To kick off 2019 American Airlines is offering a deep discount on AAdvantage miles, reducing the price for buying miles from 3.17 cents per mile to as low as 2.14 cents per mile. Since mileage purchases are limited to up to a maximum of 150,000 miles per calendar year, many are wondering if they should make their 2019 AAdvantage mileage purchases now.
Well, our advice is simple—pass on this sale unless you have a flight in QI-QII in which purchasing the miles makes sense. Here’s the scoop on this offer and why you should—or shouldn’t—take advantage of American’s latest mileage offer.
Why should I pass on the latest American Airlines 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 January 31, 2019, 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 2.14 cents per mile.
While this discount is good, it’s not nearly as good as some other AAdvantage miles promotions we saw in 2018. In an April 2018 promotion, the price for buying miles was reduced to as low as 1.81 cents per mile. Then in June 2018, and again for a hot minute during flash sale in December 2018, miles were on sale for as low as 1.72 cents per mile.
We don’t know if the sales of 2018 will resurface in 2019, but we’re pretty confident this current promotion will not be the best promotion of 2019.
So when is this AAdvantage miles promotion still a good deal?
If you’re traveling in the coming months, want to lock in a flight, and are 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.
Now that award space for numerous partners like Qatar Airways can be searched directly on AA.com, it’s easy to see if this promotion makes sense. For example, I want to visit Doha in April 2019 and check out Qatar Airways snazzy, new QSuite on the way, with the direct route from Los Angeles. There’s award space for 140,000 miles round-trip, leaving April 3, 2019 and returning April 15, 2019. This amount of miles, if purchased through the current promotion, will cost $2,996.
Now, if I go to Google Flights or Qatar Airways website and want to purchase a standard revenue ticket, it prices out at the insane price of $12,567, more than four times the price of purchasing the miles for an award ticket.
The cases will not always be this extreme, but again this promotion could make sense for business and first class. Typically, the difference for economy class tickets is not as extreme. For this same routing in economy class, the roundtrip is 80,000 miles. This amount of miles, if purchased through the current promotion, will cost $1,712. A revenue ticket is currently going for $2,159. So there’s still a savings of several hundred dollars by purchasing miles and going the route of an award ticket.
Note: 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! If you can’t find your desired partner airline on the site, we recommend searching for award space on more comprehensive systems like ExpertFlyer or British Airways’ website, or simply calling American AAdvantage directly.
If I want to take advantage of this promotion, how do I do so?
Between now and January 31, 2019 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 5,000 miles, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase. The bigger the purchase of AAdvantage miles the bigger the bonus, lowering the overall cost of purchased AAdvantage miles. In our opinion, this promotion only makes sense in two cases: purchasing 70,000 miles for a bonus of 35,000 miles, totaling to 2.15 cents per mile and purchasing 100,000 miles for a bonus of 50,000 miles, totaling 2.14 cents per mile.
AAdvantage members seeking to maximize this promotion will want to get 50,000 bonus miles when purchasing 100,000 AAdvantage miles. The total for these 150,000 AAdvantage miles is $3,206.25, which breaks down to $2,950.00 for the mileage purchase, a $221.25 federal excise tax, and a $30 processing charge. In total, this amounts to 2.14 cents per mile.
Warning: Do not go for the promotion of buying 150,000 miles and getting a 50,000 mile bonus (which amounts to 2.4 cents per mile). To maximize the bonus, you’ll always want to purchase at the minimum number of the threshold for the promotion tier.
Happy New Year, and happy award travels!