Here’s The Latest American Airlines Mileage Sale…..And Why You Should Avoid It

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American Airlines is back with a new offer in its near-monthly attempt to sell miles to the public. In this promotion the airline is offering a bonus of up to 50% on miles purchases through 31 January 2019 and, while that may appear appealing to some, I’m going to show why this is a bad deal for most.

Headline Terms & Conditions

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  • AAdvantage members must purchase at least 5,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction from the Buy or Gift Miles program from 7:00:00am CT January 7, 2019 to 11:59:59pm CT January 31, 2019, to be eligible to earn bonus miles.
  • The applicable bonus miles are awarded to the recipient for Gift Miles transactions. Bonus miles earned do not count toward the annual purchase limits.
  • The miles purchased with the Buy Miles program and received with the Gift Miles program do not count towards AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, 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.
  • 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 do not count towards the annual limit.
  • AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old are not permitted to Buy or Gift Miles.
  • Prices are in U.S. dollars and do not include applicable taxes or $35 per transaction processing charge.

The Offer

This is how the airline is showing its latest “buy miles” offer:

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The Math

The way the promotion is tiered the cheapest cost/mile is achieved by buying 100,000 miles and not the full 150,000.

Here’s how that works.

Buying 150,000 miles would net an AAdvantage member 200,000 miles…..

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… a post tax & fees total cost of $4,791.88

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200,000 miles for $4,791.88 comes to ~2.40 cents/mile

Buying 100,000 miles sees that cost/mile decrease:

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150,000 miles at a cost of $3,206.25 comes to ~2.14 cents/mile

Strangely, for an American Airlines promotion, a very similar cost per mile can be achieved by buying just 70,000 miles:

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a close-up of a tax form

105,000 miles at a cost of $2,254.88 comes to ~2.15 cents/mile

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Here’s Why This Is Such A Poor Deal

It’s not too harsh to say that you can just about forget about using any miles you buy in this promotion for American Airlines premium cabin saver awards as they’re so hard to find they may as well not exist anymore.

What this means is that you really have to be looking at using any miles you purchase on partner airlines…..and it was these partner airline award costs that really skyrocketed when American devalued the AAdvantage program in 2016.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

Business Class awards to Europe will cost 115,000 miles for roundtrip travel so, if you were to buy AAdvantage miles for an award like that, they would set you back approximately $2,461.

On top of this you would have the taxes and surcharges that partners like British Airways will charge which will hike the cost of the award to over $3,000.

$3,000 is not a great deal for a Business Class award across the Atlantic.

a row of seats in an airplaneJAL 787-9 Business Class

Business Class awards to Asia will cost between 120,000 and 140,000 for roundtrip travel and that equates to between $2,568 and $2,996 if you were to buy AAdvantage miles in this promotion.

Those aren’t terrible prices to pay for premium cabins on the likes of JAL or Cathay Pacific but there are other considerations too.

The primary consideration should be the fact that American Airlines offers up mileage sales just about every month and at 2.14 cents per mile this is one of the worst sales we’ve seen for a while – recent sales have seen the cost per/mile as low as 1.77 cents so why buy miles now (unless you absolutely have to) when we can be pretty sure that they’ll be cheaper to buy down the line.

Also, don’t forget that when you’re looking to book award travel…..

  • You’ll be very limited by dates you can fly
  • You won’t be earning any redeemable miles (which have value)
  • You won’t be earning any elite qualifying miles
  • You won’t be earning any elite qualifying dollars

Quite simply, 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.

a plane parked at an airport

Bottom Line

  • American Airlines has sold miles for under 1.8 cents on a number of recent occasions…so why would you now pay the airline 2.14/2.15 cents for the same miles?
  • Buying miles to book saver awards for flights on American Airlines is a bad idea because you’ll find that availability is nearly impossible to find.
  • Buying miles to book Anytime Awards on American Airlines is highly uneconomical as you can buy cash fares 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.

Yes, if you get lucky you may be able to find an award that works for you and which will save you money if you buy miles in this promotion…but that situation will be quite rare.

Please don’t buy miles in this promotion unless you’re 100% sure that the math works solidly in your favor…and that will apply to very few readers of this blog.


  1. I’m one of the few who does not use his miles for flights. Instead, I use them to renew my Admiral’s Club membership each year. I also use them for free hotel stays. Being able to use a combination of miles and dollars lets me stay at five-star hotels in countries around the world for a fraction of what they’d normally cost. I’ve never bought miles from AA before, but I’d consider it if it was a good enough deal. I’m just curious what you think of this way of using miles. I’ve been Exec Plat for many years, and even with the new threshold of EQD, I’ll make it for 2020, especially since I have a Silver Barclays Card, which gives me EQD and EQM each year. The perks I get for being Exec Plat still make me want to stay Exec Plat for the time being. It’s always nice sitting up front for the price of coach… and I do get some nice deals occasionally. I’m heading to Mumbai on BA (getting AA mileage, of course) in Biz Class for around $2,800.

    • IMO miles & points should be used to save money and as currencies to allow us to have experiences we wouldn’t otherwise have. So, with that in mind, if your AAdvantage miles allow you to save a lot cash on great hotels then that’s fantastic and it’s clearly a use of miles that works well for you.

      Personally I find I can get more value out of my AAdvantage miles by booking partner awards (Etihad, JAL, Qatar etc…) but that’s just what works for me – everyone is different and what works for me probably won’t work for you (and vice versa).

      If your miles and points are making you happy and saving you money then they’re doing their job….as long as you’re not in a position where you’re saving less on hotels than you’re paying out in airfares where you could have used your miles.

      Thanks for the interesting comment – it’s given me an idea for a blog post đŸ™‚

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