Best ways to redeem AAdvantage miles

You can fly a long way with AAdvantage miles, if you have the flexibility to use MileSAAver awards

Using AAdvantage miles

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Airline rewards programs tend to come in two flavors: fully-loaded programs for value hunters who delight in discovering values in airline redemption charts, and lightweight programs for consumers who prefer their airline miles to be simple and flexible.

The American Airlines AAdvantage belongs to the former category: It is an intricate miles-based program with a complicated rewards chart and many rules and restrictions. As a plus, you can get a much higher than average value on your miles. On the downside, you’re going to have to do some digging to uncover those values.

As you can see from the chart below, you have a lot of options for redeeming AAdvantage miles, with flight awards and flight upgrades, for the most part, providing the best value. In the following guide, we’ll give you an overview of all your redemption options with AAdvantage miles.

AAdvantage redemption options


Mile Value (cents)
Flights
1.9
Flight upgrades
1.9
Car rentals
0.5
Hotels
0.5
Vacation packages
0.6
Admirals Club membership
0.7
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
2.5
Gift cards
0.4
LifeLock identity theft protection
2.4
Charity donation
1.9

Using AAdvantage miles for flights

For the best return on your AAdvantage miles, you’re better off redeeming your miles for flights. American Airlines divides its flight awards into two categories – AAnytime and MileSAAver awards. As you can see from the chart below, MileSAAver awards are the way to go with AAdvantage miles:

 

Value (cents)

Business/First AAnytime

2.1

Business/First MileSAAver

3.8

Economy AAnytime

1.0

Economy MileSAAver

2.1

Flight upgrades

1.9

MileSAAver awards

If you’re flexible and have the patience and time to scour the AAdvantage site for available flights, you can really stretch your miles with MileSAAver awards. According to the current American Airlines flight award chart, MileSAAver redemptions require as few as 7,500 miles each way for flights within the contiguous United states. The price goes up from there – as high as 110,000 miles – depending on your destination and whether you’re flying peak or off peak and economy or business/first class.

You can find some especially great values with off peak awards and also with business and first class awards. MileSAAver awards are subject to capacity controls, so, unfortunately, these deals can take some legwork to locate. However, the alternative to MileSAAver awards – AAnytime awards – are twice as expensive. Basically, if you want to get a good value on your AAdvantage miles, prepare yourself for some hassle in finding MileSAAver deals. 

AAnytime awards

AAnytime awards offer you all the flexibility that you can’t get with MileSAAver awards. There are no capacity controls on AAnytimes awards – if a seat is available on a flight, you should be able to book it as an AAnytime award. Unfortunately, AAnytime awards are expensive. They’re worth about half the value of MileSAAver awards and have an especially poor value in the economy range. Economy MileSAAver awards are worth only 1 cent per mile on average.

Frankly, if you prefer more flexibility in your airline redemptions, you’re better off with a program such as Southwest Rapid Rewards or Delta SkyMiles, which offer flexible fares for a much better value. 

Reduced price mileage awards

Reduced price mileage awards offer a sweet discount on awards tickets to certain destinations if you own a qualifying AAdvantage credit card. Depending on the card that you own and distance of the flight, you can get between 1,000 to 7,500 miles off the price of your ticket. To book a reduced price mileage award, you need to check the AAdvantage site for the list of current destinations, locate the award code and then call American Airlines reservations line to book the ticket directly. 

Flight upgrades

You can get a good value on your AAdvantage miles by using them to upgrade to a higher class of fare after you purchase a ticket. The rules for upgrades are complicated – you can only upgrade from certain classes of fares, and you’ll have to pay an additional fee for upgrading from some discounted fares depending on the origin and destination (in addition to paying the difference in taxes and fees). Furthermore, though you can also use your miles for upgrades on Iberia and British Airways, you’ll have to navigate a separate awards chart to do so. (Learn more about upgrades on American Airlines here.) 

The value in upgrades can vary drastically, so you’ll need to do the math before you use miles for an upgrade. However, on average, you’ll get 1.9 cents per mile of value per upgrade – equal to the redemption value of airfare. 

Other redemption options with AAdvantage

If you’re not satisfied with flight options on AAdvantage, you have a few other redemption options with AAdvantage. Unfortunately, as you’ll see from our list below, the value of most of these options is poor: 

Hotels

As with flights, you can use the AAdvantage website to find and book hotels in any location, using AAdvantage miles to foot the bill, save taxes and fees. Unfortunately, this option gives you a very poor value for your miles, averaging only 0.5 cent per mile. 

Car rentals

You can use AAdvantage miles to rent a car from a variety of car rental agencies, such as Budget, Avis and Alamo. This is a poor use of miles, averaging only 0.5 cent per mile. 

Vacation packages

Through AAdvantage vacations, you can book an all-inclusive package, including flight, car rental and hotel, for a special rate. You can’t book the entire package with miles, but you can use miles to shave some cash off the final price. The value of miles with this option is poor – only 0.6 cent per point on average. However, AAdvantage does allow you to redeem as few as 1,000 miles for a vacation package, so it could be a good option if you have a small number of miles to burn. 

Admirals Club membership

You can use your miles to purchase an Admirals Club membership – for you or your household – to gain access to American Airlines and its partners’ lounges worldwide. The price starts at 75,000 miles ranging all the way up to 135,000 for a household membership and the value is poor, worth only 0.7 cent per mile on average. 

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions

You can use AAdvantage miles to purchase subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, such as People and Entertainment Weekly. If you want to use up a small number of miles to subscribe to your favorite magazine, this actually isn’t a bad value – when we compare the number of miles to the typical cost of a subscription, subscriptions average around 2.4 cents per AAdvantage mile. 

Gift cards

You can redeem miles for gift cards for retailers such as Home Depot, Macy’s and Target. Unfortunately, this a very poor use of miles, worth only 0.4 cent per mile on average. 

LifeLock identity theft protection

You can redeem 2,500 AAdvantage miles to get six months of free LifeLock identity theft service, plus 10 percent off your next year of membership. If you’re inclined to purchase LifeLock’s monitoring service, this is a good value – amounting to 2.4 cents per mile on average. (Though, you should consider whether identity theft protection is worth it before you make the purchase.) 

Charity donations

You can donate your AAdvantage miles to a worthy cause, such as cancer research, military veterans or children in need. This is another great way to spend miles if you have a small number of miles that you want to use up. However, if you have a large collection of miles, you may want to keep them and make a cash donation instead, since donated miles are not tax-deductible.

Bottom line

You have many ways to go with your AAdvantage miles, but most of those options outside of MileSAAver awards give you a poor return on your miles. MileSAAver awards can be extremely valuable, but are often distinctly absent from the American Airlines calendar during peak travel times. If you want to redeem your AAdvantage miles for a good value, get ready to check a wide range of dates and times.

See Related: What are American Airlines miles worth?, Which American Airlines credit card is best for you?, Best ways to earn AAdvantage miles, American Airlines partners, American Airlines elite status, Admirals Club membership, Booking a flight with AAdvantage miles

 


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Updated: 11-14-2018