The Complete Guide to the American Airlines AAdvantage Program

Here's what you need to know about AAdvantage including earning, redeeming, partners, elite status and more.
Sally French
Elina Geller
Joe Cortez
Paul Soucy
By Paul Soucy,  Joe Cortez,  Elina Geller and  Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Founded in 1930, American Airlines is one of America’s three “legacy” carriers and one of the most visible brands in aviation. The airline’s loyalty program is called AAdvantage.

American is the dominant carrier at its home airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, and also operates hubs in Charlotte, Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (LaGuardia and JFK), Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington-National. Today, the airline operates an average of 6,800 flights every day, serving more than 350 destinations across 50 countries.

In this handy guide, we'll introduce all the different ways you could earn and redeem AAdvantage miles. We will also discuss elite status and AA’s Oneworld and independent airline partners.

American Airlines frequent flyer sign-up

Is AAdvantage free? Yes. But before you can start earning miles with American Airlines, you’ll need to sign up for an AAdvantage frequent flyer account. You can register here.

Rack up miles or enjoy lounge privileges with our favorite American Airlines cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best American Airlines credit cards and find the right card for you.

How much are American Airlines miles worth?

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values American Airlines miles at 1.7 cents apiece, which is the highest value among its competitors. (Yes, it surprised us, too.)

To determine the value of reward miles, we compared cash prices and reward redemptions for economy round-trip routes across several destinations and dates.

We divided the cost of the cash ticket by the cost of the reward ticket to determine a “cent per mile” value for each flight, then averaged this value across several flights and dates.

Value of American Airlines miles over time

The value of American Airlines miles has increased steadily over the last few years.

This is due in part to rising airfare costs, which drive the relative value of miles up, but also due to improvements in the overall value of the miles themselves.

American Airlines vs. competitors

American Airlines came in third place among overall airlines in NerdWallet’s most recent analysis of the best airlines.

Its rewards program, AAdvantage, also came in third place in a second analysis of the best airline loyalty programs.

Here's a closer look at how American competed across subcategories:

How to earn AAdvantage miles

The most obvious way to earn AAdvantage miles is by flying on American or with one of its partner airlines. But there are actually dozens of ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles, which include hotel stays, car rentals, vacations, cruises, dining, shopping portals, various promotions or simply by buying miles (though that last one is usually a bad idea).

Although they’re called “miles,” you earn them based on how much money you spend on tickets, not how far you fly.

Rack up miles or enjoy lounge privileges with our favorite American Airlines cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best American Airlines credit cards and find the right card for you.

In general, AAdvantage miles will expire if you go 18 months without earning or redeeming miles on American or one of its partner airlines. Members under age 21 are exempt from mileage expiration. Also, if you have an American Airlines-branded credit card, your miles will remain valid as long as you continue to use the card.

» Learn more: Do AA miles expire?

Earning AAdvantage miles when you fly

Earning on American: The number of miles you earn for a flight depends on how much you spend on the ticket (in base fare and carrier-imposed fees).

If you have AAdvantage elite status, you will earn additional bonus miles for your trip.

Status level

Miles earned

Status bonus

AAdvantage (basic)

5 miles per $1 spent.

None.

Gold

7 miles per $1 spent.

40% bonus compared with basic.

Platinum

8 miles per $1 spent.

60% bonus compared with basic.

Platinum Pro

9 miles per $1 spent.

80% bonus compared with basic.

Executive Platinum

11 miles per $1 spent.

120% bonus compared with basic.

Note: You earn miles only on airfare and airline fees. Government-imposed taxes and fees do not earn miles.

Earning on other airlines: American’s partner airlines in the Oneworld alliance distribute frequent flyer miles based on which class your tickets are booked in.

The cheapest economy tickets may earn only 25% to 50% of flown miles, while premium economy, business class and first class tickets can earn 100% base miles and a cabin bonus between 10% and 50%.

However, not all routes or flights may qualify. If you buy a flight on a booking code not listed as eligible for awards, you will not earn any award miles for your flight. Also, some routes or affiliate airlines may not earn miles.

To better understand how many miles you could earn with American’s Oneworld partners, visit the American website.

Earning AAdvantage miles with a credit card

American Airlines offers co-branded credit cards through both Citi and Barclays.

Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

NerdWallet's favorite credit card for the AAdvantage program is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. It gives you 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

You also get a great sign-up bonus to start: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

The annual fee is $99 — but the checked bag benefit on this card can make up for it rather quickly. The first checked bag is free for you and up to four others traveling on your reservation. You also get preferred boarding, so you can get on the plane relatively early and find space for your carry-on.

Earning AAdvantage miles through partners

  • Hotels: You can earn AAdvantage miles at most major hotel chains. In some cases, you earn 1 or 2 miles per dollar spent; in others, you earn a flat number of miles per stay. See partner hotels and earning rules.

  • Dining: Register a credit card with AAdvantage Dining, and every time you use that card at a participating restaurant, club or bar, you'll earn 1 to 5 miles per dollar spent. There are more than 11,000 participating locations.

  • Auto rentals: Several major car rental agencies, including Avis and Budget, offer an option to earn AAdvantage miles. See the rules here.

  • Fuel: Via a partnership with Shell's Fuel Rewards program, AAdvantage members earn 2 miles for every gallon of gas bought at Shell stations. Members also get 100 miles on their first fill-up after linking their AAdvantage account to Fuel Rewards.

  • Shopping: When you shop online through the AAdvantage eShopping mall, you earn miles for every dollar you spend at more than 950 retailers.

  • Vacations: When booking a flight and hotel through AA Vacations, you could earn extra miles.

  • Cruises: You could earn 3 miles per $1 (up to 30,000 AAdvantage miles) for booking a cruise through AA Cruises.

Buying AAdvantage miles

In most cases, we recommend you stay away from buying miles, as it's an expensive way to accrue them.

🤓Nerdy Tip

How much do AA miles cost? It depends on how many you buy. You have to buy at least 2,000 miles, and at that volume, the price is 3.76 cents per mile. If you buy at least 5,000 miles, you'll get a discount.

Even with any discounts, purchasing miles should be a last resort (e.g., only do this to top up your account for an award redemption or to keep miles from expiring).

How to redeem AAdvantage miles

Once you’ve got all those miles, you’ll want to redeem American Airlines miles for maximum value. AAdvantage mile redemption options include award flights, upgrades, car rentals, hotel stays, vacations, Admirals Club airport lounge access and much more.

AAdvantage miles are redeemable for flights through American Airlines and its partners in the Oneworld alliance. In most cases, you can redeem by booking through American’s website. Some airlines do not show up on AA.com, and in those cases you need to call American Airlines and ask to waive the phone booking fee.

Award flight redemptions

American Airlines now has a fully dynamic award chart, with pricing varied based on demand. Even so, American has published an "award chart" showing what you can expect to pay by region and fare class, but there are no guarantees:

Bad redemption options

Using your AAdvantage miles to book a hotel with points yields a low value.

In one search for a hotel in Miami, the value of using the miles for a hotel room was around 0.8 cent per mile, which is below our 1.7 cents valuation, only a little more than half the value of using the miles for domestic travel. A better bet would be to use hotel points or rewards earned from a cash-back credit card for hotel bookings.

American Airlines change, delay and cancellation policies

American has loosened its change and cancellation policies, making it easier for flyers to revise their flights.

Change fees

The airline no longer charges change fees for most fares (except basic economy) on domestic flights, short-haul international flights and many long-haul international flights. However, you may still be on the hook for any fare differences if your new flight is more expensive.

For nonrefundable airfares, you get an American Airlines flight credit for unused or canceled tickets.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you bought a basic economy fare, you will not be able to make changes to your itinerary.

For flights booked with miles, you’ll also be able to change or cancel your reservation without any fees.

AA flight delays

American offers actual refunds — no matter what type of fare you bought — on many flights delayed by more than four hours.

If your American Airlines flight is delayed, you can get your money back if you choose not to go through with the flight. If you wait it out, you might be able to get compensation for a hotel room if the new flight is the following day.

AA flight cancellations

If your American Airlines flight is canceled outright, American typically automatically books you on what it assumes is the next best available flight (though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for you).

Check the American Airlines app or call American Airlines reservations to make adjustments to the flight you actually want. And as is the case for delayed flights, you are entitled to a full refund for flights that are canceled if you opt not to take another on American Airlines.

American Airlines partners

American Airlines has dozens of partnerships with other airlines all around the world, opening opportunities to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles on non-American Airlines flights. Plus, if you hold American Airlines elite status, you can sometimes get similar elite status benefits on those partner airlines, too. 

Oneworld alliance members

American Airlines is a founding member of the Oneworld Alliance.

  • Alaska Airlines.

  • American Airlines.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Finnair.

  • Iberia.

  • Japan Airlines.

  • Malaysia Airlines.

  • Qantas.

  • Qatar Airways.

  • Royal Air Maroc.

  • Royal Jordanian.

  • Sri Lankan Airlines.

Other partner airlines

On airline partners outside the Oneworld alliance, your ability to earn or redeem miles is more limited. You may be able to earn miles but not redeem them, for example, or you may be able to redeem only for certain flights.

Other partner airlines include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui.

  • Cape Air.

  • China Southern Airlines.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Fiji Airways.

  • GOL Airlines.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • IndiGo.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Silver Airways.

Although you can redeem miles for most of these partners on AA.com, you will have to call the airline to book some awards. Awards not bookable online include:

  • Etihad Airways.

  • China Southern Airlines.

  • GOL Airlines.

The flight award chart for partner airlines tells you how you can earn flights on carriers other than American for no cost.

AAdvantage program elite status

Anyone can sign up for the AAdvantage program, but basic membership only comes with a frequent flyer number and an account where your points accumulate.

The real goodies come when you earn AAdvantage elite status, of which there are four levels.

AAdvantage elite levels and benefits

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Pro

Executive Platinum

Mileage bonus

40%.

60%.

80%.

120%.

Group 4.

Group 3.

Group 2.

Group 1.

Upgrade eligibility

Complimentary upgrades on certain American flights.

Complimentary upgrades on certain American flights.

Complimentary upgrades on certain American and Alaska Airlines flights.

Complimentary upgrades on certain American and Alaska Airlines flights.

When upgrades confirmed

24 hours before departure.

48 hours before departure.

72 hours before departure.

100 hours before departure.

Free Preferred seats or Main Cabin Extra seats on select flights at check-in.

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats on select flights at booking.

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats on select flights at booking.

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats on select flights at booking.

Free checked bags per flight

1.

2.

3.

3.

For many, the best perk of AAdvantage elite status is the opportunity to get an American Airlines upgrade. Sure, you can pay in cash or miles to upgrade your flight to business or first class.

But, once you earn elite status with American, you’re eligible to receive unlimited upgrades for domestic, Caribbean and Central American flights. With Executive Platinum status, you can even get upgraded on award tickets.

Oneworld partners may also offer some benefits to American elite status members.

How to earn elite status in AAdvantage

Say goodbye to elite qualifying dollars, elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying segments. American AAdvantage members now earn status by flying, using an AAdvantage credit card or spending with an American Airlines partner. There is now only one status metric — Loyalty Points — and the earning system is really simple.

Each eligible mile earned equals 1 Loyalty Point. There are three ways to earn Loyalty Points:

  • Traveling on American Airlines, Oneworld or any other partner airline.

  • Making purchases on American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards.

  • Shopping, dining and spending money with American’s partners, including AAdvantage eShopping, AAdvantage Dining, SimplyMiles and more.

How many Loyalty Points do you need to earn status with American Airlines?

Elite status level

Loyalty Points

Gold

40,000 points.

Platinum

75,000 points.

Platinum Pro

125,000 points.

Executive Platinum

200,000 points.

Since there are so many more ways to earn status (without even stepping foot on a plane), the number of points needed to reach the top status levels are high.

You may also be able to earn AAdvantage elite status through a status match, which is where American will grant you elite status if you show proof of your elite status with a different airline or hotel.

For example, Hyatt and American offer reciprocal status to their elite members.

Which American Airlines fare class should I choose?

There are more than a half-dozen fare types you can pick from when booking on American Airlines, each with their own benefits. The more expensive the fare class, the earlier you'll get to board. Depending on the seat you pick, you may also be able to avoid American Airlines baggage fees.

The American Airlines fare classes are (in order from swankiest to stingiest) are:

Credit cards that earn AAdvantage miles

American Airlines is unusual among U.S. airlines in that it has credit card agreements with two different issuers — a legacy of its merger with U.S. Airways. Cards that earn AAdvantage miles include:

American Airlines personal cards
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp<sup>&#8480;</sup> Card
American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Rates & Fees
Annual fee

$0.

$0 intro for the first year, then $99.

$595.

$99.

Welcome offer

Earn 15,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

For a limited time, earn 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $10,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Horizontal scroll

If you seek more flexibility in redeeming miles for award flights, consider applying for a more general travel credit card instead. A more general travel credit card differs from an airline card in that you can book flights with multiple carriers, rather than reaping the benefits of staying loyal to a single brand.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Only one American Airlines credit card, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, will get you Admirals Club access.

The more high-end (or 'premium') the travel credit card, the more benefits you can enjoy, including airport lounge access or automatic elite status in certain programs. That said, a brand-specific airline card can net you benefits like waived baggage fees, which can have meaningful dollar value.

Frequently asked questions

Deciding if a program is worth it depends on your home airport and where you’re looking to fly. American Airlines flies to 50 countries (150 through its Oneworld partners), providing ample opportunity for passengers to use its service. AAdvantage, which is the airline’s loyalty program, offers many opportunities for redeeming its miles for award flights. If American flies to your home airport and reaches the destinations you’d like to visit, it's a great airline to earn miles with.

To contact American Airlines by phone in the U.S., call 800-433-7300 or visit the website at aa.com. You can also reach American Airlines on Twitter at @americanair.

Award flights with American Airlines start at 7,500 AAdvantage miles for a one-way economy flight under 500 miles in the contiguous U.S. and Canada. Longer distance flights in the contiguous U.S. and Canada start at 12,500 miles.

Yes, it is free to join the American Airlines AAdvantage program. Head over to aa.com to register for an account. Doing so will allow you to earn AAdvantage miles when you fly on American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.

AAdvantage, recapped

We've covered all the basic details of the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

But if you still aren't sure whether a frequent flyer program is worth the effort, see our absolute beginner's guide to frequent flyer programs.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

100,000

For a limited time, earn 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $10,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
See more cards
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