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Want to earn Loyalty Points? Here's why booking through American Airlines Vacations isn't always best

March 3 2022
9 min read
Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana
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With Loyalty Points as the new way of earning American Airlines elite status, TPG wanted to test out how various ways of earning American Airlines miles would post.

So, when I saw an American Airlines Vacations promotion offering 20,000 bonus miles at select AMResorts properties in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, I booked.

I was hopeful that the 20,000 miles would be Loyalty Points-eligible. But, although the 1,000 bonus miles for booking online through American Airlines Vacations ended up being Loyalty Points-eligible, the 20,000 bonus miles from the promotion didn't post as Loyalty Points.

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Twenty thousand AAdvantage miles are worth $354 based on TPG's valuations. So, due to the bonus miles, booking through American Airlines Vacations may have still been the "right" choice for me.

But my experience highlights something that might not be widely known: Booking through American Airlines Vacations often won't be the best way to book if you want to earn Loyalty Points.

Let's take a closer look at my trip and when you should and shouldn't use American Airlines Vacations if your primary goal is earning Loyalty Points.

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A closer look at my American Airlines Vacations trip

I booked round-trip flights from New York to Punta Cana, a five-night stay at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana and round-trip airport transportation in the Dominican Republic for $2,059 through American Airlines Vacations.

(Screenshot from aavacations.com)

Based on the promotion's terms, I needed to stay at an eligible AMResorts property for at least five nights and spend at least $2,000.

If I'd booked the least-expensive room type without airport transportation, my trip would have cost $1,790. But, to bump the cost over $2,000 and get the 20,000 bonus miles, I booked an upgraded room type. Specifically, I paid $49 more per night to get a Premium Tropical View room with Preferred Club access.

(Screenshot from aavacations.com)

As the star next to the fare class on the above American Airlines Vacations itinerary indicates, my flights earned miles and Loyalty Points based on American Airlines' special fares chart. After all, when booking a vacations package, you aren't supposed to know exactly how much each element costs.

My nonstop flights between New York and Punta Cana were booked into fare class O. Based on American's special fares chart, O fares earn 25% of the distance flown. These flights were 1,554 miles each way, so I earned 778 base miles on the round-trip flights. Plus, since I'm an Executive Platinum elite member, I earned 934 bonus miles for a total of 1,712 Loyalty Points-eligible miles.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

I also earned 1,000 bonus miles for booking online and the 20,000 bonus miles for booking an eligible stay at a participating AMResorts property. But, although the 1,000 miles for booking online were Loyalty Points-eligible, the 20,000 bonus miles weren't.

In total, I earned 22,712 AAdvantage miles, 4,118 Capital One miles and 2,712 Loyalty Points on my $2,059 package. Based on TPG's valuations, the AAdvantage miles I earned are worth $402 and the Capital One miles I earned by using the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card to pay for my stay are worth $76.

So yes, the rewards I earned through booking this American Airlines Vacation are valuable. But I could have earned more Loyalty Points if I'd booked via other means. And the miles earned through American Airlines Vacations often won't be nearly as compelling when there's not a large bonus on the table.

Related: Chasing American Airlines elite status? Here are 14 ways to earn Loyalty Points

How I could have earned more Loyalty Points

Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

I need Loyalty Points more than miles if I'm going to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum status. So, it might have been better to book my five-night trip to Punta Cana differently if my primary goal was to earn Loyalty Points.

For example, if I'd booked round-trip flights directly with American Airlines (instead of American Airlines Vacations), I would have earned Loyalty Points-eligible miles based on the fare. If I'd booked a $267 round trip (before taxes and fees), I would have earned 2,937 Loyalty Points-eligible miles as an Executive Platinum elite member. Or, if my flights were $400 (before taxes and fees), I would have earned 4,400 Loyalty Points-eligible miles.

To come out ahead on the round trip from New York to Punta Cana using special fares, my round-trip flights in O fare class would have needed to cost $155 or less (before taxes and fees). Of course, as I'll discuss in the next section, you can sometimes come out ahead when booking special fares through American Airlines Vacations.

I also could have possibly earned more Loyalty Points-eligible miles if I'd booked my hotel differently. You typically won't earn maximum American Loyalty Points when you book hotels directly. But you can often get a sizable amount of Loyalty Points-eligible miles when you book through Rocketmiles or American Airlines Hotels. For example, you could earn up to 46,000 miles on this sample five-night stay in Punta Cana this summer:

(Screenshot from rocketmiles.com)

Or, you could earn 7,000 base miles on this sample one-night stay in Punta Cana:

(Screenshot from bookaahotels.com)

Of course, it's important to remember that you won't get elite benefits or earnings on hotels when you book through Rocketmiles, American Airlines Vacations or American Airlines Hotels. But, if you have Hyatt elite status, you might want to link your Hyatt and American accounts and book directly with Hyatt.

Related: We tested earning American Airlines miles for 3 different hotel stays — here's what we found

When and why you might want to book through American Airlines Vacations

Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Based on this article so far, you might assume you should never use American Airlines Vacations if you want to earn maximum Loyalty Points. But that's not the case at all.

After all, the special fares you'll sometimes get when booking through American Airlines Vacations can be lucrative for some trips. In particular, special fares can be lucrative on inexpensive but long flights in select fare classes.

To tell whether a trip bookable through American Airlines Vacations will earn miles (and hence Loyalty Points) based on the flight's fare or the special fares chart, look for a star next to the fare class on the summary page before booking.

Let's look at one example where it would make sense to book through American Airlines Vacations.

Consider this three-night premium cabin trip to Bogota, Colombia, for $716. This trip would use special fares, as you can see by the star next to "Mixed Cabin" (when you click "Flight Details," you'll see each flight is booked into fare class I).

(Screenshot from aavacations.com)

The flight distance from New York to Miami is 1,089 miles each way and the flight distance from Miami to Bogota is 1,507 miles each way. I fares earn 100% of the distance flown but don't get a cabin bonus.

So I'd earn about 6,192 Loyalty Points-eligible miles (including the 1,000 miles for booking online) if I booked through American Airlines Vacations. Plus, I'd get around 6,230 extra Loyalty Points-eligible miles as an Executive Platinum elite member, for a total of approximately 12,422 Loyalty Points-eligible miles.

Meanwhile, these flights would be $627 if booked separately. And as the below screenshot shows, I'd only earn 5,368 Loyalty Points if I booked through American's website instead of American Airlines Vacations.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

As you can see, there are cases where booking special fares through American Airlines Vacations can help you earn significantly more Loyalty Points. Just make sure to do the math before you book American flights in the future so you can maximize your Loyalty Points-earning.

Related: How I plan to earn American Airlines Executive Platinum status with Loyalty Points

Bottom line

I had a hunch that the 20,000 bonus miles for booking an eligible American Airlines Vacations package wouldn't be Loyalty Points-eligible. After all, the frequently asked questions page of American's Loyalty Points website notes that "base miles earned from spending with Loyalty Point-qualifying partners" count toward Loyalty Points and that "Bonus miles earned from special promotions" won't earn Loyalty Points.

But it's confusing that the 1,000 miles for booking online are Loyalty Points-eligible despite being called "bonus miles" on the American Airlines Vacations website. This confusion -- and AAdvantage's poor communication with its loyalists about the new Loyalty Points program -- is the main reason I didn't initially make a requalification plan for American Airlines elite status.

Regardless of whether you agree with how AAdvantage classifies base and bonus miles for American Airlines Vacations, at least now we know exactly how these packages will earn Loyalty Points. And, as I discussed above, there's still plenty of value to be found when booking some trips through American Airlines Vacations.

Featured photo by (Photo by Katie Genter/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.

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    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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    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.

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Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
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