American & US Airways November Buy Miles Promo

As part of the merger with American, US Airways Dividend Miles changed the way they sell miles. Previously they would offer a 100% bonus on purchased miles more often than not. It was an easy way to pick up US Airways miles for ~1.88 cents each.

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Buying US Airways miles was a great way to book Qatar Airways business class

In late October, US Airways unveiled their first Buy Miles promotion under the new scheme, which expired yesterday, November 12, 2014. The best you could do was pick up miles for ~2.3 cents each, so that wasn’t all that exciting, especially in comparison to what we were used to.

American and US Airways Buy Miles promo through November 30, 2014

Well, US Airways is testing the waters with their new pricing scheme quickly, as both American and US Airways have released a new Buy Miles promotion, valid through November 30, 2014:

The first thing that US Airways did is lower the “base” cost per purchased mile. Previously US Airways charged 3.5 cents per mile (before any bonuses and tax), while now US Airways is charging 2.95 cents per mile, which puts them in line with American AAdvantage.

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Through this promotion, both American and US Airways are offering tiered bonuses on the purchase of miles, as follows:

10,000-19,000 miles = 3,000 more bonus miles
20,000-29,000 miles = 6,000 more bonus miles
30,000-39,000 miles = 10,000 more bonus miles
40,000-49,000 miles = 15,000 more bonus miles
50,000-59,000 miles = 20,000 more bonus miles
60,000-69,000 miles = 30,000 more bonus miles
70,000-79,000 miles = 35,000 more bonus miles
80,000 miles = 45,000 more bonus miles

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Dividend Miles promo

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AAdvantage promo

If you max out the bonus you can purchase a total of 125,000 miles for $2,572 including taxes and fees.

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Dividend Miles Buy Miles cost

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AAdvantage Buy Miles cost

That’s ~2.06 cents per mile, which is much better than the offering during the last promotion, though also not as good as ~1.88 cents per mile.

Interestingly, despite all this aligning, American still limits the number of miles you can purchase per calendar year to 80,000 (before any bonuses), while US Airways has no limit on how many miles you can purchase per calendar year.

For both airlines, accounts less than 12 days old aren’t eligible to purchase miles. Also, both airlines process mileage purchases through points.com, so buying miles wouldn’t count as airfare for the purposes of credit card spend.

Which are better: American or US Airways miles?

AAdvantage and Dividend Miles will continue to be run separately through the second quarter of next year, at which point the programs will be combined. So even though the promotions are basically identical, the programs are still very different. Each program has different award chart “sweet spots.” AAdvantage allows one way awards for half the cost of a roundtrip and has more generous change policies, while US Airways has more generous routing rules.

Here’s a post I wrote a while back comparing the value of miles in both programs, for what it’s worth. I don’t think there’s one currency that’s more valuable across the board — it all depends on your specific needs.

Should you buy miles?

~2.06 cents per mile isn’t a rate at which I’d speculatively purchase miles. But with a specific use in mind, it certainly could be worthwhile. For example, through US Airways Dividend Miles, 120,000 miles is enough for Cathay Pacific first class roundtrip ticket between the US and Hong Kong, so for ~$2,500 out of pocket that’s still a heck of a deal.

Both American and US Airways let you hold award tickets even without enough miles in your account (for five and three days, respectively), so that can be a great way to lock in the award you want before having to pull the trigger on purchasing miles.

Bottom line

It’s clear the “new” AAdvantage is still trying to find the sweet spot for selling miles. Selling miles has been big (and profitable) business for Dividend Miles, so I think they’re still trying to find the balance between generating revenue from it without devaluing the currency. And I think the fact that they’re offering back-to-back promotions mid-month, and decreasing the cost per mile in the process, tells us a lot about the response to the increased cost in purchased miles.

Comments

  1. I am an AA fan and Exec plat for over 8 years. So pissed (can you say that here?) with the way they are treating us this year. You can BUY Exec plat status (really AA???) but if you fly with them 200000+ miles u get nothing. I guess it was my fault not to build 1k at the same time. When the higher status is for everybody it loses the entire point.

  2. @lucky
    You get nothing extra like the past few years (extra systemwide upgrades or whatever you chose). Until 2 days ago was OK. I said: no bonus this year. But then when you can actually buy exec plat status!!!
    But I guess it was my fault. I normally do the same 200000/250000 miles per year and I know my routes and I don’t want to bother doing it in a different alliance.
    Following your blog I got a few ideas with other arlines that I never tried because they were not one world.

  3. If you have a US Air MC you also have the chance to buy up to 100% bonus till 12/31.My offer at 30K + 30K is at 0.175 a mile ($1,050) without factoring in the miles earned off the US Air MC. This might be the best deal going and another good reason to pick up and for that matter hold the card!

  4. @ Mika Pyyhkala — There’s not really a single airline. KrisFlyer is a good value for JFK-FRA and IAH-DME, for example. And Aeroplan and American are a good deal at 62,500 miles one-way, though there are fuel surcharges in many cases. So not really a single “good” choice, in my opinion.

  5. I know it would just be a guess at this point, but how do you think they’ll manage changes to award tickets after the merger? I’m trying to book 2 F tix to Hkg on Cx, but right now, there aren’t 2 seats available on a single flight for the time I’m looking (late fall 15). I’d like to book using US miles bc it’s cheaper than w AA, so I want to book before the merger, but supposing I can only find biz tix or flights on JAL for the time being, but I want to change to CX if they release more f seats closer to my departure. Think they’ll charge me to redeposit miles and fully rebook like Us does now, or perhaps rules would change to AA rules where I can change flights w/o a penalty?
    thanks in advance for any conjecture you can provide!

  6. @ G David — That’s a REALLY good question, and honestly don’t have the slightest clue. If I had to guess I’d say that you can make changes once the programs integrate and won’t have to redeposit, and AA’s rules would apply. I could be wrong, though.

  7. To me the sweetest promo along these lines is the share miles promo that US air used to do where I could give miles + bonus to another member.

    Good post. Thanks.

  8. Hi Lucky – with the current promotion between AA Advantage/ Dividend Miles and Alaska Air Mileage Plan, I’m tossing on which one to go for. Planning a trip between AUS-US (LA & Miami) in Jan 2016, any advise would be great! Thanks.

  9. @ Lance — To be honest I might not buy miles yet. You won’t be able to book before February, and I bet we’ll see similar promotions again by then.

  10. Just came back from Jakarta. I had to wait 2 days before departure for CX to open two F seats HKG to LAX. Then we rode Y to Dallas as AA refused to open up any F award space. Honestly buying miles sounds like a great idea but AA has gutted the savor award space to anywhere. Cathay today is not the same as before. Yes you can get F but only maybe 5 days out now. If your willing to wait like we did you can get seats. Plan in advance forget it.

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