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How Attractive Is Buying AAdvantage Miles In The Latest Sale?

In September, I brought you news of a British Airways offer to buy AVIOS and a similiar offer from American Airlines. The British Airways offer was rewarding buyers with bonus AVIOS, but the American Airlines offer included no such incentive. I wonder whether that offer didn’t receive the results they hoped, as a new offer has been launched. This one is much more generous and includes AA bonus miles. However, it is still a valid question to wonder if buying American Airlines AAdvantage Miles is good use of your hard-earned cash?

American Airlines plane
American Airways AAdvantage. Source: Pixabay

Buying AAdvantage miles bonus offer

This promotion rewards customers who buy more than 6,000 miles with bonus AAdvantage miles, up to a maximum of 150,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. For instance, you can buy 1,000 miles for $29.50, 27,500 for $590, 72,500 for $1,475 or 265,000 for $4,425. These numbers include the bonus miles.

Buying AVIOS with the British Airways offer turned out to be terrible value for most scenarios, but how does this compare?

How much does one AAdvantage Mile cost?

Amount purchased Bonus miles  Total miles Cost for purchase Cost per AAdvantage
1,000 0 1,000 $29.50 2.95 cents
5,000 0 5,000 $147.50 2.95 cents
10,000 3,500 13,500 $295 2.18 cents
20,000 7,500 27,500 $590 2.14 cents
30,000 15,000 45,000 $885 1.96 cents
40,000 22,500 62,500 $1,180 1.88 cents
50,000 22,500 72,500 $1,475 2.03 cents
60,000 30,000 90,000 $1,770 1.96 cents
70,000 40,000 110,000 $2,065 1.87 cents
80,000 40,000 120,000 $2,360 1.96 cents
90,000 50,000 140,000 $2,655 1.89 cents
100,000 60,000 160,000 $2,950 1.84 cents
150,000 115,000 265,000 $4,425 1.66 cents

Correct as at 22/03/18 – Source: American Airlines

You have probably noticed that the cost does not reduce on a linear basis. Strangely, buying 50,000 AAdvantage miles is less value than buying 40,000 miles, however if you opt for the maximum, the cost per mile reduces substantially.

Of course, the real test comes when you try to redeem your miles. Let’s take a look at a number of options, and remember, even for Brits living on this side of the pond, it can be worthwhile accruing AAdvantage points. After all, the redemptions in the States are generally much better value than in the UK, thanks to those ridiculously expensive, damn taxes!!

deck out to gazebo in Cancun
Trip to Cancun maybe? Source: Pixabay

That said, you can just as easily redeem your AVIOS for American Airline flights in the States. (If you want to know which other airlines you can use your miles for, get the FREE infographic here.)

Where can you go with your AAdvantage Miles?

Route  Class AAdvantage miles needed Cost for flight without using miles (A) Cost for equivalent  miles using the offer (B) Taxes and fees (C) Total cost using offer plus taxes (B+C = D) Difference in cost between using miles and paid fare (D – A)
New York – Vegas Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $135.80 $295 for 13,500 $5.60 $301.60 Extra $165.80
New York – New Orleans Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $145.60 $295 for 13,500 $5.60 $301.60 Extra $156.00
Chicago to Seattle Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $158.2 $295 for 13,500 $5.60 $301.60 Extra $143.40
Chicago to Cancun Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $168 $295 for 13,500 $34.00 $301.60 Extra $143.40
Nashville to San Jose, Costa Rica Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $182 $295 for 13,500 $5.60 $301.60 Extra $119.60
Seattle to Salt Lake City Economy MileSAAver 12,500 $169.4 $295 for 13,500 $5.60 $301.60 Extra $132.20
Los Angeles – Christchurch Economy MileSAAver 40,000 $691.60 $885 for 45,000 $123.00 $1008.00 Extra $315.40

Source: American Airlines as at 24/3/18 – all flights are one way departing in September 2018. All comparison flights were sourced from Expedia and are for the cheapest flight only. 

Is it worth buying American Airlines AAdvantage Miles?

On the face of it, this seemed like a good deal, but considering how cheap the flights are to buy outright, it simply does not stack up. In fact, I struggle to understand why anyone why buy miles unless they are planning a dream trip and are coming up a little short. A quick look at the far right column shows that it would cost more to purchase the miles and then redeem for flights.

American Airlines redemptions

It is not all bad news though. This exercise reminds me just what great redemptions are available in the United States. For anyone planning a trip domestically within the States, or a trip from the UK, involving a number of cities, combining use of AVIOS and AAdvantage miles (if you have both) could prove useful.

I get excited with these offers, as the taxes are so little compared to what we pay in the UK. Even using miles for economy class, which I would rarely recommend at home, looks great value. In some cases, it is only an extra 10,000 to fly business which gets me planning even crazier trips. What’s to stop me flying business to Las Vegas using a British Airways companion voucher and then using my American AAdvantage points to fly on to Hawaii for next to nothing? $5.60 in taxes really does feel like a free flight, after all my Starbucks probably cost me more than that this morning!

view of the Hawaiian islands
My next trip maybe? Hawaii here I come. Source: Pixabay

Find out more:

Want to know more about redemptions in the UK? Read: Long haul v short-haul redemptions

Long Haul v Short Haul AVIOS Redemptions: Challenged by Adventurous Kate

How to purchase?

If you still wish to purchase miles, log into your American Airways AAdvantage account and simply buy miles by following the on-screen prompts. You receive points into your account instantly. Frankly though, I think you are better saving your cash and using it to buy flights outright.

What do you think?

Have you ever purchased AAdvantage miles? What was your experience?

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. You say you “struggle” to understand why anyone would buy miles. Consider this: As a retiree I still fly frequently, coach domestically but business class internationally. I most often use AA miles on Oneworld partners. For travel from ATL-HKG-ATL I’ve redeemed 140,000 miles on AA, connecting to Cathay Pacific in ORD., return via JFK. Purchasing them, according to your chart which I didn’t double check, would cost me $2,665. Looking at google.com/flights shows that a purchased business class fare on the cheapest airline would be $4,900+. I could just find the availability (it’s generally pretty good), call American and put the award on hold, then buy the miles, which as I said, is what I have done in the past. Sure, flying more than sixteen hours in steerage could be done cheaper, but I’d rather stay home than travel like that.

    • I agree I absolutely would not want to fly economy any longer and in this instance I have only compared economy. However last year BA offered a similar option where I considered business and economy fares and it came out bad value to buy. That said, taxes and fees in the UK are ridiculous whereas in the States they are much much lower. I think it will all depend on where you are flying. I have just looked at LAX to Christchurch in business which needs 160,000 AA miles. That’s going to cost $2950 based on the current offer plus your taxes which are less than $100. The best business class flight is with China Southern and costs $3663 so business seems to work out better but remember this deal includes a generous uplift.

      The last deal in the autumn offered no such uplift and thus would likely not have been as good value. It evidently pays to check the permutations but I would prefer to simply accumulate points organically using credit cards rather than buy them.

      • Yes, I’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of miles via credit card sign up bonuses. I bought miles at, in every case, well less than 2.00 cents per mile. One way to enhance or lower the cost per mile is to meet the minimum spend requirement by purchasing miles on a bonus promotion with the new card, let’s say $3,000 worth, which, in your example, would result in 160,000 miles plus the $3,000 spend and the 50,000 mile card bonus or nearly 213,000 miles, about 1.04 cents per mile. It gets better. I recently got 60,000 with $4,000 spend on a new card for a deposit on a cruise I’d already planned on taking as well as another card with 50k after $3,000 which was used on a much bigger spend on a home renovation. Eighteen months ago I bought a car, putting down $3,000 on a new card. Voila, 53,000 miles. Finally, we were to attend a family wedding in Europe. My adult son asked me to make his reservation, too. He paid me the cost of premium economy but, with a card sign up bonus by me and some purchased miles, he flew over in business and returned in first for that same amount. Used strategically, purchased miles can be a tremendous asset for travel in comfort. I am not wealthy but my credit rating is excellent as I pay my card balance on time.

        • Wow thanks so much for these great tips. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. Yes I earn tons of points on my credit cards, always pay them on time but am savvy about making the most of those sign up bonuses. I sometimes consider emigrating to the States though just to get the kind of sign ups you guys get. It makes me green with envy! I’m actually considering using my BA Miles to fly business to LA and then accumulating enough AA to do the rest in business. We don’t have direct flights to NZ from the UK with BA and I’m not going back there until I can do it in style. It’s too damn far. I figure if I convert my AMEX points to AA it won’t take that long to do! Where are you heading in Europe?

  2. I would have to agree on your one point that you are better saving your cash and using it to buy some flights outright. I think that is still the best way to go but this is very informative!

  3. For a technologically challenged person, who absolutely cannot think of calculating and goes by what friends refer, this post is a boon! Love the way you have compared and broken it all down so simply for people like me to understand. Thanks for the honest and in depth analysis and comparison!

  4. I love using strategies like this to stretch my dollar. After planning all of my trips I managed to book my return flight for free after racking up the points! Great tables and charts 🙂

  5. I’ve never really purchased airline miles/points. I usually just earn them through travel and my credit card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is great for that and I love my card! So this was pretty helpful to help me understand the mentality of buying miles. The article is comprehensive and makes a lot of sense. I probably will still not purchase miles/points but glad to understand.

  6. Will try and see how it works out for me.

  7. This was really insightful into buying air-mile points. I signed up to a couple of the programs and tend to just collect the ones I have from flying here and there, (I tend to fly with the same group of airlines affiliated with the program) However reading though this post and your brilliant breakdown of costs I should look into a bit more. I can’t really advise on the AA ones you’ve wrote about as I don’t know if they would be value or not. However you’ve got me thinking haha 😀

  8. Thanks for the thorough evaluation of the points system. They always complicate simple things in the hope that customers don’t really analyze where they are spending! Need more analysis like this!

  9. Wow, you’ve really spent time and gone deep into the mathematics of it, haven’t you! Great job, I am sure this is going to be useful for a lot of people trying to evaluate the worth.

  10. Yeah, I wouldn’t buy miles when there are so many ways to earn them for purchases you make on a daily bases. I have the AA Barclay Red Card. I would never buy miles when I can earn them for my every day purchases that I’m going to make anyway. And with the AAdvantage dining and shopping, you can earn miles from purchases you make online.

  11. It’s all so complicated! We need people like you who do the maths for us or we stand no chance. But I guess that’s the point?

  12. Wow, this is really helpful research! I’ve always wondered why people would buy points/miles as well because it usually doesn’t seem like a great deal, but I’ve never gone to as much effort as this to figure it out. Never bought miles, but I do use American Airlines points that I accumulate and, of course, they’re much more beneficial! =)

    Thanks for sharing your research!

  13. Megan Jerrard

    Definitely doesn’t sound like it’s worth trading cash for points in this scenario – perhaps they rely on people not being as vigilant as yourself in checking the actual value, and think that people will perceive the value to be best. Good to know that you can combine AVIOS and AAdvantage miles though to be more cost effective. Thanks for the tips!

    • Just to be clear, you cannot combine AVIOS and AADvantage miles. Both airlines are however part of oneworld so you can use both to book flights with American AIrlines are any of its partners. Normally, I would say pick one of the two loyalty programmes and collect points from both airlines but into one loyalty programme. That said, I used to join every programme going and as a result have ended up with a small balance in AADvantage and a huge balance in AVIOS. My plan is simple though, I’m going to wipe out my American Airlines balance using those miles for a single flight for me. Then I will book my husband on the same flight using AVIOS. Hopefully that makes sense.

  14. I read your AVIOS post so it’s cool you did a follow up with American Airlines post. What did you mean that points are better in the UK than in the US cause of taxes? Are there more taxes in the US? I didn’t know this. Thanks.

    • Hi Sarah Kim, no it’s the other way round. In the States the taxes can be as low as a few dollars but in the Uk they can be hundreds of pounds for a long haul flight. Just check out the AVIOS post from last week and you will see what I mean. I always have envy of people using rewards in the US as they get a much better deal than us when it comes to redemptions

  15. I like very much that you give detailed examples with numbers and tables. Even I am not a ‘math’ person, I can figure out very easy why it is so useful to know how all this things work out. Congratulations for the great research that you’ve done.

  16. As far as I am concerned, it would make more sense if Trans-Atlantic/Pacific travel is involved. Since the merger of AA/BA/IB it has become quite interesting for flyers to rake up miles and spend them wisely. Personally I would rather rake up miles through various outlets then purchase them, though I have been guilty of buying a few miles from Skywards.
    The comparison chart provided is quite useful (professionally speaking-corporate travel agent).

  17. Thanks for an honest feedback on the offer. I am sure this blog post will enlighten many travelers and help them make more economical travel plans.

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