This Trick Could Greatly Increase The Number Of American Miles You Earn For Flying

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As most of you know by now, a few months back American’s AAdvantage program became revenue based on the earnings side, meaning the number of miles you earn for a ticket is based on how much the ticket costs, rather than the distance you fly.

This is a negative change for a majority of members, since most people are earning fewer miles under the new system. However, some people traveling on expensive tickets are coming out ahead under the new system.

Mileage earning on partner airlines works differently, however. Since American can’t easily track how much some partner tickets cost, miles are still being awarded based on the distance flown rather than the dollars spent. However, earnings rates have generally been adjusted on partners to more closely mirror what they’d be under a revenue based program (in other words, discounted economy fares earn fewer miles, while full fare first class tickets may earn more miles).

Just as an example, here’s what they are on British Airways, which is one of American’s closest partners:

aa-ba

Accruing American miles based on the “special fares” chart

While American in theory awards miles based on revenue for their own flights, they also have a “special fares” chart, in cases where American can’t easily calculate the revenue on a ticket. Here’s what that chart looks like:

american-fares

Here’s how American describes this special fares chart:

Some fares (such as bulk or consolidator fares) earn award miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) at a modified rate based on a percentage of the distance flown as determined by the booking code.*

Special fares are often purchased through a specialized agent, third party or as part of a package including air transportation and lodging.

Examples:

Generally when you’re booking travel through a portal using points (for example, if you’re redeeming points earned on the Citi Prestige® Card through the Citi travel portal, or points earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card through the Chase travel portal), miles would be accrued under the above “special fares” chart. This doesn’t happen 100% of the time, but does seem to the way it usually works.

In many cases you don’t even have to pay for the ticket entirely with points for it to accrue using that chart. For example, take a flight between Los Angeles and Hong Kong through the Citi travel portal, which has a fare of $717.86.

american-ticket-5

You can choose to redeem just one Citi ThankYou point towards the cost of that ticket, meaning you’d pay one Citi ThankYou point plus you’d pay $717.84.

american-ticket-3

How you can greatly increase your mileage earning on American

Let me demonstrate this in the form of an example. Let’s look at the above $717.86 roundtrip economy ticket between Los Angeles and Hong Kong on American (which is a pretty normal fare nowadays):

american-ticket

Under the new system you earn miles based on the base fare, which in this case is ~$620 roundtrip (the rest is taxes). That means if booking directly with American you earn:

  • 14,494 elite qualifying miles
  • 3,100 redeemable miles as a general member (five miles per dollar spent)
  • 6,820 redeemable miles as an Executive Platinum member (there’s a 120% bonus)
  • ~$620 elite qualifying dollars for travel in 2017

american-ticket-2

However, if we booked that same ticket through the Citi travel portal and redeemed just one ThankYou point for the ticket, you’d earn:

  • 14,494 elite qualifying miles
  • 7,247 redeemable miles (50% of the distance flown)
  • 15,943 redeemable miles as an Executive Platinum member (there’s a 120% bonus)
  • ~$1,449 elite qualifying dollars for travel in 2017 (it’s calculated as 10% of the distance flown)

So just by booking through a travel portal you’re earning more than double as many redeemable miles and elite qualifying dollars. At least that’s how it usually works. Sometimes these tickets still accrue miles based on the revenue, but that seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

American-Business-Class
Going forward I’ll book my international American tickets through a portal

Bottom line

You’ll want to crunch the number for each trip on a case-by-case basis, but in many instances you’ll come out way ahead by intentionally booking a “special fare.” This is especially true for cheap trips to Asia, or really any cheap fare covering a far distance. For short or expensive flights you’re generally better off still collecting miles under the revenue based system.

Regardless, this is a great opportunity that I hadn’t put too much thought into up until now, though I’ll certainly be booking a lot more tickets through the Citi travel portal, redeeming just one mile towards the cost of a ticket.

One thing I’m not sure of — and hopefully some readers can chime in — is if booking travel through one of these portals without redeeming any points would also make you eligible for accrual under the “special fares” chart.

Has anyone been booking travel through a portal in order to accrue miles under the “special fares” chart?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

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Comments

  1. I’ve been using this trick exclusively since August 1, but only through the Citi travel portal. Do you or anyone else know if the same trick works on the Amex travel portal, given the new 5x points for Amex platinum for tickets booked through the Amex travel site? Or the Chase portal?

  2. this is not always true…i have flown itinerary booked with TYP and have gotten the miles based on fare…my theory is if you can see full fare details on aa.com you will get the miles based on fare…there is FT thread which has been discussing this for months

  3. “While American in theory awards miles based on distance flown for their own flights”

    Don’t you mean based on revenue?

  4. The one disadvantage with booking through a portal like Citi is that it can be difficult to make changes. I booked a ticket through them last summer, and had a hard time getting things changed due to a schedule change. Citi says AA has to do it, AA says Citi has to do it… May not be a big deal 95% of the time, but could be a pain.

  5. Any guesses about whether a flight/hotel package via Orbitz (or the like) would use the “special fare” chart. Finding blass tickets for a spring Europe trip are much cheaper when packaged with one night of hotel. Would be added bonus to earn more miles via this chart. Thanks!

  6. Incredibly useful, Lucky. One question: If these special fares are “cases where American can’t easily calculate the revenue on a ticket”, how do other airlines with partner-earning-EQDs (i.e. Delta) treat them?

  7. Or, of course, just book air+car at aavacations.com and throw away the car… Real value in this for cheap long haul. And tickets are still upgradeable with eVIPs.

  8. One other warning about making bookings through travel portals– while you should be able to choose/change your seat assignment on AA.com, occasionally I’ve experienced glitches where the change seat option mysteriously disappears when managing the itinerary online… and if you call AA, they won’t touch the seat assignment without a $25 fee for outside bookings.

  9. If tpg publicized it then the value of the deal has already eroded.

    Bloggers are like the wall street analysts of the dot Com Era : Putting lipstick on a pig and selling it to their clients while writing essays about ethical behavior to their MBA schools.

  10. Awesome find, though I know the fares are sometimes inconsistent (costlier) on the Citi TYP Portal than what you would find on Google flights or AA.com

  11. I’ve been using a similar ploy to earn more EQMs. If you book premium economy with any Oneworld partners you earn 1.5 EQMs based on the partner award charts. On an international flight that can really boost your EQMs. If you fly economy you significantly reduce the amount of EQM you could earn. You get the same EQMs as first or business but a much smaller cost to accrue the EQM.

  12. Please don’t turn into Gary with the stupid click-bait headlines. You’re better than that 🙂

    I’ve almost completely stopped visiting his blog ever since he went down that path…and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    ‘Use this one simple trick to get me to stop reading posts!’

  13. @C Diddy: Does it count as a clickbait headline when the article delivers exactly what that headline promises?

  14. AA keeps asking more and more miles for the trip I was able to make before with only 30,000 miles….

    Will change FF …

  15. Caution for this – if you re-issue your ticket, through say a SWU upgrade, it will go back to a revenue system and you’re hosed 🙂

  16. I just booked a UA flight using the TYP portal. After a few minutes, the reservation shows up when I log into my United account. It’s showing miles based on revenue, not miles flown. So, it doesn’t appear to work for UA. Did it work for anyone else?

  17. This was not click bit, not even close.

    A very clear title, and then detailed instructions on exactly how to maximize miles in an unconventional way.

    I for one appreciate Lucky’s wide range of articles, and this will definitely help a lot of people do EXACTLY what the title suggests.

  18. Ok…I tried this for a trip in January. I don’t have a Citi prestige card, just the regular Aadvantage MasterCard, but because I have a Citi Checking Account, I get the points there. I’ll report back at the end of January.

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