Buy American Miles For 2 Cents Each Through July 13, 2015

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American is offering both a 15% discount and tiered mileage bonuses on the purchase of AAdvantage miles through July 13, 2015. I do find it sort of funny how they turn these promotions into (minor) math puzzles, rather than just offering a straightforward discount. Then again, something tells me most people aren’t maximizing these promotions correctly, which is why they do it.

AAdvantage-Buy-Bonus

This time around you get a 15% discount no matter how many miles you purchase, but then the number of bonus miles you earn is tiered. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Buy 1,000-15,000 miles, get 0 bonus miles and 15% off
  • Buy 16,000-30,000 miles, get 5,000 bonus miles and 15% off
  • Buy 31,000-45,000 miles, get 10,000 bonus miles and 15% off
  • Buy 46,000-60,000 miles, get 15,000 bonus miles and 15% off
  • Buy 61,000-75,000 miles, get 20,000 bonus miles and 15% off
  • Buy 76,000-100,000 miles, get 27,500 bonus miles and 15% off

If you want to maximize your cent per mile ratio you’d want to buy the fewest number of miles in a given “range.”

The absolute best cent per mile ratio you’ll achieve is if you purchase exactly 76,000 AAdvantage miles. That’s because you’d be eligible for both the 15% discount and 27,500 mile bonus. If you purchase 76,000 miles then you’d earn a total of 103,500 AAdvantage miles at a cost of $2,078.63 including all taxes and processing charges. That’s a rate of ~2.0 cents per mile.

AAdvantage-Buy-Bonus-1

To compare this promotion to recent ones that AAdvantage offered:

This makes the current promotion one of the most lucrative yet, as this is just about the best cent per mile ratio we’ve seen on an AAdvantage buy miles promotion in quite a while.

As usual, AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old aren’t eligible to purchase miles, and you’re limited to purchasing 100,000 AAdvantage miles per account per calendar year. That limit doesn’t include any bonus miles.

Is it a good deal?

~2 cents per mile isn’t a rate at which I’d speculatively purchase American AAdvantage miles (I value American miles at ~1.8 cents each). That being said, with a specific use in mind, it certainly could be worthwhile.

For example, 67,500 miles is enough for a one-way ticket in Cathay Pacific first class between the US and Asia, so for ~$1,350 out of pocket that’s not half bad.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-54
Cathay Pacific 777 First Class

40,000 miles will get you an award in an Etihad A380 First Class Apartment between Abu Dhabi and London, so for just ~$800 out of pocket, that’s a steal.

Etihad-A380-First-Apartment-01
Etihad A380 First Class Apartments

Which credit card should you buy miles with?

As of earlier this year, American processes mileage purchases directly (rather than through points.com), which means the purchase of miles does qualify as airfare spend. Therefore you’ll want to consider using one of the following cards for your purchase, since they offer the following bonus miles for airfare spend:

Bottom line

With a specific use in mind, this can be a great value. I wouldn’t speculatively buy AAdvantage miles for two cents each just for giggles, but if you have a premium cabin redemption on Cathay Pacific, Japan AirlinesEtihad, Qatar, etc., in mind, it’s tough to go wrong.

This is among the best bonuses we’ve seen on the purchase of AAdvantage miles, though ultimately the variance in the cost of purchased miles isn’t huge. In other words, I’d rather buy miles for 2.1 cents each when I knew I had an immediate use for them, rather than for ~2.0 cents each speculatively.

Also keep in mind that American allows five day award holds (meaning you can hold an award ticket, purchase miles, and then ticket the reservation).

While buying miles isn’t as lucrative as it was in the US Airways days, it is nice to see that American is frequently offering a discount on purchased miles.

Do you plan on purchasing AAdvantage miles for ~2 cents each?

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Comments

  1. If someone signed up for the Citi Platinum with 50k bonus and was > $2k from minimum spend would you recommend buying these miles?

  2. AA seems to have shut down the “buy miles” page for some reason so your first link is showing as dead.

  3. Don’t forget for those with the AAviator Silver card from Barclay’s you would get 3x miles for the purchase through AA for an additional 6,235 miles! This would lower your cost to $.0189 each ($2078.63 / 109,735 Miles). I know you can’t apply for the card anymore, but for those upgrading from Aviator Red to Silver, this is a good deal!

  4. @ GloverParker — Hmmm, works for me. Have you tried a different browser/clearing your cookies?

  5. @ Vinhsynd — I wouldn’t base my decision of whether or not to buy miles on a sign-up bonus. You should certainly maximize the miles you earn for the purchase if you buy miles, but I wouldn’t let this be a motivating factor.

  6. The problem about AA miles is the limited awards avalibality. Unlike UA, AA rarely release premium award seats on their 777-300ER aircrafts. Within Oneworld alliance, Cathay Pacific is planning to reduce awards seats to partners, Japan Airlines award avalibality is already rare. As for Eithad, besides their A380 product, rest of their products are not impressive.
    I wish it is Alaska Airlines selling miles for this cheap. It has a great selection of partners and decent award avalibality.

  7. AA has run this promotion in 7 of the last 8 months.

    We have a huge devaluation coming our way.

    This is very simple economics. They know that the real cost of award redemptions to them is about to decrease significantly because they’re going to devalue their chart, so they are cashing in on it by selling a lot of miles while people still consider their miles very valuable. This is exactly what you should do when you want to devalue your program and maximize revenue in the short run.

    P.S. for what it’s worth I have a PhD in economics 🙂

  8. Look, these are the cheapest I’ve seen AA miles at before, I’ve never used AA but I’m willing to take advantage -but should I?

    I plan to take 2 trips by Jan 16. AUH to SYD, in F (to hit that A380), and something like MEL to HKG return. I’d like to ideally use F on both, but is it worth it with the rates? Some advise appreciated before I drop like $2k.

  9. @ Jubbin — Assuming you can find award space, I doubt you’ll find a better value for first class. I’d do it.

  10. I’m interested in buying these miles and redeeming them for QF in J from anywhere in North America to anywhere in Australia. However, most of the routings provided on AA.com seem to be via HNL on HA. Is there a particular window when QF releases at least some J space on USA-Australia? Thanks!

  11. @ phone home — I don’t disagree we’ll see a devaluation soon enough, though I disagree with the premise. Selling miles isn’t something which has been going on for the past eight months, it’s something which has been going on for literally years and years. And we haven’t seen a major devaluation yet. Which isn’t to say that we won’t see one soon enough, but rather that I don’t buy into the “they’re selling miles cheaply, therefore there will be a devaluation tomorrow” argument. Just my two cents.

  12. @ Sips — Correct, I’d almost never buy American miles if the goal is to redeem for travel on American metal. But for partner airlines there’s still some great value to be had.

  13. @ Mochi — You’ll want to book as far in advance as possible. In general award space is really tough to come by, so I wouldn’t count on finding any space easily. But if you plan way in advance and are flexible, it shouldn’t be impossible.

  14. So if you are using a CC that gives you double miles for airline purchases (or triple miles), and you purchase 100,000 + 27,500 (bonus) miles, cost is $2507.50 so you will get $5015 miles add that on top of the 127,500 for a total of $132,515 comes at to 1.9 cent/mile. So basically for $2500 you are buying enough miles for a RT FC ticket on Cathy Pacific to HKG, or 2 RT FC flights between YVR-JFK not bad at all.

  15. Ben, I don’t think the Citi AAdvantage Platinum would qualify for the 2X AAdvantage miles.

  16. Lucky,

    do you know if AA gift cards can be used to purchase miles in this promotion? I have a couple AA gift cards sitting around that I picked up with the RC card flight credit.

  17. Mochi, QF award space across the Pacific is indeed hard to come by. However, this may change eventually as Aussie travellers trim their US travel plans due to the plummeting $A, which by all accounts could get even more dire in the near future! 🙁 QF is travelling with high seat take-up at the moment, but this can change in a heartbeat.

  18. Glen T. Not sure your prediction will come about. TPAC J has always been sought after on QF, even when the A$ has been low in the past (and much lower than currently!). Also, remember that QF does not offer more Award or ‘cheap’ J seats to fill the J cabin. They regard it as a Premium Product (debatable) and usually leave J and F seats empty rather allowing pax to upgrade or redeem with miles (points in QF’s case).

  19. Just to answer Jubbin’s question.

    I’ve recently booked the similar flights your seeking (AUH-SYD and HKG-SYD).

    In regards to the Etihad flight, just search on their site ‘booking with miles’ to check for availability. 331 days out you can normally find 2 seats in business – but first is a different matter. Remember your looking for ‘Guest Seats’ on the Etihad site. I’d say if your trying to book in January your already too late for either. If you can find business I’d jump on those and hope First comes up, then ring AA and get onto the First seats. I’d did that successfully just by checking every now and again. Etihad seems to release more award seats a few days out so you could be a little lucky then also.

    Getting to HK – in my experience, absolutely no chance of anything other than economy award space on QF no matter where you fly out of. Cathy almost impossible also.

  20. @QFFer, I can assure you that QF does not leave any J and F seats empty as you suggest! From recent experience on many different int. routes lately those cabins have been full. There are plenty of upgrade requests to satisfy and even then there are many QFF members who miss out. There is also the new auction system to consider, after upgrade requests have been fulfilled.

  21. @ Cham — Why not? I believe it should now that the points purchases are processed directly.

  22. If want to redeem CX F at the end of September, should I buy it now or wait for next promotion?

  23. @ Stephen — Toughie. Assuming you’re able to wait till the last minute to book, I’d probably buy now, since it’s an especially good rate.

  24. @Lucky, Thanks! BTW, is there any limit on the number of transfers for AAdvantage award? If I want to do HKG-PDX, can I do HKG(CX)-NRT, NRT(JL)-LAX, LAX(AA)-PDX?

  25. Hi Lucky,
    Need your advice. I plan a trip to Europe (from CUN, Mexico) in August, not sure about the return date (probably Dec. or Jan.). Should I buy enough miles for return ticket, book it and then change date later if necessary. Or just buy miles for one way and wait next promo end of year?
    Thanks.

  26. @ Luiza — It might not be a bad idea to just buy enough miles for the outbound for now, assuming you aren’t sure about your return date. Presumably there will be another lucrative promotion to buy miles between now and then.

  27. Thank you, Lucky. I hope along promo there will be seats available too… I have noticed that it can be tricky as well.
    All the best.

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