You can fly far on AAdvantage miles, but only if you’re able to work around limited award space.
If you are someone who loves to decipher complicated charts, jumps for joy at discovering special deals and has a lot of flexibility in your travel calendar, AAdvantage miles may be the airline currency for you. AAdvantage miles, also referred to as American Airlines miles, are one of the most valuable rewards currencies in existence due to the vast size of the American Airlines flight network and a large number of sweet spots within the AAdvantage rewards chart.
However, the AAdvantage program is not for the casual traveler. The value of American Airlines miles varies drastically and, while you can find some incredible deals, a mile’s worth can also dip below average, particularly if you don’t have the flexibility to pick times and destinations that qualify for MileSAAver awards. Read on to learn how much AAdvantage miles are worth on average, how to calculate how much the miles are worth for a flight and whether the AAdvantage program is worth joining.
Value of AAdvantage miles
It could be beneficial to join the AAdvantage program considering that the average value of a single AAdvantage mile is 1 cent (according to Bankrate’s point valuation system.) That’s nothing to scoff at because all rewards are meant to be worth an average of 1 cent.
American Airlines also holds its own compared to similarly sized competitors United Airlines and Delta. MileagePlus miles are worth an average of 1.1 cents, whereas Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.3 cents. The main reason these airlines boast higher averages is that certain award flights provide greater value.
Redeeming AAdvantage miles for flights
The key behind AAdvantage’s valuation is its flight awards. American Airlines joined many other U.S. airlines in eradicating award charts and adopting dynamic pricing. This essentially means that the cost of your flight, both in miles or cash, can fluctuate based on whether it’s peak season or off-season, the flight time and how far in advance you book your flight. Plus, if many other consumers are eyeing the same flight, the price increases as a result.
American Airlines currently has a chart on its website, dividing award travel by the fare class: Main Cabin, Premium Economy and Business or First, and the minimum number of AAdvantage miles you’d need to redeem a flight award at that level.
For example, a seat in the Main Cabin to a destination in the “contiguous 48 U.S. states + Canada” should start at 7,500 miles one way. In dollars, a flight award starts at $75 (based on the average value of 1 cent per mile), which is not a bad price. However, keep in mind that the chart only focuses on the minimum cost. When we searched for a flight from Los Angeles to Denver, however, the cost was 31,000 miles.
Thanks to dynamic pricing, it’s difficult to predict exactly how much your flight will cost, and there’s no telling when or if it’ll go up or down, as it’s dependent on a variety of conditions. The key to getting a good deal for your miles is staying flexible on times and destinations. Keeping your options open is the way to compete in this world of dynamic pricing, and hopefully, you can snag a cheap flight to your destination during the off-season.
How to value your AAdvantage miles
As noted, the value of AAdvantage miles varies widely. The value of your miles comes down to your preferences for redeeming them and the value of the item for which you redeem them. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when calculating your American Airlines miles’ value:
- Which redemption option do you prefer? The AAdvantage program offers many options for redeeming your miles, including flights, flight upgrades, other types of travel, access to an Admirals Club and luxury experiences. While the value of miles is high for flight awards and upgrades, most of the other options offer terrible value.
- What class do you prefer to fly in? Are you more of an economy flyer, or are you hoping to use your miles to boost yourself into first class? Our research indicates that your AAdvantage miles may be worth significantly more if you book a business or first-class ticket (and you can get a decent value on upgrades into first class, too).
- Where do you want to fly? We strongly suggest you know your intended destination before you start collecting points or miles. Not only does the number of required miles vary significantly by region on the AAdvantage award chart, but the value per mile varies by destination. Some destinations that are very expensive in cash don’t require as many miles. Also, it can be difficult to find award availability to some destinations. You should visit the AAdvantage booking site to view flight availability and the number of required miles around your preferred times and destinations.
- When do you want to fly? Do you want to fly at a peak time, or can you fly off-peak? You’re more likely to find a flight award for off-peak travel. Also, awards may include lower, off-peak pricing.
- How flexible are you? Flexibility is crucial to get the best value out of the AAdvantage program. If you can adjust your schedule to fly in the middle of the week rather than the weekend, or if you can push a trip off for a month or two when it’s off-season, then you’re more likely to snag a flight award.
- How far away is your flight? Booking flights at the last minute could actually swing either way for you with the AAdvantage program. More than likely, only the more expensive flight award tickets will be left, and you’ll get a poor value on your ticket.
Calculating the value of AAdvantage miles
Once you have a redemption option in mind, you can use a simple formula to calculate the value of your miles. Basically, you take the cash price of your intended redemption option (subtracting any taxes and fees that you have to pay) and divide it by the number of miles:
AAdvantage Miles Value = Reward Value (in dollars)/Number of Miles
The resulting value, multiplied by 100, is a rough estimate of how much each AAdvantage mile is worth when you redeem your rewards for that flight.
There are varying philosophies on valuing points and miles and a plethora of factors that can affect the value of a flight, such as the miles you lose out on earning by paying for a ticket with miles instead of cash, the lowest possible price you can get for a flight over time (which could vary by the minute and depends on how often you check the airline site), other promotions and discounts that you have to forego when you book an award ticket, the lowest possible price you could get by booking with a competing airline and so on.
However, for a basic comparison to other airline rewards programs, this rough estimate should do the trick.
How flexible are AAdvantage miles?
One major drawback to the AAdvantage program is its lack of flexibility. You will have to deal with many restrictions in routing and limited award inventory.
American Airlines offers a huge flight network, with an average of almost 6,700 flights per day to more than 350 destinations in more than 50 countries and 24 airline partners. You should be able to book an AAdvantage award ticket to most places you want to travel. Yet, the award ticket value is poor, even compared to other airlines’ flexible award tickets, such as Delta and Southwest. Plus, the routing rules for award tickets are very restrictive, and stopovers aren’t permitted. This makes booking a complicated itinerary difficult.
Further, flight awards can be a great deal, with redemptions starting as low as 7,500 miles each way. However, these awards are limited. You need to be flexible on your dates and times in booking awards tickets, and you may still have trouble finding awards space for popular destinations.
You can also use other redemption options, such as booking vacation packages or renting a car, but the value of your AAdvantage miles will be low in these cases.
Are American Airlines miles worth it?
The value of the AAdvantage program largely boils down to your level of flexibility. If you can work with a wide range of dates and times to book your flights with rewards, the AAdvantage program can be well worth your while. However, if you are restricted to traveling during peak dates and times, you will find that AAdvantage awards will give you a poor return on your spending.
If you need more flexibility in flight scheduling, you should look for an airline rewards program that provides more leeway, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards. Or you might check out a travel rewards program, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, where you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for any available flight on any airline through its travel portal.