American Miles on Sale for Just 1.8 Cents Apiece

In mid-November American offered a purchase miles bonus through November 30 that they extended through January 4 which allowed you to buy miles at 2 cents apiece.

They’ve now added a new bonus level which drops the price even further.

Buy American Miles for 1.8 Cents Apiece

They’ll award you with a 76.7% bonus — 115,000 bonus miles — when you buy 150,000 miles. That translates to price of 1.8 cents per mile, which is lower than the ~ 1.9 cents a mile that US Airways had been selling miles at 12-24 months ago.

Here’s the updated bonus chart:

The key to the offer is maxing out the promotion to get the ~ 77% bonus rather than a 60% bonus.

Of course nearly $5000 worth of miles is a ton to buy, even at less than two cents apiece, unless you’re confident of using them right away and certainly before the March 22 devaluation.

Fortunately American lets you put awards on hold for 5 days under most circumstances. So you can secure awards, then buy the miles, then go back to ticket.

Not Your Only Shot at Discounted Miles Purchase

American AAdvantage regularly now runs purchase miles bonuses, and the price is often only about 2.1 cents. (Here was their offer from May, from July, and from October.)

Less than 2 cents a mile is a good deal on American AAdvantage miles as far as it goes, most mileage sales that AAdvantage offer ~ 2.1 cents a mile at best. US Airways stopped selling miles at 1.88 cents apiece last fall. This is even slightly cheaper — American has been much more aggressive selling miles than they were pre-merger.

Purchases Count as Airline Spend

One change since the merger is that unlike US Airways, American processes these transactions themselves. As a result purchases count as bonusable spend for credit cards that give extra miles for airline purchases. (US Airways sold miles via Points.com, who processed the transactions.)

I’m Not Buying

This is not a price at which I’m a buyer of miles. On average I value American miles at 1.7 cents. I may revise that downward a bit with the changes coming to American’s award chart March 22.

Of course the miles are worth more than that if they put you over the top for a specific award. And they’re worth more if you redeem them for something you’d be willing to pay full or close to full price for otherwise.

Incremental American miles are worth less than that to me because I have a large 7 figure balance of AAdvantage miles already. More miles are worth less at the margin because I won’t likely use any that I add to my account any time in the near future, let alone by the March 22 changes that affect me the most since I tend to redeem for international first class awards.

You Can Get Real Value Though

Secure your award space before buying miles.

Business class between the US and Southeast Asia is still just 110,000 miles roundtrip. Business class between the US and Europe is just 100,000 miles roundtrip (with fuel surcharges if you fly British Airways, so focus on Iberia or airberlin availability). It can make sense to buy miles for an award that’s currently available (although substantial advance purchase business class to Europe during off peak times can be less than $2000 paid).


    Cathay Pacific first class is still 67,500 miles one-way between the US and South Asia


    Etihad First Apartment is 90,000 miles one-way US to Middle East (or beyond to the Indian Subcontinent) until March 22

This isn’t something everyone should jump on. But some people will find it a worthwhile bonus.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Thinking of getting the CITI AAdvantage MC (bonus 50K) – buy 150K miles with card. 150K + 50K (CC) + 115K bonus on miles + 10K for CC on travel miles = 325K miles for $4,800 = 1.47 cents per mile. What do you think of this idea?

  2. Gary — just found your blog/website — excellent stuff! I’m thinking about the 150k plus 115k for $4787. I have a Citi Aadvantage credit card so that would add another 9,500 in miles and would make it work out to about 1.74 cents per mile. I don’t have immediate need for the miles, but have a family of 5 so when we do travel, we use chunks. This would put me a bit over 7 figures in miles (low 7 figures). Our award travel tends more to be more economy rather than business class/first. Thoughts on whether this makes sense? Thanks!

  3. @CBo I wouldn’t bank on finding 5 saver awards, and if redeeming for economy are probably going to do close to as well buying a ticket with cash IMHO

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