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In early June, American Airlines launched a solid buy miles promotion: Buy miles with a 10% discount and get up to 100,000 bonus miles. This promotion has been so popular that American Airlines has extended it through August 2.
Through this promotion, you can buy miles for as little as 1.73 cents per mile. That’s the best price that’s been offered this year. But, is it worth it for you to buy miles? It depends.
Why Would I Ever Buy Miles?
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: buying miles makes sense only for certain travelers. It’s obviously much better to earn AA miles for free through credit card sign-up bonuses. If you’re looking for good options, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is offering a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.
Or, if you have a small business, you can apply for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard to get 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within first three months of account opening.
However, if you’ve tapped out your credit card options for generating AAdvantage miles — like many of us at TPG have — you might consider buying miles for the right redemptions. What are those redemptions? Generally high-cost domestic flights you can score for cheap with miles, domestic itineraries bookable using reduced mileage awards, Economy Web Special deals and business/first class international awards.
Here are just a few examples of the prices you’d effectively be paying for award flights when buying points at the cheapest 1.73 cent per mile rate through this buy miles promotion:
- Domestic Economy Web Special awards for just $87 each way (no basic economy restrictions on award tickets either) when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- Domestic nonstop flights less than 500 miles for $130 each way (again, no basic economy restrictions) when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- Domestic reduced mileage awards for $151 each way (still no basic economy restrictions) when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- Qatar Qsuites from Europe to Middle East for $735 each way when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- American Airlines business class to Europe for $995 each way when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for $1,211 each way when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
- Qatar business class to Middle East for $1,211 each way when buying at 1.73 cents per mile.
Details of This Promotion
The regular price for buying miles from American starts as high as 5.05 cents per mile ($94 for 2,000 miles, plus a 7.5% federal excise tax). But, if you max out this 10% discount and 100,000 bonus miles offer by buying 150,000 miles, your effective purchase price will drop to just 1.73 cents per mile.
While this top-line bonus has remained unchanged since June, American Airlines has improved the intermediate bonuses — adding a 10% discount at more levels and increasing the bonus miles.
Since the bonuses are flat amounts awarded at set purchases, here are the tiered sweet spots of this promotion’s bonus chart:
- 2,000 miles for $101 (5.05 cents per mile)
- 11,000 miles + 2,500 bonus for $352 (2.60 cents per mile — previously 2.86 cpm)
- 21,000 miles + 5,000 bonus for $637 (2.45 cents per mile — previously 2.71 cpm)
- 51,000 miles + 20,000 bonus for $1,493 (2.10 cents per mile — previously 2.26 cpm)
- 76,000 miles + 32,500 bonus for $2,207 (2.03 cents per mile — previously 2.13 cpm)
- 101,000 miles + 50,000 bonus for $2,920 (1.93 cents per mile — previously 2.00 cpm)
- 126,000 miles + 75,000 bonus for $3,634 (1.81 cents per mile — previously 1.85 cpm)
- 150,000 miles + 100,000 bonus for $4,319 (1.73 cents per mile)
How to Buy AA Miles
To take advantage of the promotion, follow these steps:
- Visit American’s Buy, Gift, and Share Miles page.
- Enter your AAdvantage number, last name and password to log in to your AAdvantage account.
- Select the number of miles you’d like to buy.
- Add your credit card details and click Continue.
- Review the information, check the box to agree to the Terms and Conditions and click Pay Now to finalize the purchase.
- Your miles should post to the designated account immediately.
Keep in mind that the usual restrictions for purchasing American miles apply to this promotion, including the following:
- Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles up to a maximum of 150,000 miles per year.
- Transactions are nonrefundable and non-reversible.
- Purchased miles don’t count toward elite status or Million Miler status.
Which Credit Card to Use
American Airlines processes mileage transfers and purchases directly — instead of processing purchases through Points.com — so this spending will code as an airfare purchase. That means you’ll earn bonus points if you use a card with a travel or airfare category bonus.
The best two options in this category are The Platinum Card® from American Express — which earns 5x on airfare when booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com (we have confirmation from several TPG readers who received this category bonus on their purchases) — and the Citi Prestige Card which also offers 5x on airfare.
Other top credit cards to consider include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, with 3x Ultimate Rewards points on general travel (excluding $300 travel credit); the American Express® Gold Card, with 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or ; the Citi Premier Card with 3x ThankYou points on air travel; and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with 2x Ultimate Rewards points on general travel.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about American Airlines’ “buy miles” promotions, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest offer. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older deals below.
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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 guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- 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