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If we’re in a month with at least 28 days in it there’s almost bound to be an American Airlines miles sale in progress so, with the last sale having ended just ended a few days ago, it’s no surprise to see the airline back with another attempt to squeeze some money out of its flyers.
As American Airlines seems to do reasonably often nowadays, this latest sale sees the airline offering bonus miles and a discount to anyone prepared to buy its currency.
Because of the way this sale is structured, it’s more important than ever to make sure you do the math before diving into a purchase (more on that later).
The Headline Terms & Conditions
- To be eligible for the bonus miles and/or discount AAdvantage members must purchase 15,000 AAdvantage miles or more in a single transaction from the Buy or Gift Miles program by 11:59:59pm CT on August 31, 2019.
- The prices shown include the discount. The discount applies to the AAdvantage miles purchased.
- The bonus miles earned are calculated based on each individual purchase amount and the corresponding bonus award.
- 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 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 earned do not count toward the annual purchase limits.
- 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.
Because of the way this sale has been structured the best deals available are not always self-evident.
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that by buying the maximum number of miles allowed (150,000 miles) you’ll be buying miles at the cheapest rate (~1.84cents/mile)…
…but you may be surprised to find out that buying the next highest amount (149,000 miles) isn’t necessarily a good deal.
Someone buying 149,000 miles in this sale will net 204,000 miles at a total cost of 4,290.27…
…which comes to a cost per mile of ~2.10 cents.
If, on the other hand, someone was to buy 100,000 miles, they would net 155,000 miles at a total cost of $2,891.75…
…and would, therefore, pay just ~1.87 cents/mile.
That’s almost as good a deal as you get when you buy 150,000 miles.
Essentially, because the number of bonus miles on offer is a fixed number within each band, the very best deals (within each band) are to be found when buying the smallest number of miles on offer.
Should You Buy Miles In This Sale?
First and foremost you should be aware of three things:
- This isn’t the cheapest rate at which American Airlines has offered miles in the past
- The last sale saw AAdvantage Miles on offer from 1.72 cents each.
- It’s possible that a sale later in the year will offer a better deal (e.g the Cyber Monday sale)
Having said that, this may still be an ok deal for some readers.
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 1.84 cents each can be a money saver.
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 ~$2,116 + taxes/fees
- USA – Tokyo: 120,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,208 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong: 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,576 + taxes/fees
- USA – Brazil: 115,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,116 + 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 ~$2,208 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,576 + taxes/fees
- USA – Brazil (LATAM): 115,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,116 + taxes/fees
- USA – Middle East (Etihad/Qatar): 140,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,576 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Middle East (Etihad): 85,000 miles at a cost of ~$1,564 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 150,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,760 + taxes/fees
First Class (Roundtrip)
- USA – Tokyo (JAL): 160,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,944 + taxes/fees
- USA – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 220,000 miles at a cost of ~$4,048 + taxes/fees
- USA – Middle East (Etihad/Qatar): 231,000 miles at a cost of ~$4,250 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Middle East (Etihad): 125,000 miles at a cost of ~$2,300 + taxes/fees
- Europe – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific): 180,000 miles at a cost of ~$3,312 + taxes/fees
Some of these partner awards can represent truly exceptional value (although I suspect it would be possible to find some very good cash fares between Europe and Asia which would be better than the miles option).
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 1.84 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 to (and are allowed to) but, if it doesn’t, it’s time to move on.