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10 Best Uses of American Airlines Miles to Visit Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, & More

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10 Best Uses of American Airlines Miles to Visit Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, & More

Harlan Vaughn10 Best Uses of American Airlines Miles to Visit Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, & MoreMillion Mile Secrets Team

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American Airlines miles can get you around the world for fewer miles than you might think, thanks to AA’s zone-based pricing.  Within each region, you’ll find sweet spots and savings throughout the year for popular destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe, and of course right here at home.

Lots of folks (and many of us on the MMS team) tend to collect miles for high-value awards that would otherwise cost $100s (if not $1,000s!) in cash.  So use our examples to save money and book your next trip at a huge discount.

You can earn American Airlines miles with cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, and American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.

And I’ll highlight 10 of the best uses of American Airlines miles.

Use American Airlines Miles to Get Yourself to New Zealand, or Nearly Anywhere Else in the World. Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Redemptions With American Airlines Miles

Check out my list!

10 Best Uses of American Airlines Miles

American Airlines Miles Review:  Your Ultimate Guide

The first thing to know about American Airlines miles is there are 2 award charts:  One for American Airlines flights, the other for partner awards.

And while there’s a lot of overlap, there are a few differences.  So depending which carrier you want to fly, make sure to look in the right place.

American Airlines Award Chart

American Airlines Flight Award Chart

If you want to fly on American Airlines, whether domestically or abroad, refer to the American Airlines award chart.

You’ll Have More Options Using American Airlines Miles for Their Own Flights

Here, you can redeem your miles for multiple levels of awards, including:

  • Off-peak flights
  • MileSAAver awards (the lowest level)
  • AAnytime Level 1
  • AAnytime Level 2

Typically, the best awards are MileSAAver awards – and of course, when you can book travel during the off-peak seasons.  And with certain awards, you’ll save miles by flying on American Airlines, but that’s the exception instead of the rule.

oneworld and Partner Award Chart

oneworld and Partner Airlines Flight Award Chart

Other times, you’ll need (or want!) to use American Airlines miles to fly on an airline partner.  In that case, you’ll want to check the oneworld and partner award chart.

Many of the Best Award Redemptions With American Airlines Miles Are for Partner Award Flights

You’ll notice most off-peak dates are gone here, except certain flights to Europe.  And a couple of awards cost a bit more.  But for the most part, flying on a partner costs the same as flying American Airlines.  And in many cases, that’s preferable!

You can use American Airlines miles to fly on any oneworld airline, including:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Air Lines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • SriLankan Airlines
I Used American Airlines Miles to Fly in a Japan Airlines Business Class Seat From Tokyo to Dallas

Other American Airline partner airlines include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air
  • Cape Air
  • China Southern
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between the US mainland and Hawaii)
  • Seaborne Airlines

But note you can NOT book every partner airline on the AA website.  Here’s what you can book online:

You’ll Have to Call to Book Many Partner Award Flights

Instead, you must call AA reservations at 800-882-8880 to book many partner awards.  There’s usually a $25 phone booking fee, but you can ask them to waive it if you’re unable to book it online.

For more information on how to search and use your miles, check out our Ultimate Guide to American Airlines miles.

And here are 10 of the best ways to redeem your American Airlines miles.

1.   Flights 500 Miles or Less

You can book any short American Airlines flight 500 miles or less within the US and Canada for only 7,500 American Airlines miles each way in coach.  That’s a savings of 5,000 miles off the usual price!

Folks in Charlotte Can Head to Nashville for Only 7,500 American Airlines Miles Each Way

And because these flights tend to be expensive, you can do well using your miles instead.  I like to do this for short weekend trips to nearby places that would otherwise be expensive to access.

Just keep in mind, American Airlines charges a $75 close-in booking fee for flights departing under 21 days from when you book.

2.   Mainland US or Canada

Another cool thing is American Airlines award prices within the entire mainland US (except Alaska) and Canada are 12,500 American Airlines miles each way in coach (aside from the short flights mentioned in #1).

Travel Sea to Shining Sea – There’s Only One Price to Remember

Here’s your chance to travel from one corner to another.  Unlike other programs that price awards based on distance, American Airlines has a set price for each zone.

And if you have to make a connection, that’s included too.  Most flights within the US only have an extra ~$6 in taxes added (you’ll pay more to visit Canada, however).

I’ve booked this award a time or two when cash prices have been expensive, and it’s given me a lot of fun memories in exchange.

3.   Visit Hawaii Off-Peak

If you can line up a trip to Hawaii with American Airlines’ off-peak dates, you can save 5,000 miles off the normal round-trip coach price.  Off-peak dates to Hawaii are:

  • December 29 to March 12
  • August 11 to November 18
  • November 24 to December 10

During these times, you’ll pay 40,000 American Airlines miles for a return trip to the Hawaiian Islands.

Get a Deal Flying to Hawaii in the Shoulder Season

This is especially helpful if you’re flying from the East Coast or Midwest, and cash flights are expensive.  The first award trip I booked was to Hawaii, and I remember it fondly.  If you’ve never been, it’s actually fantastic – and going when it’s not crowded means you can get more beaches all to yourself!

4.   A Sweet Spot to the Caribbean or Mexico

Just like Hawaii, you can get a deal and pay the domestic coach price to visit the Caribbean (including Bermuda) or Mexico during the off-peak times, which are:

  • September 7 to November 14
  • April 27 to May 20
Get Yourself a Deal to Anywhere in Mexico or the Caribbean by Going Off-Peak

Outside of peak times, you’ll pay 12,500 American Airlines miles each way in coach, from anywhere in the mainland US or Canada.  So if you find yourself needing a spring or fall getaway, give this one a shot and see what you can find.  Temperatures in Mexico tend to be warm all year round – and may I recommend Mexico City?

5.   Anywhere in Europe

Thanks again to American Airlines’ broad regional definitions, you can visit any European country for only 30,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach.  And this is the only award that has off-peak dates for partner airlines, which fall between:

  • January 10 to March 14
  • November 1 to December 14

During these times, you can visit Europe for only 22,500 American Airlines miles each way, which is a great deal.

Get Yourself to Iceland With American Airlines Miles, Which Has Non-Stop Flights to Dallas Open to Book

So you could visit places off the beaten path, like Croatia, Romania, or Serbia.  Or places that are usually expensive, like northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Plus, you can get stellar value from your miles on some routes.  For example, I found non-stop flights from Dallas to Iceland selling for $1,900+, or 30,000 American Airlines miles.  That’s a fantastic deal with miles!

6.   Business Class to Japan or South Korea

Anywhere in Japan or South Korea is considered the Asia Region 1, and the price is the same whether you fly American Airlines, or a partner like Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines.

You can pay 60,000 American Airlines miles each way in Business Class, which is a real treat.  I happily booked this award to fly home after an amazing week in Japan.  Nothing beats going back in style!

Here’s Your Chance to Visit Asia in a Premium Cabin on a Partner Like Cathay Pacific

I’ve been dying to visit Seoul!  And even better, you can mix partners on the same award.  Team member Jasmin booked an award from Asia back to New York on both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines and got to experience both airlines.

This is by far one of my favorite awards with American Airlines miles.

7.   Deals to Australia or New Zealand

Speaking of mixing carriers, you can fly to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui or Fiji with Fiji Airways, then onward to Australia or New Zealand on Qantas.  I flew from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji, then to New Zealand, which was the beginning of an incredible trip.

You can do it too, for 40,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach, or 80,000 miles for Business Class.

Auckland Is a Super Cool City to Make a Home Base in New Zealand

Be aware that non-stop flights to Australia are scarce at best.  But if you’re willing to connect in Fiji or Tahiti, you have a much better chance of piecing together an award.  I suppose there are worse things in life than having a layover in Tahiti. 😉

8.   Anywhere in Africa

Here’s the best example of American Airlines’ zone-based pricing:  All of Africa is one region.  If you haven’t noticed, Africa is big – so take advantage!

You can fly all the way down to South Africa, or any of the cool countries on the way like Kenya or Zimbabwe.  Your best shot is flying over on Qatar Airways and connecting in Doha.  Otherwise, you can connect elsewhere in Europe.  American Airlines doesn’t fly to Africa, so you’ll have to find a partner award flight and pay:

  • 40,000 American Airlines miles each way in coach
  • 75,000 American Airlines miles each way in Business Class
  • 120,000 American Airlines miles each way in First Class

That’s a bargain for all the flying you can get.  Not to mention all the amazing adventures you can get into all over Africa!

9.   Your Own Apartment in the Sky

Now this one isn’t for everybody, and that’s alright.  But if you want one of the most opulent, over-the-top airplane experiences, this one is hard to compete with.

You can fly in Etihad’s First Class apartment for 115,000 American Airlines miles each way, and enjoy your own huge bed, onboard shower, lounge access, and private chef.  Yes, for real!

It Doesn’t Get Much Fancier Than Etihad’s First Class Apartment Suite

That’s a lot of miles, but considering these seats can sell for $20,000+, you can get one of the most unforgettable trips of your life.

10.   Reduced Mileage Awards

Save Up to 7,500 Miles With American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards

If you have certain American Airlines credit cards, you can get a 7,500-mile discount on round-trip coach flights.  And the awards you can get change each month, so it’s worth checking if you like to travel domestically.

Cards that qualify for the biggest discount for flights over 500 miles include:

If Your Hometown Looks Like This, Chances Are You Can Get a Discount There With American Airlines Miles!

There are frequently lots of small regional airports on the list.  So if you call a rural town home, you can save some miles when you head back for a visit.  Plus, doesn’t everyone want to visit Manhattan, Kansas? 🙂

But seriously, this is worth keeping an eye on.  Here’s our guide on how to book AA reduced mileage awards.

Bottom Line

What are the best ways to redeem American Airlines miles?  Glad you asked!  Here are my top 10 picks (all prices one-way and in coach unless noted):

  • Short flights within the US and Canada 500 miles or less for 7,500 miles
  • Anywhere in the contiguous US or Canada for 12,500 miles
  • Off-peak to Hawaii for 20,000 miles
  • Off-peak to the Caribbean (including Bermuda) and Mexico for 12,500 miles
  • Anywhere in Europe for 30,000 miles (and some off-peak dates are only 22,500 miles)
  • Japan or South Korea for 60,000 miles in Business Class – and you can mix carriers
  • Australia or New Zealand with a stop in French Polynesia for 40,000 miles in coach or 80,000 miles in Business Class
  • Anywhere in Africa for 40,000 miles (!)
  • Etihad’s First Class apartment for 115,000 miles
  • 7,500-mile discounts for coach round-trip flights with Reduced Mileage awards

And we have other resources full of tips for you to get the most out of your American Airlines miles:


What’s your favorite way to spend your American Airlines miles?

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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This article got my hopes up, I will admit. I checked out the off-peak SFO-ZRH AA redemption. 45k miles… plus 600 in fees, for a $1067 ticket :'(

There may still be good deals to Hawaii but some flights have more than doubled in miles. For the last 6 years, I’ve flown First Class to Maui on the same dates and flights for 130,000 or less for a round trip. The same dates/flights/seats for 2020 will cost me 290,000 miles. That’s 60,000 miles more than a round trip in the Ethiad Apartment.

Is the Residence still bookable with AA miles? If so, I assume AUH-LHR/CDG would probably be the cheapest. How many miles are we talking here each way?

The Residence is not bookable with points unless you are talking about the First Class Apartments.

how much are the taxes/fees for these award flights? I can’t see it

I have recently checked a couple flight to Europe with American Airlines and both times they had very high taxes and fees along with the 30,000 miles each way? Do you know of a way to avoid these high fees?

It depends on which airline you end up flying with. This post gives you some options for using American Airlines miles to get to Europe while avoiding or minimizing the fees:

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