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

Feb 25, 2021

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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.

Buying an at-home COVID test from LetsGetChecked
(Screenshot courtesy of LetsGetChecked)

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

Should you redeem American miles for a COVID test?

Man wearing a mask walking with a suitcase by an American Airlines sign
(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

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