Should You Buy American Miles For ~1.9 Cents Each?

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Through November 28, 2016, American is offering up to 100,000 bonus miles when you purchase AAdvantage miles.

american-bonus

The bonus miles are tiered, and based on how many you purchase, as follows:

  • Buy 10,000-24,000 miles, get 2,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 25,000-49,000 miles, get 7,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 50,000-74,000 miles, get 22,500 bonus miles
  • Buy 75,000-99,000 miles, get 40,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 100,000-149,000 miles, get 60,000 bonus miles
  • Buy 150,000 miles, get 100,000 bonus miles

aa-bonus

To achieve the lowest cost on a per mile basis you’ll want to purchase exactly 150,000 miles. If you did that, you’d receive a total of 250,000 miles at a cost of $4,786.88, which is a cost of ~1.91 cents per mile.

aa-bonus-1

However, if you don’t want to buy quite that many miles but still want a good cost per mile, you can instead purchase 100,000 miles. Then you’d receive a total of 160,000 miles at a cost of $3,201.25, which is ~2.0 cents per mile. It’s not quite as good, but if it’s closer to the amount you need for an award…

aa-bonus-2

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

As a point of comparison, in October American had a promotion selling miles for as little as ~2.02 cents each, while in August American had a promotion selling miles for as little as ~2.04 cents each. So this is one of the better promotions we’ve seen lately purely in terms of achieving the lowest cent per mile cost. However, there’s also a big cash outlay required to maximize this promotion.

Is it a good deal?

With American’s devaluation earlier this year, my valuation of AAdvantage miles has decreased from ~1.8 cents to ~1.5 cents each. It’s international first class award redemptions that went up most in price, 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

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

I find the cost of business class redemptions to still be reasonable in most cases. There are certainly instances where it could make sense to pick up miles for ~1.91 cents each with an immediate use in mind, though I wouldn’t call this promotion especially exceptional.

Which credit card should you buy miles with?

American processes mileage purchases directly, 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:

Japan-Airlines-Business-Class-777 - 1
Redeem American miles for JAL business class

Bottom line

On a per mile basis, AAdvantage miles were significantly more valuable before the devaluation. This promotion is certainly better than nothing, and buying miles for ~1.9 cents each could represent a very good deal. However, I wouldn’t speculatively buy miles, but rather only with a specific use in mind, given how often American offers bonuses on the purchase of miles.

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

Do you plan on buying American miles through this promotion?


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Comments

  1. The answer is always NO.

    AA miles continue to devalue not in the way DL miles do (by stealth increases in mileage required) but in a simpler way – there’s just no availability on AA metal.

    This also makes BA Avios almost useless for domestic redemptions.

    I’m sitting on 500K+ AA miles. Useless unless one plans 11 months in advance and wants to travel on some undesirable route.

  2. @ Esther — While you can convert Starpoints into American miles, you can’t convert American miles into Starpoints.

  3. The article says miles count as airfare spend. Does this means count against EQD requirement for status?
    Thanks.

  4. “Should You Buy American Miles For ~1.9 Cents Each?”

    No!

    There are so many good revenue fares out there (check FT) which allows flexibility and the opportunity to collect miles on those fares – combined with the massive devaluation only makes this worthwhile if you need a small number of miles to top up for a redemption.

    They need to offer a bigger bonus like U.S. used to do (100%)

  5. @ John — Nope, it’s airfare spend for the purposes of credit cards, but not otherwise. It doesn’t count towards the EQD requirement.

  6. Anyone who promotes AA miles as a viable option is a liar.
    There is NO AA award availability – NONE. Don’t be deceived.
    The only reason to sign up for an AA credit card is to position yourself as a member of the eventual class action lawsuit.

  7. Louie J above states there is “NO AA award availability – NONE”.

    If you have set dates and flights that you want – this may be true.

    However, with some flexibility – some great flights can be found. I “WANTED” to fly 11/24 Boston to Tokyo on JAL in Business Class and I “WANTED” to return Hong Kong to Boston on Cathay Pacific on 1/1. These flights were not available. HOWEVER, I was able to fly 11/17 going to Japan and return from Hong Kong on 12/26. Were these the flights I WANTED – NO. However, I was still able to fly business class on 2 great airlines on days that worked for me.

    David M

  8. Alternative Bottom Line:

    Buyer Beware – using those miles is already ridiculously difficult, and getting more so every day. Even (maybe particularly) on domestic routes — if you don’t want to fly Wednesday morning on the 5 am flite, you’re out of luck. And just try to find a return.

    Long haul — what little availability they’ll offer to Europe WILL be on BA, with fees greater than a paid ticket costs outright.

  9. I say NO after seeing no more Saver award availability to Europe during the various times I want to go, unless of course I want to fly British Airways and pay those ridiculous “fuel surcharges”! And I know better now than to bother to click on Finnair options as those are just phantoms. Asia is slightly better as I can find availability on Cathay or JAL and book on the phone, but then sometimes you get an agent that is just miserable and doesn’t want to help you. And as for Etihad (or sometimes Qatar) space, why are US agents still unable to see seats when their overseas colleagues can? So frustrating. Too frustrating. So now I’ll just wait for a “flash sale” and pay cash.

  10. @David M

    That is not AA award availability. Yes, their partner availability seems fine for me as well. Good luck finding anything on AA though.

  11. @lucky – Louie J’s opinion is extreme but I think you have to think about the hatred that is going to boil up towards you and other bloggers who keep pumping credit cards and chasing status for those who it doesn’t make sense.

    For those of us who have been playing this game for a while, we’ll be fine. We’ve seen the writing on the wall.

    For the newbies, reports of “$40,000 trip for free!!!!!!!!! OMG SHOWERZ IN DA SKYZ!” are luring them in but the reality is much worse. I love your blog, I really do. You’re much better than many of the others (ahem TPG, VFTW, MMS, and let’s not even mention some of the Tier 2 bloggers on BA) but you have to write some honest articles about how bad availability is on every major alliance but especially on AA.

    Can one find ways to get more than 1.9 cents/mile in value (as in money you’d actually spend, not “I flew this $9,000 o-w JFK – LHR flight in F”) from AA miles? Sure.

    Can you expect Europe to make a miraculous economic comeback in the next 5 years? Sure.

    Those are equally likely feats. Every time you write about buying miles you should caveat it heavily and say “FOR MOST PEOPLE THIS MAKES NO SENSE”.

  12. @kyle

    Let’s see:

    CX – terrible availability from or to the US except last minute or at 11 months out.
    JL – ” ”
    BA – massive YQ
    IB – poor availability and minor YQ (~30 Euros) that triggers all sorts of other taxes that otherwise don’t apply to award tickets.
    RJ – poor availability, poor network.
    AY – poor availability (lots of it phantom), awful connecting times at HEL if you want to do US – Asia
    AB – poor availability, likely going bankrupt.
    UL – ever shrinking route network, low utility except for bloggers going to the Maldives. Oh yeah, and awful availability on long-haul too.
    LATAM – book at 11 months out or fuggedabout it.
    Malaysian – not useful for those living in the US. Dirt cheap revenue fares because everyone is too scared to fly them anyway.
    Qantas – from the US? Nope. Always taken by their own members or folks using other currencies. Maybe in Economy in low season.
    S7 – if you wish to stay within Mother Russia, sure.
    EY – if you wish to spend 1 hour on the phone with the international call center for bookings 10 days out.
    GF – creates long (or illegal) connection times at LHR and CDG. Somewhat useful.
    QR – low availability except on JFK – DOH and US – JFK connections are nearly impossible unless you want to fly into LGA and schlep it over.

    The change that doesn’t even allow through checked bags on separate tickets makes it even worse. AA is absolutely the shittiest domestic mileage currency right now. UA is light years ahead and Delta is very shady but at least has some decent domestic availability.

    You can’t even get AA mileage tickets on days when AA is selling US – Europe roundtrips sub $600.

  13. NO! There is absolutely no space available ever on AA. Looking for J from DFW to EZE (Buenos Aires), there is ZERO ZERO ZERO availability at the 57.5k miles cost from May to August. Not a single flight, zip. What a joke! We should call these the AA pesos (worthless).

  14. I’ve had better luck finding ATL-DOH-CPT in F with AA miles than a simple CRW-LAX in coach. AA miles are borderline unusable, They’re making Delta look downright reasonable.
    And being continually pushed on to BA ++$$ is insulting.

  15. Don’t you people know that Airline miles are pretty much dead? It took long enough but finally has happened. Bank points is the new future. Get rid of all your useless airlines credit cards and chastise every blogger (this one included) that pumps them for commission.

  16. I worry about the standard, BOOM BIG SALE, then followed by a massive devaluation.

    Definitely wouldn’t purchase it unless I knew I could burn them immediately.

  17. I too am angry about the dearth of Saver availability on AA metal. And I agree that most blogs oversell award availability, and under report the difficulty of finding what you need with awards. Every time a blogger puts up a picture of SQ Suites and then mentions the mythical 58K miles Suites award for JFK-FRA my blood starts to boil.

    But folks screaming “liar” and the like at Lucky need to lighten up.

    What part of “I wouldn’t speculatively buy miles, but rather only with a specific use in mind…..If you are looking to buy miles, keep in mind that American allows five day award holds…” don’t you understand?

    Clearly he isn’t peddling AA miles. He’s telling you that it’s possible for some people to find value in some limited cases. And you should find a way to use the miles first, then put the award on hold BEFORE buying them. And if you don’t already have that award in mind then don’t even think about buying miles. All of which is good advice.

    It is difficult, not impossible, but difficult to use AA awards these days, and that has only seemed to get worse the past few years. Still, we flew HKG-NRT-LAX in JAL FC a few months ago with AA miles on a Saver award. We have Saver awards on hold for HEL-FRA in Finnair Business Class (sic) for next Summer with AA miles. The exact route we need to fly on the exact day we need to go.

    AA metal is more problematic. Lucky’s example above of buying the max amount of miles allowed would price out at around $6,000 for enough miles for a R/T AA Anytime FC award US-EU on AA metal. Which, unless you would otherwise pay that much for that flight, is absurd. Especially considering the discount J tickets that go on sale periodically. Still, if you need to go Anytime, can afford to pay that, and only want to go FC, that is a 25% discount over normal retail. No reason for Lucky to fail to post about it.

  18. I’m having trouble using the miles I currently hold given the lack of SAAver award availability to Europe on AA metal. BA is not an acceptable option.

  19. @Robert – fine print much?

    @Lucky – come on Lucky. Make your readers proud. Go all out attacking the airlines on how crappy availability is. Your own business is at risk the more people realize miles are becoming impossible to use. We’re all sitting on tons of miles and can’t use them.

    I’ve stopped enticing my own friends into the churning/mileage world. It’s not worth it. I’d be misleading them. I don’t refer them to any blogs any more because it’s not a good use of their time.

  20. @AnonChi – I think there is still some value to be had with hotel points/status, but pretty much agree with you about accruing airline miles.

  21. I just booked 3 saver awards business class from SDF-LHR on AA metal 77W for first week of June. Routing through MIA. Gonna fly back Singapore Man-IAH and then united back to SDF. I bought a subscription to expert flyer and put in what I was looking for and when it showed up earlier I pounced. I will TOTALLY AGREE that the AA awards in saver level are hard to find but if you are persistent they do show up and you gotta be ready to move.

  22. EY is blocking inventory (especially A380 routes in J and F) in favor of their own FF program – another reason not to buy.

  23. im just gonna wait for lifemiles sales, AA is very hard to find avilabilty on good carriers,I buy AA for premium arilines like CX,JAL to ride, not some pathetic BA first class seats that not sane mind would like to get on or riding a ok but unworthy finnair. Lifemiles at least has some ana,eva seats not first class,but their business class are still great.

  24. Hi Lucky, I’ve just tried to book cathay business class from Perth Australia to LA via AA rewards. I was told that 110,000 points is required one way per person instead of 80,000. I’m just a bit confused because AA website did say it’s 80,000 points one way for business class from South Pacific region to US 48 states. AA staff said it’s because there’re two trips – Perth to HK and HK to LA, but all Cathay flights transit via HongKong and it doesn’t make sense to put 80k points required rather than 110k. Did I miss something or did AA staff made a mistake?
    Thank you,
    Tim

  25. Not sure buying with Amex Platinum get you 5x points. Amex seems to be scanning the transaction for destination airport. Since this transaction won’t have that (just like MileagePlus X app), you won’t get 5x miles. Lack of award space on AA is another reason for not buying these points.

  26. Just to chime in all the blogs say AA great to South America. My 30 days of trying to get Business Saver to Peru shows 0, nada zilch. Called AA for partner LAN business saver and there was two seats in next 9 months, one month apart with horrible routing (and wife not happy going a month apart). Flyer talk has 2 depressing threads going about how bad the availability yet AA keeps throwing out tons of unusable miles to all.

  27. Cash $ is the King, use miles award most of the time dont have a seat for free ticket, King $ Cash are always available 24/24 7/7 365/365, why bother to buy miles then waitning for a change to get a seat?

  28. here is AA BS ,,,,,,, Find flights when you book with miles there is no flight BUT with the King $ Cash there is bunch of seat you can buy as many as you want,

    Something went wrong
    No awards found for the cities you searched. Try a new search or contact AAdvantage Customer Service
    ( Requireddot indicates required)

    Book with miles?
    Yes, book with miles ,
    now book with King $Cash result is Depart Minneapolis/ St Paul, MN to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    Saturday, November 26, 2016
    Previous
    Sun, Nov 20
    $ 5,656
    Mon, Nov 21
    $ 1,675
    Tue, Nov 22
    $ 1,432
    Wed, Nov 23
    $ 1,325
    Thu, Nov 24
    $ 1,325
    Fri, Nov 25
    $ 1,275
    Currently selected day Sat, Nov 26
    $ 1,375
    Sun, Nov 27
    $ 1,725
    Mon, Nov 28
    $ 1,675
    Tue, Nov 29
    $ 1,675
    Wed, Nov 30
    $ 1,432
    Thu, Dec 01
    $ 1,325
    Fri, Dec 02
    $ 1,375
    Next
    Currently showing Lowest Fare Show Refundable fares only
    Sort by:
    Main Cabin Opens Main Cabin description pop-up Business Opens Business description pop-up First Opens First description pop-up
    MSP SGN
    5:00 AM 10:25 PM
    28h 25m
    2 stops Opens 2 stops pop-up
    AA 4593 E75-Embraer RJ-175
    Operated by Republic Airlines As American Eagle
    AA 153 788-Boeing 787 Wifi on-board
    AA 8422 788-Boeing 787
    Operated by Japan Airlines
    Details, for MSP to SGN, departing at 5:00 AM 2 stops Seats , for MSP to SGN, departing at 5:00 AM 2 stops, Opens in a new window.
    Main Cabin
    Round trip
    $ 1,375
    Refundable
    1 seat left
    for MSP to SGN, departing at 5:00 AM 2 stops Business

  29. As all comments reflect, YMMV I guess. I am trying to book a very specific travel where my wife and I would travel from HKG-JFK-ZRH-HKG over Christmas holidays. I could price this total trip on coach for $1,660 per person (or total of $3,320) on kayak. This whole trip will take us close to 65hrs of travel time per person.

    Now, let’s say that I don’t want to do that. We have a pretty specific itinerary so it is important to me that we minimize the travel time. If I choose the nonstop option, it will cost $5,426 (close to $11k for two of us) and close to 35hrs of travel time. Cutting down 30 hours over the course of 3 segments is a lot, not just in terms of time but also in energy and mood. But obviously, the cost would be prohibitive and all of this is in coach.

    JKF-ZRH (coach) one way is $2,773 per person or ~$5500. Looking at AA, I put on hold two tickets for 44k miles each (88k total). There are also two business class tickets available for the specific date that we want to go from HKG-JFK (70k miles each or 140k total). That is a total of 228k miles that I would need. Now looking at the tiering, it would obv be best if I bought the 150k+100k miles option for $4,787. Now this is by no means cheap and I still have to book a flight from ZRH to HKG for $2,011 (for 2 people) for premium economy on cathay but if I wanted to make this itinerary work, buying miles will make this trip more enjoyable.

    To recap,
    Option 1 – cheapest option $3,320
    65hrs of travel time; all coach class; less time at certain destinations

    Option 2 – shortest travel time option; no miles used
    35hrs of travel time; $10,852; all coach class

    Option 3 – same as option 2 but using AA purchase promo
    35hrs of travel time; $6,798 ($4,787 for 260k miles + $2,011 for 2 tickets on cathay for ZRH-HKG)
    HKG-JFK business class (140k miles used); JFK-ZRH coach (88k miles used); ZRH-HKG premium economy

    While I agree with the sentiments of many in regards to the devaluation of AA miles, as Lucky said, with specific uses in mind, it does make sense.

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