Buy American Airlines miles for as low at 1.79 cents per mile: Is it worth considering?

May 4, 2020

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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel deals because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until the late spring or early summer — and even then be mindful of cancellation policies.

This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

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. As reported by One Mile At A Time, right now you can buy miles and earn up to a 100,000-mile bonus and a 3% to 5% discount through May 31.

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.

Bookmark TPG’s coronavirus hub page and keep up to date with the latest travel news by subscribing to our daily newsletter.

Buying American miles for as low as 1.79 cents per mile

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at American’s latest buy-miles promotion. This promotion is run a bit differently than buy-miles promos we’ve seen in the past; instead of a set percentage of bonus miles, you’ll get a set number of bonus miles and a cash discount that varies based on how much you spend.

Your exact mileage bonus will depend on the offer your account is targeted for. We polled the TPG staff and found that most of our targeted offers were the same, but those with Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status had a slightly differing offer. Those without status saw the following deal:

  • Buy 2,000 to 14,000 miles and get 15% off
  • Buy 15,000 to 29,000 miles and get 5,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
  • Buy 30,000 to 49,000 miles and get 15,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
  • Buy 50,000 to 69,000 miles and get 25,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
  • Buy 70,000 to 120,000 miles and get 50,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
  • Buy 121,000 to 149,000 miles and get 75,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
  • Buy 150,000 miles and get 100,000 bonus miles plus 3% off

Some TPG team members with Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status saw the same offer as above, but with an 80,000-mile bonus and no cash discount when purchasing 121,000 to 149,000 American miles. You can view your targeted offer by heading to American’s buy miles page and logging into your AAdvantage account.

In addition, American Airlines is donating one mile to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for every mile purchased, so you can do good while also buying miles for future travel.

Get the best deal by purchasing 70,000 miles

Buy 70K AA Miles Bonus Screen Shot

While buy-miles promotions usually require that you purchase the maximum number miles to get the best deal, we’ve found that this promotion is best for those purchasing 70,000 American miles. Purchasing 70,000 miles will give you a 50,000 bonus and a 5% cash discount, giving you 120,000 American miles for $2,144.62. This equals 1.79 cents per mile.

On the other hand, purchasing the maximum amount of miles (150,000 plus a 100,000-mile bonus) would give you a value of 1.82 cents per mile. This is still better than buying miles without a bonus offer, but you’re still paying 0.03 cents per mile more than the offer above. Also, note that you can only purchase 150,000 miles per year, so you’d be ineligible for future bonuses.

Also, note that promotion isn’t as good as April’s buy-miles deal which offered miles at 1.6 cents each, so we may see a future promotion that offers a better deal. Regardless, American charges as much as 4 cents per mile when it’s not running a promotion, so it could be a good time to stock up if you’re aware of the risks.

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 booked by May 31, 2020 for travel through Sept. 30, 2020. Any new award ticket booked on or after June 1 will have fees waived if the change is made at least 60 days before 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 60,000 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.

Small business owners should consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, which currently offers 70,000 miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening.

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 1.79 cents each, though be aware that you must purchase at least 15,000 miles to trigger any kind of bonus.

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.

Qatar is waiting to launch its Doha to Las Vegas route until it
Use AAdvantage miles for business- or first-class international awards, such as Qatar’s Qsuite (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

This ticket often costs roughly $5,000 so if each mile costs 1.79 cents, you’ve effectively paid $1,253 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 1.79 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 — 0.39 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.

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, and JT Genter contributed to this post.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CURRENT WELCOME BONUS: 70,000 Miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $980*

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases plus 2x miles at gas stations and at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers and car rental merchants. Get your first checked bag free.

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Designed for businesses
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries to reduce travel costs and boost your bottom line.
  • 25% savings on American Airlines inflight Wi-Fi when you use your card
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations.
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$99, waived for first 12 months
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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