Buy American Airlines Miles for 1.72 Cents. Good Deal?

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American Airlines is offering up to 100,000 bonus miles + a 10% discount when you purchase American Airlines miles through July 31, 2017. If you buy the largest amount possible, you can get them for as little as 1.72 cents each. That’s the cheapest I’ve ever seen American Airlines miles for sale (we also saw them on sale for 1.72 cents each this time last year).

Bonus miles are tiered based on how many miles you purchase. The best deal is to buy 150,000.

American Airlines miles cost 2.95 cents each plus a 7.5% excise tax, and every purchase has a $30 processing fee. The cheapest per-mile price comes from purchasing 150,000 American Airlines miles + 100,000 bonus miles (with a 10% discount) for $4,311.19.

That works out to getting 250,000 miles for roughly 1.72 cents each.

If you buy 126,000 + 70,000 bonus miles and 10% off, you pay about 1.85 cents each. If you buy 101,000 miles + 45,000 bonus miles and 10% off, you pay 1.99 cents each.

Math

The cheapest miles price is 1.72 cents each during this promotion, and that requires shelling out $4,311.19. I value American Airlines miles around 1.5 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 1.72 cents. The only way it could possibly make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you had an immediate high value use for them.

Possible high value uses are off peak international awards like 22,500 miles one way to Europe and partner Business Class awards like Japan Airlines Business Class to Japan or Korea for 60,000 miles.

To figure out if you have a high value use, use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes on the award
  • C: Miles used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.018, put your dream award on a free five day hold with American Airlines, then buy the miles.

Buy AAdvantage Miles with These Credit Cards

AAdvantage miles purchases are processed directly by American Airlines. That’s great news!

It means you can buy them with your Chase Sapphire Reserve, and its $300 Travel Credit will refund you $300 of the purchase price of the miles (plus you’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent.)

It means you can purchase American Airlines miles with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, then use your Arrival miles for an offsetting statement credit.

It also means you can purchase the miles with your American Express Platinum Card to earn 5x Membership Rewards per dollar spent.

Read the best credit card to buy airfare to learn more.

Bottom Line

You can buy 250,000 American Airlines for $4,311.19 or 1.72 cents each through July 31, 2017. That’s too high a price to buy speculatively, but it could be a good deal if you have a high value use for the miles. Use the equation above to help you figure that out.

This is the best American Airlines miles sale we’ve ever seen, tied with this time last year.

The American Airlines miles sales are processed by American Airlines itself, so you can get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the American Express Platinum which offers 5x on purchases from airlines, get travel statement credits if you charge the miles to a premium card like the Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige, or you can use your Arrival Plus to get American Airlines miles for zero cash.

Hat tip One Mile at a Time


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.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The premium and non premium cabin space is so scanty right now, or requires such convoluted itineraries, (and I literally am open to flying almost anywhere) that AA miles are worthless. No point in buying (or accruing) miles that cannot be used. The last few bookings I have made have been using AMEX MR or Chase UR, as I get much better value. The 500k AA miles we have have been impossible to use for any worthwhile bookings. Thank you, Doug Parker.

  2. Two words: POOR AVAILABILITY.
    If you can’t actually use American Airlines miles, then all your fancy quantitative number crunching is irrelevant.

  3. @escot, the number crunching isn’t irrelevant, because for some of us the main use is international partner flights. But your main point is valid – bad availability is killing the value of the program. I now have to buy a paid flight to get to a gateway city since AA no longer makes award seats available domestically. So, for example, if I consider the miles worth 1.5 -2.0 cents toward a Qatar redemption to Africa, I need to deflate that by calculating in the cost of the paid connecting ticket to DFW. So I figure I’m now getting about 1.0-1.2 cents per mile on AAdvantage, a long way from what it would take to get me interested in a 1.72 cents per miles purchase.

    The major question is when the traveling public will realize their pursuit of AA miles is getting more meaningless all the time; some evidence of which is present in the AA offer to sell them at lower prices than in the past. I would clarify Scott’s claim that this is the “best” price we’ve seen – it’s just the “lowest” price, reflecting a lesser product on offer. If I’m offered a new Lexus for $25,000 or a new Yugo for $20,000, which is the “best” price?

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