American Airlines AAdvantage is a great mileage program. Despite recent changes, there are still plenty of good value uses of miles. You often have to look beyond finding good value American domestic flights though! Here is our guide to some of the best ways to redeem miles – for more information on the AAdvantage program, see our full guide.
1. Book American Airlines MileSAAver awards
The first and most obvious, way to spend miles is on flights with American Airlines. There are 2 types of award offered on American flights – MileSAAver awards and AAnytime awards.
MileSAAver are the lowest priced, better value award, but very restricted in availability. Pricing starts at 7,500 miles in economy and 15,000 in business / first class for the shortest trips within the US. Internationally MileSAAver starts at 12,500 miles from the US to Central America and 22,500 miles to Europe.
Availability of such seats can be very limited. It is generally easier to find space at off-peak time, or on leisure routes, and as far in advance as possible. Note as well that availability changes often, right up to departure, so it is worth checking regularly!
2. Book American AAnytime awards
AAnyime awards offer much better availability, but at a significantly higher mileage cost. The shortest flights in economy go up to 40,000 miles for an AAnytime award. Pricing varies by flight length and season.
As always, value depends on what flight you want and the alternative cash ticket price. Although these are higher priced awards, they may still be good value.
MileSAAver and AAnytime awards, and the variations in pricing can be complicated! The good news though is that checking the options for different routes and dates is easy online. American has a very good, flexible search facility allowing different options to be compared.
3. Save miles with an American Airlines credit card
Holders of AA branded credit cards (US issued Citi and Barclay cards only) should remember that they can get a discount of up to 7,5000 on MileSAAver awards. This varies by card and destination – check online here.
To redeem this way, you will need to call AAdvantage – these cannot be booked online.
4. Get better value with Economy Web Special awards
American offer special mileage rates on some flights. These are lower than normal MileSAAver or AAnytime rates and can be offered on any flight. These will show up when you search (an excellent reason to be flexible when you search routes and dates) and are great value if they work out! In the past, American used to publish lists of these deals, but they usually do not these days.
5. Book an award with Oneworld partner airlines
As a member of the Oneworld Alliance, awards can be issued with any member airline:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- LATAM Airlines Brasil (formerly TAM)
- LATAM Airlines Chile (formerly LAN)
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
Awards are priced by region, with any partner alliance route between regions priced the same. Full tables are best viewed on the AAdvantage website. For example, a ticket from North America to Asia could include a domestic American flight connecting to a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong and a further regional Asian flight.
These awards can offer excellent value, especially in premium cabins. All awards can be issued as one-way or return, and AAdvantage is generally very flexible with routing options.
Some rules for award tickets to be aware of include:
- 4 flights in total are permitted per one-way award
- Stopovers (greater than 24 hours) are not permitted
- Routing must be continuous direction, no backtracking (e.g., you can’t fly Hong Kong to New York to Los Angeles)
- Total distance must be with a limit of the point to point distance (American is more generous here than many other airlines, and will allow you exceed the published Maximum Permitted Miles for a route by 25%)
- There must be a published fare for the route. This is hard to check, but you will find out when you try to issue a ticket! In general, the long haul carrier used must publish a fare for your origin to destination.
- There are strict rules regarding transiting zones. For example, an award from South America to Europe cannot transit in North America – to do so would require 2 awards. However, an award from North America to Africa, for example, is allowed to transit in Europe or Doha. These can be checked in detail on the AAdvantage site.
- Many airlines can be checked and booked online – but for a few, you will need to phone. American will waive phone booking charges in this case.
6. Remember American’s additional partners
As if the Oneworld members were not enough, AAdvantage adds some additional airlines where miles can be used for awards. These can be used on their own or combined with Oneworld airlines, using the same award tables. This is a great addition not offered by many other airlines.
Airlines include Etihad, Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. (Full details are on the AAdvantage website)
7. Check out some of the top value redemptions
The best value options for redemption are of course those routes that you need/want to fly anyway! But as with most mileage programs, there are some areas of AAdvantage redemptions that offer especially good value. The following are a few of our favorites!
Short haul flights within the US
Awards on these routes start at 7,500 miles. Particularly at the last minute with the US, cash ticket prices can be very high. If there is mileage availability for what you want, this can be excellent value!
Premium cabins from the US to Asia
Business class awards from the US to Asia (China, South East Asia, etc.) are priced at 70,000 one way and first class awards at 110,000. To Japan or Korea, they are less – 60,000 and 80,000 miles. With partner awards, it is possible to use the excellent business and first class product with Cathay Pacific – one of the best in the market. And of course, connecting flights within the US and Asia can be included.
Flights within Asia
From countries in China and South East Asia, (AAdvantage refers to this as “Asia Region 2”) flights between any two cities are 17,500 miles in economy and only 22,500 in business class (and 32,500 in first but there are only a few first-class routes here with Cathay Pacific). Given that these can include multiple sectors (for example Beijing to Hong Kong to Bali) this is excellent value. Regional flights in Asia (especially in premium cabins) are often expensive.
Flights to and within South America
Flights from the US to South America (“South America region 1 including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) are also great value at 20,000 miles in economy and 30,000 in Business. These can of course also include a domestic connection in the region with LATAM.
Within South America international flights are often very expensive – and using miles here can also be a good option. Flights within “South America region 1” are 10,000 and 20,000 miles in economy and business. And to fly further south would only be 12,500 or 25,000 miles.
Flights from Europe to the Middle East and India
Another “sweet spot” is with flights from Europe to India or any country in the Middle East. These are priced at just 20,000 miles in economy, 42,500 in business and 62,500 in first class. Flights are possible with British Airways, Qatar and Etihad. First class suites with Qatar and Etihad are excellent redemption opportunities – and some of the most luxurious flying available!
8. Use miles for upgrades on American Airlines
A widespread use of miles is for cabin upgrades with American Airlines. Rules and rates vary depending on the original booking code purchased and route traveled – in summary:
- You can upgrade one cabin from that purchased (will vary as some routes have premium economy and some do not)
- Mileage tickets and lowest economy (mainly Q class) fares cannot be upgraded
- Discount economy (H,K,M,L,V,G,Q,N,O,S), premium economy (P) and Business (I) can be upgraded for mileage plus a cash co-payment
- Full fare tickets (Y, W, J, D and R classes) can be upgraded with just miles
- Each upgrade can be for a one way trip up to three flights
- Rates paid depend on origin and destination zone as specified on the AAdvantage website.
9. Use miles to upgrade on other airlines
Miles can also be used to upgrade British Airways or Iberia Airlines flights. This is possible on multiple segment routes containing American, British Airways and Iberia (and code shares between them). Up to 3 segments can be upgraded.
This is an excellent opportunity to expand the use of miles – but there are some critical restrictions which somewhat limit the use, unfortunately:
- Firstly, the ticket must either be booked through American Airlines or contain at least one AA flight number (BA and IB codeshares are permitted)
- Secondly, upgrades are only possible from higher / full fare booking codes. In particular, this is Y or B for economy with IB and BA (only Y for American), W for premium economy with BA only, and C, J, D or R for business class with IB and BA (only J, D or R for American).
- Note also that for premium cabins with British Airways from London, additional government taxes and fees will need to be paid if the ticket is upgraded from economy.
Upgrades are with miles only – no cash co-payments are needed. Full details are table are on the AAdvantage site.
10. Admirals Club lounge access
Miles can be used to purchase access to American lounges – known as Admirals Club. American does not give complimentary lounge access when flying domestically, regardless of elite status level. Instead, it sells annual membership – either for cash or for miles. Rates depend on status and start at 60,000 miles for the first year with slightly lower levels upon renewal.
11. Use miles for hotel stays
AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for hotel stays globally. AAdvantage operate their booking portal for stays at over 150,000 hotels. Booking are possible using just miles, or a combination of miles and cash.
In general, we would advise that the value you get will be less than is possible for flight booking. But this depends on individual needs.
12. Miles for car hire
The same AAdvantage portal can be used for car hire in over 500 locations worldwide. Rentals are offered in partnership with one of the car hire providers – these vary by location but include Avis, Hertz, National, and Alamo. As with hotels, the value of this can vary, and you should always compare with alternatives.
13. Book a holiday package with AA Vacations
American Airlines vacations offers discounted prices on full package holidays – with some combination of flights, hotels and car hire. These can be paid in full or partly with miles – and again, you should check the value you are getting! But especially for members with large balances, this can be a great reward! Note that unfortunately, packages are only available for US-based starting points for travel globally.
14. Buy magazine subscriptions
AAdvantage miles can be used for magazine subscriptions through partner “Magsformiles.” An often changing range of titles is offered, and mileage prices are generally excellent value compared to cash subscriptions. Delivery, however, is only possible to a US-based address.
15. Buy newspaper subscriptions
Similarly to magazine subscriptions, miles can be used for newspapers. Likewise this is mostly of interest to US-based members as it only includes USA publications, and generally offers home delivery (and availability varies depending on ZIP code). Some titles though do include mobile or tablet options.
16. Gift miles to another member
If you can’t find a way to use your own miles, you can always gift them to a friend or family member! This is also a useful way to combine miles from different accounts, perhaps to reach a specific redemption amount.
There is a charge however for such a transfer, which makes it important to consider whether this is worthwhile. Transferring 10,000 miles, for example, would currently cost $140.
AAdvantage is one of our preferred mileage programs. There are plenty of options for redeeming your hard earned miles – both for flights and other things.
Several of the non-flying options (package holidays, magazine, newspapers, etc.) are best for US members. International members still have plenty of options though with flights, hotels and car hire.
As with many programs, the value of redeeming for cars, hotels, and others uses and is usually not as good as redeeming for flights. The flexibility of such flight awards is a real strong point of the program. Domestically within the US, it can be challenging as there is often very limited availability at the lower mileage rates (but can work out well as an alternative to expensive cash tickets).
International awards though are some of the best in the industry. Partners include all Oneworld carriers plus others. And award routing rules are generally very flexible, allowing multiple carriers, segments, and a generous MPM excess. There are still times though you can run into a challenge (such as no published fare for a certain city or too many segments needed on a very long route).