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American Airlines is one of the three legacy U.S. carriers (along with Delta and United), and is the only one out of the three to still publish a region-based award chart. That makes it among the easiest to know exactly how many miles you'll need to book the flight you want.
American Airline’s frequent flyer program is called American Airlines AAdvantage, and it allows you to use miles in a plethora of ways. That said, not all redemptions are created equal. While flights tend to be an excellent way to spend points, American also lets you spend your points on stuff, like handbags and gift cards. This tends to be a bad redemption. Here are the four most straightforward ways to spend AAdvantage miles — and advice on which ones to go for versus which ones to skip.
» Learn more: The complete guide to American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines miles redemptions
1. Redeem miles for American flights
One of the simplest ways to redeem your AAdvantage miles is on flights operated by American. The airline offer three types of award seats:
MileSAAver awards are discounted award seats that can be bought for as few as 7,500 miles. They are available only on some routes, which change periodically. They may be available in all classes, but these seats can be difficult to find as many flights don't offer them — and when they do, they sell quickly.
AAnytime awards are available on nearly all flights but come at a higher cost (sometimes several multiples more than a MileSAAver seat).
Web Special awards are offered on certain routes and dates for as low as 5,000 miles. There is no official list of available awards, but when you are searching for a flight, you will see the reduced mileage level when booking your trip. These award tickets don't allow any changes.
Notably, the airline still uses an award chart. In recent years, we've seen other domestic airlines get rid of these. For now, American's charts still offer some pretty good value. You can look closer at the American Airlines award chart here.
Domestic flights offer a decent value for most American Airlines award options — especially if you can catch a MileSAAver seat. Flights under 500 miles can be redeemed for as little as 7,500 miles in economy and 15,000 miles in business/first class.
International flights are an even better value in most cases. You can get a round-trip economy ticket to Europe for as little as 22,500 in off-peak economy seats. Or if you want to travel more comfortably, you can get a first class ticket to Asia for as little as 80,000 miles.
What makes a redemption "worth it?” Well, NerdWallet values American miles at 1.2 cents each. Use that as a baseline for understanding your redemption options and whether your flight is better purchased on cash versus points.
» Learn more: Should you book that flight with cash or points?
2. Redeem American Airlines miles on partners
Americans miles can be redeemed not only on its own flights, but also on flights with Oneworld and other partner airlines, including JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines. Because of these partnerships, you can book some valuable awards whether you're flying domestically or internationally, economy or first class.
In general, redeeming your American miles for a flight on a partner airline will cost you the same amount of miles as redeeming them for a flight on the carrier itself. However, you need to pay close attention to the fees and surcharges each individual airline imposes. For example, British Airways is notorious for adding on high surcharges, which are passed on to flyers who use American Airlines to book British Airways flights.
Even with these fees, there are some great redemption options available through American Airlines' extensive partner list.
However, not all partner award flights are available through aa.com — for some, you'll have to call a booking agent. Here’s the breakdown:
Redeem miles on AA.com
Air Tahiti Nui
China Southern Airlines
Beyond its Oneworld and other partners, you can also use AAdvantage miles to book JetBlue flights due to the airlines' Northeast Alliance partnership.
American’s partnerships can be especially valuable since these airlines offer some of the best premium flying experiences. Etihad, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and others are all known for stellar first class service. Luckily, there are several sweet spots on American's award charts that offer several ways to get the most out of your AAdvantage miles.
3. Upgrade your seats
Another option for using your AAdvantage miles is to upgrade your seats on flights operated by American Airlines, American Eagle, British Airways or Iberia. The number of miles you'll use depends on where you're traveling and which cabin you're upgrading from/to. It can range from 5,000 to 25,000 miles, with additional fees from $0-$550.
While this usually isn't the best value for your miles, it can be useful in certain situations, especially for elite status members.
» Learn more: How AAdvantage elite status could work for you
4. Redeem AAdvantage miles for merchandise, other travel and more
Beyond flights, there are many ways to use your AAdvantage miles. However, the redemption value of these options will almost always be less than redeeming your AAdvantage miles for award flights, so they are hardly ever worth it.
Even so, for the right circumstance, your AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for other travel expenses like rental cars, hotels or vacation packages. You can also buy or renew an Admirals Club membership with miles, as well as buy physical products like magazines, newspapers or gift cards through points.com.
Maybe you've moved to a city served by an airport that doesn't operate American Airlines flights. Perhaps you can no longer fly or medical reasons. In those cases, redeeming your miles for "stuff" like magazines and gift cards might be worth it. If you're feeling generous, you can also donate your miles to charity. While maximizing your miles is generally a great goal, not every redemption you pursue has to solely maximize value. If you're sitting on more points than you know what to do with or want to empty your account, these last-resort redemptions may be worth considering.
Final thoughts on redeeming American Airlines miles
You now know better how to use AAdvantage miles. These miles are flexible and can score you some great award tickets on both American and its partner airlines. Any other use will seriously devalue your miles, so award flights are the way to go with this loyalty program.
Just be sure to book far in advance to be able to catch a seat that will get the most value out of your miles.
How to maximize your rewards
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