The Cheapest I’ve Seen American Sell Miles

American will let you buy miles with up to a 60% bonus though April 30.

Here’s the offer:

Buying 100,000 miles gets you 160,000 for $3201.25 or 2 cents per mile.

On average I value American miles at 1.7 cents. So I’m not really a buyer at 2 cents apiece.

However, miles are worth more or less based on:

  • how you redeem them (premium cabin awards can be worth more, especially if you’d pay a premium in cash for those)
  • when you’re going to redeem there (immediate redemptions entail less devaluation risk)
  • how many you already have (miles that put you over the top for an award are worth a lot more than your first miles, or when you have millions)

Two cents is cheaper than I’ve seen American sell miles. In fairness, by only a little bit — their mileage prices have come down since the US Airways merger. US Airways used to be known as the ‘consolidator of premium cabin Star Alliance award space’ prior to the merger. They would sell you miles cheap that you could use to book the excess inventory that their partners offered up as awards.

US Airways in recent times had upped their price to nearly 1.9 cents, and recent American sales have been as low as 2.07 cents. So there’s a clear convergence.

American sells the miles themselves, rather than through, so they should be well-positioned to offer miles inexpensively without Points taking a cut. As a result I do expect miles sales in the space just about 2 cents to be the new normal there. (Processing miles directly also means you earn credit card bonuses for the miles purchases as though it was airfare.)

If you need miles to top off towards a specific award you plan to redeem in the near-term, this is a good sale. If you are buying miles straight off for Etihad first class awards or Cathay Pacific first class awards, this can be a good deal — you can even put award space on hold for 5 days without miles in your account and then buy the miles.

But I wouldn’t buy them just to buy.

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. So if you use the new Aviator Silver card (3x miles) you would bring the cost down to about 1.89 cents/mile. It is more along the lines of 1.92 if you use the Citi AAdvantage card or Aviator Red.

  2. Would most cards’ airline fee credits would cover this? If so, seems like a pretty easy way to convert a $200 fee credit into 9,500 AA miles.

  3. @curious — Citi Prestige will, but not most others (many are processed through a third party, rather than the airlines themselves).

  4. @Ryan — Right. But Gary’s post noted: “American sells the miles themselves, rather than through…” So I would think that other cards (AXP?) might also see this as reimbursement-eligible.

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