When American Airlines ran a holiday promotion in conjunction with Mastercard on their joint venture SimplyMiles website, I went all-in. They offered sextuple miles on all offers, and the most lucrative was unlimited 40 miles per dollar donating to Conservation International – a charity Mastercard was raising money for.
That meant earning 240 miles per dollar, or buying miles at $0.0042 apiece. I did 7 million miles. That’s hardly ‘the most’ anyone went for. I know of several readers who did more than me. One reported earning 12 million miles with this promotion. I wonder if anyone went bigger than that?
Someone said in the comments to one of my posts that the 7 million miles I generated meant ‘a lifetime in business and first class’ but it really doesn’t. Current pricing for a business class roundtrip to the Maldives in Qatar Airways QSuites is 140,000 miles – 420,000 miles for a family of three. To be sure, we can do that 16 times. But award prices will rise, and we aren’t going to get that kind of value on all our redemptions.
I think back to Dave Phillips (‘The Pudding Guy‘) immortalized by Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love whose 1.2 million miles seemed like so many when I first got into miles and points, until I’d quickly amassed my first million across several programs. Now it just doesn’t seem like that many miles at all (indeed, I had more American AAdvantage miles than that before this promotion.)
So what does 7 million more American AAdvantage miles really mean? Here’s how I thought about what I wanted to get out of the promotion, and how I decided on the level to shoot for.
- I haven’t seen my family in Australia in two and a half years.
- These are tough awards to get, and historically I’d book trips based on premium cabin award availability and go through backflips to get the best deal possible
- But these 7 million miles mean the freedom to see my family on my own schedule
A saver business class award seat between the U.S. and Australia runs 80,000 miles. That can be tough to find on Qantas and even tougher to find on American Airlines.
But take a 195,000 mile ($819 with this promo) business class award on American which has much greater availability. That’s 390,000 miles roundtrip, or 1,170,000 miles roundtrip for a family of 3. Seven million miles lets me do this six times.
In all likelihood I won’t spend all the miles this way. I will still search for saver awards, and fly first class on the Qantas A380 whenever possible. I’ll use miles to fly places besides Australia.
But ‘half a dozen trips to visit family in Australia, whenever it makes sense for us to go (unconstrained by saver inventory)’ was my basic rubric.
This isn’t the most miles I’ve earned through a promotion. I generated more miles through the 2009 holiday shopping promotion, and miles were worth more then. But it’s my biggest score in over a decade. Part of me thinks going even bigger made sense but there were risks and hassles and I decided against giving myself actual sleepless nights until the promotion worked out. It’s only now that it has – in hindsight – that chasing even more miles is something I’d consider.