Skip to content

You can buy American miles at 2 cents apiece through this cardholder program -- but is it worth it?

May 09, 2021
6 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As travel returns, now is a great time to use your hard-earned points and miles to fly to your next dream destination.

While you're generally better off earning points and miles through a welcome offer and category bonuses on top travel rewards credit cards, there are certain cases when buying miles makes sense. If you need an extra boost to make a specific flight redemption, for instance, you might consider purchasing miles to top off your balance.

But there's another option to earn extra American miles for select AAdvantage Barclays cardholders. AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® (applications are only available for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard) cardholders can participate in the Flight Cents program, rounding up your card's transactions to the nearest whole dollar and effectively acquiring AAdvantage miles for 2 cents apiece.

Let's take a closer look at Flight Cents and see if it makes sense for you to earn miles this way.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

What are Flight Cents?

Flight Cents is a voluntary program through Barclays that allows you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar to get additional AAdvantage miles. If you're an Aviator Red or Silver cardholder, you can opt in and set a threshold from $1 to up to $500 per statement period.

Once the program has been activated, you will get 1x AAdvantage mile for every 2 cents that are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar for each purchase.

Then, at the end of the statement period, these additional cents will be counted up and appear as a purchase on your bill. The miles you acquire through Flight Cents during each statement period will be added to your AAdvantage account.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Related: Get up to a 100% bonus when you buy points and miles

(Photo courtesy of Barclays)

Example

Here's an example of how Flight Cents works in action for the Aviator Red Mastercard.

Let's say you make a purchase of $4.01 for a non-American Airlines purchase. Normally, you'll earn a total of 4x AAdvantage points for this purchase (no category bonus). However, if you were to opt-in to Flight Cents, the program will automatically round up this transaction to $5.00, netting you an additional 49.5 bonus miles (99 cents divided by two). Your total of AAdvantage miles earned is 53.5 miles.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Is it worth it?

TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents apiece, so paying for AAdvantage miles effectively for 2 cents isn't a great value. When Flight Cents first launched, many cardholders (myself included) were able to earn AAdvantage miles at 1 cent apiece -- every cent you rounded up to the nearest whole dollar earned one mile. Now, however, the effective purchase rate has doubled in cost.

Still, Flight Cents can be a slightly better value than purchasing AAdvantage miles outright. Even with a 50% mileage bonus, purchasing American miles starts as low as 2.15 cents per mile.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to earn American Airlines miles aside from buying the — the fastest is through credit card sign-up bonuses. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

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.

Related: All of the buy points and miles promotions worth considering

What are the other perks of the Aviator Red Mastercard?

There is only one Barclays-issued card currently available that offers the Flight Cents program: The Aviator Red Mastercard.

Besides Flight Cents, the card comes with an annual $25 statement credit on inflight Wi-Fi purchases, an annual $99 companion ticket after you spend $20,000 on the card, waived check bag fees for the cardholder (and up to four on the American Airlines reservation) and a 25% statement credit for eligible onboard American purchases. The category bonuses are fairly mediocre:

  • 2x AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1x AAdvantage mile on all other purchases

Bottom line

The Flight Cents program is a unique program for select Barclay AAdvantage cardholders. However, it's not a lucrative way to earn American miles as you're effectively purchasing them for two cents apiece. With that said, if you need to top off your AAdvantage account for an award redemption, this isn't the worst option out there.

Featured image by (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees