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Is It Worth Buying American Airlines AAdvantage Miles?

Last week, I brought you news of the latest British Airways offer to buy AVIOS? Just a few days later, I received a similiar offer from American Airlines, and wondered if this offer might fare any better for those seeking to enhance their airmiles balance. Unlike the British Airways offer, there isn’t a bonus incentive so is buying American Airlines AAdvantage Miles good use of your hard-earned cash?

American Airlines plane
American Airways AAdvantage. Source: Pixabay

American Airlines AAdvantage Offer

This is a one size fits all promotion with a set cost for the number of miles you might wish to buy, up to a maximum of 150,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. For instance, you can buy 1,000 miles for $29.50, 20,000 for $590, 50,000 for $1,475 or 150,000 for $4,425.

Buying AVIOS with the British Airways offer turns out to be terrible value in the majority of scenarios, but how does this compare?

How much does one AAdvantage Mile cost?

Amount purchased Cost for purchase Cost per AAdvantage
1,000 $29.50 2.95 cents
5,000 $147.50 2.95 cents
10,000 $295 2.95 cents
20,000 $590 2.95 cents
30,000 $885 2.95 cents
40,000 $1,180 2.95 cents
50,000 $1,475 2.95 cents
60,000 $1,770 2.95 cents
70,000 $2,065 2.95 cents
80,000 $2,360 2.95 cents
90,000 $2,655 2.95 cents
100,000 $2,950 2.95 cents
150,000 $4,425 2.95 cents

Correct as at 21/9/17 – Source: American Airlines

Now on the face of it, this offer looks even more horrific than the British Airways offer. The cost per mile is the same whether you buy one mile or 150,000 miles, which seems pretty poor value. The British Airways offer, in comparison, starts at a cost of 2.06 pence versus 2.95 cents, but reduces to 1.07 pence for the maximum purchase of 100,000 miles.

Of course, the real test comes when you try to redeem your miles and for this reason, I am not writing off this offer just yet. 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 25,000 $342.29 $737.50 for 25,000 $11.20 $748.70 Extra $406.41
New York – New Orleans Economy MileSAAver 25,000 $370.59 $737.50 for 25,000 $11.20 $748.70 Extra $378.11
Chicago to Seattle Economy MileSAAver 25,000 $316.40 $737.50 for 25,000 $11.20 $748.70 Extra $432.30
Chicago to Cancun Economy MileSAAver 30,000 $315.98 $885 for 30,000 $86.59 $971.59 Extra $655.61
Nashville to San Jose, Costa Rica Economy MileSAAver 30,000 $626.94 $885 for 30,000 $81.26 $966.26 Extra $339.32
Seattle to Salt Lake City Economy MileSAAver 25,000 $328.40 $737.50 for 25,000 $8.20 $818.70 Extra $490.3
Los Angeles – Christchurch Economy MileSAAver 80,000 $992.36 $2,360 for 80,000 $171.41 $2,531.41 Extra $1539.05

Source: American Airlines as at 21/9/16 – all flights are departing and returning in March 2018. All comparison flights were sourced from Expedia and are for the cheapest flight only. 

Is it worth buying American Airlines AAdvantage Miles?

Well, it sure doesn’t take a genius to work out this is just as rubbish as the British Airways deal. 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 them for flights than buying the 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 actually find myself getting really 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

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. Points should be received into your account instantly. Frankly though, I think you are better saving your cash and using it to buy some flights outright.

What do you think?

Have you ever purchased American Airways miles? What was your experience?

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 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. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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 😀

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. 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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