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Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

AAdvantage Frequent Flyer Rewards Program

Contents

With over 1,000 vessels, 163 destinations, and a founding member of the OneWorld Alliance, American Airlines delivers one of the world's most encompassing and far-reaching loyalty rewards program in AAdvantage. As with all frequent flyer programs however, some nuance is required to be able to spot the best deals. Overall, AAdvantage is a great way for people to take vacations for a many fewer miles if you can avoid a surcharge, and not inconvenienced to the point of ruining the vacation. Below we will explain how you can allocate your miles to ensure you get the best value. 

Value of AAdvantage Miles 

The value of a mile is the fare of a flight divided by the number of miles needed to redeem that flight for free. AAdvantage lists their miles in three tiers called AASaver, AAnytime 1 and AAnytime 2, with an additional AASaver Off-peak that only applies to the off-peak season for certain regions. Each tier requires a different amount of miles to redeem a free flight. For example, a domestic flight needs 25,000 miles with AASaver, but 40,000 miles with AAnytime. The tiers provide a lot of flexibility, but are just one of the factors such as time of year, cabin class, and location that all determine point value. Below we show you how the value of the your miles changes with different regions, and how to judge where best to redeem your miles.

International Value

By examining several flights to the regions American Airlines outlines in their rewards chart, we found a universal average value, along with the averages for each region. The overall average value for a main cabin, round-trip is 1.3 cents and 1.5 cents for first class round-trips, with flights to Europe, Asia and South America getting you the best value than short haul flights close to the U.S

Region AASaver AAnytime 1 AAnytime 2
Cabin (cents) First (cents) Cabin (cents) First (cents) Cabin (cents) First (cents)
Caribbean 1.5 1.2 0.9 0.6 0.7 0.5
South America (1/2)* 2.3  5.0 1.1 1.8 0.7 1.3
Europe 1.9 4.8 1.1 2.8 0.9 2.0
Canada 1.7 1.3 0.7 0.5 0.4 0.4
Mexico 1.8 0.7 0.9 0.5 0.6 0.4
Asia (1/2)* 2.4 2.8 2.1 1.6 2.0 1.3
Average 1.8 2.5 1.1 1.2 0.8 0.9

*encompasses both regions of those continents as defined by American Airlines

A good deal is one that surpasses the averages we mention above-anything below those values is not worth spending the miles on. We found trends within our data that can guide you into always knowing which flights will fetch the highest values. One that is easy to spot,which we mention above, is how Europe, South American and Asia get you the highest values. Generally if you are flying more than six hours away from the U.S, you will get a higher value for your miles than for flights shorter than that. First class flights also garner you a higher value for your miles despite requiring more to redeem for flights. The existence of these trends make sense logistically when you look more closely.

For example, short-haul flights to Canada and Mexico, have lower values because the the number of miles needed for long flights does not scale in proportion to fare cost. The difference between a round-trip flight to Europe and to Mexico is 1.7x as much, 60,000 miles to 35,000 miles for AASaver. The average fare to Europe however is over 2.5x as much as the fare to Mexico. Higher fare, smaller amount of miles means greater value.

chart

Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean also see a higher density of travelers. Over 15% of all traveling Americans flew into Mexico or Canada in 2014, with another 7% into the Caribbean for a total of 22% or 15 million people. In comparison, only 7% flew into South America and Asia. It should make sense that South America and Asia have higher values. If the flights millions and millions of people flew every year had a high value, the airlines would stand to lose money. Flying the route less travelled can in the end get you much better deal for your miles. 

Lastly, when it comes to deciding whether to book first class or main cabin, some regions are better served than others. First class tickets to Europe can be highly expensive, however compared to other long haul flights, they require less miles to redeem, giving you an incredible value-sometimes over 4 cents. We wouldn't recommend wasting miles on a first class ticket for a short haul flight though. They generally cost the same amount of miles as a long haul main cabin flight that will give you a better value. 

Domestic Values 

We took the ten most flow domestic routes and found an average of 0.9 and 1.0 cents per mile for main cabin and first class tickets respectively, with shorter flights fetching lower values than longer, trans-continental, flights. 

Route                               AASaver                                 AAnytime 1 
Main Cabin (cents) First (cents) Main Cabin (cents)  First (cents)
CHI to NYC  1.0 0.8 0.6 0.3
LA to SF 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.2
LA to NYC  1.8 4.4 1.1 1.7
CHI to NYC 0.5 0.6 0.3 0.2
CHI to LAX  1.2 1.2 0.8 0.4
MIA to NYC 1.3 1.0 0.8 0.4
ATL to CHI 0.7 0.9 0.4 0.4
CHI to MIN 0.7 0.5 0.4 0.2
ATL to NYC 1.0 1.0 0.7 0.4
ATL to CHI 1.4 0.9 0.9 0.4
CHI to DC  1.1 0.9 0.7 0.4
Average  1.0  1.5 0.7 0.4

Since domestic flights are generally only 2-5 hours, and flown more frequently than international flights, it makes sense for them to have lower values. There is greater value however in long domestic flights. If you notice in the table above, LA to NYC has the highest value, more than doubling the value of short flights like Atlanta to Chicago. The AAdvantage rewards chart will not change for flight distance, meaning if you need to redeem miles for a domestic flight, try to make it a long domestic flight.

Regarding first class redemptions on domestic flights, unlike international flights, they are not more valuable than main cabin redemptions despite the averages above. A domestic first class ticket is 2.7x as expensive as a main cabin ticket, but requires 3.3x as many miles to redeem. If you ignore the first class flight from LA to NYC, which is 6x more expensive than a main cabin ticket, the average first class mile value is actually 0.6 cents per mile compared to 0.8 cents per miles for main cabin flights excluding LA to NYC. 

routes

We should also mention starting March 22nd 2016, there will be a change to the rewards chart. We speak more about this below, but regarding domestic flights there are two major changes. The first is that flights ranging less than 500 miles will only require 15,000 miles as opposed to 25,000. The only two flights above that concerns is Chicago to Minneapolis and San Francisco to L.A. Those low valued flights move from 0.7 cents per mile up to 1.8 and 1.2 cents per mile respectively. The other major change concerns first class redemptions. Regardless of distance, the AASaver amount for all domestic first class tickets increases from 65,000 to 100,000, so expect the values for AASaver first class to be cut nearly in half. 

AASaver vs. AAnytime 

We talk about AASaver and AAnytime several times above, but we have yet to actually discuss their fundamental differences. The most important difference is that AASaver requires around 1.8x less miles as AAnytime 1 and 2x less with AASaver Off-Peak. There is a catch though. It is not to say that there are not many AASaver flights that function just as well as AAnytime-you can find many that are convenient and will save you thousands of miles. Some however, will be very inconvenient and/or end up costing you a lot more money. AASaver flights to Europe for example, are carried out by British Airways, who requires you to pay a surcharge that can cost hundreds of dollars. Below you can see how your taxes change on a sample flight from JFK to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  

Flights and Carriers  Taxes
JFK to Amsterdam
American Airlines  $55
British Airways/AA $398
British Airways  $685

What is the point of a free flight if you need to spend over $685 anyway? A flight to Europe on AAnytime 1 rates is 90,000 miles, while on AASaver it is 60,000 miles meaning instead of spending the extra 30,000 miles you are spending the $685. If we use our main-cabin average of 1.3 cents per AAdvantage mile, we get 30,000 miles to be worth $390 which is not enough to justify the taxes. If you take into account AASaver Off-Peak however, you may book flights for as low as 40,000 miles (45,000 after March 22nd 2015) which means you are spending 50,000 miles instead which is worth $680-only $5 less than the tax. It is essentially up to the costumer to decide the practicality of spending $685 for a "free flight". It could be a good way to redeem a flight when you simply do not have the points to afford an AAnytime ticket. On the other hand, you may be able to just purchase a flight to Europe for $900. When you consider the $685 in taxes, plus the 40,000 miles worth $520 its a total of $1,205, over $300 more than just buying the full ticket. 

AAdvantage Partners

As a member of Oneworld, AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for flights on other Oneworld airlines. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done for some partners. Only British Airways, Air Berlin, Finnair, Qantas Air and Royal Jordanian Air can be booked with miles through the American Airlines website, all other Oneworld partners can only be booked by calling in to American Airlines Reservations. AA also has two non-affiliate partners in Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines that can be booked through the website as well. We already discuss above the pitfalls of booking with British Airways, luckily American Airlines has other European partners that have reward space on their flights to Europe and will impose less expensive surcharges.

oneworld

Iberia Airlines for example charges a third of the surcharge British Airways charges, and its hub in Madrid is much cheaper to fly through than London-Heathrow as well. To find Iberia flights, you can go on their website. Once you find the flight or flights you want, you will have to call into American Airlines and tell them you would like to use your miles for the Iberia flight. Fortunately, none of other Oneworld or non-affiliate partners impose surcharges. Cathay Pacific and Japanese Airlines are great carriers to get around Asia, so we would encourage you to explore there sites and follow a similar procedure to booking with Iberia.

Changes in 2016 

As we mention above, starting on March 22nd, 2016 the amount of miles needed for flights on the rewards chart will be either decreased or increased. The AASaver tier for example will require 5000 less miles for main cabin flights to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico and 10,000 miles less for business class flights. Domestic flights that are less than 500 miles in length will also be 10,000 miles cheaper for AASaver on main cabin flights. Unfortunately, those are the only positive changes, as most of the changes increase the number of miles for flights. 

For example, Asia 1, South Pacific,Hawaiian, and South America 1 main cabin flights will require 5000 more miles for AAnytime 1, while European and Asia 1 flights will require 5000 more miles for AAnytime 2. For business class redemptions, flights to Asia 1 will require 20,000 more miles, while flights to Asia 2 30,000 more miles, and 35,000 extra miles for the South Pacific. For first class flights, all AASaver flights will increase by a minimum of 20,000 miles, and as high as 85,000 miles more for flights to Asia 2. 

AAdvantage Credit Cards

There are a total of 5 American Airlines credit card, but only 3 for which consumers may currently apply for. Barclaycard offers Aviator cards as replacements for old US Airways credit card accounts, which were shut down after AA acquired the latter. Currently, frequent flyers may apply for any of the three cards issued by Citibank. Using these cards can help individuals earn up to an extra 2 miles per $1 when purchasing AA tickets, on top of the ones you already receive for shopping with American Airlines. Additionally, the cards earn consumers 1 mile per $1 on all other spending. These cards also offer perks such as baggage fee waivers, and companion passes. The annual fees on these cards vary from $50 to $450, so it’s important to figure out which one of these will provide you with the highest net value. To determine the right card for you, we recommend checking out our comprehensive guide to the best American Airlines credit cards.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95 3.51%
$837
Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases the first 3 months
$1,205
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.014 = $463
Bonuses
60,000 x $0.014 = $810
1,000 x $0.014 = $14
1,000 x $0.014 = $14
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,205

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95
APR 13.99%, 17.99% or 21.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines
  • 1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise
  • First checked bag free for you and up to four traveling companions
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases
Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard®
$50 2.04%
$338
Earn 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $700 in purchases the first 3 months
$701
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.014 = $463
Bonuses
25,000 x $0.014 = $338
Less Annual Fees -$100
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 701

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $50
APR 13.99%, 17.99% or 21.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $700 in purchases the first 3 months
  • 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent
  • Save 25% on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • No blackout dates on award travel
  • No spending limit
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red Mastercard®
$95 1.15%
$0
$393
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Less Annual Fees -$190
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 393

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $95
APR 15.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 2X miles for every dollar spent on eligible US Airways and American Airlines purchases. 1x mile for every 1 dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 1 Free Checked Bag
  • Whenever you redeem, you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed miles back
  • Priority boarding
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 25% in-flight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on US Airways and AA operated flights
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®
$195 0.56%
$0
$193
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Less Annual Fees -$390
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 193

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $195
APR 15.99%, 19.99% or 124.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 3X miles for every dollar spent on eligible US Airways and American Airlines purchases. Earn 2X miles for every dollar spent on eligible hotels and car rentals. 1x mile for every 1 dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Apply for Global Entry with TSA Pre_™ and, upon approval, experience expedited, more efficient security screenings, moving you smoothly through U.S. customs when returning from traveling abroad.
  • Pay for the $100 Global Entry application fee with your card and you’ll automatically receive a $100 statement credit 2-3 weeks after your transaction.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
$450 -1.27%
$0
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases the first 3 months
$-437
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.014 = $463
Less Annual Fees -$900
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months -437

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $450
APR 15.24%

Card Details

  • 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines
  • 1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise
  • Admirals Club membership for you and your immediate family
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • First checked bag is free for you and your companions
  • Priority check-in, screening, and boarding
  • Receive a 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases
  • No annual mileage cap

Bottom Line 

AAdvantage is a great program as long as its member understands where to allocate their miles. You work hard to earn your miles, you want to make sure you are using them to book the most expensive flights for the least amount of miles possible. By being selective to what regions you redeem your miles for, and utilizing the Oneworld alliance, you may find yourself on a free flight to a new country. 

Comments and Questions

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.