The Complete Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage

AAdvantage has a large flight network and lots of partners, but availability can be hard to come by.

Last Updated: 04/06/2020


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The biggest strength of the American Airlines AAdvantage program is in its flight network: it’s the world’s largest airline, and has more than a dozen partners that members can use points to book with. Otherwise, it’s a fairly average program, with highly limited availability and few options to get good value for your points.

What Is AAdvantage?

AAdvantage is the loyalty program for American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier by fleet size and number of passengers.

American has one of the oldest and biggest frequent-flyer programs, which has five member tiers. Elite status members—who qualify by traveling a certain number of miles or segments, or spending a certain amount of money—receive perks like seat upgrades, free checked bags, and complimentary flight changes, that increase as they move up the ladder from Basic to Executive Platinum.

AAdvantage also has the Million Miler program: When you reach 1 million miles (based on the distance of your AA flights or the base miles of a partner flight) you earn special benefits, including gold status. At 2 million miles, you get platinum status for the life of the program. 

Which Cards Earn AAdvantage Points

How to Earn American AAdvantage Miles 

American lets members earn points by flying, spending on co-branded credit cards, and through hundreds of other partners, including hotel, rental car, and cruise companies.

Flights: The number of miles you get for an American flight depends on the cost of the ticket and your elite status.

Here are the earning rates for each tier: 

  • AAdvantage Basic: 5 miles per $1 spent
  • Gold: 7 miles per $1 spent
  • Platinum: 8 miles per $1 spent
  • Platinum Pro: 9 miles per $1 spent
  • Executive Platinum: 11 miles per $1 spent

You can also earn miles with every carrier in the Oneworld network and any of AA’s nine partner airlines, including Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Cape Air. Just remember that you will be earning AA miles instead of points on that carrier. The number of miles you earn varies by airline and the type of ticket you book.

AAdvantage Credit Card: American’s Citi and Barclays credit cards earn AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent. Some cards offer additional perks, like 2X points on dining, groceries and gas; free checked bags, statement credits for inflight purchases, or free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Banking: Earn AAdvantage miles lieu of interest—1 mile per $1 saved—by opening a savings account with online-only Bask Bank.

Switch to Sprint: Change mobile carriers and rack up 25,000 miles in the first year of service.

Rental Cars: AAdvantage has partnerships with several rental companies, including Avis, Budget, Payless, Alamo, National, Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty. Avis and Budget are where you’ll likely get the most bang for your buck, offering a minimum of 500 AAdvantage miles for each rental.

Vacations and Cruises: Book a vacation package through American Airlines Vacations to earn 1,000 AAdvantage miles, and up to 30,000 additional miles when booking featured hotels. When booking a cruise through the American Airlines Cruise Portal, you’ll earn up to 6 miles per dollar, up to 60,000 AAdvantage miles.

Hotels: You may be able to convert some of your hotel partner points into AAdvantage miles. For example, 5,000 World of Hyatt points are worth 2,000 AAdvantage miles and 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points are worth 10,000 AAdvantage miles. Every 60,000 Marriott points transferred will even get you 5,000 AAdvantage bonus miles.  

Shopping: Click through to online retailers through the AAdvantage eShopping mall to earn points for every dollar spent. There are more than 950 stores in the network, and you can sometimes get bonus miles, free shipping, and coupon codes.

Dining: The AAdvantage Dining program is free and offers members 1-to 5 AAdvantage points for every dollar spent at a participating restaurant with a linked credit or debit card. 

How to Use AAdvantage Points

AAdvantage miles can be used for flights, upgrades, vacations, hotel stays, car rentals, or retail gift cards. As with most frequent flyer programs, you’ll generally get the most value for your miles by using them for flights and upgrades. AAdvantage’s redemption portal makes it pretty easy to browse the different options and use miles.

Here are all the ways you can use AAdvantage points:

  • Flights. Book on American or more than a dozen partner airlines. 
  • Upgrades. Move up in the world—or at least, in the cabin. 
  • Vacations. 1 point = 1 cent 
  • Hotel rooms and rental cars. 1 point = 0.6 cents 
  • Admirals Club Membership. 
  • Newspaper subscriptions. A good use of miles, but one that won’t use up many. 
  • Transfer to friends and family. It’s free. 
  • Donate to charity

Flights

The most straightforward use of AAdvantage miles is for free flights on American and its partner airlines. You can generally expect to get a decent 1.5 cents per mile in value—though because American uses dynamic pricing, the cost of a ticket in points can vary widely.

American also has three pricing buckets for award tickets:

  • MileSAAver Awards can be a great deal, with one-way flights starting at just 7,500 miles, plus taxes and fees. But they can be hard to find unless you’re flexible with your travel dates. 
  • AAnytime Awards let you use miles for a seat on American Airlines and partner flights without date restrictions. Prices are higher, starting at 20,000 miles each way (plus taxes and fees). 
  • Web Offer Awards are available only on aa.com and can require less miles than MileSAAver or AAnytime Awards. Mileage levels vary by date and flight, and you’ll see any available options when you go to book your flight. Changes are not allowed on these tickets and cancellations may incur fees.

You’ll generally find better value for your miles with international than domestic tickets, and for business- and first-class tickets than economy seats. Book as far in advance as you can for the most availability and best prices.

American has two online tools that can be handy when you’re booking flights with points. This tool shows you the flights that cost the fewest miles, and the Award Map lets you see where you can go with your current stash of miles.

Upgrades 

You can use your AAdvantage miles to upgrade your seat (or a companion’s seat) up one class on select American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia flights, with prices starting at 5,000 miles. One exception: Basic Economy fares, which can’t be upgraded.

You can upgrade when booking or call the airline afterwards to request the upgrade; if one isn’t available, American will put you on a waiting list.

Vacation Packages

Through the American Airlines Vacations portal, you can use points, cash, or a combination of the two to buy bundles of flights, hotel rooms and car rentals. But this is usually a poor use of your miles—many packages we looked at were more expensive than direct reservations. AAdvantage points have a flat value of 1 cent per mile, which is just OK. And the portal doesn’t show the points price on your package until checkout, which means you have to do unnecessary—if basic—math to know what your package will cost.  

Hotel Rooms and Rentals Cars 

AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for car rentals and hotel stays at 150,000+ properties in over 500 destinations across the globe, though American’s travel portal. You can even use a combination of cash and as few as 1,000 miles to pay. But this is a worse use of miles than vacation packages—each AAdvantage point is only worth 0.6 cents toward your booking 

Admirals Club Membership 

You pay for access to more than two dozen American Airlines’ airport lounges around the world and even more partner lounges in cash or in AAdvantage points. You’ll get a flat value of 1 cent per point. Annual membership starts at $550 or 55,000 points for Executive Platinum members and goes up to $1,250 or 125,000 for a household with entry-level AAdvantage membership. 

Newspaper Subscriptions

Though American only offers a few options—and they vary depending on where you live—using points for newspaper subscriptions can be an excellent deal. A 24-week subscription to the Financial Times retails for about $282 or 3,240 miles—nearly 9 cents a point.  

Transfer to Friends and Family

You can transfer up to 200,000 points to other AAdvantage members each calendar year. There is no fee for transferring miles.   

Charitable Donations

AAdvantage partners with several organizations that support social causes, community health, and heroes. Unlike with other frequent flyer programs, you can’t choose an individual charity, but give to one of three AAdvantage programs that support different kinds of nonprofits. There is a minimum donation of 1,000 points, and there are no associated tax breaks. 

The Bottom Line 

If you’re flexible with your dates and destinations, you can get good value from the AAdvantage program. But other members may have a hard time making it worthwhile.