You Can Buy AAdvantage Miles “Cheaply” Right Now…….And Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

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AAdvantage miles are currently available to purchase directly through American Airlines for just 1.725 cents each but, although that’s the lowest price we’ve seen for a number of years, you probably shouldn’t be buying any miles from American – here’s why.

The Offer

American Airlines is offering to sell miles to AAdvantage members at a 10% discount to the officially quoted price and is also offering bonus miles as an added incentive.

This is how the airline is framing its latest “buy miles” offer:a blue and white rectangular sign with numbers and symbolsPer American Airlines:

To be eligible for a the bonus miles and discount AAdvantage members must purchase 11,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction from the Buy or Gift Miles program beginning 7:00:00am CT on June 12, 2017 to 11:59:59pm CT on June 30, 2017.

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.

Note: the maximum purchase amount does not include bonus miles earned through promotions such as this one.

The Math

To buy AAdvantage miles at the lowest possible cost per mile (1.725 cents/mile) an AAdvantage member would have to take up the option of buying the maximum amount allowed (150,000 miles) so, if you’ve already purchased miles this calendar year, you’ll have to pay a little more.

Buying 150,000 miles would net an AAdvantage member 250,000 miles at a total cost of $4,311.19:

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250,ooo miles for an outlay of $4,311.19 equates to a cost of approximately 1.725 cents/mile.

Buying even just 1,000 fewer miles sees that cost/mile figure increase significantly:

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219,000 miles for an outlay of $4,382.65 equates to a cost of approximately 1.956 cents/mile – ouch!

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Why You Shouldn’t Buy AAdvantage Miles

There will be outlying cases for whom buying 250,000 AAdvantage Miles may work out to be a good idea….but for most it really isn’t. In fact it’s probably a terrible idea.

AAdvantage Miles have been one of the most rapidly depreciating loyalty/rewards currencies over the past two years and I can’t see that trend slowing anytime soon.

In recent times the airline has:

  • Reduced the availability of premium SAAver Award availability on its own aircraft to levels where most travelers are having trouble finding a single award seat on routes they travel.
  • Reduced the availability of premium cabin upgrades to levels where most travelers are having trouble finding an upgrade they can purchase with miles on routes they travel.
  • 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, the value proposition is quite often simply not there.
  • Increased the cost of premium awards on partner airlines by significant margins (some awards increased in price by over 50%) making them a lot less attractive than in the past.

A couple of years ago buying AAdvantage Miles at 1.725 cents each was a pretty good deal (I purchased miles at around that level last year and got to try out the Etihad, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and JAL First Class cabins) but now things are very, very different.

a seat in a planeMy seat in Qatar Airways First Class – the award I purchased to get that seat now costs 56% more

If you purchase American Airlines miles there is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll find award availability that suits your needs – either in Coach or in a premium cabin, on domestic or international routes.

Yes, in the past the same risks were around but the risks are now far greater.

We have now reached a stage where AAdvantage loyalists simply don’t expect to find award availability – it appears so rarely the internet melts down when some is spotted….and it’s gone in a matter of minutes.

I like to think that I was one of the earlier bloggers to value AAdvantage miles at the levels that are now generally accepted (I valued them at 1.24 cents back in March 2016) and, if anything, they may be worth even less now.

Pointless Award Charts Selling A Near Impossible Dream

We’re now at a stage where the AAdvantage Award charts are pretty much pointless – it’s all very well for the airline to tell us that the cost of a one way Business Class saver award between the US and Europe is 57,500 miles….but it may as well cost 1,000,000 miles as these awards are almost impossible to find.

a screenshot of a graphThe current AAdvantage award chart for Business Cass travel on American Airlines

American Airlines is selling miles to AAdvantage members alongside award charts that may be factually correct but that don’t really mean anything at all – if you can’t book the awards they’re displaying then what’s the point of having them?

There’s no point at all and the airline is selling AAdvantage members a near impossible dream – some may call that underhand……and that’s pretty hard to argue against.

Bottom Line

Buying miles to book SAAver awards for flights on American Airlines is a bad idea because you’ll almost certainly struggle to find availability.

Buying miles to book Anytime Awards on American Airlines is foolish as you can purchase seats with cash for less than the miles will cost you (with very few exceptions)

Buying miles to book premium cabin travel on partner airlines is, at best, a 50:50 proposition – availability isn’t nearly as good as it once was and the number of miles needed (and therefore the cost) has increased significantly. You can often find Business Class fares to Asia and Europe for less than the miles & taxes for the awards would cost you.

Sure, if you hit the jackpot you may be able to find an award that works for you and that will save you money if you buy miles in this promotion…..but for the overwhelming majority of those reading this blog that simply isn’t going happen.

Keep your money in your pocket and move on.