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 April 28, 2018, American Airlines is granting a deep discount on AAdvantage miles, reducing the price for buying AAdvantage miles from 3.17 cents per mile to as low as 1.81 cents per mile. In many cases, 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.
So what’s the deal with American Airlines selling AAdvantage miles for almost half off?
This past week, American Airlines launched a five-week promotion, in which AAdvantage members can buy AAdvantage miles for a fraction of the regular price directly from its “Buy, gift and share miles” page. Through this promotion, big purchases of AAdvantage miles come with big bonuses, lowering the overall cost of purchased AAdvantage miles.
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.
With this promotion, AAdvantage members will get 115,000 bonus miles (a 77% bonus) when purchasing 150,000 AAdvantage miles. The total for these 265,000 AAdvantage miles is $4,786.88, which breaks down to $4,425 for the mileage purchase, a $331.88 federal excise tax, and a $30 processing charge. This amounts to 1.81 cents per mile.
Purchases of AAdvantage miles in lower quantities also receive bonuses, but not as high as the 77%. Here’s the official chart.
Miles Purchased Bonus Miles
Pro Tip: To maximize the bonus, you’ll always want to purchase at the minimum number of the threshold. We’ve done the math for you here:
Miles Purchased Bonus Miles Total Cost per Mile
6,000 1,500 (25%) 2.94 cents
10,000 3,500 (35%) 2.57 cents
20,000 7,500 (38%) 2.42 cents
30,000 15,000 (50%) 2.18 cents
40,000 22,500 (56%) 2.08 cents
55,000 30,000 (55%) 2.09 cents
70,000 40,000 (57%) 2.05 cents
85,000 50,000 (59%) 2.02 cents
100,000 60,000 (60%) 2.00 cents
125,000 75,000 (60%) 2.00 cents
150,000 115,000 (77%) 1.81 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 1.81 cents per mile, you’ll be paying $1,039 each way ($2,078 round-trip). So this promotion would be a good deal as long as the cash price of your desired flight is more than $2,078. 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 $4,571. Maxing out on this deal at 1.81 cents per mile, you’ll be paying $1,448 each way ($2,896 round-trip). That’s a savings of $1,675.
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 20,000 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 $4,786.88 to spend and stockpile AAdvantage miles by maximizing this promotion, we believe it’s well worth it!