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Just one day after the end of American Airlines’ third buy miles promotion of the year, the airline has launched a newer but worse promotion: 42,500 bonus miles through Feb. 17.
First, Why Should 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 for spending $2,500 in the first three months.
Or, if you have a small business, you can apply for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard to get up to 60,000 AAdvantage miles — 50,000 AA miles after making $3,000 in purchases in first three months and another 10,000 AA miles after making a total of $10,000 in purchases in first 12 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 2.25 cent per mile rate through this buy miles promotion:
- Domestic or Caribbean Economy Web Special awards for just $113 each way (no basic economy restrictions on award tickets either) when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- Domestic nonstop flights less than 500 miles for $146 each way (again, no basic economy restrictions) when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- Domestic reduced mileage awards for $197 each way (still no basic economy restrictions) when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- Qatar Qsuites from Europe to Middle East for $956 each way when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- American Airlines business class to Europe for $1,294 each way when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for $1,575 each way when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
- Qatar business class to Middle East for $1,575 each way when buying at 2.25 cents per mile.
All of these rates are before factoring in the 10% mileage rebate that AAdvantage Platinum Select and Barclays Aviator Red cardholders get, up to 10,000 miles each year. This rebate reduces the net price of these award flights, leading you with an even better effective purchase rate.
Details of This Promotion
The regular price for buying miles from American is 3.17 cents per mile ($29.50 per 1,000 miles, plus a 7.5% federal excise tax). But, your price will drop to 2.25 cents per mile if you max out the offer by buying 100,000 miles and getting the maximum 42,500-mile bonus.
This purchase rate just isn’t going to make sense for almost anyone. The only reason I’d recommend buying miles through this promotion is if you need miles now to complete a last-minute high-value redemption, as you can buy 55,000 miles (40,000 base + 15,000 bonus) at a decent 2.37 cents per mile.
For everyone else, I’d recommend waiting until a better promotion comes around. After all, AA sold miles at just 1.77 cents per mile as recently as early January.
Here are the sweet spots of this promotion’s bonus chart:
- 20,000 miles + 7,000 bonus miles for $669 (2.48 cents per mile)
- 40,000 miles + 15,000 bonus miles for $1,304 (2.37 cents per mile)
- 60,000 miles + 22,500 bonus miles for $1,938 (2.35 cents per mile)
- 80,000 miles + 30,000 bonus miles for $2,572 (2.34 cents per mile)
- 100,000 miles + 42,500 bonus miles for $3,206 (2.25 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.
- Select the number of miles you’d like to buy.
- Log in to your AAdvantage account.
- 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. By far the best option in this category is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5x on airfare (we have confirmation from several TPG readers who received this category bonus on their purchases).
Other top credit cards to consider include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, with 3x Ultimate Rewards points on general travel; the American Express® Gold Card, with 3x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com; 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. Post last updated on February 9, 2019.
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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*