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Update: “When you're Ready to Fly” Promo has ended. Flights must have been booked by May 18th for travel between July and the end of the year.
American Airlines offers a promotion for purchasing miles almost every month, and this month is no different. The latest sale includes the ability to buy AA miles for as little as 1.79¢ each through May 31, 2020. But there's a twist—unlike most mileage sales, you won't find the best value when buying the maximum.
A Note on Buying Miles
At AwardWallet, we never recommend buying miles speculatively. Award programs can devalue at with little notice, so you are almost always better off holding cash.
With that said, there are a couple of cases where buying miles can make sense. For instance, if you only need a few more miles to complete a specific redemption, buying miles might be the fastest and most cost-effective route. Additionally, if you're going to consider paying cash for a premium ticket, you may want to consider buying miles instead, since the cost for the required mileage could be considerably cheaper than paying for the product outright.
- Promo valid through May 31, 2020
- Receive 100,000 bonus miles when purchasing 150,000 miles
- You can only buy or gift a combined total of 150,000 miles per year before bonuses
- AA accounts must be older than 30 days to purchase miles
- Purchased miles are non-refundable and non-reversible
- Miles purchased, transferred, or received as a gift do not count towards elite-status qualification or AAdvantage Million Miler status
It's also worth noting that for this sale, AA has committed to donating one mile to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for every mile purchased up to ten million miles total.
This promotion operates on a tiered system, with a different bonus offered depending on how many points you plan to purchase.
Where to Find the Best Value
When loyalty programs announce a sale for purchasing miles, they typically offer a better bonus for buying the maximum amount. This incentivizes customers to make a larger purchase in pursuit of the best bang for their buck.
Interestingly, AA has opted to go with a more opaque pricing scheme for this promotion. While you can easily reverse the math of each tier's offer to figure out how many miles you'll receive, you're required to use a price ‘calculator' to see the actual price.
To save you some time, we'll go ahead and cut to the chase: you'll find the best per-mile price when buying 70,000 miles. It falls at the start of the tier offering 50,000 bonus miles and 5% off the price, which translates into buying 120,000 AA miles for $2,144.62, or 1.79¢ per mile.
Does Buying Miles Make Sense?
We've posted about some of the best sweet spots in the AAdvantage program and the recent surge in AA “Web Special” offerings. Let's pick a few of these redemptions and compare the typical cash price with the cost to purchase the necessary miles under the terms of this promotion.
Los Angeles — Johannesburg in Qatar QSuite
- Mileage Rate: 75,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $5,920
- Redemption Rate: 7.9 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles: $1,542
Dallas — Sydney in Qantas First Class
- Mileage Rate: 110,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $11,700
- Redemption Rate: 10.6 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles (at 1.79¢ per mile): $1,969*
*Depending on availability, you could also buy the Alaska miles required for the same redemption for only $1,210 if targeted for Alaska's current buy miles promotion.
Abu Dhabi — Seoul in Etihad First Class
- Mileage Rate: 50,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $5,722
- Redemption Rate: 11.4 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles: $1,090
Jacksonville — Tokyo in AA First Class (a recent AA Web Special)
- Mileage Rate: 55,000 miles*
- Typical Cash Price: $6,800
- Redemption Rate: 12.4 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles: $1,241
Maximizing you Purchase
Unlike most airlines, AA processes point purchases directly. This is great news because it means that point purchases will code as airfare, and are eligible for the travel category bonus on many credit cards. Some of the best cards to use would be:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — 5X Membership Rewards Points
- Citi Prestige® Card — 5X ThankYou Points
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® — 3X Ultimate Rewards Points
- Citi Premier℠ Card — 3X ThankYou Points
- American Express® Gold Card — 3X Membership Rewards Points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — 2X Ultimate Rewards Points
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
- 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Other Ways to Earn AA Miles
If you're not in a hurry, another way to beef up your AAdvantage stash is through a sign-up bonus on a co-branded credit card. Several of these co-branded products—such as the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®—are offering particularly lucrative sign-up bonuses at the moment. Some of the other options include:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- Free checked bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic itineraries
- Priority boarding to help you win the race for overhead bin space
- A 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases
- Reduced Mileage Awards can save you 7,500 miles on roundtrip MileSAAver Awards
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on cable and satellite providers
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on select telecommunications merchants
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on car rentals
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
‘When You're Ready to Fly' Promo
In addition to the monthly mileage sale, AA has launched a 7-day promo offering up to 5,000 bonus miles for booking and flying American in 2020. Initially announced via email, targeted members will find this promo under the ‘Promotions' tab in their AAdvantage account. The general terms include:
- Register for this promotion by May 18, 2020
- Book by May 18, 2020, for future travel between July 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020*
- Earn 500 bonus miles after completing each eligible flight, with a maximum reward of 5,000 total bonus miles
*Flights booked through May 18, 2020, for future travel can be changed at a later date without change fees.
While I wouldn't go out of my way to make any AA reservations just for the 500 bonus miles, it's still a good idea to go ahead and register for the promo. There's nothing to lose, even if you don't end up booking anything by the deadline.
As for the mileage sale, 1.79¢ a piece isn't the best rate we've ever seen AA offer—which is a little surprising. Airlines are struggling financially, and selling miles to loyalty members is an excellent way to generate revenue in the short term. We've already seen Alaska and United introduce sales offering best-ever pricing. I would have expected AA to follow suit. With that said, this could present a great opportunity for anyone with a specific redemption already in mind.
Are you buying AA miles at 1.79¢ a piece?
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