promotions.
AA has launched a new offer allowing you to purchase miles with up to a 35% discount through Oct. 31, 2021. This brings the cost down to as low as 2.09 cents per mile.
There are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of buying miles during this promotion. This isn’t the lowest price we’ve ever seen for American miles, and there is some elevated risk in buying miles with American (or any other airline) right now.
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Should you buy American miles now?
It rarely makes sense to purchase miles speculatively.
Rather, we only recommend buying miles for a specific redemption. So, it’s likely only a good idea to take advantage of this promotion if you’re planning a trip for later in 2021 or sometime in 2022 and have already found bookable award space. Thankfully, American eliminated change and cancellation fees on award tickets last year, so you should have some flexibility if your plans change.
Buying AA miles for as low as 2.09 cents per mile
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at American’s latest buy-miles promotion. Like most promotions we’ve seen from the carrier, the discount you’ll get will depend on how many miles you purchase. And it appears that this isn’t targeted.
Here’s a look at the deal:
- Buy 15,000-49,000 miles and get 15% off
- Buy 50,000-99,000 miles and get 25% off
- Buy 100,000-150,000 miles and get 35% off
You’ll get the lowest cost-per-mile by purchasing 100,000-150,000 miles, which drops your purchase price to 2.09 cents apiece. This is far from the lowest rate we’ve seen for American miles. For instance, in summer 2021, they were available for 1.84 cents apiece and last fall, they were available for 1.82 cents apiece. Even July of this year saw the price drop to 2.02 cents per mile.
That said, we’ve also seen higher costs. In May 2021, the lowest price was 2.15 cents apiece.
This promotion is available through Oct. 31, 2021. Also, note that accounts under 30 days old are not eligible to purchase miles. Finally, you can normally only purchase 150,000 miles in a calendar year — so if you’ve already purchased AA miles this year, you may be capped at a lower bonus amount. Or, you might want to wait around for a better bonus to potentially come around in the future.
Who should buy miles?
As noted above, you should only buy miles if you have a specific redemption in mind and avoid the temptation to speculate. In case your plans do change, you can now cancel AAdvantage awards right until departure for free.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to earn American Airlines miles aside from buying them, the easiest 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. These cards also unlock potential bonuses with the SimplyMiles site.
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.
Another temporary option to get a boost of American miles without buying them directly is to transfer points in from the Citi ThankYou program. Currently, this option is set to be available until Nov. 13, 2021.
But if none of those options helps your situation, purchasing miles isn’t always foolish. Just be sure you have a particular redemption in mind, and double-check that you’ll receive greater value for your miles than the price you’re paying for them.
Maximizing American miles
You’ll typically get the most value per mile by leveraging American Airlines’ reduced mileage awards (no longer available as of Oct. 1, 2021), Economy Web Specials and expensive business- or first-class flights. For example, you can book a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Doha (DOH) in Qatar’s Qsuite for just 70,000 American miles.
This ticket often costs roughly $5,000, so if each mile costs 2.09 cents, you’ve effectively paid $1,463 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 miles at 2.09 cents apiece through this promotion:
- Domestic economy Web Special awards starting at $105 each way
- Domestic first-class Web Special awards starting at $314 each way
- American Airlines business class to Europe for $1,202 each way
- Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for $1,254 each way
- Qatar business class to Africa for $1,463 each way
How to buy American miles
The non-discounted price for buying miles from American is about 3.2 cents per mile (including taxes and fees), so this offer represents a decent saving. TPG values American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each — 0.69 cents lower than this sale price. However, if your travel goals are similar to the flight examples listed above, you may very well save money with this promo over purchasing the flight with cash.
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.
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 cards, such as:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Terms apply.)
- American Express® Gold Card: 3 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel. Terms apply.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, including airfare bought directly with the airlines, 5 points per dollar if airfare is purchased in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 2 points per dollar on travel, including airfare bought directly with the airlines, 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel booked in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
This will also apply to the above American Airlines cobranded cards. You could earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on these eligible purchases as well.
Related: The best cards for airfare purchases
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh, Joseph Hostetler, Jasmin Baron, Victoria Walker, Nick Ewen and JT Genter.
Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy
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Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.