Buy American Miles For ~1.8 Cents Each

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Surprise, surprise! American devalued their miles less than a week ago, and today they’re offering a sale on the purchase of miles, at one of the lowest yet.

Through April 28, 2016, American is offering up to 115,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when buying miles. That translates into a bonus of up to ~77%, which is just about the highest bonus we’ve ever seen.

American-Bonus-Promotion

The number of bonus miles varies based on how many you buy, as follows:

  • Buy 6,000-9,000 miles, get 1,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 10,000-19,000 miles, get 3,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 20,000-29,000 miles, get 7,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 30,000-39,000 miles, get 15,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 40,000-54,000 miles, get 22,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 55,000-69,000 miles, get 30,00 bonus miles
  • Buy 70,000-84,000 miles, get 40,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 85,000-99,000 miles, get 50,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 100,000-124,000 miles, get 60,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 125,000-149,000 miles, get 75,00 bonus miles
  • Buy 150,000 miles, get 115,000 bonus miles

American-Bonus-Promo

Given the tiered bonuses, you’ll achieve the lowest cent per mile cost if you purchase exactly 150,000 miles, since you’d be earning a ~77% bonus on purchased miles. Of course that’s a huge quantity of miles to purchase, as you’d be getting a total of 265,000 miles at a cost of $4,786.88. That’s a rate of ~1.81 cents per mile.

American-Bonus-Promotion-1

How does this promotion compare to past promotions from American on the purchase of miles (keeping in mind that all the other promotions were before American’s devaluation)?

As you can see, this is among the best prices we’ve ever seen on the purchase of AAdvantage miles, which comes as no surprise, given that the value of American miles just decreased.

As usual, AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old aren’t eligible to purchase miles. Furthermore, there’s an annual cap of purchasing 150,000 AAdvantage miles per account per calendar year (pre-bonus).

Is it a good deal?

With American’s recent devaluation, my valuation of AAdvantage miles has decreased from ~1.8 cents to ~1.5 cents each. With the recent devaluation, it’s international first class award redemptions which went up in price most, with awards increasing in price by up to ~70% in some instances.

Meanwhile the cost of most business class awards increased as well, though not nearly as drastically. As a reminder, here’s the cost of first and business class awards originating in the US under the new program:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Business ClassFirst Class
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00050,000
Canada & Alaska30,00055,000
Hawaii40,00065,000
Caribbean27,50052,500
Mexico27,50052,500
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Europe57,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Africa75,000120,000
Asia Zone 160,00080,000
Asia Zone 270,000110,000
South Pacific80,000110,000

I find the cost of business class redemptions to still be reasonable in most cases, and if you’re essentially picking up miles at ~1.8 cents each, there are instances where buying miles can make sense.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30
Qatar Airways business class continues to be a great use of American miles

You’ll of course want to crunch the numbers for yourself in other to decide.

One thing I’d note is that for a couple more days Alaska is also selling miles with a great bonus, lowering the cost per acquired Alaska mile to ~2.1 cents. While that’s a higher cent per mile cost than with American, Alaska has lower redemption rates and even allows stopovers on one-way awards. So if you’re considering redeeming on one of their partner airlines, I might consider buying Alaska miles instead.

Alaska-Bonus

There’s also no limit to how many Alaska miles you can buy in a year, and they have more generous change and cancellation policies.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-A330 - 3
Redeem Alaska or American miles for Cathay Pacific business class

Which credit card should you buy miles with?

As of last 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

Of course there was a lot more value to be had from AAdvantage miles before the devaluation, but there are definitely still circumstances under which this could represent a great deal, particularly for travel in international business class.

This is one of the best prices we’ve seen on the purchase of AAdvantage miles, though I’d expect that given the recent devaluation.

If you are considering buying miles in the next couple of days, I’d seriously consider buying Alaska miles rather than American miles, though.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see American continue to lower the cost of purchased miles over time to reflect the higher redemption rates. As before, you’ll have to crunch the numbers for yourself and decide how much you value them.

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

At what rate would you buy AAdvantage miles after the devaluation?

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Comments

  1. With all the discounted business class fares out there (especially ex-Canada) it simply doesn’t make sense to buy miles anymore – especially post devaluation.

    I’ll pass, as I still have 150K left.

  2. I agree with you that the cost of Transatlantic business class redemptions are still reasonable. The problem is finding award availability across the pond that’s not operated by BA.

    Also, to take full advantage of this offer, the cost of entry is pretty high.

  3. Since February we’ve booked 720k in AA miles in order to leverage pre-March 22 values (all international F). Have to agree with Mike S it makes more sense to outright buy current J sale prices than purchase discounted miles. It seems AA would struggle to sell many miles with the devaluation less than a week in the rear view mirror.

  4. Why wouldn’t you want to buy the miles with an AA card for 3x? Just wondering. Might help toward EQM spending also.
    How does this compare to the old US Airways mileage buys in the past? Like it matters now, just wondering. I also know that it was much cheaper for award seats (like 60k rt Europe).
    How does this compare to buying a ticket on a route with a bonus like the current Australia or Toyko routes? I assume that is much more expensive but at least you’d be getting EQMs.

  5. Is there another site where you can see availability of business class awards on AA partners that aren’t shown on AA’s site? I’ve been trying to get Qantas premium econ or biz class for years (biz only available on AA for 140K miles each way!). I finally got Qantas premium econ via Alaska for 47.5K miles. [Also would you recommend Qantas or AA for premium economy long haul — or do you ever lower yourself to that class? 😉 ]

  6. This sale is pretty much business as usual. Been done before. I guess AA is testing the water, to see whether its once loyal AAdvantage members are still listening after the devAAluation. Just my opinion of course, but a sale Avianca-style, with bonuses in excess of 100% with no tiers might be necessary to grab our attention. Some of you may recall that Avianca LifeMiles overstepped the mark some time back with a devaluation, and it has taken years, and generous, if not desperate, miles offers (up to 145% bonus for the savvy) to entice its members to open their collective wallets. I think AA will need to go down this road too, and with appropriate spin could put some lipstick on the pig they have created!

  7. @Susan J How did you book a premium economy fair? I haven’t seen that come up as an option. Also finding it impossible at the moment to get anything other than economy on Qantas – ie, all the Bus and First class flights shown are “no longer available” as soon as I select them … driving me nuts as I didn’t have the problem prior to the devaluation.

  8. I’m new to the awards system and would love some advice on the best way to fly business class from DEN to CPT next January. Would you recommend purchasing Alaska miles or American? A friend suggested flying Cathay Pacific…

  9. AA needs to do better – it’s going to take at least a ‘U.S. Airways 100% Bonus’ type of promotion to possibly get people interested in buying miles again. Even that might not work, as I suspect people are still sitting on large balances.

  10. @Jo145 I got Qantas premium economy on Alaska Air for next November. The only Biz class available via Alaska Air for my dates was for high mileage via Korean Air.

  11. When they can match US Airways sales with 100% bonuses…. then… and only then… will I consider purchasing AA miles.

  12. comparing Cathay Pacific F class award to HKG from US, if you buy miles on American, your one way trip will cost $1987.06; but if you now buy Alaska miles your cost will be $1478.33. Surprise surprise indeed!

  13. I have always wondered why you’d buy miles, unless you are topping up to get a specific reward. To me, thats an awful lot of money to get the 1.8 cents/mile. You are close to outright buying a business class ticket to Europe for that much. Of course, if you use them to upgrade instead of buying tickets outright, they’d last longer, but I still feel its an awful lot of money for the return on the investment. Now, if some of those miles would count towards elite status, that might cause me to reconsider – but I doubt that will happen.

  14. I’m a bit confused by the new (post-devaluation) award chart on aa.com:
    https://www.americanairlines.ch/i18n/AAdvantage/redeemMiles/american-airlines-award-chart2016.jsp

    For award tickets originating in Europe (for example a CDG-DOH on QR J, one of my favourite redemption routes), there no longer are required mile figures but a blue dot and the following explanation: “Award travel is available between these regions as denoted by the availability indicator (blue dot), however two awards must be claimed as the only service available is to/from the contiguous 48 U.S. states.” Could you please elaborate on what this means? How can I find out how many miles are needed for the aforementioned routing? Thanks a lot.

  15. Your mileage chart. What domestic airlines offer Business Class in contiguous 48 states?
    The buying is really poor. I can buy domestic flights MUCH cheaper than what those miles would cost……and earn more miles, too.

  16. Not sure where you get your numbers. I just want on AA and tried to book business class to Milan in September and it was 110,000 miles each way per person and NOT the 57,000 claimed in the article.

  17. Why would I buy those points?
    Given it roughly costs about 60.000 miles for a round-trip transatlantic flight in economy class, at 1.81 cents that’s 1086 dollars. Almost any transatlantic flight can be found at rates of 750 euros (850 dollars) or even less. There are flights from Miami to Europe for 340 USD, that can be found on a regular basis…

  18. @Ben
    If you’re buying points to travel in Economy you’re doing it wrong. As an Australian, the 265,000 points is enough for a return trip to Europe and a seperate return trip to Asia in Business class. For $4,500 that is excellent value when a return trip to Europe is normally $6,000+

  19. Agree entirely with @John.S ! If you are using your miles to go Y anywhere, you may as well grab a sale fare, pay cash, and earn miles, for something more worthwhile! AA is laughing all the way to the bank with 96% (yes, you heard it right!) of miles redeemed on domestic Y flights! And that is before you consider all the miles balances which expire and disappear into the ether!

  20. Ben, any idea what the Citi AA executive card earns if we purchase these mile? 2x or 3x?
    Thanks

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