The American Airlines AAdvantage (“Advantage”) Rewards program is the 1st and world’s largest frequent flyer program, or so their website claims. Travelers earn miles when they fly on American Airlines, American Connection/Eagle, or more than 20 other airline partners. The American Airlines Advantage program offers several different types of awards:
- AAnytime (“Anytime”) Awards provide you with maximum travel flexibility, no blackout dates, and no capacity constraints. In other words, you can use the awards to buy airline tickets last minute.
- MileSAAver (“MileSaver”) Awards (both on and off-peak) offer excellent value, but you need to deal with American Airline’s infamous blackout and availability restrictions. In other words, you need to be able to purchase well in advance in order to take advantage of this great value.
- Upgrade Awards enable you to upgrade to either business or 1st class. Oftentimes, you are also required to throw in some real cash along with the miles in order to secure the upgrade. As GetDebit tends to be most concerned with maximum value at minimum price, we won’t spend much time evaluating the value of upgrade awards.
Estimating the worth of American Airlines Advantage Miles
So let’s get down to business. In order to calculate the value of Advantage Miles, we need to make some assumptions on the following variables:
- MileSaver versus Anytime Awards: As you can see from the mileage table below, MileSaver Awards (both on and off-peak) require far fewer points than Anytime Awards. Since GetDebit is focused on the real cheapskate trying to save money and maximize mileage value, we’ve assumed that all redemptions will be via Off-Peak MileSaver Awards. This does mean that you would need to plan your trips well in advance, and be willing to travel (at least once in a while) during off-peak times.
- Cost of Flights and Destinations: GetDebit relies on its Detailed Analysis of Flight Costs in determining the going market rates for flights to various destinations.
- Percent of travel by continent: Because the dollar value per Advantage Mile is quite low for travel within the US, we allocate 90% of travel to EU, and 10% to Tokyo, Japan.
- Non-Cash Penalties: Per our Rules of the Sky, GetDebit assesses a baseline 5% non-cash penalty.
- Partner Airlines: AA belongs to the OneWorld Alliance, and passengers do have the ability to redeem awards on major carriers such as British Air, Cathay Pacific, and JAL. However, after conducting some research here, availability seemed so sparse and unpredictable (example: for a flight to Tokyo 3 months out, they had 1 seat available during the entire month, and this was an off-peak month!), that I decided to exclude partner redemption values from the analysis.
|From||To||Award Type||Miles Req’d (RT)||Avg Ticket Cost (pre-tax)||$ val/mile||Travel Alloc %||$ Contribution|
|US (NYC, IAH, ATL, ORD)||Tokyo||MileSAAver (off-peak)||50,000||$758||$0.0152||10%||$0.0016|
|US (NYC, IAH, ATL, ORD)||Tokyo||MileSAAver (peak)||65,000||$861||$0.0132||0%||$0.0000|
|US (NYC, IAH, ATL, ORD)||Tokyo||Anytime||130,000||$861||$0.0066||0%||$0.0000|
|Post 5% penalty||$0.0136|
The Final Analysis
As you can see from the table above, your best value is the trip to Europe or Asia on MileSAAver off-peak, whereas the worst values are for flights within the continental US. In the final analysis, GetDebit estimates the value of American Airlines Advantage Miles at $0.0136 per mile.
If you want to see how the American Airlines Advantage Program stacks up against its competitors, check out our Frequent Flyer Mileage Valuation Comparison.