Daily Drop's Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage

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Man, nothing is more American than American Airlines and their AAdvantage program.

Okay honestly, I’m sure there are more American things than this airline (like super-sized food portions, football, pumpkin pie, etc.)

But American Airlines is major—it’s one of the largest carriers in the U.S and around the world. In fact, it’s so major, it’s often referred to as just… American.

Like Taylor—no need for a last name. You know who I’m talking about.

Curious if you should join the masses and get on board with American’s frequent flyer program? You’re in the right place, so keep reading, friends.

AT A GLANCE

➡️ American is a member of the Oneworld alliance.

➡️ American miles are worth around 1.3 - 1.5 cents each.

➡️ You can join the AAdvantage loyalty program for free.

What is the American Airlines AAdvantage program?

AAdvantage is the name of American’s loyalty program where you can earn and redeem miles. Whenever you fly with American or its partners via paid ticket, you’ll be able to earn those sweet AA miles and have them deposited into your account after each journey.

Why should you care about American Airlines AAdvantage program?

American is one of the oldest airlines in the U.S., being founded in 1930, and is considered one of the three “legacy” carriers. Nowadays, it has a massive fleet with thousands of destinations around the globe (also thanks to their partners).

Speaking of partners, not only is AA part of Oneworld, but they also have relationships with some other airlines outside of Oneworld:

  • Air Tahiti Nui

  • Cape Air

  • China Southern Airlines

  • Etihad Airways

  • Gol Airlines

  • Hawaiian Airlines

  • IndiGo

  • JetBlue

  • Silver Airways

The airline has major hubs in Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington-National.

Their AAdvantage loyalty program has also been credited as one of the best, and a model that other airlines should consider 👀

Curious about the ins and outs of the program? Whether or not you should create an AAdvantage loyalty account? Keep reading, and we’ll try and answer your questions 😎

How do you earn AA miles?

There are lot’s of niche ways to earn AA miles, but we’ll stick to some of the most common, popular, and valuable ways.

1. Fly with American

This one’s pretty obvious. Fly with American (or its partners), earn AA miles.

It’s important to note here that you’ll earn AA miles based on how much you spend on your ticket (excluding taxes and fees), and not how far you’re flying.

And per usual, the higher the status you have, the higher the amount of bonus miles you’ll get on top of the base quantity.

We’ll talk more about getting elite status in the next section, but here’s a breakdown of American’s earning structure:

  • AAdvantage members: 5X miles per dollar

  • Gold members: 7X miles per dollar (40% bonus)

  • Platinum members: 8X miles per dollar (60% bonus)

  • Platinum Pro members: 9X miles per dollar (80% bonus)

  • Executive Platinum members: 11X miles per dollar (120% bonus)

And here’s a sample itinerary from American that shows what you would earn based on status level:

Courtesy of American Airlines

Keep in mind that if you fly on a partner airline, your earning rates may vary based on the rules of that carrier (and not American).

2. Spend on a qualifying credit card

American Airlines offers a few co-branded credit cards that have varying perks and benefits.

If you’re feeling elite, you can check out American’s premium card, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

The annual fee of $450 might be steep, but if you want to go all in with American, the card offers some serious perks like 4X AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent on eligible AA purchases, priority boarding on AA flights, and 25% savings on inflight food and bev on AA fights—just to name a few.

American Airlines is notoriously stingy when it comes to having transfer partners from banks (e.g. being able to transfer points from another credit card to the AA program).

In fact, Bilt is currently the only transfer partner to American! I would love to see that change in the future, but for now… that’s all folks 🤷🏻‍♀️

If you want to see the whole (small) list of credit cards to consider for AA, check it out here.

3. Partner vendors

Other ways to earn miles can include using AA partner vendors such as hotels, dining, shopping, and more 👇

Each vendor comes with its own earning rates, so you may find ways to rack up additional miles by making purchases through these programs.

4. Buying Aadvantage miles

As always, I don’t recommend having this be your main miles maker because purchasing them can be quite spendy.

You’ll often find that you’re paying way more for a lump some of miles than what they’re actually worth.

American does offer sales on buying their miles which will give you some savings, but I would only do this to top up my account for an award seat I wanted to snag.

Use this as a last resort option.

How do you get elite status and benefits?

The AAdvantage frequent flyer program is free to join, and I think it’s always worth it to sign up for these programs even if you don’t fly them regularly.

Once you have this membership, you’ll be able to earn those AA miles we’ve spent all this time talking about!

But let’s have a little chat about AA miles versus Loyalty Points. They aren’t exactly the same, but they do go hand in hand 🙌

Basically, one Loyalty Point is earned per one eligible AA miles, and those Loyalty Points are the things that move you up the elite ranks for American’s program… and fortunately, there’s lots of ways to do that!

Aside from spending on an AA card and flying with the airline or its partners, you can also make purchases through those additional partner vendors I mentioned earlier (AA Vacations, the eShopping portal, AAdvantage Dining, etc.).

This status is based off of your spending and flying with American and its partners during a 12 month period starting on March 1st of each year.

If you earn status during that time, it’ll be valid through March 31st of the following year.

So the more Loyalty Points you get, the higher your elite status… and the better the perks. Simple right?

American Airlines has four official tiers of status that all come with varying perks and benefits (like upgrades, priority check-in, free checked bags, etc.).

You can read an in-depth review of all status benefits on AA’s site, but here’s a quick overview of what it takes to earn elite status, and what bonus miles come with that status.

Aadvantage Gold

  • Requires 40,000 Loyalty Points to earn

  • 40% bonus miles (7X per dollar) earned for spending with American or partners

  • Oneworld Ruby benefits

Aadvantage Platinum

  • Requires 75,000 Loyalty Points to earn

  • 60% bonus miles (8X per dollar) earned for spending with American or partners

  • Oneworld Sapphire benefits

Aadvantage Platinum Pro

  • Requires 125,000 Loyalty Points to earn

  • 80% bonus miles (9X per dollar) earned for spending with American or partners

  • Oneworld Emerald benefits

AAdvantage Executive Platinum

  • Requires 200,000 Loyalty Points to earn

  • 120% bonus miles (11X per dollar) earned for spending with American or partners

  • Oneworld Emerald benefits

There’s also technically a fifth level of elite status, called American Airlines ConciergeKey… but it’s like an invite-only secret club of sorts.

There aren’t even officially published guidelines on how you earn it, but it’s definitely luxurious, so I imagine it takes some rather high-profile spending to be invited 👀

How do you redeem AA miles?

This is my favorite part in the world of travel ❤️

…booking those free or significantly discounted flights by using the miles you’ve earned!

Nothing gives me more of a dopamine high than that.

My preferred way to redeem AA miles is for award flights (either on American or its Oneworld alliance partners).

You can also use miles for upgrades, access into Admirals' Club airport lounges, and more. Personally, I find you’ll get maximal value by redeeming for award flights!

Even though American’s award chart is dynamic, meaning that cash price and miles needed will vary by demand, they still publish a standard award chart that will give you an idea of what you can expect to get for your miles based on region and fare class 👇

Remember, these fares are not guaranteed, but are hopefully ballpark numbers of what you’ll find when you go to search.

Here’s an example of a flight from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) where the miles required for each fare class are pretty similar to what is listed on AA’s award chart.

In fact… they’re even a little bit better than what’s posted 👀🎉

Yes, the fees are high compared to other itineraries around Europe, but that has to do with the U.K. And that’s a topic for another time 😉

When should you use miles instead of cash?

There is no right or wrong way to use your miles to get a free or significantly discounted flight. BUT, if you want to maximize the value out of your miles, there’s an equation you can use to determine if the award seat you are looking at is a good deal or not 👇

(cash price) - (taxes and fees) / (miles cost) = value per mile

The travel world has deemed American miles to be worth around 1.3 - 1.5 cents each.

So for example, let’s use the example award booking from earlier (JFK to LHR).

If we splurge for premium economy at 40,000 miles + $236.20, and the cash price for the same flight is $1,095…

($1,095) - ($236) / (40,000) = .022

Since we’re talking about dollars, you move the decimal over to get 2.2 cents per mile in this redemption.

In my opinion, this redemption is better than average, based off of what American miles are valued at.

Is it the strongest redemption ever? No, but is it a decent one that saves you hundreds of dollars in a premium economy seat? Yep!

Bottom Line

American Airlines is one of the big boi programs that dominates the skies all around the globe (thanks, in part, to its partners).

Even though their credit card game is lacking, they offer a solid loyalty program with plenty of ways to reach the different tiers of elite status.

If you’ve been wondering whether or not you should join the Aadvantage family, hopefully this guide answered your questions and gave you a better understanding of all the good-to-know details!

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