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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.
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!”
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