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American Airlines Reward Optimization for Beginners

April 2, 2020
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel
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Although finding award space availability has become more difficult in recent years, there is still plenty of value to be had when redeeming your American Airlines miles.

American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, which means you’ll have plenty of flight options for using your miles. Not to mention you can book flights on any partner airline within the Oneworld alliance.

Also, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are incredibly flexible, allowing you to fly just about anywhere in the world.

How to get started using your points

If you are new to redeeming your American Airlines AAdvantage miles, this guide will walk you through getting started booking award flights.

The first step to book an award flight is to log in to your account, which you can do from American Airlines’ home page.

Once you’re logged in, you can search for award flights from the homepage by entering your departure and destination cities as well as travel dates. You can select an option to search one-way or round-trip flights. Also, be sure to select the “Redeem miles” box before clicking the “Search” button.

The results page will show you available award flights and the price in miles. From here it’s all about narrowing down your flight options based on price, travel time and stopovers.

It’s also helpful to view your search results using the calendar view. This way you can compare award flight prices a whole calendar month at a time to see if you are getting a good price.

What to consider when redeeming

NerdWallet currently values American American AAdvantage miles at 1 cent each, so if you’re getting less than that on a redemption, you’re not getting a good deal.

To calculate your American Airlines redemption value, use this easy formula:

Price of flight in cash / Price of flight in miles

Say, for example, you found a round-trip flight from New York to Amsterdam that costs either 41,000 miles or $1,100. That means you’re getting a value of 2.68 cents per mile ($1,100 flight price / 41,000 miles). That’s a great value! You can see why it pays to compare the paid price to miles price to make sure you’re getting a good redemption value.

Program sweet spots

Here are a few sweet spots within the American Airlines AAdvantage program that offer incredible value when using your miles.

Fly from the U.S. to South America in business class

It costs just 30,000 American Airlines miles to fly in business class to South America Region 1. This includes places such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana and Manaus (Brazil). At this price, it’s a great way to get to South America, and you can easily get around South America for cheap using your AA miles.

Fly within South American countries

You can fly for peanuts when you book a flight wholly within one of the South American countries listed below; these prices are an absolute steal given the size of some of these countries.

You can also fly for cheap between countries. It costs just 10,000 miles in economy one-way to fly within the South America 1 or South America 2 region.

Fly off-peak to Europe in economy on American Airlines

American Airlines offers discounted economy award flights between the U.S. and Europe during off-peak seasons. If you can travel during these dates, this can be an excellent way to save miles when flying to Europe.

You can fly from the U.S. to Europe for only 22,500 miles each way in economy class when you travel during these off-peak periods:

  • Jan. 10 – March 14.
  • Nov. 1 – Dec. 14.

Booking an off-peak award will save you 7,500 miles over the normal 30,000-mile price during peak season.

» Learn More: 5 great shoulder season vacations you can take this spring

Fly Qatar Airways’ luxurious Qsuite to Africa

An exceptional-value redemption using AA miles is to book a flight from the U.S. to Africa in a Qatar Airways Qsuite. For 75,000 miles you can fly in luxury to destinations including Cape Town or Seychelles.

Short domestic flights in the U.S.

American Airlines offers great prices on award flights less than 500 miles within the U.S. An economy flight will set you back only 7,500 miles vs. the normal 12,500-mile price for flights longer than 500 miles. If you need just a short domestic flight, using your AA miles to book this special-priced award can be a great option.

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:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
34 ways to earn American AAdvantage miles
Your guide to the American Airlines award chart

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