7 Simple Ways to Start Earning Miles With American Airlines

June CasagrandeDec 23, 2019
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American is the largest airline in the world, with 204 million passengers boarding its flights last year alone. American flies a lot of places, meaning its frequent flyer currency, AAdvantage miles, can get you almost anywhere you want to go. But earning enough AAdvantage miles can be a challenge, especially if you're just starting out.

To help, here are seven easy ways to earn AAdvantage miles as quickly as possible if you're new to the program.

1. Fly American

Every time you travel on American Airlines, you can earn miles for your trip. But unlike other programs that pay miles based on the distance flown, American will give you miles based on how much you paid for your ticket.

Regular members get 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. Members who’ve earned elite status get more. Gold AAdvantage members earn 7 miles per dollar spent — a 40% boost. Platinum members earn 8, Platinum Pro earn 9 and Executive Platinum members earn 11 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent.

2. Fly one of American’s partner airlines

American has partnerships with more than 20 airlines. That means you can earn and redeem American miles with British Airways, Cathay Pacific and a dozen more members of the Oneworld alliance, plus Alaska Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui, Hawaiian and a half dozen others not part of the Oneworld alliance.

The formulas that determine how many AA miles you can earn on partner airlines can be complicated, depending on variables like what cabin you book and the fare code for your ticket. Check AA’s website to see how much you can earn on a partner airline flight. And be sure to enter your American Airlines AAdvantage member number when you book a ticket with a partner airline.

How much are those miles worth? NerdWallet values American miles at 1.2 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.2 cents or more in value from your American miles.

3. Use an American Airlines-branded credit card to pay for your flight

There’s an easy way to accelerate how many miles you earn when you purchase an American Airlines flight: use an American Airlines co-branded credit card. On top of the 5 miles per dollar you’ll earn as a regular AAdvantage member, you’ll get an additional 2 miles per dollar just for using the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card or a number of other AA-branded credit cards.

For a regular AAdvantage member, that’s 40% more miles than you’d get compared with paying for your flight with a debit card or another card that doesn’t offer American Airlines miles. Better yet, most American Airlines credit cards will award you with a big chunk of miles — usually in the tens of thousands — if you meet a spending minimum if the first few months after opening the account. For example, here are some welcome bonuses that are currently available:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full within the first 90 days.

4. Use an American Airlines-branded credit card to pay for … everything

Co-branded credit cards don’t reward you only for using the card to buy travel. They also award you AAdvantage miles for most purchases, usually at a rate of 1 mile for every dollar spent. If you use the card for groceries, gas, department stores, drug stores or any other types of purchases you make, you’re automatically earning miles toward award travel.

5. Get two American Airlines-branded credit cards

You can’t do this with all airlines, but American-branded cards are issued by not one but two banks: Citi and Barclays. That makes it easy to earn two sign-up bonuses. For example, you could apply for an AAdvantage card issued by Citi, earn a big pile of sign-up miles, then apply for an AAdvantage card issued by Barclays and earn more.

This strategy doesn’t work for everyone, in part because you’ll be committing to not one but two annual credit card fees and two minimum spending requirements. But as part of a carefully planned miles-earning strategy that includes paying off the cards every month to avoid interest charges, two American Airlines cards could be just the ticket to your next trip.

6. Book a hotel, car, cruise or vacation

American has partnerships with travel providers like Marriott, allowing you to earn AAdvantage miles in your sleep. The steps you must take to earn miles can vary from partner to partner, but it’s often as simple as selecting “miles” as your earning preference on the hotel website when you reserve a room, and then selecting American AAdvantage as your preferred program.

7. Surf to AAdvantage eShopping before you surf to your favorite store website

If you do any shopping online, you could be earning bonus miles through AAdvantage eShopping — a “virtual mall” you pass through to get to your favorite online retailer. It works like this: Sign up for a free eShopping account using your AAdvantage number, log in to eShopping, then surf to a participating store’s website.

AAdvantage eShopping will deposit a cookie in your browser that ensures you'll earn AAdvantage miles when you make a purchase. (Make sure your browser isn’t in private or incognito mode.) Hundreds of stores participate, including plenty of big names like Apple, Nike, Macy’s, Sam’s Club, Fandango, Banana Republic, Dell and Blue Apron. There’s no cost and no downside, just an easy way to earn bonus miles buying things you planned to buy anyway.

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and 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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