How to Get More Value Out of American Airlines Miles

By Jason Steele on 17 January 2018 0 comments

The American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program was one of the first ever created. Over the decades and through the acquisitions of both TWA and US Airways, it had a reputation of being one of the most valuable programs offered.

But in recent years, travel rewards experts have lowered their valuations of AAdvantage miles as the airline began requiring more miles for award seats, and made fewer seats available at the lowest mileage levels. Now many travelers are sitting on large amounts of American AAdvantage miles and wondering how they can still get value from them.

Try partner airlines

While it's true that American is not releasing many award seats at the lowest mileage levels, which it calls "SAAver Awards," the situation is much brighter at its partner airlines. When you redeem your miles for flights operated by an American Airlines partner, you can still pay the lowest "SAAver" award prices.

American is part of the OneWorld Alliance, which includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Sri Lankan Airlines, and Russia's S7 Airlines. In addition, American has commercial agreements with Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines and its merger partner Virgin America, Cape Air, El Al, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Airways, Jetstar, Seabourne, and WestJet. (See also: The Secret to Redeeming Travel Rewards with Airline Partners)

However, you can only redeem miles online for flights operated by Iberia, Alaska, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian Airlines. To book flights on other partner airlines, you will have to call American Airlines.

Look for sweet spots

While many of the award prices have gone up in recent years, a few have gone down, seemingly so that the airline can paint the changes as positive in some small way. For example, SAAver award flights to Mexico and the Caribbean are just 30,000 miles round-trip, which is fewer than many other airlines. SAAver awards to northern South America are just 40,000 miles round-trip, and American has an extensive network of flights there. Finally, flights to Japan and Korea in business class are just 120,000 miles round-trip, which is competitive considering the distances involved. (See also: Maximize the Value of Your Airline Miles and Points)

Think about short-haul awards

Sometimes a very short flight can be expensive when you pay out of pocket, especially when you're flying to Canada. But for award flights of less than 500 miles within the contiguous 48 U.S. or Canada, you only need 7,500 miles each way. This covers flights like New York City to Toronto or Philadelphia to Montreal, as well as dozens of routes within the United States. (See also: Best Sign-up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards)

Look for MileSAAver off-peak awards

American lets you fly for fewer miles during periods that it deems to be "off-peak." The discounts and travel periods depend on the destination. Some can be bargains. For example, an economy class flight to Europe is just 22,500 miles one-way off-peak, which is defined as January 10-March 14, and November 1-December 14. Flights to Hawaii are just 20,000 miles each way December 29-March 12, August 11-November 18, and November 24-December 10. Flights from Hawaii are the same price on January 7-March 19, August 18-November 27, and December 3-December 25.

Save miles with the right credit card

Not only can you earn additional miles with an American Airlines credit card, you can also save miles when redeeming an award. Some cards offer you 10 percent of your redeemed miles back, with a maximum of 10,000 miles per calendar year. Holders of most American Airlines cards can also save up to 7,500 miles round-trip when they book reduced mileage awards on select routes.

American Airlines miles have lost some of their value over the years, but you can still make good use of them if you know how. By focusing on partner flights, award chart sweet spots, and other exceptional deals, your AAdvantage miles may be able to take you farther than you thought.

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