How I'm Earning Thousands of American Airlines Miles Without Credit Cards or Flying

Bask Bank makes it easy to earn AA miles without extra effort. And that’s not the only way you can earn points and miles without actually traveling.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Ben Luthi
How I'm Earning Thousands of American Airlines Miles Without Credit Cards or Flying

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I’ve earned hundreds of thousands of American Airlines AAdvantage miles over the years, mostly through credit card sign-up bonuses but also from flying with the airline.

But as I’ve considered my points-and-miles strategy, and tried to cut back on new credit card sign-ups and focus on other ways to gain value from credit card rewards, I’ve found excellent opportunities to earn more miles without a lot of effort.

One of those ways is signing up for a savings account — that’s right, it’s possible to earn American Airlines miles from a savings account. Here’s what you need to know.

In this article

How I’m earning thousands of American Airlines miles without flying

There aren’t many opportunities out there to earn travel rewards without putting in consistent effort. Whether it’s taking the time to compare credit cards and sign up for new ones or shopping online through travel portals or booking flights, you have to be actively involved in the process. But I found one way to rack up tens of thousands of American Airlines miles every year without doing much at all.

Bask Bank, as with many other digital banks, offers what you might call a high-yield savings account. Instead of paying you interest on your deposits, however, the bank offers you American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Here’s how it works: for every dollar you save, you’ll earn one mile annually. You’ll also get 1,000 bonus miles if you deposit $5,000 or more into your account within 120 days of opening it and hold it there for 90 consecutive days.

To give you an idea of how much value you’d get from the account, you have to look at how much credit card points are worth. American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth roughly 1.4 cents apiece, on average. That gives you an effective 1.4% return each year on your deposits. As of September 2020, some of the best high-yield savings accounts on the market are offering less than 1.00% APYs.

What’s more, most high-yield savings accounts change their interest rates regularly with market rates. With AAdvantage miles, the value of your rewards can change over time, but it’s not nearly as volatile.

Finally, although the average value of an AAdvantage mile is 1.4 cents, it’s possible to squeeze even more value out of your rewards through international first- and business-class flights and the airline’s economy web specials.

As a result of all of this, I moved the majority of my emergency fund from Discover, where I was earning a .80% APY, over to Bask Bank.

How to sign up for a Bask Bank account?

If you’re considering a Bask Bank savings account, head to the bank’s website to learn about how the account works and start the application process. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Email address and phone number
  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Address

You’ll also need to share how you plan to fund the account. Options include transferring money from another account, using a wire transfer, and depositing a check via the bank’s mobile app. In some cases, Bask Bank may ask for additional information, including questions to verify your identity.

After I signed up for an account, the bank transfer I arranged completed within a few days and I started the process of earning my miles.

Other unconventional ways to earn AA miles

Bask Bank provides an easy way to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on a passive level. Simply open the account, make your deposit, and you’ll start earning. Over time, I’ve added more to the account so I can maximize my annual miles haul.

However, Bask Bank isn’t the only way to earn AAdvantage miles without flying or using one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards. Here are some other options to consider.

AAdvantage Dining

The AAdvantage Dining program makes it possible for you to earn American Airlines miles at your favorite restaurants. To start earning, just sign up for an account, input your AAdvantage number, and link a credit card or debit card — it doesn’t even have to be an American Airlines card. Then, you can search for restaurants, bars, and clubs in your area that participate in the program and earn miles when you eat there.

When you first register, you’ll earn 1,000 bonus miles when you spend $25 at a participating restaurant in the first 30 days. Ongoing earnings are based on three tiers:

  • Basic members earn 1 mile per dollar spent.
  • Select members who opt-in to email communications from AAdvantage Dining earn 3 miles per dollar.
  • VIP members who opt-in to email communications and have completed 11 qualified transactions in the calendar year earn 5 miles per dollar.

You’ll also earn bonus miles when you write a review of your experience with a restaurant in the program.

AAdvantage Dining can be a great way to rack up extra miles with American Airlines. However, I’ve noticed the program’s list of restaurants can be limited in some areas. Also, it will require some extra research to find the right places to eat so you can earn rewards.

SimplyMiles

The American Airlines SimplyMiles program is relatively new. You’ll sign up for the program using your AAdvantage number and password, link a Mastercard credit card, and then look for offers.

Here are a few examples of offers I’ve found in my SimplyMiles account:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent at Under Armour Brand House stores.
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar on a purchase of $10 or more at ExxonMobil.
  • Receive 1,000 miles on a purchase of $30 or more at Winc Wine Club.
  • Get 650 miles on a purchase of $50 or more at Teleflora.

You won’t earn a ton of miles with each offer. But with consistent use, several small offers can add up to a lot. The nice thing is that there are offers for both online and in-store shopping, giving you some flexibility.

And remember, the miles you earn from the SimplyMiles program are in addition to the rewards you get from your credit card.

AAdvantage eShopping

The American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping program is an online shopping portal for AAdvantage members, similar to websites like Rakuten and TopCashback.

To get started, you’ll sign up with your name, AAdvantage number, and zip code. Then you can start searching for online retailers among a list of more than 950 participating merchants. Once you find the one you’re looking for, you just click through to the retailer’s website and make your purchase as usual. The program will use cookies to track your purchases and make sure you get the miles you’ve earned on the transaction.

If you don’t want to visit the shopping portal website first every time — or you’re prone to forget about it — you can add the AAdvantage eShopping Button to your Google Chrome browser. When you visit a participating online retailer, you’ll get a reminder to activate the offer to earn bonus miles. You’ll also get access to coupon codes, which the extension will apply automatically, and you’ll get notifications if there’s a better price somewhere else.

Earning rates can vary, depending on the retailer and the date, but some of the offers I found using the portal include:

  • Earn 7 miles per dollar on Nike purchases
  • Earn 2,200 miles on a Verizon Fios purchase
  • Earn 7 miles per dollar on Macy’s purchases
  • Earn 5 miles per dollar on Under Armour purchases

Again, you’re not going to earn a ton of miles each time you shop. But if you shop online a lot and use AAdvantage eShopping regularly, you could rack up a lot of miles over time.

Earning miles with American Airlines co-branded cards

If you’d rather apply for a co-branded American Airlines credit card to earn more miles. and work toward elite status, both Citibank and Barclays offer some options. Here are the available American Airlines credit cards:

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard earns 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases. It has a $99 annual fee, but perks like getting your first checked bag free (including the first bag for up to four people traveling with you on the same reservation), preferred boarding, and travel insurance can more than offset the annual cost.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard earns 2X miles on gas stations, restaurants, and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases. This range of spending categories makes it easier to rack up rewards on both travel and everyday purchases.

In addition, this credit card offers a generous baggage benefit — you and up to four travel companions on the same reservation get your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines flights. You also get preferred boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases made with your card. These benefits help to offset this card’s $99 (waived first year) annual fee.

Free checked bags & more

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Intro Offer

50,000 miles

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
  • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee after first year
  • Best for frequent American Airlines travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card makes sense if you want to earn AAdvantage miles with a $0-annual-fee card. Getting 2X miles on grocery stores (including grocery delivery services), American Airlines purchases, and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases is great for everyday earning potential. You also get 25% savings on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Ways to redeem your American AAdvantage miles

The American Airlines AAdvantage program offers multiple redemption options for you to use your AAdvantage miles. The best option will typically be redeeming them for airfare with American Airlines or one of its partner airlines because that’s often where you’ll get the most value for your rewards.

Because American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, so you get to earn and use your miles with the following partner airlines as well as some outside of the oneworld alliance:

Oneworld alliance partners Other airline partners
British Airways Air Tahiti Nui
Cathay Pacific Airways Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
Finnair Cape Air
Iberia China Southern Airlines
Japan Airlines Etihad Airways
Malaysia Airlines Fiji Airways
Qantas GOL Airlines
Qatar Airways Hawaiian Airlines
Royal Air Maroc Interjet
Royal Jordanian Airlines Seaborne Virgin Islands
S7 Airlines
SriLankan Airlines

Other redemption options include:

  • Seat upgrades: Upgrade your seat or fare class on American, British Airways, and Iberia flights.
  • Seat reservations: Reserve specific seats in the main cabin.
  • Rental cars: Book a rental car for worldwide destinations.
  • Hotel stays: Book award nights at hotels worldwide.
  • Vacations: Book a vacation package, which could include flights, hotel stays, and a car rental.
  • Admirals Club membership: Buy or renew an Admirals Club membership for access to Admirals Club airport lounges.
  • Luxury experiences: Elevate your travels with luxury experiences. This could include private helicopter transfers, gate escorts, priority boarding, VIP baggage delivery, airport lounge access, and more.
  • Newspaper subscriptions: Use miles to pay for select newspaper subscriptions.
  • Charitable donations: Donate miles to charitable organizations.

Keep in mind that using miles for flight-related redemptions often makes the most sense because these redemptions typically offer the most value. AAdvantage miles are generally worth about 1.4 cents per mile. This means 10,000 miles would be worth about $140 toward award flights. However, if you check other redemption options, the values can vary a lot.

For example, a one-day car rental in Los Angeles, California could be about 10,000 miles. However, if you use a popular comparison site to check cash prices, it might be about $60 after taxes and fees. This would give you a value of 0.6 (60 / 10,000 = 0.006) cents per mile, which isn’t very good at all.

Remember to calculate your redemption values when figuring out which redemption option would be best for you.

FAQs

How can you earn AA miles without flying?

If you want to earn AA miles without flying, consider these alternatives:

  • Credit cards: American Airlines co-branded credit cards earn AA miles on every purchase.
  • Hotel stays: Earn AA miles when booking hotel stays with AA partner hotel chains and featured hotel properties like Marriott Bonvoy and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.
  • Car rentals: Earn AA miles for every qualifying car rental made with car rental agency partners, including Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Thrifty.
  • Vacation packages: Earn AA miles when booking a vacation through American Airlines Vacations.
  • Cruises: Earn AA miles when booking a cruise through American Airlines Cruises.
  • Buy miles: Buy miles directly from American Airlines.
  • Partner offers: Take advantage of American Airlines partner offers to earn miles. This could include using a specific tax service or sharing your opinion with online survey partners.
  • Online shopping: Make purchases through the AAdvantage online shopping portal at stores like Walmart, Apple, Macy’s, Adidas, and more.
  • Dining: Use the AAdvantage dining program to link a credit or debit card and then eat at restaurants in your area.
  • Charitable donations: Donate money to worthy causes like Stand Up To Cancer and earn miles for your donations.

How much are 50,000 American Airlines miles worth?

The value of your American Airlines miles will depend how you use them. For example, AA miles are typically worth 1.4 cents per mile when used for flights. This means 50,000 miles would be worth about $700 in flights. However, your per-mile value will likely be lower if you use your miles on non-flight-related redemptions.

Do American Airlines miles expire?

Miles in your AAdvantage account expire after 18 months of inactivity. The 18-month expiration counter will reset with any qualifying miles earning or redemption activity. For instance, earning miles with a credit card or redeeming miles for an award flight typically will prevent your AA miles from expiring. If your miles expire, you might be able to recover them (up to 500,000 miles) by paying a reactivation fee.

How many American Airlines miles do you need for a free flight?

The number of miles you need for a free flight can depend on several factors, including where you're flying. A one-way MileSAAver flight of 500 miles or less in the U.S., not including Alaska and Hawaii, and Canada typically costs 7,500 American Airlines miles. However, you might be able to find less expensive flights when searching for award tickets on the American Airlines website.

Bottom line

There are many different ways to earn miles with American Airlines, and there are many other airline and hotel loyalty programs that offer similar options.

Whether you want to go all-in on one program or spread your rewards-earning efforts across multiple programs, it’s important to understand your options for earning rewards and how to maximize your earning based on your effort.

For many years, I focused solely on credit card sign-up bonuses to rack up rewards. But the practice is becoming increasingly unsustainable, making it essential to look for other ways to earn your points and miles. Bask Bank has become the primary way for me to earn AAdvantage miles right now, but it’s important to look at all the options and choose the best fit for you.

While you’re at it, take some time to ensure you have the right credit card based on your spending and goals. The best travel credit cards and best airline credit cards offer the chance to rack up a lot of points or miles with your favorite hotel or frequent flyer programs, but they’re each unique in how they do that. Choose a card that fits your travel goals and also offers the most bang for your buck based on your spending habits and the card’s rewards program.

New, Higher Sign Up Bonus - Worth $1250 Toward Travel

Intro Offer

100,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Best offer ever! 100,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Luthi Ben is a personal finance and travel writer who loves helping people achieve their money goals. Along with FinanceBuzz, his writing has also been featured on U.S. News, NerdWallet, Experian, Credit Karma, and more.