American has been consistently lowering the price that they will sell miles for.
After the merger with US Airways they took the Dividend Miles approach of putting miles on sale three fourths of the year. The only purpose that ‘regular price’ serves is to be a reference point that allows them to announce a huge (always on) sale.
When American moved to the US Airways model they first hovered a little over 2 cents a mile, then the price point fell to 2 and then below 2 cents. Each promotion would vary a bit but the trend has been downward.
For Black Friday they’re offering miles at 1.77 cents each through November 27th. You might even call that ‘regular price’ which is still more than what miles are worth.
Here’s the bonus table:
Maxing out the bonus you buy 270,000 miles for $4787 or 1.77 cents per mile.
Of course the deal gets better if you claim the federal excise tax back demonstrating that the miles were used for something other than domestic air travel. (And you really shouldn’t use the miles for domestic air travel anyway.)
At 1.77 cents I can’t recommend buying unless it is for a specific award where the paid ticket you would otherwise buy is more expensive and you can find the availability and put space on hold before purchasing.
- With more frequent premium cabin sales than in the past it isn’t even always cheaper to buy miles than just to buy the ticket.
- American will offer a similar sale in the future.
- Awards cost more than they used to.
- Availability on American Airlines flights is incredibly poor although they promise it will get better by the end of the year and indeed anecdotally it’s gotten marginally better of the last few weeks (but not better enough to not be awful).
On average across all customers American sells miles for about 1.3 cents apiece. They make good money doing so — they’ve historically accrued liability for transportation of 1/7th to half a cent per mile although this figure should go up January 1 with new accounting standards in place.
All that said it’s better to buy miles at a lower price than a higher price so if you’re likely to need to do it anyway, great to know that there’s a bonus for it.