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

May 09, 2021
6 min read
AA Flagship First COVID
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

(Photo courtesy of Barclays)


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 75,000 miles after spending $3,500 on purchases in the first four 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.