Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
Citi is an advertising partner
The American Airlines AAdvantage program is one of the broadest in the world, considering you can leverage this airline and its oneworld® partners to fly to around 1,000 destinations around the world. Members of the program earn points when they spend money with American, and those points can be redeemed for free flights and other perks. You can also utilize this program to earn elite status and all the VIP privileges it affords.
If you’re eager to travel and hoping to pool your loyalty with a single airline, the American AAdvantage program is worth considering. Our comprehensive guide explains what you need to know about this program.
What is American Airlines AAdvantage?
The AAdvantage program rewards frequent flyers for their travel with American Airlines. As a member, you’ll be able to earn points (also called "miles," interchangeably) and work your way toward elite status, which offers benefits like free checked bags and seat upgrades. To be eligible for elite status in 2020, you’ll need to start by spending at least $1,500 with American in one calendar year.
American Airlines AAdvantage overview
|Countries served||350 destinations in 50 countries; including partners, you can fly to around 1,000 destinations in 150 countries|
|U.S. Hub airports||Miami, Phoenix, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and New York|
|Airline lounges||Admirals Clubs|
|Number of miles needed for a free flight||Domestic flights start at 7,500 miles|
|American Airlines miles value||1 cent each, on average|
As a standard AAdvantage member, the biggest benefit you’ll get is the ability to earn miles on American Airlines tickets, as well as car rentals, hotel stays, cruises and vacation packages. For every dollar you spend with the airline, or with its partners, you’ll get 5 miles. Elite status members earn anywhere from 7 to 11 miles per dollar spent with American, depending on their status tier.
To join the program, you’ll need to visit the American Airlines website and enter your basic information. Once you’re signed up, you will receive an American Airlines number that you can use when you book tickets on American Airlines and partner airlines. If you meet certain spending and flying requirements with American and its partner airlines, you’ll be able to earn AAdvantage elite status and receive free upgrades and other benefits.
How much are AAdvantage miles worth?
American AAdvantage miles are worth approximately 1 cent each. This makes them worth slightly less than miles in comparable programs like Delta SkyMiles (1.3 cents each) or Southwest Rapid Rewards (1.5 cents each). Yet, the American Airlines program is still extremely valuable, due to how easy it is to earn miles and the plethora of options you have when it comes to cashing them in.
You should be aware that the average value for American AAdvantage miles is just that — an average. It’s always possible to get more value based on the specific redemption you make, and that’s especially true if you’re able to take advantage of MileSAAver awards or Web Specials on premium cabin flights or unusually expensive itineraries. For example, an off-peak MileSAAver award to the Caribbean could cost as little as 12,500 miles one-way, which could present a better value for your miles than if you booked an AAnytime award for 27,500 miles one-way. Ultimately, the value of each American AAdvantage mile depends on the cash price of the airfare you redeem your miles for.
How do you know if using American Airlines miles is worth it? American Airlines miles are generally valued around 1 cent per mile — if a flight is worth 1 cent per mile or more, then it’s likely worth it to use miles. To calculate the value of miles, use this simple equation: Cash price (minus taxes and fees) / Number of points needed for flight = Points value for that specific flight
Pros and cons of American Airlines AAdvantage
The American AAdvantage program is popular with U.S. travelers for good reason — you can utilize this program to fly to around 1,000 destinations in 150 countries thanks to its oneworld partners, and MileSAAver awards can be downright cheap.
American Airlines’ partners (including its oneworld partners) encompass an array of popular airlines consumers seem to love anyway, including:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- S7 Airlines
- Sri Lankan Airlines
Other AAdvantage partners with limited earning or redemptions include:
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines
- Cape Air
- China Southern Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airways
- GOL Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Seaborne Virgin Islands
There are numerous ways to rack up miles in the American Airlines program, and many of the best options don’t even require you to fly. Finally, elite status is easier to earn than usual, since requirements for the American AAdvantage program have been drastically lowered for 2020. To earn Gold status, for example, you only need to have $1,500 in Elite Qualification Dollars (EQDs) and 15 Elite Qualification Segments (EQSs) or 15,000 Elite Qualification Miles (EQMs). For comparison, in 2019 Gold status required $3,000 in EQDs and 30 EQSs or 25,000 EQMs.
On the downside, American Airlines is following suit with other frequent flyer programs and moving toward dynamic award pricing. The American AAdvantage program still posts an award chart, but you have to dig significantly deeper to find MileSAAver awards for many itineraries, and many flight awards require a variable number of miles based on demand.
American AAdvantage miles are also worth less on average than many other top frequent flyer programs. This doesn’t mean miles aren’t valuable; it just means they may not stretch as far as other programs’ miles.
How to earn AAdvantage miles
As an American Airlines frequent flyer, you can earn miles toward free travel by buying American Airlines tickets, using American Airlines’s co-branded credit cards and shopping on the airline’s online portal.
Below, we’ve listed earning avenues that can help you get the most mileage from your AAdvantage membership.
The simplest way to American Airlines miles is to buy flights on American Airlines or one of the carrier’s partners. The airline uses a revenue-based miles earning system, which means you earn miles based on how much you spend. (This is in contrast to a distance-based system, which awards points for every physical mile you fly. Alaska Airlines is the last major airline to use a distance-based points earning system.) If you’re a new AAdvantage member and don’t have elite status, you’ll have a base earning rate of 5 miles per dollar on plane tickets.
AAdvantage membership level
Base miles per dollar spent
There are a few ways that you can increase the number of miles you earn per dollar. The first, shown in the table above, is to earn elite status. This takes time, and it’s only feasible if you travel more than 15 times per year. To get status, you’ll also have to be OK with consolidating your flights to one airline and sacrificing the freedom to shop among carriers for the lowest fare.
The second option to earn more than 5 base miles per dollar is to buy tickets in business class or first class: The more expensive the cabin, the higher the bonus miles. First-class fares and some business-class fares earn a 100% bonus, which is definitely worth noting. The example below illustrates how a $1,000 fare earns vastly different award miles depending on its fare class:
First Class (F) and First Class (A)
Business Class (J)
Business Class (R)
Business Class (D)
|Fare class bonus||100%||100%||75%||50%|
|Base miles at 5 miles per dollar||5,000||5,000||5,000||5,000|
|Total miles earned||10,000||10,000||8,750||7,500|
The third and final way to increase your AAdvantage earnings rate is to pay for American Airlines flights with one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards. The pros and cons of using this method to earn miles are discussed below.
oneworld alliance partners
You’ll earn miles when you fly with American Airlines, but you can also earn miles when you fly with its oneworld airline partners. Note that the number of miles can vary depending on the airline and the fare class you select.
The American Airlines partners page can tell you everything you need to know about earning miles with each oneworld partner. Be aware that this changes frequently, so you should check back before you book to find out how many miles you can expect to earn.
Second to earning miles with paid flights, the most effective and consistent way to earn AAdvantage miles is to open an American Airlines credit card and use it for your everyday purchases. You’ll earn at least 1 mile per dollar on every purchase you make. The premium cards earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, and some cards also earn 2 miles per dollar in bonus categories like gas, groceries and restaurants.
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®||Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.||Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening||$99, waived for first 12 months|
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card||Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.||Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening||$0|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.||Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening||$450|
|CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®||Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations. 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases..||Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.||$99, waived for first 12 months|
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.||Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.||$99|
The table below illustrates the rewards possibility at the flat rewards rate of 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar spent.
|$10,000||10,000||One-way MileSAAver award ticket for flights of less than 500 miles within contiguous U.S.|
|$30,000||30,000||Round-trip MileSAAver fare to Caribbean|
|$50,000||50,000||Round-trip MileSAAver off-peak fare to Hawaii or Europe|
The credit cards with the most attractive rewards rates have annual fees that range from $95 to $450 per year, so they may not be the best option if you’re a moderate spender. However, these cards do let you earn a big sign-up bonus that could be enough for a few free flights your first year.
Consider what makes sense for your budget and spending habits — and whether it’s worth it to pay hundreds in annual fees each year. If opening a new card works for your finances, and you’re interested in earning miles, you can learn more by reading our guide to the best American Airlines credit cards.
Another way to earn points for your everyday purchases is to sign up for AAdvantage Dining. The program allows you to earn miles for every qualifying purchase you make at an affiliated restaurant. You can check for restaurants in your area at the AAdvantage Dining website.
To join AAdvantage Dining, all you have to do is sign up for an account and link your debit and credit cards. You’ll automatically earn miles each time you spend at an eligible restaurant. Regular members earn 1 mile per dollar, and members who sign up for AAdvantage Dining emails earn 3 miles per dollar. Once you complete 11 transactions in a calendar year, you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar.
American Airlines shopping portal
AAdvantage members can get extra miles for online shopping by making purchases through the AAdvantage eShopping portal. Through the portal, you can shop at hundreds of hotels, booking companies, clothing companies and other retailers and earn as much as 15 miles (or more) per dollar on each purchase. There are also one-time bonus offers that reward you with a few thousand miles for making a purchase at a select retailer.
If you want to earn miles for shopping without going to the portal, American Airlines offers a browser extension that you can install to shop and earn miles directly at 950 online stores. The extension lets you bypass the AAdvantage portal and shop as you normally would, alerting you when there are miles available on a website.
AAdvantage travel partners
You can also rack up miles when you book other types of travel with American Airlines. Opportunities exist with select rental car partners and hotel brands like Hyatt, Marriott and Best Western, as well as Hertz and Avis.
The number of miles varies depending on the travel you book, but it’s possible to earn up to 500 miles or more per car rental or 500 miles or more per hotel stay.
American Airlines vacations
You can book entire vacation packages through American Airlines, and you’ll earn bonus miles when you do. The deals change all the time, but you could earn as many as 20,000 miles (or more) for purchasing a vacation package with hotel and airfare included. You can frequently score special discounts or upgrades in these packages, so make sure to check them often.
American Airlines cruises
You can earn up to 30,000 bonus miles when you book select cruises through the American AAdvantage program. All the major cruise lines are available, including major brands like Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
Buying miles should be a last resort option, as purchased miles are often priced unfavorably compared to their value. However, if you need a few more miles in order to redeem a trip, then buying them may be your best option. On the American Airlines website, you can buy anywhere from 2,000 miles to 150,000 miles. Keep in mind that they don’t come cheap; the current going rate for 10,000 miles is $254.94.
If you need a few hundred more miles to redeem an award flight, consider earning through one of the other options on this list. For example, you could make your next big retail purchase on the AAdvantage eShopping portal, or you could have your next expensive meal at a restaurant eligible for AAdvantage dining.
How to use AAdvantage miles
Once you’ve accumulated AAdvantage miles, you can use them on award travel, upgrades, lounge access, vacation packages and Main cabin seat selection. You can also use your miles to purchase newspaper subscriptions, or donate them to important causes and nonprofit organizations.
Book a flight using AAdvantage miles
One of the best options for redeeming miles is on American Airlines tickets. You can do this online at American Airlines’ award booking portal. The number of miles needed for a flight redemption changes depending on award type, time of year, cabin and destination.
American has four award ticket options that provide different levels of ticket change flexibility. The cheapest award option is MileSAAver Off Peak, which has limited region and date availability. You can visit the American Airlines award chart to see the full list of redemption possibilities.
|MileSAAver Off Peak|
|AAnytime Level 1|
|AAnytime Level 2|
There are plenty of sweet spots in the American AAdvantage award chart, including round-trip off-peak flights to Europe in economy for 45,000 miles, plus airline taxes and fees. A MileSAAver Off Peak award to Hawaii for 40,000 miles is also a good deal, especially when you consider that taxes and fees on domestic flights are only $5.60 per leg.
Business class flights to Europe can also be a good deal whether they take place with American or one of its partners. You can fly one-way for 57,500 miles if you find MileSAAver award availability.
A one-way MileSAAver award in Business class to Japan (using American Airlines miles to fly Japan Airlines) is also an exceptional deal for just 60,000 miles.
And don’t forget that domestic, one-way flights start at just 7,500 miles, which is hard to beat if you want to get away, but not too far (flights at this cost are limited to 500 miles or less).
There are plenty more ways to receive excellent value with the American AAdvantage program when you use your miles to book flights, so you should familiarize yourself with the award chart and American Airlines’ oneworld partners.
Upgrade with AAdvantage miles
On most American Airlines flights, you can use your miles to move up to the next cabin. For domestic flights within the 48 contiguous states, an upgrade from discount economy to premium economy will cost 15,000 AAdvantage miles plus $75. On long international flights, that same discount-to-premium economy upgrade could cost you 25,000 miles plus $350. Keep in mind that award tickets and basic economy fare tickets can not be upgraded.
Generally speaking, upgrades may or may not be a good value depending on the itinerary you book and the normal cash price. Since American Airline miles are worth around 1 cent each, the upgrade on that long international flight would set you back $600 in value, including the miles and cash copay required. Make sure to compare the full cash price of a flight and the cost of upgrading later before you select this option.
Other AAdvantage redemption options
You can also redeem your miles for Admirals Club membership, which lets you enter American Airlines elite lounges when you fly with the airline. An individual new membership will currently set you back 65,000 miles, which is of average value since the cash price is $650.
You can also cash in your miles for a newspaper subscription. And if you’re feeling charitable, you can make a donation to a cause through various partner organizations that have been expertly curated by the airline.
American Airlines elite status
Due to impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, elite status qualifications for the AAdvantage program have been drastically lowered for 2020. This means you can secure elite status with less effort than normal, yet the status you earn will last for the remainder of this year, all of next year and until Jan. 31 of the following year. This means that status earned in 2020 lasts until Jan. 31, 2022.
Here are the different levels of status you can earn with American AAdvantage and how to get there. You’ll need to meet the EQD dollar requirement, along with the EQS or the EQM requirement for each tier.
|Elite Qualification Miles (EQMs)||15,000||30,000||45,000||60,000|
|Elite Qualification Segments (EQSs)||15||30||45||60|
|Elite Qualification Dollars (EQDs)||$1,500||$4,000||$6,000||$9,000|
Benefits of American Airlines elite status
The level of benefits you receive from American Airlines elite status vary depending on how high you climb on the elite status ladder. Obviously, Gold benefits are less substantial than perks for Executive Platinum elites, but all levels of status come with some incentives.
Here are the main perks of status you can expect with each tier:
|Elite status perks|
Is American Airlines AAdvantage worth it?
If you fly with American often, then you might as well take steps to pursue elite status. Joining the frequent flyer program is free, and there are so many more ways to earn miles for free flights. The right airline credit card could also net you 50,000 miles or more right off the bat, which is enough for several round-trip domestic flights in economy, an off-peak round-trip flight to Europe in economy or a round-trip economy flight from the contiguous 48 U.S. states and Canada to South America Region 1 (including countries like Peru and Colombia).
You have nothing to lose by joining this program, but you can gain free flights, upgrades and elite perks. With that in mind, what are you waiting for?
American Airlines AAdvantage FAQs
These questions and answers can help you learn more about the loyalty program of American Airlines.
Is American Airlines AAdvantage free?
The American Airlines AAdvantage program is free to join.
How do you sign up for American Airlines AAdvantage?
To sign up for the American AAdvantage program, all you have to do is head to the AA.com website and select the option to create a new account. From there, you’ll provide basic information like your name, address, birthdate, gender and contact information. You’ll also answer some security questions that will be used to protect your account information and your miles.
How does American Airlines AAdvantage work?
The American AAdvantage program is a frequent flyer program that awards its members with miles when they fly or make qualifying purchases. You can redeem your miles for free flights, flight upgrades, vacation packages, charitable contributions and more.
Is American Airlines AAdvantage a credit card?
American Airlines AAdvantage is a frequent flyer program, but there are plenty of airline credit cards affiliated with this program. With American Airlines credit cards, you can earn American miles for each purchase you make.
How do you add a previous flight to American Airlines AAdvantage?
The American AAdvantage program does let you request miles for flights you have already flown through its request flight miles page. All you need to do to submit a request is enter your AAdvantage number and your flight ticket number.
How do I find my American Airlines AAdvantage number?
You can find your American AAdvantage number by logging into your American AAdvantage account. Your AAdvantage number is made up of a combination of letters and numbers and it will be listed prominently on the home page under your name.
How do you add a family member to American Airlines AAdvantage?
You cannot add a family member to your American Airlines AAdvantage account, but each family member can sign up for their own account and earn their own miles.
How do you add American Airlines AAdvantage to an existing reservation?
You can add your American AAdvantage number to an existing reservation by heading to "Manage trips/Check in" on the home page and entering your record letter, which is made up of six letters. From there, you can update information on your flight, such as your American AAdvantage number and your Global Entry membership.
How do you change your name on American Airlines AAdvantage?
To formally change the name on your frequent flyer account, you’ll need to call into the airline. They’ll ask you to provide some information to confirm your new identity, which you can provide through an email address.
How do you keep American Airlines AAdvantage miles from expiring?
American Airlines miles expire if you don’t earn or use miles for 18 months. However, you can keep your miles from expiring by making a small purchase on an American Airlines credit card, flying with the airline to earn miles, redeeming miles for a hotel or rental car or taking any other steps that involve earning or redeeming miles from your account.
How do you sign up a child for American Airlines AAdvantage?
Your child can have their own American AAdvantage account, and you can sign them up using the same process you used to create your own account. Head to the American Airlines website and choose the option to open an American AAdvantage account. From there, you’ll provide your child’s name, your address, their birthdate and their gender. You’ll also answer some security questions to help protect their account.
Can you transfer points to American Airlines AAdvantage from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?
You cannot directly transfer points from Chase credit cards to the American AAdvantage program. However, you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book flights on American Airlines through the Chase travel portal.
The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.