Updated: Mar 23
Booking an Award Ticket for the first time may feel a bit overwhelming for some of us—especially if we have never done it before. Rest assured—you are not alone! The following article will provide you with a simple guide on how to book an Award Ticket through AAdvantage®—the frequent-flyer program of American Airlines.
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Getting Started With American AAdvantage®
American Airlines is a major airline that operates domestic and international routes; it is the largest airline in the world. There are ten hubs: Charlotte; Chicago—O'Hare; Dallas/ Fort Worth; Los Angeles; Miami; New York—JFK; New York—LaGuardia; Philadelphia; Phoenix—Sky Harbor; and Washington—National. American Airlines is part of the third-largest airline alliance in the world—the oneworld Alliance.
Oneworld airline partners:
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Jordanian Airlines
Other airline partners:
Air Tahiti Nui
China Southern Airlines
Getting started with the American AAdvantage® loyalty program is a simple process that can be done online. When you create your account, be sure to enter your name and date of birth exactly as they appear on your government-issued ID. (E.g. driver's license, passport, etc.)
After you create your account, you will receive an email from American Airlines with your AAdvantage® number. You will need this number when logging into your account, booking an Award Ticket, or earning miles while flying on American Airlines or other partner airlines.
American Airlines has a published Award Chart that lists its award prices. There are MileSAAver—Off Peak; MileSAAver; AAnytime—Level 1; AAnytime—Level 2; and Web Specials. Web Specials are available exclusively on aa.com and generally require fewer miles than MileSAAver and AAnytime award levels.
With Award Travel, flexibility is the key! In order to get outsized value out of your AAdvantage® miles, book at the Web Special or MileSSAver level. You may need to be a little more flexible with your departure/ arrival dates & times. The Web Specials and MileSAAver award levels make American AAdvantage® a loyalty program not to neglect!
Credit Cards to Earn American AAdvantage® Miles
There are a number of ways to amass a plethora of American AAdvantage® miles that can be redeemed for an Award Ticket. One of the easiest ways for most of us is by selecting the right credit card(s). Specifically, selecting a credit card that offers a large welcome bonus!
Of course, not all credit cards earn miles or points that can be redeemed for an Award Ticket through AAdvantage®. Unfortunately, American Airlines lacks thunder when it comes to the ecosystem of Flexible Points Currencies.
Citi did temporarily add American Airlines as a 1:1 point transfer partner—but only until November 13, 2021. This promotion allows cardmembers to transfer their Citi ThankYou® Points to American Airlines. Perhaps the best ThankYou® Points-earning card is the Citi Premier® Card with an 80,000 ThankYou® Points welcome bonus! You can apply for this card here! You can also learn more about this card in the following post: Citi Premier Card—Don't Underestimate This Workhorse!
American Airlines does have several cobranded credit cards with Citi and Barclays. Perhaps the best overall is the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. It offers a 50,000 AAdvantage® miles welcome bonus with only a $2,500 spend requirement within the first 3 months! In addition, the $99 annual fee is waived for the first year. You can apply for this card here!
Perhaps the best no-annual-fee cobranded credit card is the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. Not only does it offer a 10,000 AAdvantage® miles welcome bonus with only a $500 spend requirement within the first 3 months, but it also comes with a $50 statement credit. You can apply for this card here!
Other co-branded credit cards include: Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®; CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®; AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®; and AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®.
Marriott is a transfer partner with American Airlines at a transfer rate of 3:1. In addition, for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to American Airlines, you'll receive an extra 5,000 AAdvantage® miles. For example, 60,000 Marriott points can be converted into 25,000 American AAdvantage® miles. Although this may not be the best way to use your Marriott points, it does give you additional options when redeeming an award ticket.
Marriott has several co-branded credit cards through Chase and American Express. These include: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card; Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card; Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card; and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
Strategically Working to Increase Your American AAdvantage® Miles
There are a number of strategies you can use to increase your supply of AAdvantage® miles. This includes opening multiple credit cards—those that earn AAdvantage® miles or Marriott points. It is also a good idea to increase your stash of Citi ThankYou® Points—the possibility exists that American Airlines could form a more "permanent" relationship with Citi as a transfer partner in the future.
Families can work together in "two-player mode." This is a way for two individuals to work together to increase their credit card rewards which can then be redeemed for Award Travel. To learn more about this strategy, please see the following post: Getting Approved for a Credit Card While Unemployed—Why You Don't Want to Miss Out!
Taking advantage of AAdvantage® eShopping, AAdvantage® Dining, and other promotions offered by American Airlines are some additional ways to increase miles. It does create a little extra work to sign-up and access the links but it becomes second nature with practice.
Let the Award Booking Begin!
Let's assume that you applied for the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and received the 50,000 AAdvantage® miles welcome bonus—along with the points earned by meeting the minimum spend amount—and are ready to book your first Award Ticket! Your origin is Columbus, Ohio. Your destination is Athens, Greece. Your date of departure is Saturday, December 4, 2021, and your date of return is Saturday, December 18, 2021.
Your first step is to determine the cash price of these routes. Using Google Flights, we are able to find a cash price for the economy roundtrip at $697 between CMH and ATH. Below are the departure and return flights:
The return flight is not desirable—around 32 hours from departure to arrival! Both the departure and return flights are with oneworld carriers—American Airlines & British Airways. The total cost, assuming we have one checked bag ($150), is $847:
Now, let's see how we could book a similar itinerary using our 50,000 + American AAdvantage® miles, and compare it to the cash fare. Our first step would be to go to American Airlines' homepage, log in to your account, and enter the trip details under the "Book" tab. Be sure to select "One way" and "Redeem miles:"
Here is a pro tip: When booking an Award Ticket, it generally is better to book one way as opposed to roundtrip or multi-city. This gives you more control and flexibility when booking your ticket.
After you select "Search," choose your departure flight. Although the same itinerary is available as the one listed in Google Flights, we will choose the one with $39.10 in fees—as opposed to $237.20. It is available for 22,500 AAdvantage® miles!
Next, we will repeat the same process for our return flight. We will choose the one that is also available for 22,500 AAdvantage® miles! The fees are $117.07.
In this instance, using your American AAdvantage® miles to book your Award Ticket would give you a value of 1.64 cents per point! In other words, 45,000 AAdvantage® miles would have a cash value of ~$738! This is a good value when redeeming your miles & points for an Award Ticket through American Airlines. This calculation assumes that you used a qualifying co-branded credit card—such as the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®—that provides a free 1st checked bag or you have airline status with American Airlines. You can apply for this card here!
That is not to say the cash fare is a bad idea. In fact, the $697 + $150 checked bag fee is a good rate. However, with loyalty programs constantly devaluing their miles & points, an "earn and burn" approach is one that you want to adopt—especially when you are able to redeem an Award Ticket for outsized value.
"Taking a little extra time to understand how to redeem an Award Ticket through American AAdvantage® can substantially reduce expenses on your next vacation."
The key ingredients to being successful at Award Travel involve (1) strategically earning miles & points and (2) redeeming those miles & points for outsized value. You can learn more about this topic and receive assistance to get started by contacting a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant. You can also learn more at the following post: Why Should I Consider Using a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant?
Are you unsure of what credit card you should select? At AwardYourMiles, we have created various tools designed to help you in the Award Travel space. This includes our Miles & Points Calculator and our Credit Card Selector Calculator. The Miles & Points Calculator determines the value of the selected credit card in your first and second year of use based on your spending habits. The Credit Card Selector Calculator will provide you with the first-year value of all our credit cards contained within our database based on your spending habits. Try it out for FREE!
Be sure to research your destination to learn about any COVID-19 restrictions or travel entry requirements. Our COVID-19 Resources will help you in this regard; simply enter the state or the country you plan on visiting and dynamic links that contain COVID-19 guidance and other travel advisories will automatically populate.
In addition, many destinations are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Depending on where you would like to travel to, you may be required to present some form of digital proof of vaccination. However, because standards and requirements vary from country to country, and even from state to state within the United States, it may require some forethought on your part to obtain digital proof. Learn some useful tips in the following post: COVID-19 Vaccination—How to Create a Digital Record.
Do you want to learn more about Athens, Greece? See the following post to whet your appetite: Athens—Antiquity at its Best!
More to Come!
The American AAdvantage® loyalty program is but one of many other frequent-flyer programs. In fact, there are many ways to strategically leverage your existing points with other programs. Learn about another program—United MileagePlus®—in the following post: United MileagePlus—How to Book an Award Ticket. You can also learn about Turkish Miles&Smiles in the following post: Turkish Miles&Smiles—How to Book an Award Ticket. We also review Virgin Atlantic Flying Club in the following post: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club—How to Book an Award Ticket. You can also learn about British Airways Executive Club in the following post: British Airways Executive Club—How to Book an Award Ticket. We will review additional loyalty programs in the future!