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Here’s Why You Should Collect Bank Points Instead of American Airlines Miles

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Here’s Why You Should Collect Bank Points Instead of American Airlines Miles

Joseph HostetlerHere’s Why You Should Collect Bank Points Instead of American Airlines MilesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET:  You don’t need to earn American Airlines miles to fly American Airlines for free.  There are LOTS of other ways.

Do you know the difference between a “mile” and a “point”?  The line between these two terms is becoming more blurred every day.

The biggest difference in MY mind between airline miles and regular ol’ bank points is an airline award chart.  See, airline miles USED to operate like this:

  • You go to the airline website
  • You enter your origin and destination
  • The airline shows you a fixed price for your seat

For example, I used to KNOW that a ticket from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe would cost 30,000 miles one-way in coach as long as I’m flying with American Airlines, United Airlines, or Delta.

But airlines are migrating away from this system.  Delta has tossed its award chart, and other European airlines have done the same.  United Airlines will eliminate their award chart later this year.  And while American Airlines still has an award chart, they’ve got so many different “fixed” prices for their awards that it’s hard to know what you’ll be paying.

I submit that instead of earning airline miles, it’s better to just earn bank points, such as:

I’ll explain what I mean!

I used 25,000 American Airlines miles to fly round-trip in coach from Cincinnati to Barbados! Hopefully amazing deals like this never die

American Airlines Has an Award Chart (But They Really Charge Whatever They Want)

First let me say:   NEVER stop earning airline credit card welcome bonuses.  If you can scoop up a whole bushel of miles by opening a credit card and meeting a minimum spending requirement, do it.

Yes, it’s becoming harder to attribute value to airline miles as airlines get rid of their award charts.  But earning 50,000 miles in one fell swoop can still amount to $1,000+ in value.  Credit card welcome bonuses are what make free travel so ridiculously easy.  Plus, many airline credit cards are worth keeping year after year because of valuable ongoing benefits, like free checked bags, priority boarding, and airport lounge access.

However, under no circumstances (in my opinion) should anyone be swiping an airline card because of the rewards it earns.  Airline miles are just not practical enough.

Delta has given itself the license to charge whatever it wants for its award seats.  United Airlines will be doing the same later this year.  And American Airlines has kind of already done it.

They’ve given themselves so many exceptions to their award chart that it’s almost useless.  For example, American Airlines has:

  • MileSAAver award prices (the lowest price)
  • AAnytime award prices (much more expensive, but lots more available seats)
  • Economy Web Special award prices (sale prices on certain flights, though they’re sometimes HIGHER than MileSAAver)
  • Peak and off-peak award prices (varies by location and date)
  • Special lower prices for flights totaling 500 miles or less
  • “Reduced mileage awards,” which give certain American Airlines card holders discounts from rotating origins and destinations

Honestly, that’s a convoluted “award chart.”

American Airlines now publishes “Economy Web Special” fares — random prices on random routes at random dates.  I’ve also seen Economy Web Specials that cost more than MileSAAver flights

None of these bullets are necessarily “bad” (in fact many of them are a good thing!).  My point is that American Airlines has an abundance of price points that vary by origin, destination and date.

Add to this the fact that American Airlines is infamous for releasing very few “MileSAAver” seats and you can conclude that American Airlines is essentially charging whatever it wants while keeping its award chart.  Who knows how long it will be before they follow Delta and United Airlines by throwing out their chart altogether?

At Least With Points You KNOW the Value You’re Receiving

Because US airlines are ignoring their award charts and essentially charging whatever they want, you’re better off collecting bank points like Chase Ultimate Rewards pointsAMEX Membership Rewards points, and Capital One miles.

Here’s why you should collect these points instead of airline miles:

  • With these points, you KNOW what value to expect from them all the time (for example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points will always be worth 1.5 cents when you book travel through the Chase Travel Portal)
  • You can use the points to purchase a ticket, so your travel goals don’t have to be married to a certain airline
  • You also have the option to transfer these points to a large number of airlines (you can compare the cash price of a flight against the price of an award flight to see which is a better deal)

Bank points have always had this upside of simplicity over airline miles.  But we collect airline miles anyway because there have always been amazing sweet spots in airline award charts.  So as airlines move away from award charts, I focus more on bank points.

Here are some of the best cards to rack up bank points that are worth keeping for everyday spending:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card –  I’ve had this card for 5+ years.  You’ll earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card –  Most MMS writers have this card.  You’ll earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve –  This is arguably the best travel credit card in the game because of all its ongoing benefits.  Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – Earn 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Citi Premier℠ Card – I opened this card because it’s got a very generous bonus for swiping at the pump.  You’ll also earn 50,000 Citi ThankYou Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

Let me know if your outlook on airline miles isn’t as bleak as mine, or if your miles and points strategy is changing as airlines change their award charts!  You can learn how to use American Airlines miles here, and learn more about all things American Airlines below:

And subscribe to our newsletter for more info like this:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

More Info

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! :)

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Today, 4/30/19, I booked 2 one way tickets from LAX to PVR and return, on Delta, for an unbelievable 14,000 miles total. A R/T was 18,000 miles. Go figure.
This is Main Cabin not Basic. AA was 25,000 miles for the same route and dates.
Deal is not always available but I lucked out. This was truly a gift and I am a Happy Camper!

What dates?

Awesome! Happy this worked out for you and you were able to book a good deal 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

You’ve neglected to mention that AA award prices are still the same, and can be relatively simple when booking partner awards. And you don’t have to deal with the confusion of AA’s current award chart. I just booked a one way non-stop flight on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to JFK for 33,750 miles(37,500 minus the 10% rebate from the AA credit card which ends on May 1). That same one way flight is going for $1279, or 83,000 Chase UR points.

wouldnt waste 83k UR points as you can transfer a lot less to BA for that same flight

and with the current 30% UR transfer bonus to BA, it’s 39k UR for that flight

I’d rather save my UR points for redemptions where I don’t have other miles. No reason to use up 39K UR when it’s so easy to get AA miles.

To each their own! I’m sitting on a big stash of both Chase UR and American Airlines miles. I’m planning my next trip, and I’m finding that it’s easier for me to find good redemption options from my Chase UR points 🙂

I generally agree with the advantage of using transferable points. However it is hard to transfer points to American if it is your preferred airline as it is mine.

I’ve earned over a million AAdvantage Miles in the last 8 years, mainly through credit card bonuses and spending. My wife and I have flown all over the world using them and don’t find their award charts confusing or convoluted at all. The key is you have to be flexible with your travel and can schedule as far in advance as is feasible.

Having said that, I recently made a decision to start collecting Ultimate Rewards points and have earned 450,000+ in less than a year. I’m now considering adding Citi Thank You points and discontinuing the AAdvantage points earning. I just think bank points are going to be more useful with all the recent devaluations and the fact that airfares to the places we travel to have dropped so much it doesn’t make sense to use miles on a value per mile basis.

I’m a huge fan of Chase UR points. And if I’m remembering correctly, they’ve got a long history of no devaluations too which gives me a bit of confidence in the value of the points!