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American Airlines has launched its latest miles sale which runs through to the end of the month and this time around it’s selling its currency at the lowest rate we generally see – 1.72 cents/mile. If you’re short of AAdvantage miles this is probably the time to buy as you’re unlikely to find a better deal – even the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale didn’t offer a price as low as this last year.
As is becoming customary for American Airlines this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this sale (the airline offered the exact same promotion in June 2018 and June 2017) but it’s still not exactlky straight forward – you get bonus miles AND a discount when you buy miles in this sale.
Headline Terms & Conditions
- To be eligible for the bonus miles and/or discount AAdvantage members must purchase 10,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction.
- The offer is available through 11:59:59pm CT on June 30, 2019.
- The prices shown include the discount.
- The discount applies to the AAdvantage miles purchased and does not apply towards taxes.
- 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 175,000 AAdvantage miles.
- Bonus miles earned do not count toward the annual purchase limits.
- The applicable bonus miles are awarded to the recipient for Gift Miles transactions.
- The miles purchased with the Buy Miles program and received with the Gift Miles program do not count towards AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Executive Platinum or AAdvantage Million Miler status qualification.
- Transactions are nonrefundable and nonreversible.
- The miles successfully purchased or transferred usually post to the designated account right away, but please allow up to 8 hours for processing.
- AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old are not permitted to Buy or Gift Miles.
The full terms and conditins can be found on the sale page.
American Airlines sets the prices in offers such as these in a convoluted way and this can make it easy to accidentally overpay.
Here’s a table I posted the last time this offer was running which shows the cost per mile of buying AAdvantage miles at the top and bottom of each bonus band.
As you should be able to see, the cost per mile is cheaper at the bottom end of each bonus band and this is a little counter-intuitive as, in most mileage sales, the cost/mile usually decreases the more miles you buy.
What this means is that there can be some pretty big differences in cost/mile despite there being only a very small difference in the number of miles being purchased:
- If you were to buy 50,000 miles you would pay 2.65 cents/mile
- If you were to buy 51,000 miles you would pay 2.25 cents/mile
In percentage terms, buying 50,000 miles is 18% more expensive (per mile) than buying 51,000 miles.
In this sale the best price is 1.72 cents/mile which is the cheapest rate we’ve seen American Airlines offer AAdvantage miles in a regular promotion.
To get the best deal you’ll have to buy the full 150,000 allowance…
….which, when taxes and fees are added in, gives a total cost of $4,315.05 for 250,000 miles.
250,000 miles at a cost of $4,311.19 is ~1.72 cents/mile.
Should You Buy Miles In This Sale?
For some this may be a good deal while for others it will be a bad one – it all depends on your personal circumstances and what you plan to do with the miles.
In recent times the airline has:
- Reduced the availability of premium cabin SAAver Award availability on its own aircraft to levels where most travelers are having trouble finding a single award seat.
- Reduced the availability of premium cabin upgrades to levels where most travelers are having trouble finding any upgrades at all.
- Reduced the availability of Coach SAAver awards on various popular routes – in some extreme cases awards are never made available at all.
- Increased the cost of awards on for travel on its own aircraft so, even if you could find an award seat, it’s poor value.
- Increased the cost of premium awards on partner airlines by significant margins (some awards increased in price by over 50% a couple of years ago) making them a lot less attractive than in the past.
- Started to introduce dynamic award pricing where the price of an award reflects the cash fare on offer on the same flight – this makes it a lot harder to get outsized value.
The fact is that if you purchase American Airlines miles there is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll find award availability that suits your needs – either in Economy Class or in a premium cabin, on domestic or international routes.
If you can see that an award you’d like to book is available right now (or if your research tells you that the award you’re looking to book isn’t scarce) then buying miles at 1.72 cents each can be an excellent money saver….but under almost all other conditions it’s a lottery.
Here’s how much some of the more popular American Airlines roundtrip Business Class Saver awards would cost if you buy miles in this sale (assuming you can find them!):
- USA – Europe: 115,000 miles at a cost of ~$1,978 + taxes/fees
- USA – Tokyo: 120,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,064 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong: 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,408 + taxes/fees
- USA – Brazil: 115,000 miles at a cost of ~$1,978 + taxes/fees
The very best use of American Airlines AAdvantage Miles is often for travel on partner airlines where there are still some good redemptions to be had and where award availability isn’t usually as terrible as it is on American’s own aircraft.
Here’s how much some of the more popular American Airlines partner awards would cost if you buy miles in this sale:
Business Class (Roundtrip)
- USA – Tokyo (JAL): 120,000 miles at a cost of~$2,064 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,408 + taxes/fees
- USA – Brazil (LATAM): 115,000 miles at a cost of ~$1,978 + taxes/fees
- USA – Middle East (Etihad/Qatar): 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,408 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Middle East (Etihad): 85,000 miles at a cost of ~$1,462 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 150,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,580 + taxes/fees
First Class (Roundtrip)
- USA – Tokyo (JAL): 160,000 miles at a cost of~$2,752 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 220,000 miles at a cost of ~$3,784 + taxes/fees
- USA – Middle East (Etihad/Qatar): 231,000 miles at a cost of ~$3,973 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Middle East (Etihad): 125,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,150 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 180,000 miles at a cost of ~$3,096 + taxes/fees
Some of these partner awards can represent truly exceptional value.
American Airlines sells its own miles so, if you can see a good reason for buying AAdvantage Miles in this promotion, make sure you use a credit card that will earn you a travel/airline category bonus.
Good examples are:
- Amex Platinum – 5 points/dollar
- Citi Prestige – 5 points/dollar
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3 points/dollar
- Citi ThankYou Premier – 3 points/dollar
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2 points/dollar
I value AAdvantage miles at around 1.25 cents each (mainly because they’re so hard to use on American Airlines) so I’m not a buyer at 1.72 cents unless I can see that an award I want is (a) available to be booked right away and (b) the math shows me that paying for miles to book the award is cheaper than paying the cash rate for the same itinerary.
If you can see an award is available online it’s easy to decide if you should buy miles:
- Work out how much the miles would cost to buy
- Find the cash fare for the same route and the same dates
- Compare the two
That should give you an indication of how good or bad the deal is.
If the math works in your favor you should buy as many miles as you need but, if it doesn’t, don’t try to persuade yourself that the deal is a good one anyway (math doesn’t lie) – keep your money in your pocket and move on.