Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 1 — 10 Ways to Use American Airlines Miles

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I’ve written a lot about redeeming American Airlines miles–a little bit here and a little bit there–but never one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about the miles. Now is the time to write that guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles. You can earn these miles to redeem on the current chart with the current rules, which are in effect until March 21, 2016. On March 21, 2016, you can book travel through February 16, 2017 that is “locked in” at current prices and will not be affected by the subsequent devaluation. Starting March 22, American Airlines will have a new worse award chart.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 106,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

10 Ways to Use American Airlines Miles

American Airlines miles are amazing for both ultra-luxury redemptions and super-cheap economy redemptions, something I can’t say about any other miles.

On the luxury side, American partners with airlines with some of the nicest First Class products in the world and has the cheapest First Class award chart of US-based airlines.

On the economy side, American has very generous off peak award windows when you can book economy awards for up to a 1/3 off their normal price.

I’ll give five examples of each type of award to get you excited to learn more about redeeming American Airlines miles.

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 100,000 miles redeemed per calendar year.

Five Ways to Use AA Miles for Ultra-Luxury

1. Cathay Pacific First Class for 67,500 (60,750) miles

You can book Cathay Pacific First Class for 67,500 (60,750) American Airlines miles between the United States and Southeast Asia.

Cathay Pacific First Class is a throne…

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that turns into a large and comfortable bed.

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It comes with some of the best food, fanciest wines and liquors, and most attentive service in the sky.

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And best of all, award space is widely available from the United States to Hong Kong and from there to the rest of Asia.

2. Etihad First Class for 40,000 (36,000) miles

Etihad First Class costs only 40,000 (36,000) American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives. From the United States to those destinations is 90,000 (81,000) miles.

Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed.

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Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky.

Award space is widely available on the A380 between London and Abu Dhabi and Sydney and Abu Dhabi. Award space is also widely available between the United States and the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent on Etihad’s other planes including the 787.

3. Qantas First Class for 40,000 (36,000) miles

Qantas First Class costs only 40,000 (36,000) American Airlines miles between London and Dubai. From the United States to Australia, the cost is only 72,500 (65,250) miles on flights of over 14 hours!

Qantas First Class features an open suite that converts into a bed…

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…or a table for two.

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Qantas First Class is widely available between London and Dubai, Dubai and Sydney, and London and Sydney for low mileage prices. It is not widely available between the United States and Australia, but there is some availability if you can plan your trip one year in advance.

4. Malaysia Airlines First Class for 70,000 (63,000) miles

Malaysia Airlines First Class on its A380 costs 70,000 (63,000) miles between Kuala Lumpur and Paris or London.

Malaysia Airlines is a very large and comfortable seat that converts into an extremely long and wide bed.

The all-you-can-eat satay cart was the best food I’ve ever had in the sky.

And the attentive service–that included kneeling down to seat level for interactions–was way better than you’d ever get from a US-based airline.

Malaysia Airlines First Class is widely available between Kuala Lumpur and Europe.

5. British Airways First Class for 50,000 (45,000) miles

British Airways First Class on the A380 from London to South Africa is only 50,000 (45,000) miles. Between the United States and Europe, the price is only 62,500 (56,250) miles. The A380 flies to Los Angeles and Washington-Dulles.

British Airways First Class is a partially enclosed seat that turns into a fully flat bed.

There are fuel surcharges when you use American Airlines miles to book British Airways–the only fuel surcharges for any bookings in this post (more on these later in the series)–but if the schedule is convenient, they may be worth paying.

British Airways First Class is moderately available between the United States and Europe and between London and the rest of the world.

Five Ways to Use AA Miles for Super-Cheap Economy

6. 20,000 (18,000) miles to Europe from October to May

From October 15 to May 15 each year, an economy award to Europe costs only 20,000 (18,000) miles. That covers most of the year including beautiful times like early May and late October when crowds will be smaller, prices will be lower, and the weather is still great.

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Catacombs Beneath Paris — 2013

The price applies to all American Airlines partners including airberlin, Finnair, US Airways, Iberia, and British Airways.

7. 15,000 (13,500) miles to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia most of the year

From January 16 to June 14 and September 7 to November 14 each year, an economy award to Central America and Northern South America costs only 15,000 (13,500) miles. This is a cheap way to take trips to Machu Picchu, Galapagos, beautiful beaches, and interesting countries.

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Metro Cable Cars above Medellin, Colombia — 2014

The price applies only to American Airlines flights.

8. 12,500 (11,250) miles to the Caribbean from September to November

From September 7 to November 14 each year, an economy award to the Caribbean or Mexico costs only 12,500 (11,250) miles. American has an extensive route network in the Caribbean and Mexico, so there are a ton of options, and amazingly the award costs the same as an award within the continental United States.

The price applies only to American Airlines flights.

9. 20,000 (18,000) miles to Brazil and Argentina most of the year

From March 1 to May 31 and August 16 to November 30, an economy award to Southern South America costs only 20,000 (18,000) miles. American and partners TAM and LAN have extensive route networks that stretch from the Amazon rainforest to Patagonia to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires and everywhere in between.

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Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brazil — 2013

This price apples to all American Airlines partners including LAN and TAM.

10. 25,000 (22,500) miles to Japan and Korea from October to April

From October 1 to April 30, an economy award to Japan and Korea costs only 25,000 (22,500) miles. American and partner Japan Airlines serves dozens of destinations throughout the two countries.

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Photo from South Korea of North Korean Soldiers Taking a Photo — 2014

This prices applies to all American Airlines partners including Japan Airlines.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has the cheapest award chart of US-based airlines. Its miles can be used equally well for ultra-luxury and for super-cheap economy awards.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles because the personal American Airlines credit card and business American Airlines credit card are both offering 50,000 bonus miles.

Stay tuned for the rest of the series covering where to search American Airlines awards, the rules of American Airlines awards, where to book American Airlines awards, and your best options to each region of the world plus lots of tips and tricks.


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.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Hi there, I’m new to travel hacking. Is the US Airways card the only one that does not require minimum spending? I’m nervous about spending 3-4K in 3 months, as required for the other offers, if I understand you correctly.
    Also, I noticed that you mentioned that it’s not easy to book first class travel from the US to Australia unless booking a year in advance. Would it be easier to book a trip to London (where you wrote that 1st class flights are more plentiful), then separately book the award flights out of London? Thank you for your patience as I figure this out!

  2. I know OZ to the Middle East is 60K American, and Middle East to Europe is 40K American. OZ to Europe is 80K American, but I can only stopover for less than 24 hours, as far I can figure out? Is this correct?

    • For the 80k fare, you cannot even transit the Middle East EXCEPT as part of a “direct” Qantas flights. For instance if you flew Etihad from LHR-AUH-SYD, you would pay 100k in First (40k + 60k) whether you stopped for one hour or one week in Abu Dhabi. The reason will be explained in a future post.

  3. Thank you for the “Super Cheap Economy” portion of the article, I would love more attention to economy travel tips. Thank!

  4. Cant wait to see the other 10 posts. I have 800k AA miles (and a lot of other misc miles) and a family of 4. They are burning a hole in my pocket, i just cant pick the right itinerary.

  5. How do you find out what locations in Europe fall under the this MileSaver point spend (20,000 (18,000) miles to Europe from October to May)? Do you just call and ask an agent? Or is there somewhere on their site that tells you?

  6. I am planning a surprise trip for my husband’s 60th birthday to Peru. I have American miles and Chase Ultimate Reward miles. What the best way to travel to Peru in business or first class? Thanks!

    • With whichever program there is space. Your miles can be used on all the airlines that fly there. You may want to hire my award booking service if you don’t know where to search every airline that flies there –> milevalue.com/award-booking-service

  7. how did you book the CAthay 1st class to SE Asia from the US using AA miles – Cathay says the cant book it and American doesnt know anything about it

  8. Just checked the Etihad Site, showing 2 guest first seats available SYD – CDG 30/3

    However when I called AA Australian number was advised not available, is this correct.

    • Were the SYD-CDG legs both on Etihad operated flights? Other airlines show up on etihad.com that are not bookable with AA miles.

  9. […] American Airlines miles can be used for American Airlines and oneworld flights according to the American Airlines award chart. Award space is not available on all flights, so miles are not great for people without flexibility. Business and First Class awards often cost less than double an economy award, so miles are fantastic for people who want to fly premium cabins. Check out this series on redeeming American Airlines miles. […]

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