Buying American miles with up to a 50% bonus: Is it worth considering?

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest promotion.

American Airlines frequently offers bonuses and discounts when purchasing AAdvantage miles, giving you a chance to top up on miles for amazing redemptions like tickets in Etihad and Cathay Pacific first-class seats. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the carrier is back with another one of these promotions.

AA has launched a new offer allowing you to purchase miles with up to a 50% or 75,000-mile bonus through Dec. 14, 2020. This brings the cost down to as low as 2.33 cents per mile.

There are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of buying miles during this promotion, though. This isn’t the lowest price we’ve ever seen for American miles, and there is some risk in buying miles with American (or any other airline) right now.

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In This Post

Should you buy AA miles now?

There’s a risk with buying miles now as it may not be safe to travel in the immediate future — many countries have closed their borders, several states have mandatory quarantine orders and, according to the CDC,  “travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.”

We only recommend buying miles for a specific redemption. So, it’s likely only a good idea to take advantage of this promotion if you’re planning a trip for sometime in 2021 and have already found bookable award space. Even then, there’s no guarantee that it will be safe to travel by that time, though thankfully American recently eliminated change and cancellation fees on award tickets.

Related: I’m confident in the future of points and miles — here’s why you should be, too

Buying AA for as low as 2.33 cents per mile

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at American’s latest buy-miles promotion. Like most promotions we’ve seen from the carrier, you’ll get a set percentage of bonus miles based on how many miles you purchase. And it appears that this isn’t targeted.

Here’s a look at the deal:

  • Buy 10,000-19,000 miles and get a 5% bonus
  • Buy 20,000-29,000 miles and get a 10% bonus
  • Buy 30,000-39,000 miles and get a 15% bonus
  • Buy 40,000-49,000 miles and get a 20% bonus
  • Buy 50,000-59,000 miles and get a 25% bonus
  • Buy 60,000-69,000 miles and get a 30% bonus
  • Buy 70,000-79,000 miles and get a 35% bonus
  • Buy 80,000-89,000 miles and get a 40% bonus
  • Buy 90,000-99,000 miles and get a 45% bonus
  • Buy 100,000-150,000 miles and get a 50% bonus

You’ll get the lowest cost-per-point by purchasing 100,000 to 150,000 miles, which drops your purchase price to 2.33 cents apiece. This is a fairly high rate for American miles. For instance, in September they were available for 1.82 cents apiece, in July they were available for 1.76 cents apiece and in April they were available for 1.6 cents apiece.

This promotion is available through Dec. 14, 2020. Also, note that accounts under 30 days old are not eligible to purchase miles. Finally, you can only purchase 150,000 miles in a calendar year — so if you’ve already purchased AA miles this year, you may be capped at a lower bonus amount.

Related: All of the buy points and miles promotions worth considering

Who should buy miles?

As noted above, we’re in the middle of the global coronavirus outbreak, so we don’t recommend buying miles to travel immediately. Instead, only purchase miles if it makes sense for trips you’re planning to take after the virus is contained. This will keep you safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Fortunately, American recently updated the terms and conditions to eliminate change and mileage redeposit fees on all AAdvantage awards. This means that everyone can cancel an award right until departure for free. This applies to all destinations, partner airlines and award types, including Web Special redemptions.

Additionally, there are plenty of ways to earn American Airlines miles aside from buying them, the fastest being through credit card sign-up bonuses. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. If you’re after bonus miles as well as Admirals Club access when traveling on American, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. These cards also unlock potential bonuses with the SimplyMiles site.

The information for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

If you’ve already opened the above cards and aren’t yet eligible for a new bonus, purchasing miles isn’t always foolish. Just be sure you have a particular post-coronavirus redemption in mind, and double-check that you’ll receive greater value for your miles than the price you’re paying for them.

Maximizing AA miles

You’ll typically get the most value per mile by leveraging American Airlines reduced mileage awards, Economy Web Specials and expensive business- or first-class flights. For example, you can book a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Doha (DOH) in Qatar’s Qsuite for just 70,000 American miles.

This ticket often costs roughly $5,000 so if each mile costs 2.33 cents, you’ve effectively paid $1,631 for this flight. However, keep in mind you won’t earn redeemable or status-qualifying miles with award flights.

Here are a few more examples of the prices you’d effectively be paying for award flights when buying miles at 2.33 cents apiece through this promotion:

  • Domestic economy Web Special awards starting at $117 each way
  • Domestic first-class Web Special awards starting at $350 each way
  • American Airlines business class to Europe for $1,340 each way
  • Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for $1,398 each way
  • Qatar business class to Africa for $1,631 each way

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

How to buy AA miles

The regular price for buying miles from American can be as high as 4 cents per mile, so this sale represents a decent saving. TPG’s valuations peg American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each — 0.93 cents lower than this sale price. However, if your travel goals are similar to the flight examples listed above, you may very well save money with this promo.

If you’re interested in purchasing miles at this rate, head over to American Airlines’ Buy Miles page and sign in using your AAdvantage credentials. Then, enter the number of miles you’d like to purchase and follow the on-screen prompts to pay. The miles should be available in your account instantly but may take up to eight hours to process.

Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Which credit card should you use?

When you buy miles via the American Airlines portal, your transaction is coded as airfare. This means you’ll receive bonus points by using many of the top travel rewards credit cards, such as:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Terms apply.
  • American Express® Gold Card: 3 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com. Terms apply.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, including airfare
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel, including airfare

This will also apply to the above American Airlines co-branded cards, so you could earn 2x AAdvantage miles on these eligible purchases as well.

Related: The best cards for airfare purchases

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh, Joseph Hostetler, Jasmin Baron, Victoria Walker, Nick Ewen and JT Genter.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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