Cheap Car Rentals: Part 9 – American Airlines Car Rentals

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You can book car rentals with American Airlines miles. You don’t have to pay the full amount using miles, but can combine cash and miles for most of the rental.

Use American Airlines Miles for Car Rentals

Use American Airlines Miles for Car Rentals

Cheap Car Rentals Series:

 American Airlines Car Rentals


American Airlines lets you use miles to book car rentals at

However, you will pay taxes and fees at the rental counter as well.  But this can still be worth checking out since you may be able to save money.  You can also use American Airlines miles to book international car rentals.

You can’t book a one-way rental and can’t book a rental outside of selected airports.  Here is a link to the terms and conditions. 

The cancellation policy is VERY restrictive

  1. There is a $150 cancellation fee for canceling 5 or more days before the rental.  There is NO refund for canceling within 4 days of the rental
  2. You CANNOT cancel if your reservation is between December 17 & January 13
  3. Changes can be made up to 24 hours prior to pick-up for a $30 fee

Step 1 – Search For a Car Rental

Go to and search for a car rental


Search for a Car Rental

Step 2 – Check Price in Miles

You will see different amount of miles required if you:


Lower Rates for Citi American Airlines Credit Card Holders

Highest Price (10,500 Miles For a 2 Day Rental) for Regular Members



Lower Price (4,700 Miles For a 2 Day Rental) for Citi American Airlines Credit Card Holders



Lowest Price (3,900 Miles For a 2 Day Rental) for American Airlines Elite Members

I checked that the rate was the same for Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum members.  Thanks to Battered Luggage and ORD to Anywhere for helping out with this!

Step 3 – Check the Price in Cash & Miles

Paying the full amount in American Airlines miles is usually a bad deal, though it could be worth it if you have lots of American Airlines miles.  But you can always select to pay with a fixed combination of 1,000 American Airlines miles and cash.

All you have to do is move the slider towards the left in the “Payment Options” tab which is in the payment field.  Again, you will see different rates, but the cash rate is virtually the same if you have a Citi American Airlines credit card or if you are an American Airlines elite member.

Note that you won’t get good rates if you don’t have a Citi American Airlines credit card or are not an elite member with American Airlines.


American Airlines Car Rental

1,000 Miles + $48 for Regular Members (Highest Price)



1,000 Miles + $42 if you Have a Citi American Airlines Card



1,000 Miles + $40 for American Airlines Elite Members

Step 4 – Check Taxes and Fees

You can estimate the amount of taxes and fees which you will pay at the rental counter (in ADDITION to the cash and points paid at the American Airlines website) by going directly to the rental car company website and searching for a similar rental.

Using the same example above, I go to the Budget car rental website and search for the same:

  • Car class (Economy)
  • Destination (Austin) and
  • Duration (2 days) as what I found on the American Airlines website.

The taxes and fees are ~$38 which means that I will have to pay around $38 in addition to the miles and cash which I pay on the American Airlines website.


Find the Taxes & Fees on the Car Rental Website

 Step 5 – Calculate Your Total Cost

Calculate the total cost of the rental by including the:

  • Cash portion of the rental paid to American Airlines – $40 to $48
  • Value of the miles you use (I price each mile at 1.5 cents) – $15
  • Taxes and fees which you will pay at the rental counter – $38

Sometimes the American Airlines website will get you the best deal on a car rental, but not all the time.  And it does take a bit of work to compare the rates to other sites.

But it could be worth it – especially for international rentals.

Bottom Line

Using American Airlines miles can be a good value if you have the Citi American Airlines credit card or if you are an American Airlines elite member.

But you will have to pay taxes and fees at the counter when you use your American Airlines miles, so be sure to include that into your calculation!  And don’t forget the expensive cancellation fees.

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29 responses to “Cheap Car Rentals: Part 9 – American Airlines Car Rentals

  1. Only issue is even if you select miles + cash, you may still not be covered by your credit card’s car insurance since it could deemed a charge for miles, which are used to redeem for the car rental rather than a charge for a car rental + 1,000 miles.

  2. @WeddingSpend – DD’s post on using UR points for renting was great ( . I have confirmed with Chase when you do either use all points, all cash or a combo and pay with any Chase card via UR you will get all the perks from your Chase cards (ok not really on topic for AA).

  3. Daraius,
    It is funny that this is what your post is about today because I was going to e-mail you once I got to work. I use AA miles to book car rentals all the time and I find it the most affordable way to rent a car in higher priced areas (like Orlando). A car for a week can cost a lot of money during specific times. I was very confused about this though which is why I wanted to talk to you. I saw when you went to Hawaii you used some sort of points, but didn’t list the rental as costing you any money. Did you not have any taxes to pay for this?

  4. I have often found their discount codes to be among the best for international destinations, such as some rentals I have had in Mexico and Central America, though as with many, note that manadatory liability insurance in those countries is often excluded from the quote.

    • @WeddingSpend @rene – I believe you may be covered if you pay with part points and part cash with Visa cards, but best to call and find out to make sure.

      @Lesli – All taxes and fees are included when you use Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi Thank You points to book a car rental. But they are not included when you use AA miles for a car rental, so you will have to pay the taxes and fees at the rental counter when you use AA miles.

      @Rapid Travel Chai – Thanks! I updated the post to mention that international car rentals could be cheaper when using American Airlines miles.

  5. Thanks for posting this! As a Citi AAdvantage cardholder and a newly minted Platinum, I’ll definitely be checking this again the UR portal from here on out. Thanks again!

  6. Another way to get the most bang for your buck is if you need the more expensive rentals. Last Thanksgiving I needed to rent a mini-van for 6 days in Denver(we were going to be driving with 6 people), to pay for it I was looking at $900+ for even the cheapest places.
    I checked all the different ways to rent using points and in this case using AA miles was by far the best deal. I t only cost 22,000 points plus taxes which I don’t remember the exact amount but it wasn’t much.

  7. I used some orphaned AA miles at HNL last month for a rental, and after all the taxes and fees they added at the rental counter, it would have been much less to use Hotwire, which includes most of those fees.

    However, I wanted to make sure I got National or Hertz at HNL, since we were a big group getting in very late, and I didn’t want to risk Hotwire sending us to one of the off-site rental car companies that you need to get to by shuttle.

    Also, National did not honor my elite benefits on this, and did not let me choose from emerald aisle, even though I had reserved a mid-size or above.

    • @Harlan V. – You’re welcome!

      @Michael P. – Yikes! $900 is very stiff, so glad you were able to save with using American Airline miles.

      @Chris M. – Thanks for sharing. Did National not honor the elite benefits because it wasn’t booked on their site? I’ve used AA miles with Avis twice, and while my name wasn’t on the Preferred board, it took just a quick visit to the Preferred booth to get a car quickly and be on our way.

  8. To clarify I have not tried using miles before, this is new to me, I meant just using AA’s discount codes for paid rentals.

  9. I found that british airways and ultimate rewards had better deals for using your miles for rentals because they include the taxes. I was trying to book a minivan in Hawaii- the add-on taxes from AAdvantage were ridiculously high. The membership reward transfer bonus to british airways made the deal even better.

  10. Hey Daraius,

    Thanks for writing that in-depth guide for getting a cheap rental through AA. It can sometimes be difficult to find the cheapest rate with all the variety in coupon codes and membership benefits.

    I wish there was a more incentive by rental car agencies to provide discounts for safe driving behavior. Insurance companies are doing it, so why not take it to the next step? I wrote an article recently on the topic: Rental Car Discount Rewards Safe Drivers. I’d love to hear what you think about the idea.

    Matt Hardesty

  11. Hi Daraius,

    Thanks for always sharing lots of travel tips. I booked a 17 days rental at IAH airport. First I booked with my ultimate rewards (it cost 31,000 or $388.00)–all tax & fees were included. When I tried it with AA miles, (it cost 26,000 miles)–it did not mention anything about tax & fees until the final confirmation. So I called the 800 number immediately and the agent told me she “couldn’t give me an amount or estimate). I was not comfortable to commit to an open-end tax & fees. I asked to cancel my reservation (within minutes that it went through), but she told me it cost $150 to do so. She gave me Budget rental # and I called both central reservation & the counter at IAH. The answer I got was (the reservation is showing fully pre-paid). I told her that it is listed on my confirmation about (tax & fees). I didn’t want any surprise when I pick up the car. She told me not to worry. If my rate is showing 0, any percentage of 0 would be 0. When I picked up my car, I was charged $220. I wish the government will regulate car rental the way they regulate airfare. It should be straight forward. Any fees should be showing in dollar amount. Just be careful when you book a car rental with AA miles. Ultimate rewards would cost me 31,000 points without any fees, AA miles cost 26,000 miles plus $220. The cancellation policy with AA is $150 once you got to the last page of your confirmation. You have up to 2 days before your rental and no fees with Ultimate rewards.

  12. To add my two cents:

    I recently got back from a trip where I rented a car for two weeks from the Newark Airport. I priced through all rental companies directly (including using AA rental car coupons), and the cheapest I found was $550 (taxes included). Then I stumbled across this article and went through the process — the cheapest option used 25,400 miles (my remaining balance) and $160 cash. Even though that’s enough miles for a round trip ticket anywhere in the US, saving close to $400 of out-of-pocket expenses was too tempting.

    However, I did not read all of the fine print (or the comments to this article), and when I arrived in Newark and picked up that car, I got charged another $190 in taxes! I suspect the whopping 33% tax that applies to rental cars in New Jersey is on the upper end of the spectrum, but it was compounded by the fact that the base rate (before applying airline miles) was much higher than the best deal I had found earlier.

    Had I known the total out of pocket expense was going to be $350 PLUS a free round trip ticket, I would certainly have not used my AA miles. Instead of redeeming my miles for what amounts to around $400 (a reasonable price for a medium distance domestic flight), I got $200 — not so good. Lesson learned.

  13. As mom of three, trying to use (16 yr) sons miles before they expire, and we have trip planned for Dec and need a car. Can I use his miles for our family car rental? anyone done this before… I get to the end and all it says is renter has to be 25 and older, not “redeemer” and would be on my credit card…dates are in the “no refund zone” so would love any info before committing…

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  17. I knew the credit card gave you better deals, didn’t realize elite status was even better (but makes sense). Regarding the Preferred benefits, have you ever tried to get your number tied to the reservation beforehand (by contacting Avis) so you wouldn’t have to rely on the airport counter? I have a trip planned in SJU and based on previous experience at the Avis in San Juan booking on AA miles (while President’s Preferred), they don’t so much care about elite status. Thanks!

  18. Thanks for the quick reply! Yeah, I tried flashing the card last time but they weren’t too impressed. Have an SUV this time around (lot of pax/gear in tow), so probably not much to upgrade to, but the free GPS would be nice.

  19. I would like to pick up the rental car in one city and drop it off in another. It does not seem any of the companies that allow the use of Airline miles can accommodate that option. Any ideas?

  20. Some time ago, I saw that AA offered car rental insurance (similar to CDW) for ~ $25 or $27 for a week but can’t find it on Do you know how to find it? Yes, this is off subject.

  21. I’m very unhappy with AAdvantage. They ask you to book a car but they are the only website I know that doesn’t even attempt to estimate taxes and fees. Basically, you risk paying $150 in order to book a car in order to log into another car rental website to see under that res number how much the rental cost will actually be. So you can blow 100,000 miles to book a minivan for 10 days, then end up paying $300 or more in taxes at the counter. If you don’t like it, AA allows you to redeposit your miles for $150. I called them and they basically said that’s tough…I told them they are the only booking engine I know of that doesn’t even attempt to estimate taxes. What a scheme. I asked them if they would allow a 24-hour free redeposit timeframe so that you could book, then go check the res in the car website to verify taxes and fees. They said no – they have to do “paperwork” to get AA to redeposit the miles. Sounds like they are stuck in the 1980’s.

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  23. Dear DD’s,
    Using AA mileages for rental car might be a great option for me. But I’m a bit concerned about the hidden fees you mentioned in this post. I’ve just checked the estimated fees from Alamo for my trip, following your tip. But is there any possibility that the fees I’ll pay onsite will be significantly different from the estimates from the webpage of Alamo? Please let me know