In April 2018 American Airlines offered a deep discount on AAdvantage miles, reducing the price for buying miles from 3.17 cents per mile to as low as 1.81 cents per mile. It was the best promotion for buying miles in recent frequent flyer history.
Now, American Airlines is at it again. And this time the deal’s even sweeter. From now until June 30, 2018, they’re putting miles on sale for as low as 1.72 cents per mile. For some travelers, this translates to one of those rare times that it is actually a good idea to buy miles.
Here’s the scoop on this offer and why you should—or shouldn’t—take advantage of it.
What’s the deal with American Airlines best-ever mileage sale?
All US-based airlines offer the option to purchase points in their mileage programs, but they’re typically sold way above market value. So, more often than not, we don’t recommend buying them.
However, from now until June 30, 2018, American Airlines is granting a deep discount on AAdvantage miles, reducing the price for buying miles from 3.17 cents per mile to as low as 1.72 cents per mile. In many—not all—cases, this translates to a time that it is actually a good idea to buy miles.
Through this two-week promotion, AAdvantage members can buy AAdvantage miles for a fraction of the regular price directly from its “Buy, gift and share miles” page on aa.com. If purchasing more than 11,000 miles, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase plus save 10% off the final cost. The bigger the purchase of AAdvantage miles the bigger the bonus, lowering the overall cost of purchased AAdvantage miles.
Note: As per the Terms & Conditions of the AAdvantage program, each AAdvantage member is limited to purchasing or receiving in a calendar year, a combined total of no more than 150,000 AAdvantage miles. So, sadly, if you took full advantage of the April promotion, you’re out of luck for this one!
Can you walk us through the math of this promotion?
Typically, the airline sells AAdvantage miles for $29.50 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% federal excise tax, which amounts to 3.17 cents per mile. Add in a flat $30 processing fee (regardless of the number of miles purchased) and we’re up to 6.17 cents per mile.
AAdvantage members seeking to maximize this promotion will get 100,000 bonus miles plus a 10% discount when purchasing 150,000 AAdvantage miles. The total for these 250,000 AAdvantage miles is $4,311.19, which breaks down to $3,982.50 for the mileage purchase, a $298.69 federal excise tax, and a $30 processing charge. In total, this amounts to 1.72 cents per mile.
Purchases of AAdvantage miles in lower quantities also receive bonuses and the 10% discount but the price per mile comes out higher.
Pro Tip: To maximize the bonus, you’ll always want to purchase at the minimum number of the threshold. Here’s the official bonus breakdown. Plus, we’ve done the math for you here (including the 10% discount) to gauge the total cost per mile:
Miles Purchased -> Bonus Miles -> Total Cost per Mile
11,000 -> 2,500 -> 2.55 cents
21,000 -> 5,000 -> 2.42 cents
51,000 -> 15,000 -> 2.25 cents
76,000 -> 27,500 -> 2.12 cents
101,000 -> 45,000 -> 1.99 cents
126,000 -> 70,000 -> 1.85 cents
150,000 -> 100,000-> 1.72 cents
So when is this AAdvantage miles promotion a good deal?
If you’re looking to fly long-haul in first or business class on American Airlines or one of its many premium partners like Air Tahiti Nui, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, or LATAM Airlines, purchasing AAdvantage miles and redeeming them can often get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price.
For example, an American Airlines or LATAM business-class seat from the contiguous United States to southern South America (e.g., Santiago, Chile) costs 57,500 AAdvantage miles each way. Maxing out on this deal at 1.72 cents per mile, you’ll be paying $989 each way ($1,978 round-trip). So this promotion would be a good deal as long as the cash price of your desired flight is more than $1,978. Typically, during South America’s summer season (our winter), said business-class seats run in the ballpark of $2,800–$4,300.
As another example, an Air Tahiti Nui business-class seat from the contiguous United States to Papeete, French Polynesia, costs 80,000 AAdvantage miles each way (160,000 round-trip). The cheapest round-trip in business class that we could find on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete (which happens to be the cheapest routing to Tahiti from the contiguous United States) was $4,441. Maxing out on this deal at 1.72 cents per mile, you’ll be paying $1,376 each way ($2752 round-trip). That’s a savings of $1,689.
If you have a specific date and trip in mind, first check mileage availability on American Airlines’ website. You wouldn’t want to buy a ton of miles only to find out that you can’t use them! But note that since American’s website tends to be limited in its availability searches on partner airlines, we recommend searching for award space on more comprehensive systems like ExpertFlyer or British Airways’ website, or simply calling American AAdvantage directly.
When is this AAdvantage miles promotion a bad deal?
This promotion tends to be less attractive when purchasing less than 21,000 miles. Paying in excess of 2.50 cents per mile usually doesn’t pay off.
If you tend to travel domestically or in economy class, it’s often cheaper to just buy a regular ticket than to first purchase AAdvantage miles to then book an award ticket.
It’s also important to note that you do not earn miles when redeeming AAdvantage miles. However, you do earn miles on a paid ticket. Since many long-haul flights can accrue thousands of miles (valued in excess of 2.00 cents per mile), this is also worth taking into consideration.
That said, if you do have the $4,311.19 to spend and stockpile AAdvantage miles by maximizing this promotion (and did not already purchase your full lot of miles during American’s April 2018 promotion), we believe it’s well worth it!