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In the past few years, American Airlines has made a dizzying array of changes to its AAdvantage program. With new rules on how to earn and burn miles, it can be hard to know how much miles are worth now.
The short answer is this: NerdWallet values American miles at 1 cent 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 cent or more in value from your American miles.
Use our calculator below to figure out how much your miles are worth based on this value.
What does this value mean?
We estimate that each American mile is worth 1 cent, as a "baseline" value, not a "maximized" value. You can use it as a point of reference when making your own bookings. If you’re getting more than 1 cent per mile for a given American redemption, you’re scoring above-average value.
How can you get more value? Start with the basics of redeeming AA miles, then look for sweet spots and other optimizations. Generally, you’ll get more value by flying in premium cabins, especially with partner airlines.
How flexible are American miles?
American miles can be used to book flights on American, of course, as well as dozens of partner airlines (through AA.com directly, not by transferring to partners). They can also be leveraged to upgrade seats.
Watch out for other redemption options, like renting cars or booking vacation packages. Yes, these technically add versatility to AA miles, but they rarely offer decent value.
How does the value of American miles compare with other airlines?
American offers average value compared with other airlines.
However, this value only tells only half the story. It also matters how many miles you earn from flying. Combining these rates provides a "rewards earning rate," which is the percentage of your airline spending you can expect to earn back in the form of rewards.
American’s revenue-based earning model means you earn fewer miles in general, dropping the program below many competitors in terms of overall value.
» Learn more: How much are your airline miles and hotel points worth?
How did we determine the value of American miles?
We collected hundreds of data points comparing the cash value with award (mile) value for the same routes and dates. That is, we compared the cost of a given ticket in either cash or miles, across many tickets.
This method differs from others in that it looks at actual redemptions rather than hypothetical, maximized redemptions. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a real-world indication of how much these miles are worth, on average. That said, it doesn’t take into account the upper range of potential values.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card