5 Ways to Stretch American Airlines Miles with Super Cheap Economy Awards

85
13096

I am updating and re-posting this series on redeeming American Airlines miles in light of the fact that right now it’s super easy to earn 146,000 American Airlines miles.

For a limited time, the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard are both offering 50k bonus miles for spending $3,000 on each card within three months of opening it. The new Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is offering 40k bonus American Airlines miles after just one purchase and paying the annual fee of $95. You can sign up for all three in the same nine day period (you can be approved for no more than one Citi card in an eight day period) and earn at least 146k American Airlines miles within three months after meeting the bonus requirements. 

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

American Airlines miles are currently one of the most valuable airline miles for economy awards because of off peak awards. During some months of the year, your favorite destination can cost up to a 1/4 fewer miles to travel to. For example, a roundtrip in economy to Europe from the US during January 10 – March 14 or November 1 – December 14 costs:

  • 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • 60,000 Delta miles
  • 60,000 United miles

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Deals

I’ll give the miles price of a one way award because American Airlines allows one way bookings (we’ll cover that later), and I’ll give the price after a 10% rebate in parentheses. That’s because the American Airlines personal card offers 10% of the miles back on all American Airlines redemptions up to 10,000 miles redeemed per calendar year.

1. 22,500 (20,250) miles to Europe from January – March, and November – Mid December

From January 10 – March 14 as well as November 1 – December 14 each year, a one way economy award to Europe costs only 22,500 miles. Take a thanksgiving trip to Europe this year, award space for two travelers is wide open.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-6-19-56-pm

While those are periods when the weather is colder, crowds will be smaller, prices will be lower, and the weather can still be pleasant.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 1.27.29 PM
Catacombs Beneath Paris — 2013

The price applies to all American Airlines partners including airberlin, Finnair, Iberia, and British Airways. You will want to avoid transatlantic flights on British Airways for their fuel surcharges, but all other partners and British Airways intra-Europe flights are low or no fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 1.57.02 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 1.54.14 PM

  • After earning the sign-up bonuses on both Citi AAdvantage cards + the AAdvantage Barclaycard, you’d have enough miles for six one ways to Europe at off peak prices.

2. 12,500 (11,250) miles to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America from April 27 – May 20, September 7 – November 14

From April 27 – May 20 and September 7 to November 14 each year, a one way economy award to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America costs only 12,500 miles. American has an extensive route network in these places, so there are a ton of options, and amazingly the award costs the same as an award within the continental United States.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.41.50 PM

The price applies only to American Airlines flights. There is award space for two travelers every day during the Spring low peak dates between Chicago to Bermuda.
screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-6-15-21-pmScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 6.39.28 PM

  • After earning the sign-up bonuses on both Citi AAdvantage cards + the AAdvantage Barclaycard you’d have enough miles for 12 one ways to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America at off peak prices.

3. 32,500 (29,250) miles to China and Hong Kong for most of the year

For a large portion of the year, a one way economy award to China or Hong Kong costs only 32,500 miles.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-2.33.18-PM
Great Wall of China 2014

The off peak dates for China and Hong Kong are:

  • To China/Hong Kong: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – September 30, October 11 – November 30
  • From China/Hong Kong: February 1 – May 31, September 1 – 19, October 2 – December 31

This prices applies only to American Airlines flights– if you fly a partner like Japan or Malaysia Airlines you will pay the normal award price of 35,000 miles. There is award space available almost every day Los Angeles > Hong Kong from mid March through mid April 2017.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-6-25-10-pm

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.00.22 PM

  • After earning the sign-up bonuses on both Citi AAdvantage cards + the AAdvantage Barclaycard you’d have enough miles for four one ways to China or Hong Kong at off peak prices.

4. 17,500 (15,750) miles to Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Manaus, Brazil from January – June, and September – November

From January 16 to June 14 and September 7 to November 14 each year, a one way economy award to Northern South America costs only 17,500 miles. This is a cheap way to take trips near Machu Picchu, Galapagos, or start off your trip through the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 1.30.58 PM
Metro Cable Cars above Medellin, Colombia — 2014

The 17,500 mile one way price applies only to American Airlines flights. If you include partners in South America like LATAM to get to Galapagos or Machu Picchu, you will have to pay 20,000 miles one way.

  • After earning the sign-up bonuses on both Citi AAdvantage cards + the AAdvantage Barclaycard you’d have enough miles for eight one ways to Northern South America at off peak prices.

5. 7,500 miles (6,750) to anywhere in the Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada that is (≤ 500 miles) away

While this award doesn’t fit the off peak category I’ve been discussing thus far (it maintains this price all year round, yay!) it is definitely worth mentioning since it is one of the positive changes that came with the American Airlines devaluation.

The three conditions to maintain the 7,500 mile price tag are:

  1. Distance must be less than or equal to 500 miles.
  2. Must be non-stop.
  3. Economy cabin only.

Delta and United also differentiate between short-distance versus long-distance domestic awards. For example, a flight between Raleigh, NC and New York City (426 miles approximately) would cost:

  • 7,500 American Airlines miles
  • 7,500 Delta miles
  • 10,000 United miles

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 5.15.07 PM

  • After earning the sign-up bonuses on both the Citi AAdvantage cards + the AAdvantage Barclaycard you’d have enough miles for eighteen domestic flights ≤ 500 miles in distance.

Bottom Line

For a limited time, the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard is offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard is offering the same bonus. The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is offering 40k bonus American Airlines miles after just one purchase and paying the annual fee of $95.

By meeting the $6,000 total spending requirement + putting one purchase on the Barclaycard and paying its $95 annual fee, you’ll earn at least 146,000 American Airlines miles. If you decide to open all three cards, open the Barclaycard first, then either Citi card, and then wait eight days to apply for the second Citi card. For example, on day 1 you apply for the Barclaycard and then immediately following, the personal Citi card. On day 9 you apply for the CitiBusiness card.

You can stretch those miles for up to six international roundtrip awards by taking advantage of American Airlines’ amazing off peak awards to Europe, Asia, Central America, Northern South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

85 COMMENTS

    • Of MileValue posts? I don’t control the list. You do, with the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email.

  1. I cannot get the AA.com site to give me the 20K Economy Milesaver for MIA to EZE. The best I get is 55K Economy Anytime. I am looking at all dates in September and October. I have chosen AA + AAdvantage Participating Airlines in the flight search.
    What are you doing right, that I am not?

    • Right now EZE is just a nearly impossible destination with AA miles on AA flights. I think it has to do with AA selling those tickets to Argentines because of the currency crisis.

      If you want to get to Buenos Aires for the 20k rate, you’ll need to piece it together segment by segment: try MIA-GRU on aa.com and then add that to GRU-EZE on ba.com. Note dates, cabins, flight numbers and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. Feed the agent what you found and ask for the phone fee to be waived since you can’t book online.

      • Wow… thank you, Scott. I have a bazillion AA miles but can rarely find Economy MileSaver flights for where I need to go (like Africa and Argentina). Your detailed guides on how to use AA miles are wonderful

        (though I still can’t figure out how to view whether or not a flight is “AA miles purchasable” on the B.A. website without signing up for BA Executive Club, which seems to convert all my future B.A. flights into Avios earning, rather than AA Miles earning flights.)

        • Sign up for a free account on ba.com to do award searches for airlines that don’t show up on aa.com like LAN. That doesn’t convert anything. Whenever you buy a ticket, you input which frequent flyer program to credit the miles to.

  2. Aloha, what is your advice on flying (round trip) from Honolulu with ultimate destination India? We are willing to fly to Bangkok or Singapore to break up the trip or can fly straight through. We want to fly business or business first as one of the two passengers needs a lie flat seat due to back/leg issues. We can stay up to 3 months in India so would it be better to buy two one way tickets or 1 round trip? We have lots of American and also United miles. Any advice you can give us would be so greatly appreciated. Although we have lots of miles, it seems difficult to use them! Mahalo and if you ever get to Hawaii, please email me and come for a visit. We would love to meet you!

    • Use United miles. Search united.com. Book whichever (o/w or r/t) you prefer.

      Using AA miles would be terrible because AA requires routing EAST to India, even from Hawaii, which would be quite a long journey.

  3. I’m trying to get to Paraguay this coming summer, preferably on an award ticket. Given that OneWorld typically has the best availability for South American flights, I have focused on American miles and British Airways Avios. However, when I have tried to search for flights on both the American site and the British Airways site, both say that they do not offer flights to Asuncion. I have tried both revenue and award tickets, choosing different airports (SCL-operated by TAM, EZE, MIA, etc) and looking at potential availability throughout the year, but to no avail. Do you have any insight as to what the problem might be with these sites not showing flights at all, let alone availability? If I called these respective airlines’ would you think that they could ticket an award booking without much trouble? Thank you so much for your help, I appreciate reading about South American destination redemptions!

  4. Hi there, I love this post! This is definitely helpful as it’s more my travel ‘style’. Cheap and in economy + more trips.

    I’m not too well-versed with AA miles, but I have about 100k. I really want to use them for off-peak to either Chile or Argentina and somehow use them to get down to either country’s Patagonia region. Where do you recommend searching for LAN and TAM to get to Patagonia… the airport codes don’t seem to show up on BA.com 🙁 ???

    So, theoretically, on off-peak for AA, a one-way from DFW – PUQ would be 20k?

    Thank you!

  5. Thanks Scott. For the life of me, I can’t get any airport in Patagonia (PUQ, USH, FTE) to show up on either BA.com or Qantas. I’m assuming I’ll just have to call AA. I can see EZE and SCL though!

  6. […] Since the American Airlines/US Airways merger switched us from Star Alliance to oneworld I was suddenly left unfamiliar with the strategies needed to be successful within the new alliance now holding our miles. I decided to turn to the web by googling ‘American Airlines reward strategies’ or something similar, and found MileValue and the world of travel hacking! Specifically, I found Scott’s in-process compendium on redeeming American Airlines miles. […]

  7. You might want to update this post, As of March 2016 no more off peak awards from Hawaii to Europe.
    I used to get them for 22,500, now minimum is 40,000

  8. Great post! Just what I was looking for. You usually mention flights from New York to Europe or any other place. Will the miles to redeem remain the same if I start my journey from Seattle, WA or Portland, OR? For example if I fly from Portland, OR to Orlando, FL, will I redeem the same number of miles if I do it from Los Angeles to Orlando?

LEAVE A REPLY