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What are American Airlines miles worth? Here’s your quick answer

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What are American Airlines miles worth? Here’s your quick answer

Meghan HunterWhat are American Airlines miles worth? Here’s your quick answerMillion Mile Secrets Team

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When I tell friends, “Trust me, you should be collecting American Airlines miles,” they always ask: What are they worth, man?

I can’t give them a satisfying answer because pinning an exact value on American Airlines miles is impossible.

So instead of giving value in dollar amounts, I refer to the sign-up bonus on a card like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® and say things like:

  • This card’s sign-up bonus is worth a visit to the Eiffel Tower
  • This card’s sign-up bonus is worth a visit to the Great Wall of China
  • This card’s sign-up bonus is worth a visit to your grandma’s for Thanksgiving

That gladdens them right up.

Let’s take a quick look at how American Airlines miles work so you can see what they’re worth, both in money and memories.

American Airlines partners with lots of different airlines, so your American miles can take you to just about anyplace on the earth. (Photo by muratart/Shutterstock)

Evaluating American Airlines miles

First, the basics.

American Airlines recently moved to dynamic pricing, so it’s a bit harder to pin down an exact value for AA miles. But you can still reference their award charts to get a general idea of how much an award flight would cost.

Here are three examples to help you understand how to calculate the value you’ll be getting by using American Airlines miles for your next flight.

Example 1: Round-trip coach flight to Zurich

American Airlines charges from 30,000 miles one way in coach to fly from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in Europe.

The example below is the cost of a flight from Charlotte to Zurich in June. You’ll pay 60,000 miles round trip for a coach flight, plus taxes and fees amounting to ~$358.

 

The cash value of the ticket for those same days is $2,483.  So, to figure out how much your American Airlines miles are worth in this situation, here’s the math: ($2,483 cash price – $358 in taxes) / 60,000 miles.

Value per American Airlines mile:  3.54 cents. Also, memories for the rest of your life.

Example 2:  One-way business-class flight to Paris

You’ll often get the most value for your American Airlines miles by using them for fancy business-class seats. I’ve used American Airlines miles for business-class seats between Seoul and Los Angeles, as well as from Lima to Miami. One-way business-class flights can cost as little 57,500 miles. That might sound like a lot, but let’s examine the math again.

Here’s a one-way business-class flight between New York and Paris. It’ll cost you 67,000 American Airlines miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees.

The cash price of the same ticket is $8,272.

 

 

To find the value, do this:  ($8,272 cash price – $5.60 in taxes) / 67,000 miles.

Value per American Airlines mile: Over 12 cents. And thousands of Instagram likes.

Example 3:  Round-trip domestic coach flight

You live in Miami, but you’re having a family reunion in Seattle. No problem.

You can expect to book round-trip domestic flights from anywhere to anywhere from 25,000 miles (and sometimes cheaper if there’s an award sale). For example, this flight from Miami to Seattle costs 25,000 miles and $11.20 in taxes.

 

The cash price of this ticket is $414. So let’s figure out the value of your American Airlines miles: ($414 cash price – $11.20 in taxes) / 25,000 miles.

Value per American Airlines mile: 1.6 cents. And squeezes and smooches from your grandmother.

As you can see, American Airlines miles vary dramatically in value. I find it’s best to think of the value in terms of travel goals instead of dollar signs. If an American Airlines card is offering a “60,000 mile sign-up bonus after meeting spending requirements,” you can read that as “a free round-trip coach flight to Europe after meeting spending requirements!”

And subscribe to our newsletter for more tips like this:

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

  • Designed for businesses
  • Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries to reduce travel costs and boost your bottom line.
  • 25% savings on American Airlines inflight Wi-Fi when you use your card
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations.
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

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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Sorry, my head still can’t get around this one.

So could you please extend the analysis further? In each example, would it be better to use your AA miles or buy the ticket outright? What is the average/typical value of AA miles? Does a lower value for AA miles mean a better deal?

Appreciate it if you could explain further so my head doesn’t hurt. 🙂

I want to know more about this!

Wow, this is all sorts of wrong.

On #1: Lowest price for CLT-ZRH-CLT 6/6-6/14 w/1 stop in each direction and <13h duration (much better than your example) is $2065 in regular Economy. Google Flights is telling me that's "normal" for those dates, and also that <$1800 is "low."

I generally find that prices bottom out at somewhere between 50 and 80% of the "low"/"normal" split in Google's graph ($900-$1440 in this case). I think that's a better metric for figuring out what the miles are worth, not whatever they're charging today. No one is forcing you to book June flights this second!

You also haven't looked at alternative dates. Neither have I, you're the one getting paid for this.

On #2: I'd never pay cash for Business Class, so I don't use the cash price. I use 150-300% of the Economy fare, depending on the quality (LH 150%, UA 200%, etc.).

Also, RT international is usually much cheaper than OW international.

Also, prices are dynamic (see my first point).

On #3: I don't really have a problem with this one. $414 is okay for MIA-SEA-MIA midweek shoulder season. Current lowest price is $373 (Economy) for direct flights, which I imagine is what you were looking at there, and which Google says is "low."

It’s a sham. You would be better off finding the best flight for the lowest amount of money.

Your methodology is flawed.

If I pay cash, I receive miles. When calculating the value of miles, you need to take these into account by adding them to the points used before the cost division is made.

Your way always overestimated the value.

Hope that this helps

Do you have a rule of thumb you use to decide if it worth to use the miles or fork out the cash? Seems like most times I evaluate the use of miles vs cash I end up just paying for the ticket if it is in the 1.2-1.6 cent/mile range.

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