What Are The Best Ways To Use 60,000+ American Miles?

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Update: This offer for the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is expired. Learn more about the current offer here.

Update: This offer for Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is expired. Learn more about the current offer here.

As I wrote about a few days ago, for a limited time we’re seeing increased sign-up bonuses on American’s co-branded Citi credit cards. Both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® are offering sign-up bonuses of 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

The cards have $95 annual fees, though they’re waived for the first 12 months. This is the biggest publicly available sign-up bonus I ever recall seeing on either of these cards.

American miles are worth less than they used to be

I’m certainly in many ways frustrated by the redemption ability of American miles. They release very little saver level award availability on their own flights, so I value American miles at ~1.3 cents each. This is significantly lower than my previous valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, and prior to that, my valuation of ~1.8 cents per mile.

Even so, at a rate of 1.3 cents per mile, we’re talking about a sign-up bonus that’s worth $780. That’s a huge sign-up bonus for a card that’s fairly easy to be approved for.

What can you really do with 60,000+ American miles?

After I wrote my last post about this offer, several people commented about how American miles are simply worthless, and that it’s dumb to even promote this offer. I strongly disagree. Like I said, I’ve lowered my valuation of American miles, and have been vocal about their decreased value. At the same time, some balance is needed there. That’s why I wanted to look at some of the best ways you can use the 60,000+ mile sign-up bonus on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®.

Here’s what American’s award chart looks like for first & business class redemptions originating in the continental US on partner airlines (and you should generally be redeeming your miles on partner airlines whenever possible anyway):

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

My goal here isn’t to go through all the possible award redemptions you can make, but rather to highlight some wide open, great opportunities for redeeming American miles, which also show that these miles are far from worthless (even though they’re most definitely worth less than they used to be).

I think the best AAdvantage redemption opportunities for travel originating in North America are for travel in business class to Asia, the Middle East/India, and Africa.

Examples of good award redemption opportunities

If going to Asia, Cathay Pacific business class awards are typically wide open when the schedule first opens, and at 70,000 miles one-way to all destinations in Asia 2, I consider it to be a good value. Being able to snag 4-5 seats on many flights this far out is a great opportunity.

American-Awards-1

Cathay-Pacific-777-Business-Class-15

While not quite as wide open, Japan Airlines business class also has reasonably good availability, especially if booking way in advance. JAL business class is fantastic, and it’s only 60,000 miles for business class from the US to Asia 1, which includes Japan.

American-Awards-2

Japan-Airlines-Business-Class-777 - 1

If you’re wanting to head to the Middle East (or beyond), having access to both Etihad and Qatar is great. Qatar business class award availability isn’t quite as good as it used to be, but is still pretty readily available, both close to departure and in advance.

American-Awards-3

The other cool thing is that American lets you route to Africa via Doha on Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways has an exceptional business class product and also an extensive route network to Africa, so getting there for 75,000 miles one-way in business class is a good deal.

Etihad business class is another great option, though they’re consistent with making award seats available. Sometimes award availability on them is wide open (almost) across the board, while other times they’re quite stingy. However, if you book at the right time they should have plenty of space, and their 787 and A380 business class products are great.

Etihad-Award

Bottom line

All of the above redemptions cost 60,000-75,000 miles one-way. At a rate of ~1.3 cents per mile, that’s the equivalent of $780-975 one-way in business class, which I think is a very fair valuation. There’s still potentially value to be had to Europe, South America, etc., but I tend to think the sweet spot with American miles is Asia, the Middle East/India, and Africa.

So even though American miles are worth less than they used to be, I still think the bonuses on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® are well worth it, given that they’re the biggest ones we’ve ever seen.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the suggestions, Ben. There’s value to be had with AA miles; but it does take some searching and flexibility.

    On an unrelated note; what can I do with 66,000 Etihad miles, besides use them on Brussels Airlines?

  2. Anyplace you can go RT with availability?

    I used AS miles right before the breakup to get RT LAX-SJO nonstop for 60k in J in Delta, nothing was available onAA that wasn’t 2 connections

  3. @Lucky – always appreciate these pointers, especially considering I tend to bank more AA miles than any other program due to my south Florida location. While I know once I have dates set, I will need to research every available option, but just wondering if I could get your thoughts real quick. I may be looking to head to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia maybe next May but nothing certain yet. The few times I have traveled to Asia in the past, I have always flown west (Asiana JFK-ICN and JAL DFW-NRT) for the outbound flight. Given the great carrier options on both Asian and ME airlines, generally speaking is it better to look for westbound flights from Miami area or eastbound to get to BKK in terms of availability, product quality and redemption value (preferrably biz class unless it is a first class product with a seat available, for points I can afford and an experience not to miss)? For point of reference, I do have a decent amount of AA miles stored, as well as a pretty good stash of Citi TY and Chase MR points available to me. Thanks as always!

  4. OK, I have a really silly question: what website are you using to look up availability? I recognize Etihad, but not what you are using for Qatar, Cathay, and JAL.

  5. @David W – thank you. I’m aware of the BA website, I’ve just never personally had much luck with it.

  6. @TBH AA will price out 2 awards if youre going go Asia via Qatar or Etihad so you may want to stick to an Asian carrier. As Lucky wrote above, Cathay availability in advance is quite good and their lounges in HKG are decent as well. Cathay serves a handful of US cities and you can get positioning flights on AA (if space is available) attached to the award.

  7. @RTBones I recommend searching for space on each individual segment and then putting it together.

  8. @ David W – Thanks, this was the kind of insight I was looking for (re: two awards on AA to head Eastbound to Asia). I may have to suck it up and pay cash for one way, in which case maybe I can get a good deal on one of the ME carriers if the times work out right (loved Qatar, still wanting to try Etihad), otherwise, looks like Westbound it is. I did have the opportunity to fly Cathay back from HKG to JFK on my first Asia trip (unfortunately had to pay cash as I was not wise to the miles game yet), but it was an incredible experience if for nothing else than the seat somehow put me to sleep for no lie, at least 12 hours of that flight without even realizing it – it was a pretty exhausting trip to say the least. But service while I was awake was phenomenal. How far in advance do their award calendars open up? I am afraid I would not have travel dates until fall, even if I do travel in May so hoping awards are still open!

  9. AA advantage miles is joke. HSV ALB, ok good skd outbound but double connection on the return 15 hrs on return. Res agt. Said couldn’t use just one way and not helpful at all. QC called and was less helpful. Wouldnt wave change fee for better skd on outbound nor change middle seat w/o charging ME, A SMALL FAVOR FOR A DISGRUNTLED PASSENGER. Why do all airline personnel hate the flying public???

  10. 60k is a lot? Why not sign up for the United card that gives you 70k + 5k if you add an authorized user. Miles are significantly easier to redeem.

    But for AA miles, I think I’m getting a lot of value from flying roundtrip in LATAM business class to Cuzco, Peru for 60k. 60k might be enough for a one way award, but it’s useless for people who don’t have enough miles to fly back.

  11. @beachfan – i just booked Business class RT from NYC-Lima, PE for 60K on partner LATAM for October, with a flight from Lima to Cuzco for an additional 6K. To price that out would be over $2.1K if I bought the tickets outright. it is close to a $.03 redeption.

  12. Lucky what percentage of your readers fly domestic primarily, or at least within North America? I can’t imagine it’s a small amount. And if these readers want to fly nonstop it IS INDEED a joke because of lack of availability.

    I guess that’s one of the many reasons Southwest’s rewards structure is so much more attractive, to me at least. But then again most reading this blog are after a different type of travel: luxury travel.

    But going back to my original question, what would you guess is the percentage of your readers that fly within North America primarily?

  13. How can I best use AA 24,000 points from Sydney Australia? Be it flights or anything else.

  14. Note for intra-North-America awards, this changes the redemption rates a bit relative to what you posted:
    “+If the award includes 3-cabin aircraft in the U.S. and Canada, the Business/First Levels will be 7,500 miles higher than what is shown in the chart above” (from aa.com)

    So e.g. Cathay Pacific YVR-JFK would be 37.5k miles in business class, not 30k.

  15. DFW is a worthless/worst “hub” for AA. There is no availability from any other cities to DFW and from DFW to that city. Also from DFW to the international destination is non-existent.

  16. This is an example of why no one should read that certain Delta blog. Most readers know more about Delta than him. He can’t respect his readers by allowing any criticism, so I don’t click on his drivel.

  17. What about upgrading to first class for $75 and 15,000 miles? Is that a good use of miles?

  18. @Walker–I’ve done that for long flights with availability (MIA-LAS or -DEN, for example) where the coach/first price difference was significant, I was out of free 500 mile upgrades (or just wanted certainty), and I didn’t need to save up the miles for something else. Probably not great value but I didn’t care.

  19. If you got this card for the 50k offer like me recently, try sending Citi a secure message from your account asking nicely for them to match the 60k offer. I did and they approved it. I got the tip from another member here on the other post Lucky made recently.

  20. @Lilly

    Congrats on getting that. I was trying for a couple of months to score one in the 4th quarter 11 months out. Maybe I was too soon?

  21. Lucky, you forgot what I think is probably the best use of AA miles at the moment: USA – South America1, where 60,000K miles is enough for a roundtrip ticket in J.

    Also, in terms of booking Qatar awards to/from the US, I found that Qatar essentially releases no award space in J on weekends (Fri, Sat, Sun). Not sure if you have found this to be true as well. Given that most of us have day jobs, the fact that we can’t leave/come back on a weekend is severely limiting.

  22. @Lilly. I see availability Lax-Lim for one in J but not for two. Were you able to get two?

  23. Etihad’s site may list that mileage award seats are available, but this is for Etihad mileage users and does not mean you can book using AA miles.
    I have tried this repeatedly. Call AA and tell them that Etihad has availability and they tell you its not valid for American miles. I was told by AA to try to book 330 days out when the seats are released because Etihad allots very few to AA.

  24. @Beachfan — The route with the best availability is IAD-LIM (it runs 4x weekly now I believe), but getting to IAD can be an issue given how stingy AA has been recently with domestic SAAver space. Last year, though, I was able to get two tickets going SFO-DFW-IAD-LIM and then LIM-MEX-DFW-SFO on the return, all in J.

    LAX-LIM is a harder route on which to find J availability, although it’s not impossible.

  25. I recently looked to use 60k to fly to Paris.
    It was $700 with “taxes” if in used my points; the same flight without points, $395. AA points are useless for Europe travel these days.

  26. @beachfan – @andrew – I could only find availability one way on the web, so I held the reservation and called AA with the new confirm #. They had no problem finders Ngo me no stops on the days I wanted on their screen that I could not see on the web

  27. @beachfan – i only was looking for one, as I am traveling solo. It was only by calling AA for assistance that they could fine me nonstop seats in J that I could not find on the website. I had found one going through Miami one way, saved it without purchasing it, and called AA with the confirmation # That said, there were multiple days that were available both for inbound and outbound. I wanted a stopover in Lima before continuing to Cuzco and spending 6k for that Lim-Cuz flight was really okay for me.

  28. What’s the best plane and business product to Europe using AA or Alaska miles? Or Amex points?

    I’m waiting for space to open LAX-OSL on SAS using Aeroplan.

  29. I read your stuff daily. I find it very informative. I have 700k AA mile 150k aeroplan miles 800k Amex mile, 100k United and assorted bucket of others. My problem, how do you know where to book the flights. For example if I want to travel to Asia using AA miles or one of the others whats the best method for finding seats and booking lest say AA miles on Cathy Pacific or another partner. In other words the mechanics of finding all these great opportunities. Where do I look

  30. I don’t know what your definition of “wide open” is, but I looked for first/bus availability between SFO to BKK in business or first, not a single seat open in the entire schedule on either Cathay or JAL…only thing I see is a few Royal Jordanian seats. So AA miles are still worthless in my book.

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