The Secret Way to Avoid That Stupid $75 Fee American Airlines Charges for Booking an Award Flight Within 3 Weeks of Travel

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Some of you may not even know about this fee, so here’s a word of caution:   American Airlines charges a $75 fee if you book an award flight within 21 days of your departure date (called a “close-in fee”).

There’s no reason for the fee, other than American Airlines profiting from unforeseen crises and other spontaneous life circumstances of their customers.  Any time I’ve had to buy airfare last-minute, it hasn’t been for a happy occasion.

There are ways to book award flights on American Airlines without paying the $75 close-in fee.  And the key is by using airline partners like British Airways and Iberia instead of American Airlines to book the exact same flights.  You can earn British Airways and Iberia points with:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Transfers to British Airways and Iberia
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card – Transfers to British Airways and Iberia
  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card – Earns British Airways Avios points directly and transfers to Iberia
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Transfers to British Airways and Iberia

I’ll show you how.  And you can subscribe to our newsletter for more money-saving travel techniques like this in the future.

The information for the British Airways Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Few airline expenses boil my blood more than American Airlines close-in fees

Avoid the American Airlines $75 Close-In Fee

American Airlines isn’t the only airline that charges a close-in fee, but there are plenty that don’t.  You can use this to your advantage.

Both British Airways and Iberia are American Airlines partners.  Neither charge a close-in fee.

You can book American Airlines flights through both the British Airways site and the Iberia site.  But you’ll need either British Airways Avios points or Iberia Avios points to do it!  Fortunately, you can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to both British Airways and Iberia.

Before you transfer your points, though, be certain that the flights you want are available through these other airline websites.  They won’t show as many available seats as American Airlines, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding the flights you want.

Let’s book a flight 6 days from today.  Through American Airlines, this flight costs 25,000 miles (the same amount as always), but you’re also paying $86.20 in taxes & fees.  That’s $75 higher than a normal award flight.

You’ll normally pay $11.20 round-trip for an award flight on American Airlines.  But when you book an award seat within 21 days, American Airlines charges an extra $75

Now let’s look at the same flight booked through Iberia.  You’ll pay 23,000 points (Iberia has a different award chart than American Airlines), and $20.20 in taxes & fees.  That is the same price you’d pay if you booked 10 months in advance.

Iberia won’t screw you if you need to make an unexpected trip

Just by booking through a different website, you’ll save $66 on this trip.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Note:   If you book a paid flight on American Airlines, you won’t be charged a close-in fee.  So another option of circumventing the fee is to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book through the Chase Travel Portal.  Or you can use Capital One miles to book your flight without paying anything.  Comment below if you need more details on that.

Let me know your tips to evading ridiculous airline fees.  Or comment if you have a question about possibly avoiding a different fee!

[gravityform id=”3″ title=”false” description=”false”]

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments