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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: American AAdvantage miles have a value of 1.2 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of main cabin 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.
What does this value mean?
NerdWallet compared real-world prices to determine that each American mile is worth about 1.2 cents. You can use it as a point of reference when making your own bookings. If you’re getting more than 1.2 cents 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 American miles, then look for sweet spots and other optimizations. Generally, you’ll get more value by flying in premium cabins, especially with partner airlines (see “value when booking business class” below).
How do American miles compare to other airlines?
American miles have a slightly above-average value compared to other airlines.
What is the value of American miles when booking business class?
For our baseline value, we only compared main cabin fares. Yet you can usually get more value from American miles when booking business class.
Main cabin value (cents)
Business class value (cents)
Keep in mind that this value is relative. Business class award fares offer more value, in part because these cash tickets are so expensive.
The value you can get from first class fares will be even higher due to the same logic.
When is the best time to use American miles?
Digging one level deeper, we can look at how the value of miles varies when used in different time frames and in different cabins (main cabin versus business). We compared three booking time frames:
15 days before departure.
180 days before departure (six months).
Peak winter holiday travel (Dec. 22-29).
American AAdvantage mile value, broken down by booking time frame and cabin
Interestingly, American miles have a higher typical value when booking business class tickets at the last minute, but a lower value when booking main cabin fares this way. Though, it's possible that much of this difference may be due to the higher cash price of booking business class travel at the last minute.
How to convert American miles to dollars
Use this calculator to determine how much any number of American AAdvantage miles is worth, based on our valuation. This is useful for comparing the value of an award ticket to the cost of a cash ticket.
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 your American miles, but they rarely offer decent value.
» Learn more: The complete guide to American Airlines partners
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 under typical circumstances.
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