How to Earn American AAdvantage Miles by Saving Money, Not Spending

Meghan CoyleMay 6, 2020

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Earning miles is usually based on spending, whether it’s buying plane tickets or making purchases with a travel credit card. But with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, you might be a little wary of spending a lot right now. After all, that stimulus check might not go as far as you think.

But American Airlines has a few opportunities for you to earn AAdvantage miles while you save money through their partners’ savings or checking accounts. By the time it’s safe to travel again, you may have earned some extra miles for your next award flight and saved some money for the vacation itself.

Here’s what you need to know about the ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles while saving.

Open a saving account with Bask Bank

American Airlines teamed up with Bask Bank in January to offer AAdvantage members a new way to earn miles. When you open a savings account with Bask Bank, you’ll earn miles instead of interest.

The earnings are simple: Members will earn 1 AAdvantage mile for every dollar deposited in their account per year. For example, if you’ve got $10,000, you’ll earn 10,000 miles per year. Miles are deposited straight into your AAdvantage account monthly, so if you only make an initial deposit of $10,000, you’ll earn about 833 miles per month.

Just like opening an airline credit card, there’s even a sign-up bonus offer when you open a Bask Bank savings account. At the time of writing, the current offer is an extra 5,000 miles if you hold a balance of $5,000 for 30 days within 60 days of opening your account.

This isn’t a particularly high-volume way to earn miles, but it’s worth considering for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a passive way to earn miles. Take a page out of the Investing 101 book. One popular piece of advice (particularly for beginners) is to “set it and forget it.” This is exactly what you’re doing with a Bask Bank savings account. If you have money that you want to set aside, you can leave it in this account and earn miles while you sleep.

  2. Interest rates are low right now. Could you be doing something else with the money you’re saving during social distancing measures? Maybe. But if it’s sitting in a regular savings account, it’s probably not doing you much good there either. The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to help the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, and the current national interest rate for savings account is 0.07%, according to the Federal Deposit Interest Corporation. That means for $10,000, you’ll earn about $7 in interest this year in a regular savings account. On the other hand, if you open a Bask Bank savings account with the same amount, you’ll earn 15,000 miles this year (including the sign-up bonus). According to NerdWallet’s valuations, American miles are valued at 1 cent apiece, so that’s $150 of travel.

  3. Your money is safe. You may not have heard of Bask Bank before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not safe to keep your money there. It’s an all-digital bank owned by the parent company of Texas Capital Bank, which has been around for more than 20 years. It’s a member of the FDIC, so your money is insured up to $250,000. There are no fees, and you can open an account and deposit money whenever you want.

Open a Citi Priority Checking account

Certain American Airlines cardholders also have another option for earning miles with a bank account. Citi is the card issuer of the American Airlines-branded credit cards, and the bank targets some cardholders for bonus miles when they open a Citi checking account. Offers range from 5,000 to 60,000 miles and usually require meeting a minimum spend in debit card purchases and making at least one qualifying bill payment for two consecutive months.

To check if you are eligible for this offer, log into your Citi account and navigate to the “Offers For You” page under the “Rewards & Benefits” tab on the menu.

My offer looked like this:

The eye-popping bonuses of 50,000 and 60,000 miles may require a hefty investment on your part. For example, the Citi Priority account has a monthly service fee of $30 if you do not maintain a combined average monthly balance of at least $50,000 in eligible linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts. You’ll want to consider a different Citi checking account to avoid the fees if you do not have the account balance minimum.

The bottom line

American Airlines has some unique opportunities to earn miles by saving, instead of spending. Especially when you might be trying to decrease your expenses during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, you can still earn miles for future travel and these banking offers might work for you.

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