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You can now redeem American miles for a COVID test — but is it a good value?

Feb. 25, 2021
4 min read
Travelers wearing mask at American Airlines check-in area
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Negative COVID-19 tests are important for travel — both international and domestic. Nowadays, most international destinations that are open for tourism require a negative COVID test for entry. Likewise, many U.S. cities — including New York — require a negative test to avoid mandatory quarantine.

Many airlines are making it easier for travelers to get tested. Starting today, American Airlines AAdvantage members can redeem miles for an at-home COVID test.

Let's take a closer look at this announcement and if it's a good deal.

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Redeeming AAdvantage miles for an at-home COVID test

You can now redeem American miles for an at-home COVID test. (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

American's COVID tests are supplied through LetsGetChecked — a direct-to-consumer at-home health testing company. This RT-PCR test covers entry requirements to all U.S. cities and states that have COVID restrictions in place, as well as many countries that require a pre-flight COVID test.

Once the results are received, they can be added to the VeriFLY app that streamlines check-in for international flights where a negative COVID test is required for entry.

The at-home test offered by LetsGetChecked is simple. The company ships you a COVID test kit with a return shipping label. You collect the nose sample on your own and ship it back to LetsGetChecked for processing. You'll receive your test results within 24-72 hours alongside an official lab report.

Typically, this test costs $109 when purchased directly from LetsGetChecked, though you can submit it to your insurance for reimbursement. Alternatively, AAdvantage members can redeem 12,000 miles for the test by calling 800-882-8880. American notes that you must request your test at least 10 days before departure to receive results in time.

(Screenshot courtesy of LetsGetChecked)

Related: 5 things to know about getting a COVID-19 test if you’re staying at a vacation home

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Should you redeem American miles for a COVID test?

(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Like most non-travel redemptions, this isn't great at face value. You're spending 12,000 miles for a product that costs $109 out of pocket. This gives you 0.9 cents per mile in value, which is 0.5 cents lower than TPG's valuation of AAdvantage miles.

That said, if you're sitting on a stash of American miles and need a test, this can be a good way to save money. Especially if you can't cover the cost through health insurance. $109 isn't cheap, and the convenience of at-home testing with timely results is especially important for pre-travel tests. While many locales offer free testing, processing times vary widely from city to city. This presents an issue if you need results in a specific timeframe to travel.

Comparatively, Hawaiian previously let its loyalty members redeem 14,000 miles for a Vault Health COVID test that retails for $119, giving you 0.85 cents per point value. This can be seen as a better deal since HawaiianMiles are worth 0.9 cents per mile in TPG's most recent valuation.

Related: The best sweet spots with American Airlines AAdvantage

Bottom line

It's always great to see airlines add new ways to redeem miles — even if it isn't a great value on paper. For travelers with lots of AAdvantage miles who are unsure of when their next trip may be, redeeming miles for a COVID test before they can potentially devalue might make sense.

Getting a COVID test can be difficult depending on where you live, so American's new COVID test redemption gives its members access to timely results with no out-of-pocket expense. That said, the redemption isn't a great value when compared to redeeming for travel, so you may want to pay out of pocket or find a test locally if you want to maximize your miles.

Feature photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

Featured image by Passengers check-in for American Airlines flights at Los Angeles International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Los Angeles, California, November 25, 2020. - US health authorities cautioned Americans on traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, as the coronavirus spreads out of control. The recommendation was issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government's health protection agency. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
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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  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
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  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
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  • 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.
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  • 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