Earlier in 2019, American Airlines offered a decent discount on AAdvantage miles. They reduced the price for buying miles from upwards of 5 cents per mile to as low as 1.92 cents per mile. That was great, but it didn’t go as low as summer 2018’s sale of 1.72 cents per mile (one of the best in recent frequent flyer history).
So we were thrilled when American Airlines again began offering its deepest discount again in early June 2019. American Airlines put its miles on sale for as low as 1.727 cents per mile with a promo that ended June 30, 2019. For some travelers, this translated to one of those rare times that would actually be a good idea to buy miles.
But just as this promotion was set to end, the airline has extended the sale to August 2, 2019. Those who missed out on stock piling their miles in June now get another chance. Huzzah!
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 United States–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. But in this rare case at 1.73 cents per mile, it’s worth it.
Through this extended 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 a combined total of no more than 150,000 AAdvantage miles in a calendar year. So, sadly, if you took full advantage of earlier 2019 promotions (including this particular one in June), you’re out of luck for this one!
Can you walk us through the math of this promotion?
Typically, the airline sells AAdvantage miles starting at $94.00 plus a 7.5% federal excise tax for 2,000 miles, which amounts to over 5 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 $4,318.81, which breaks down to $4017.50 for the mileage purchase and a $301.31 federal excise tax. In total, this amounts to 1.73 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 chart. Plus, we’ve done the math for you (including the 10% discount) to gauge the total cost per mile:
Buy Bonus Cost per Mile
11,000 2,500 2.60 cents
21,000 5,000 2.45 cents
51,000 20,00 2.10 cents
76,000 32,500 2.03 cents
101,000 50,000 1.93 cents
126,000 75,000 1.81 cents
150,000 100,000 1.73 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, a Qatar Airways business-class seat from the contiguous United States to the Middle East (e.g., Doha) costs 70,000 AAdvantage miles each way. Maxing out on this deal at 1.73 cents per mile, you’ll be paying $2,416 for 140,000 miles. So this promotion would be a good deal as long as the cash price of your desired flight is more than $2,416. A recent search for a flight between Boston and Doha, from February 2 to February 14, which was available using points, amounted to $11,532 in cash. Clearly, that’s an outrageous cash price nobody should ever pay. But more typically the round-trip runs around $4,000 to $5,000, making the purchase of miles a good decision when there is mileage availability.
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! But also 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 $4,318.81 to spend and stockpile AAdvantage miles by maximizing this promotion (and did not already purchase your full lot of miles during American’s other 2019 promotions), we believe it’s well worth it.