Buying American miles for up to 40% off: Is it worth considering?
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest promotion.
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 for up to 40% off through Jan. 31, 2020. This brings the cost down to as low as 2.26 cents per mile.
There are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of buying miles during this promotion, though. This isn’t the lowest price we’ve ever seen for American miles, and there is some risk in buying miles with American (or any other airline) right now.
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Should you buy AA miles now?
There’s a risk with buying miles now, as it may not be safe to travel in the immediate future. Many countries have closed their borders and several states have mandatory quarantine orders. According to the CDC, “travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.”
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 and have already found bookable award space. Even then, there’s no guarantee that it will be safe to travel by that time, though thankfully, American recently eliminated change and cancellation fees on award tickets.
Buying AA for as low as 2.26 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 amount you’ll save will depend on how many miles you purchase. And it appears that this isn’t targeted.
Here’s a look at the deal:
- Buy 10,000-24,000 miles and get 10% off
- Buy 25,000-49,000 miles and get 15% off
- Buy 50,000-74,000 miles and get 20% off
- Buy 75,000-99,000 miles and get 25% off
- Buy 100,000-124,000 miles and get 30% off
- Buy 125,000-149,000 miles and get 35% off
- Buy 150,000 miles and get 40% off
You’ll get the lowest cost-per-point by purchasing 150,000 miles, which drops your purchase price to 2.26 cents apiece. This is a fairly high rate for American miles. For instance, in September they were available for 1.82 cents apiece and in July they sold for 1.76 cents apiece. That said, we’ve also seen higher costs.
This promotion is available through Jan. 31, 2020 Also, note that accounts under 30 days old are not eligible to purchase miles. Finally, you can 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 come up later in the year.
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 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. 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.
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 redemption in mind, and double-check that you’ll receive greater value for your miles than the price you’re paying for them.
Maximizing AA miles
You’ll typically get the most value per mile by leveraging American Airlines’ reduced mileage awards, 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 2.26 cents, you’ve effectively paid $1,582 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 2.26 cents apiece through this promotion:
- Domestic economy Web Special awards starting at $113 each way
- Domestic first-class Web Special awards starting at $339 each way
- American Airlines business class to Europe for $1,300 each way
- Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for $1,356 each way
- Qatar business class to Africa for $1,582 each way
How to buy AA miles
The regular price for buying miles from American can be as high as 4 cents per mile, so this sale represents a decent saving. TPG’s valuations peg American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each — 0.83 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.
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 credit cards, such as:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com (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 amextravel.com. Terms apply.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, including airfare
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, including airfare
This will also apply to the above American Airlines co-branded cards, so you could earn 2x AAdvantage miles 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 Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
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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.