How to (Easily) Get the (Absolute) Most Value Out of Your American Airlines Miles

Here’s everything you need to know about the value of American Airlines miles and the AAdvantage loyalty program.
8 minute read | 9/18/19Sept. 18, 2019
Most Value Out of Your American Airlines Miles

The American Airlines AAdvantage frequent-flyer program is nothing to overlook. The value of American Airlines miles is noteworthy due to the number of partner airlines you can book using them. The program is free to join, so if you’re flying American Airlines at all, there’s no reason not to sign up and earn miles for your travels.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the American Airlines AAdvantage program, the airlines you can fly with AAdvantage miles, and how to get the most value out of your hard-earned American Airlines miles.

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What are American Airlines AAdvantage miles?

American Airlines AAdvantage miles are the currency of the airline’s loyalty program. Members earn AAdvantage miles by flying with American, spending with its partners, and making purchases with co-branded American Airlines credit cards. AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for flights, seat upgrades, gift cards, or an Admirals Club lounge membership. However, we recommend saving your miles to redeem for flights on American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.

Since American Airlines is part of the Oneworld Alliance, you'll have access to all 13 of its partner airlines. That means you can travel with a number of different airlines through both the Oneworld Alliance and other non-alliance partners.

All the airlines you can fly with your AAdvantage miles

American Airlines is currently part of the Oneworld Alliance. Oneworld is an alliance of 13 airlines that work together to allow travelers to use their frequent-flyer miles and airline status across the Oneworld partners. The 12 other airlines in the Oneworld Alliance are British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines.

American Airlines also has non-alliance partners. These include Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, Cape Air, China Southern Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Interjet, and Seaborne Airlines.

For all of the listed airlines, you don’t need to transfer your AAdvantage miles to redeem them. You can simply search for and book flights for partner airlines right on the American Airlines website. This is super helpful as it eliminates any complications in the booking process.

To schedule a flight using AAdvantage miles, simply visit AA.com and start your booking on the homepage. When you’re typing in your dates and airports, be sure to click “Redeem Miles.”

American Airlines

Once you hit the search button, you’ll be presented with flights that best match your requirements, either from American Airlines or the partners mentioned above. The ability to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles across a wide variety of airlines absolutely increases their value. But what’s the actual value of American Airlines miles?

What are AAdvantage miles worth?

Points-and-miles experts have done their best to estimate the value of each airline loyalty program. But as more programs shift to dynamic pricing of airline tickets (i.e., pricing based on customer demand instead of fixed prices), estimating the value of a point or mile is becoming more difficult.

Generally, the travel community estimates that the value of AAdvantage miles is roughly 1.4 cents per mile. This is according to points-and-miles experts who are constantly looking at the shifting values of rewards programs. While you can use that number as a rule of thumb, the best way to understand the value you’re getting from your miles is to look at each potential redemption on a case-by-case basis.

To calculate your miles value, use this equation: Cash price of airline ticket / number of miles needed = value of each individual mile. Your number will come out to be a decimal, so make sure to move the decimal point two places to the right to get your final cash value (or multiply by 100). For example, .0123456 = 1.2 cents per mile.

So, doing the math, if a flight is priced at $300 and it will cost you 20,000 American Airlines miles, your value is 1.5 cents per mile (300 / 20,000 = 0.015). This isn’t bad at all. If your flight requires 30,000 American Airlines miles and the cash price is $275, your value is 0.9 cents per mile (275 / 30,000 = .009) — not so great.

In the latter case, you may want to find a different flight. Or simply book using cash and save your miles for another day. Understanding the value of your miles is important. You’ve earned these miles by spending your money on your travel rewards credit cards — so you should treat these miles like hard-earned cash as well. Thankfully, there are many ways to redeem your AAdvantage miles for your next business trip or vacation that allow you to get tremendous value out of them.

What you can get with your AAdvantage miles

If you’re looking to use your AAdvantage miles, it’s simple to get started. Visit the American Airlines website, log into your AAdvantage account, and begin your booking. Before you hit submit, be sure to click “Redeem miles.” Once you do this, all the flights that pull up will be ones you can purchase with your AAdvantage miles.

American Airlines

With American Airlines AAdvantage miles, there are a ton of different flights you can redeem for. Here are just a few examples I found:

Los Angeles to Las Vegas one way for 5k miles as an Economy Web Special

American Airlines

A 50k round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York in business class

American Airlines

New York City to Cancun, Mexico: Round trip in business class for 50,000 miles American Airlines

Miami to London Heathrow round-trip economy for 60k miles and $175

American Airlines

Seattle to Honolulu round trip for 90,000 miles

The first half of this trip is seated in the main cabin, and the second half in first class. This flight is also unique, since you fly to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines and return on American. This is possible through the working partnership that American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have.

American Airlines

Lastly, if you’re looking to have a better experience while flying, you can use your miles to upgrade your seats. There’s a full AAdvantage miles upgrade chart on the American Airlines website that will tell you exactly how many miles you need to upgrade to the next available class.

An advanced tip for making the most out of your AAdvantage miles

Another way to make the most of your AAdvantage miles is by earning points with Marriott-branded credit cards. You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AAdvantage at a 3:1 ratio. So, for example, if you have 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, this will transfer to become 10,000 AAdvantage miles.

Also, for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer in the same transaction to American, you’ll earn a bonus 5,000 AAdvantage miles. So, if you were to transfer 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, that would equal 50,000 AAdvantage miles. These 50,000 AAdvantage miles are enough to earn you the round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York City in business class shown above.

Card name Sign-up bonus Rewards rate Annual fee
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months (limited time offer!) 6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2X points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases $95

The Marriott card I recommend is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. You’ll be able to earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months (limited time offer!), along with automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver status and a low annual fee of $95.

Use co-branded credit cards to earn more AAdvantage miles

Co-branded credit cards are another great way to earn valuable American Airlines miles, especially when you can earn them in large quantities through a sign-up bonus. Along with the miles, the following cards can also deliver serious value and savings as you travel:

Card name Sign-up bonus Reward rate Annual fee
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Limited Time: Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases, and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases $99 (waived first year)
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® Earn 60,000 bonus miles after your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee 2X miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1X miles per dollar spent on all other purchases $99
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 2X miles on American Airlines purchases and 1X miles for every $1 spent on other purchases $450

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is a great choice for traveling families because of the potential to save on American Airlines baggage fees. One of the largest ways airlines make money is through baggage fees. For example, one checked bag on American Airlines now costs $30 each way on a domestic flight. So for one round-trip flight, you’re out an extra $60. If you’re traveling with your significant other, you can double that price to $120. That’s a lot of money just to get your bag from Point A to Point B.

But with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, the first checked bag is free for you and up to four traveling companions on your reservation. With a party of five each traveling with a checked bag, that comes out to be $300 in checked-bag fees saved.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is excellent for someone just beginning to learn about earning miles and looking to get a quick boost to their American Airlines AAdvantage miles balance. With this card, you’ll earn earn 60,000 bonus miles after your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee. This quick additional mileage is helpful for someone who wants to rack up enough miles for a specific trip. This card also has a low annual fee of $99.

Additionally, this card is worth having for being able to earn a Companion Certificate. Plus, you’ll get a $25 rebate on inflight Wi-Fi and your first bag checked free on domestic American Airlines flights for you and up to four companions on the same reservation.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is fantastic for individuals who travel frequently for business or leisure. You can earn earn 50,000 american airlines aadvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also enjoy access to the American Airlines Admirals Club lounges, as well as have your first bag checked free for you and up to eight traveling companions when flying on the same itinerary. Additionally, you’ll get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit for up to $100 every five years. However, these perks do come with a $450 annual fee.

Things to remember when flying on American Airlines

American Airlines AAdvantage miles are a great currency to earn. This is because the opportunities to redeem these miles are nearly endless with American being in the Oneworld Alliance, as well as it having non-alliance partners, too.

Keep in mind that while flying using AAdvantage miles is the end goal, earning them is best approached strategically. Whether you’re racking up AAdvantage miles through flying, spending, or transferring, each mile scored gets you one step closer to your next free flight. Don’t be discouraged if your miles balance is low, as there are always opportunities to earn more AAdvantage miles.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Benefits

  • 60,000 bonus miles sign-up offer
  • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
  • 25% on eligible inflight purchases
  • First checked bag free
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