American Airlines Is Selling Miles Again And This Time They’re Worth A Closer Look

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American Airlines is back again with one of its very frequent miles sales. The past few sales have been poor (to say the least) but, while I usually advise against buying AAdvantage Miles, this time around I can definitely see where buying miles in this promotion may work for some.

Headline Terms & Conditions

  • AAdvantage members must purchase at least 6,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction from the Buy or Gift Miles program beginning 07:00:00am CT on March 21, 2018 to 11:59:59 pm CT April 28, 2018, to be eligible for bonus miles.
  • The bonus miles earned are calculated based on each individual purchase amount and the corresponding bonus award.
  • Each AAdvantage member is limited to purchasing or receiving in a calendar year, a combined total of no more than 150,000 AAdvantage miles. Miles purchased through the Buy Miles program or received as a gift through the Gift Miles program count against this total.
  • Bonus miles earned do not count toward the annual limits.
  • The miles purchased with the Buy Miles program do not count towards AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Executive Platinum or AAdvantage Million MilerSM status qualification.
  • Transactions are nonrefundable and nonreversible.
  • AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old are not permitted to Buy or Gift Miles. The price of your purchase is in U.S. dollars.

Link to the full terms and conditions

The AAdvantage Miles Sale

a plane flying in the sky

Keeping to form there’s nothing simple about this AAdvantage miles sale as there are more tiers to this promotion that you’ll see in most other sales:

a table with numbers and miles

The Math Behind The AAdvantage Miles Sale

Buying the maximum number of miles allowable would see you buying miles at the cheapest price this sale offers.

A purchase of 150,000 miles would see you net 265,000 miles (after bonus) at a total cost of $4,786.88:

a screenshot of a computer screen

That works out to approximately 1.81 cents/mile

If you’re not going to buy the maximum number of miles allowable you should know two things:

  1. The cost/mile rises steeply
  2. The cheapest cost/mile is to be found a the bottom of each tier.

If I take the 125,000 – 149,000 tier as an example:

Buying 149,000 miles (the top of the tier) would see a flyer net 224,000 AAdvantage Miles at a cost of $4,755.16:

a screenshot of a computer screen

This works out to a cost/mile of approximately 2.12 cents.

Buying 125,000 miles (the bottom of the tier) would see a flyer net 200,000 AAdvantage miles at a cost of $3,994.06:

a screenshot of a computer screen

This works out to a cost/mile of approximately 2.00 cents.

You’ll find that this trend continues down all the tiers so buying the maximum number of points in one tier is always more expensive than buying the minimum number of points in the very next tier (i.e buying 1,000 more points will give you a better deal).

Should You Buy AAdvantage Miles

If you’re buying at any level other than the cheapest cost/mile (1.81 cents/mile) then this will probably be a bad deal for you – AAdvantage Miles are not always easy to use economically and anything over 2 cents per mile is expensive.

If you just need to top up an account to give yourself enough miles to book an award then it’s fine to pay a bit more per mile but, if you’re buying bulk, you should probably automatically shy away of prices of 2 cents/mile and over.

However, at 1.81 cents/mile things are less clear as there will definitely be times when miles at this price prove to be good value…but there are caveats to that statement.

  1. American Airlines is very bad at releasing Saver Award seats so it’s dangerous to assume that you’ll be able to find an economical use for the miles with any great ease.
  2. Awards booked through American Airlines using AAdvantage Miles don’t come with surcharges …but that’s not the case if you plan to use the miles for travel on a number of American’s airline partners – make sure you factor in these surcharges when working out just how good a deal an award booking is.
  3. Even if there aren’t any carrier surcharges to consider there are usually taxes to factor in to your thinking. For departures from the US the taxes will be negligible but taxes on the way home could be significant when departing from cities like London – make sure you consider these when calculating the value you’re getting from your miles.

Here are some popular routes that American Airlines flys together with the cost of the miles you would need if you were purchasing them in this sale (at 1.81 cents each).

Business Class Roundtrip on American Airlines (excluding taxes & fees)

  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Europe: 115,000 miles at a cost of $2,081.50
  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Tokyo: 120,000 miles at a cost of $2,172.00
  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Hong Kong: 140,000 miles at a cost of $2,534
  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Brazil: 115,000 miles at a cost of $2,081.50
  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states – Sydney: 160,000 miles at a cost of $2,896.00

a row of seats in an airplaneAmerican Airlines Business Class

Even when you add in any taxes and fees associated with those awards they’re all pretty good value but that’s only with the proviso that you can find these awards in the first place.

Business Class on these routes on oneworld airlines (which usually offer a better service than American) cost the same….but may come with higher taxes and fees:

  • JAL to Tokyo: 120,000 miles at a cost of $2,172.00
  • Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong: 140,000 miles at a cost of $2,534
  • LATAM to Brazil: 115,000 miles at a cost of $2,081.50
  • Qantas – Sydney: 160,000 miles at a cost of $2,896.00

a plane with seats and windowsCathay Pacific Business Class

If you’re not based in the US and are thinking of buying AAdvantage miles here’s what some popular routes will cost:

Business Class Roundtrip Non US routes:

  • Europe – Japan: 150,000 miles at a cost of $2,715.00
  • Europe – India: 85,000 miles at a cost of $1,538.50
  • Europe – Middle East: 85,000 miles at a cost of $1,538.50
  • Europe – Australia: 170,000 miles at a cost of $3,077.00
  • Europe – Hong Kong: 150,000 miles at a cost of $2,715.00
  • Hong Kong – Australia: 80,000 miles at a cost of $1,448.00

a row of seats in an airplaneJAL Dreamliner Business Class

Once again there are some very good deals to be had here especially when you consider the quality of the airlines you can fly (Etihad, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL etc…) and, if you looking to book awards out of Europe (to locations outside of the US), they’re generally easier to find than awards departing the US.

BUT….saying that awards are easier to find if you’re departing from Europe doesn’t mean that they’re super easy to find.

They’re definitely available and I’ve made use of them on numerous occasions but you will still need to be patient, have some flexibility in your travel plans and not expect to be able to book the exact dates you have in mind.

Bottom Line

Deals like Europe to the Middle East for $1,538.50 and the US to Tokyo for $2,172 are exceptionally good value when booked on airlines of the caliber of Etihad and JAL (even after you factor in taxes and fees) and even some of the American Airlines redemptions don’t look too bad considering the good Business Class seats the airline offers.

At 1.81 cents/mile there will definitely be occasions where buying miles in this promotion and using them to book an award will save you money (possibly even a lot of money) but the key here is to make sure awards are available before you dive in and buy miles.