Now That Your Miles Are Worth Less, American Will Sell You Plenty More for 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.

Then they dropped the price even further to 1.8 cents. The promo pricing went back to 2 cents for February. Now they’ve returned to 1.8 cents.

American AAdvantage has certainly brought over the US Airways approach to selling miles into the merged airline. US Airways ran a sale pretty much every month, and their price point towards the end was a consistent 1.88 cents per mile.

Of course 1.8 cents was a better deal three months ago, before the devaluation.

These People are Very Happy: their Old Mileage Balances are Worth Less, But Now They Can Buy More!

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.

Here’s the bonus chart:

The key to the offer is maxing out the promotion to get the ~ 77% 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.

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.

This is hardly your only shot at buying miles at a ‘discount’, this seems to be the new normal, offering miles for sale between 1.8 and 2.2 cents apiece more often than not.

This is not a price at which I’m a buyer of miles. 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.

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, who processed the transactions.)

You Can Get Real Value Though

Secure your award space before buying miles.

Business class between the US and Europe is still just 115,000 miles roundtrip. Focus on Iberia or airberlin availability to avoid fuel surcharges, or American’s own flights on 787s, 777-300ERs, and reconfigured 777-200s for the best experience. 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).

American Boeing 787 Business Class

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, 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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  1. Not many people do the “marginal analysis” in the case of a large preexisting mileage balance.

    But the same approach would apply for acquiring and valuing ANY new miles, including miles earned with a credit card, i.e., in deciding which credit card to use.

    I’m in the same boat as you. Too many miles. New ones just aren’t worth much to me anymore.

  2. Do you know the historic low price point for AA or US miles? Is it 1.8 cents, 1.5, or something else?

  3. @Erik AA hasn’t done less than 1.8 on direct sales. US went to 1.88 for the most part before they stopped selling miles. Used to be more like 1.4 though back in the day.

  4. In terms of value – I got into the “mileage game” Just 3 months ago. I was looking for a RT fare to Australia, which I’ve typically paid between $1800 – $2000 in economy (as I usually travel during a peak period when discounts aren’t available.

    While searching for a fare, I happened to check how many FF miles it would take (I had about 10k) for an aspirational trip (it’s been a bucket list item to fly First class to Australia for a long time). I had no idea you could actually just buy miles for cash, but on this day, I noticed that AA was having a sale, and I calculated that at about $1500 RT more than I usually pay for an economy ticket, I could get a ticket in first class for one leg and business for the return flight.

    Bucket list item checked off. Yes, I paid for my miles, and probably paid more for a ticket than many people do, but it was valuable to me. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am giddy as a school girl, even though the flight is still 5 months out.

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