American Airlines is the largest airline in the world by fleet size, and at least before the pandemic hit air traffic worldwide, also the largest by passengers carried. With a vast domestic and international route network, and a lot of international partners, it’s also a good choice for your passenger loyalty when travel resumes in earnest.
Whether you’re already a frequent or an occasional American Airlines flyer, make sure to sign up for its free loyalty program, AAdvantage®. Not only can you earn miles every time you fly, but you can rack them up when you dine, shop online or spend on a co-branded credit card — and you can later redeem those miles for free flights.
AAdvantage miles, like all airline miles and credit card points, are a type of currency. But how much are they worth, exactly?
Based on how much you’d pay for flights in cash compared to how many miles you’d have to pay for the same flights, we concluded that AAdvantage miles are worth 1.4 cents each.
Keep in mind that it is a subjective value, and that how much points and miles are worth to you personally also depends greatly on how much you value travel.
How Much Are American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Worth?
Like all airline and hotel currencies, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are a relatively poor store of value, since their issuer can devalue them by making it more expensive to buy a given flight with miles. So, once you have enough for the flights you want, it’s generally advisable to use them rather than hoard them.
And unlike credit card points — such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards — airline miles are typically only usable for flying on that airline or its partners, whereas credit card points can be used on many different airlines as well as for offsetting purchases via a statement credit. Because of this flexibility and higher usability, credit card points tend to be much more valuable.
The good news, though, is that unlike competitors including Delta and United, American does publish an award chart. This gives you an idea of how many miles you will have to redeem for a flight to a certain part of the world, depending on peak and off-peak times.
Using your American Airlines AAdvantage miles can not only let you fly for free or nearly free, but it can be especially useful for flights in first or business class. Premium seats can cost many thousands of dollars, but by using your miles, you can fly in style for just the cost of taxes and fees. This is especially true now, when a drop in demand from business travelers caused by the pandemic has made premium seats cheaper when paid with miles.
With all that in mind, here are the flights we compared to arrive at our valuation.
New York to Los Angeles for a Weeklong Trip in July
The New York-JFK to Los Angeles route has traditionally been the busiest route in the entire country — and American Airlines rolls out all the stops to attract passengers here, offering business and first class cabins with “lie-flat” seats that turn into beds.
Here’s what you can expect to pay on this route in cash in July:
Here’s what you can expect to pay using American Airlines AAdvantage miles:
We calculated the value of a mile at these fares by dividing the cash price by the miles price:
- Main Cabin: 1.2 cents
- Business Class: 2.0 cents
- First Class: 1.8 cents
The average value across all of these classes is 1.7 cents.
Note that the business and first class seats are relatively very cheap in miles right now; you will get outsize value if you redeem your miles for flights in those classes.
Philadelphia to Miami for a Weekend Trip in September
Philadelphia and Miami are two of American Airlines’ major hubs, with plenty of daily flights between them.
Here’s what you can expect to pay in cash for a long weekend trip in September:
On that same route, date and time, here’s what you can expect to pay by redeeming miles:
Based on these numbers, here’s what we calculated for the average price of a mile:
- Main Cabin: 1.5 cents
- First Class: 1 cent
The average value of a mile on this route is 1.25 cents.
New York to Rome for a Week in September
As international travel shows signs of a rebound, we looked at a popular route for leisure flyers bound for Europe, New York to Rome, as Italy is cautiously reopening to vaccinated Americans.
Here’s what you can expect to pay from New York’s JFK airport to Rome in cash.
And here’s what you can expect to pay when redeeming AAdvantage miles:
Based on these fares, the value of a mile across all fare classes is:
- Main cabin: 1.3
- Premium economy: 1.4
- Business: 1.2
In this case, the average price of a mile here is 1.3 cents.
Premium economy, which in general is not available on domestic flights, is a separate class between standard coach and lie-flat beds in business class. Also note that you cannot redeem AAdvantage miles for a Basic Economy ticket on this route. (American Airlines’ basic economy is a bare-bones fare which gives you a standard coach seat, but makes you pay if you wish to select which one, and means you’ll board last on the plane.)
Dallas to Paris for a Week in September
This year, though, not all long-haul routes will be equal when it comes to redeeming miles. On routes where demand is expected to be low, you’ll find exceptionally cheap award tickets. One of those routes is between Dallas – Fort Worth International Airport and Paris.
Here’s what you can expect to pay on that route in cash:
And here’s what you can expect to pay when redeeming miles:
Those low award prices mean you can get outstanding values for your miles:
- Main Cabin: 2.8 cents
- Premium Economy: 2.6 cents
- Business Class: 2.5 cents
According to these figures, the average value of a mile across all fare types is 2.6 cents.
While cash prices are in line with what they were before the pandemic, award tickets in miles are currently very cheap — making this an attractive option for flyers who want to book speculatively, knowing that they can get a full refund of their miles and fees if they end up canceling, up to a year after the ticket issue date, American says. And because those low award prices to Paris — and to some other long-haul destinations like London — are outliers and not an ordinary occurrence, we are not considering them when calculating what AAdvantage miles are worth.
Note that we are also not considering taxes or fees on award redemptions using AAdvantage miles.
How to Earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
There are several ways to earn American AAdvantage miles. This includes flying with American Airlines or its partners, and using the American Airlines shopping portal or the American Airlines AAdvantage dining program. You can also earn a good chunk of American miles by using co-branded credit cards, which we’ll dive into below.
Best American Airlines Co-Branded Credit Cards
American Airlines offers a suite of co-branded credit cards, like other major U.S. carriers. If you can take advantage of welcome offers and frequently spend in the eligible bonus categories, you can earn a lot of AAdvantage miles easily. You shouldn’t however spend money you can’t afford or wouldn’t have spent if you were using a debit card or cash, though.
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
The no-fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card* earns 2 AAdvantage miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services, as well as on American Airlines purchases. You’ll also earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. It’s offering a sign-up bonus of 10,000 bonus miles and $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months from account opening, as well.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
The $99 annual fee AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard* is a hidden gem in the credit card world, as you only have to make a single purchase within the first 90 days of card opening to earn 60,000 bonus miles. In theory, that means you could spend around $100 (between the fee and a purchase) to earn enough miles for a domestic round-trip. It also earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and 1x on everything else.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
With the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard*, you can earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and is $99 after that. You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar at gas stations and on American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The card also comes with priority boarding, and you’ll get your first checked bag free when flying American Airlines. You can get 25% off in-flight purchases, such as food and beverage, when you use this card on American Airlines flights, too.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard
This $95 annual fee card earns 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, as well as at office supply stores, on car rentals and even telecom expenses. You’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The card has a welcome offer of 65,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, a very large bonus for a relatively small spending. These cards can help business owners earn more miles faster, as well as control business spending; an employee card can be added free of charge.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®* carries a $99 annual fee, waived for the first year. It earns 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, as well as telecom, cable and satellite services, car rentals and at gas stations, and 1x on everything else. You can earn 65,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $4,000 in the first four months of opening your account, as well.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
The most premium of the American Airlines co-branded cards carries a $450 annual fee and is geared towards loyal American Airlines flyers. You’ll earn 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of opening. The card also earns 2x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, and 1x on everything else, and comes with perks like complimentary Admirals Club access and free checked luggage on American Airlines.
*All information about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® and Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- Intro bonus:10,000 miles
- Annual fee:$0
- Regular APR:15.99% – 24.99% (Variable)
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more At our partner’s secure site
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth 1.4 cents each, according to the average of the routes where we compared the price in cash to the cost of a ticket in miles.
Understanding what your AAdvantage miles are worth can also help you determine where you’re getting a good value — and where you’re not. While the value of travel is highly subjective, knowing what a standard benchmark is can help you determine whether redeeming your hard-earned miles for a certain trip is worth it.