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.

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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 6,700 flights every day, serving 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

Before you can start earning miles with American Airlines, you’ll need to sign up for an AAdvantage frequent flyer account. It’s free to join, and you can register here.

How much American Airlines miles are worth

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values American Airlines miles at 1.2 cents apiece, which is exactly average when compared to its competitors.

After staying steady in value for the last several years, American is one of the few airlines whose miles value increased in 2022.

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.

American Airlines vs. competitors: How it stacks in 2022

American Airlines came in second place (tied with Hawaiian Airlines) in our most recent analysis on the best airline loyalty programs.

Here's a closer look at how AAdvantage competed across categories:

How to earn AAdvantage miles

You earn AAdvantage miles when you fly on American or with one of its partner airlines, and through hotel stays, car rentals, vacations, cruises, dining, shopping portals, various promotions or simply by buying miles (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.

In general, AAdvantage miles will expire if you go 18 months without earning or redeeming miles on American or one of its partner airlines. However, as of July 1, 2020, 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.

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.

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 making $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: Most major car rental agencies 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.

Miles generally cost 2.95 cents each, although American regularly offers sales that work out to a better value. However, 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

You can redeem AAdvantage miles for 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.

3 types of award flight redemptions

American Airlines has a region-based award chart and offers three kinds of award redemptions: MileSAAver (including off-peak), AAnytime and Web Specials.

  • MileSAAver award seats are bookable for as little as 7,500 miles on certain one-way trips in North America. MileSAAver awards may be available in all classes, but the price you'll pay for business or first class award seats is often more expensive than economy seats. Given the low price of MileSAAver seats, there may be only a limited number of them available on a given flight. AA also offers off-peak MileSAAver awards to Hawaii and international destinations based on dates the airline considers to be in a low season for travel. The discount for off-peak awards ranges from 8% to 33%, offering considerable mile savings.

  • AAnytime award seats are available for almost any flight, but they’re significantly more expensive. A flight that costs 7,500 miles for a MileSAAver seat can cost as much as 40,000 miles for an AAnytime seat. Booking these awards is generally not advisable given the poor cent-per-mile value.

  • Web Specials are extremely discounted awards (as low as 5,000 miles) to certain destinations. The miles price varies by region and date, and the award tickets have some restrictions. American Airlines doesn’t publish its Web Specials on any specific landing page, but a quick search will tell you whether the route you want falls under the discounted rate.

Good redemption options

Generally speaking, the best redemptions are in business and first-class cabins. Why? Because the cash cost increase from an economy ticket to a business or first-class ticket is less than the cost increase in miles from an economy ticket to a business or first-class ticket.

For example, a round-trip award from the continental U.S. to Europe costs 60,000 miles in economy or 115,000 miles in business class.

Economy award

That same ticket in cash costs $1,072.

After deducting the cost of taxes, you arrive at a 1.6 cents-per-mile redemption, which is above our 1.2 cents-per-mile valuation.

Business class award

Let’s consider a redemption in business class to show the difference in value due to the high cost of the flight. This flight from New York to Paris costs $3,855 in business class.

In miles, that same flight costs 123,500 and $150.67 in taxes.

This redemption results in a value of 3 cents per mile, which is nearly triple our 1.2 cents-per-mile valuation.

Although the award price increased 106% from 60,000 miles in economy to 123,500 miles in business class, the net cost in dollars increased from $984 to $3,704 (276%). This disproportionate miles-to-money increase explains why a premium cabin award often gives a much higher redemption value.

However, this is merely an illustration — we’re not saying a lower-value redemption isn’t useful. Everyone has different travel preferences and destination goals, and some people may not care at all about a premium cabin experience. Remember that miles should be used for travel rather than hoarded for the best imaginable redemption. As long as you feel like you’re getting a good value, that’s all that really matters.

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 1.2 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.

For example, a two-night stay at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa is $963.

If you were to book this using AA miles, it would cost 125,400 AA miles.

This redemption would result in a valuation of only 0.8 cent per mile.

American Airlines change and cancellation policies

American has loosened its change and cancellation policies, making it easier for flyers to revise their flights. The airline no longer charges change fees for domestic flights, short-haul international flights and many long-haul international flights, but you may still be on the hook for any fare differences if your new flight is more expensive. If you bought basic economy, 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.

American Airlines partners

In general, you can earn AAdvantage miles on flights with Oneworld partners and redeem your miles for flights on Oneworld airlines.

Oneworld alliance members

Oneworld partner airlines are:

  • Alaska Airlines.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Finnair.

  • Iberia.

  • Japan Airlines.

  • Malaysia Airlines.

  • Qantas.

  • Qatar Airways.

  • Royal Air Maroc.

  • Royal Jordanian Airlines.

  • S7 Airlines.

  • SriLankan Airlines.

Other partner airlines

On airlines 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.

  • JetBlue.

  • 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.

AAdvantage elite levels and benefits

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Pro

Executive Platinum

Mileage bonus

40%.

60%.

80%.

120%.

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.

Priority seating perks

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

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats on select flights.

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats on select flights.

Free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats on select flights.

Free checked bags per flight

1.

2.

3.

3.

Elite status with American will provide reciprocal status and benefits when flying with JetBlue via the Northeast Alliance partnership.

How to earn elite status in AAdvantage

Say goodbye to elite qualifying dollars, elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying segments. Starting in 2022, American Airlines completely revamped how passengers earn status. You can 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

30,000 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.

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:

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations.

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent at restaurants.

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99.

  • 2 miles on every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 2 miles on every $1 spent on telecommunications services, car rental merchants and gas stations.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

  • Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99.

  • 2 miles on every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

  • Annual fee: $450 — not waived in the first year.

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

  • Annual fee: $0.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

  • Annual fee: $99.

AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent at eligible office supply, telecom and car rental merchants.

  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

  • Annual bonus of 5% of your earned miles.

  • Annual fee: $95.

Frequently asked questions
Is American Airlines AAdvantage worth it?

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.

How do I contact American Airlines AAdvantage?

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.

How many miles do you need to get a free flight on American Airlines?

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.

Is the AAdvantage program free?

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.

Final thoughts on the AAdvantage program

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.

The information related to CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.


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