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9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With American Airlines Credit Cards and Miles

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9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With American Airlines Credit Cards and Miles

Andrew R9 Common Mistakes Folks Make With American Airlines Credit Cards and MilesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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American Airlines miles are some of the most valuable frequent flyer miles you can earn.  They’ve got a lot of domestic hubs and international flights folks can book with miles, as well as lots of cards that earn American Airlines miles.

Folks can rack up a tons of miles using cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.  Each of these cards come with sign-up bonuses that let you earn American Airlines miles quickly.

You can even transfer points from Marriott / Starwood to American Airlines, so if you have cards that earn those points you can pool them with the miles you earn using Citi American Airlines cards.

However, there are common mistakes folks make with American Airlines credit cards that can keep them from realizing their full potential.

Use American Airlines Miles to Fly to Rome for Free and Stroll Through the Eternal City at Night!

Let’s have a look at these common errors folks make with American Airlines miles and cards so you can make the most of the program!

1.   Not Knowing the Citi American Airlines Card Application Rules

Citi has 4 credit cards that earn American Airlines miles, but they have a strict set of rules that govern how often you can earn sign-up bonuses.  Essentially, Citi won’t allow you to earn a sign-up bonus if you’ve opened or closed a card in the same “family” of card in the past 24 months, with a couple of exceptions.  Here’s a post detailing everything you need to know about Citi American Airlines card application rules.

That means if you were to open (or close!) the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, you would NOT be eligible to earn a sign-up bonus on the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard for 24 months following opening or closing the Platinum card.

However, there are some exceptions to this restriction.  The first is if you open a personal Citi AAdvantage card, you can still open a business Citi AAdvantage card like the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard and earn the sign-up bonus even if it’s been less than 24 months since you’ve opened or closed the personal card.  So if you are a small business owner, you can earn 2 sign-up bonuses by opening both a personal and business version of the Citi American Airlines cards.

Additionally, you can open the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, which comes with no annual fee and does NOT count towards the 24-month restriction regardless of having another personal Citi AAdvantage card.

2.   Keeping Your American Airlines Miles From Expiring

Like most frequent flyer programs, American Airlines miles have an expiration date – they’ll expire after 18 months of inactivity.  However, there are lots of ways to keep your American Airlines miles from expiring.

Folks can:

  • Take a flight on American Airlines (or a partner airline) – Taking a paid flight with American Airlines (or a partner airline) will earn you miles and prevent you from losing the miles you currently have
  • Spend miles for a future flight – Even if your schedule is too busy to book a trip before your miles are scheduled to expire, you can spend some miles to book a future award trip.  When you book an award ticket, the miles will be debited right away from your American Airlines miles account, even if the flight is a year away
  • Relax at a hotel – You can earn American Airlines miles for your stay at one of American Airlines’ hotel partners if you credit the rewards you earn to your American Airlines account
  • Convert hotel points to American Airlines miles – You can convert hotel points to American Airlines miles from programs including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Choice, Wyndham, and more.
  • Take a cruise – Search for a qualifying cruise through the American Airlines cruise portal to earn 1 mile per $1 spent (up to 10,000 American Airlines miles)
  • Use the AAdvantage eShopping portal or the AAdvantage dining program – You can earn miles by using the AAdvantage eShopping Portal when shopping online or enrolling your credit cards in the AAdvantage Dining Program when dining out.  The purchases you make through either program will add to your miles total AND restart the expiration clock for your miles balance
  • Earn miles from any purchase made with a Citi American Airlines card – When you make any purchase with a Citi American Airlines card, you earn miles AND restart the expiration clock for your miles balance

3.   Not Crediting Partner (oneworld) Flights to American Airlines

Oftentimes when you book flights on an airline you don’t often fly, you can credit your miles to a partner airline.  This is also the case when booking flights with American Airlines partners, like any of the oneworld alliance airlines like JAL or British Airways.  Instead of earning JAL miles, you can chose to earn American Airlines miles instead!

One thing to keep in mind is you will not necessarily earn 100% of the miles you would have earned on the partner in American Airlines miles.  It depends on the fare class of the ticket purchased.

You can visit the American Airlines website to see how many miles you can earn on partner airline flights.  For example, below is the current conversion table for British Airways flights.  As you can see, you will earn 100% of the miles you would have earned on British Airways if you book a First Class or Business Class ticket, however, you will only get 25% to 50% in American Airlines miles versus what you would have earned on British Airways on cheap coach bookings.

American Airlines Lets You Earn Miles Even When You Book the Flight Through One of Their Partners!

However, if you are trying to boost your American Airlines miles balance and are flying an airline you don’t plan on using again, this can be a great way to at least get some American Airlines miles!

4.   Forgetting About the Ability to Book Flights on Partner Airlines

It’s important to remember that you can redeem your American Airlines miles for travel not only on American Airlines but also on oneworld and other (non-oneworld) partner airlines.

The oneworld alliance is a group of 13 full member airlines (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7, and Sri Lankan Airlines) which together fly to over 1,000 destinations in 150+ countries.  American Airlines has also partnered with other airlines including Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, and Hawaiian Airlines.  You can also redeem your American Airlines miles for travel on these partner airlines!

American Airlines Partners With a Ton of Other Airlines so You Can Use Your Miles to Fly Around the World!

Read through our comprehensive guide to using American Airlines miles where we break down how to book flights on American Airlines’ partners and the best way to find award flights.

5.   Not Knowing How to Earn American Airlines Miles Quickly

With 4 different Citi American Airlines cards to choose from, there are plenty of ways to rack up American Airlines miles.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with a welcome offer 50,000 American Airlines miles after making $2,500 in purchases in first 3 months of account opening. With an annual fee of only $99 (waived the first 12 months) this is a great way to build up your American Airlines miles balance if you are looking for a personal card.  Read our review of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card here.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is another personal card which currently offers 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  This card has a higher annual fee of $450, however, it comes with additional perks like Admirals Club airline lounge membership for you and 2 guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18 years of age).  Read our review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card here.

If you are a small business owner, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is a great card to get. You can earn 60,000 American Airlines miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  This card, like the personal version, has an annual fee of $99 which is waived the first 12 months.  Read our review of the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Card here.

Finally, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is a great companion card to any of the other Citi American Airlines cards, becasue it isn’t affected by Citi’s 24 month rule.  It has no annual fee and comes with a 10,000 American Airlines mile bonus and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.  It also earns 2X American Airlines miles on groceries which makes it a great card to pair with other Citi American Airlines cards.  Read our review of the Citi American Airlines MileUp Card here.

6.   Not Remembering to Use the American Airlines Shopping Portal and American Airlines Dining Program to Earn MORE Miles!

One HUGE way to earn tons of extra American Airlines miles is to use all the tools at your disposal.  Two powerful tools that can boost your American Airlines miles balance are the American Airlines shopping portal and the American Airlines dining program.

The American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping Portal lets you earn bonus American Airlines miles for purchases you were already going to make at over 900 stores.  You can earn anywhere from 2 to 15 bonus miles for every $1 spent on online purchases.  You just find the website you were going to shop at, like Macy’s or Home Depot, click the link on the AAdvantage eShopping Portal to bring you to that particular site, and start shopping!  Read up on everything to know about using online shopping portals here.

The American Airlines Shopping Portal Is an Effortless Way to Earn a TON of Miles on Purchases You Were Already Going to Make!

The American Airlines AAdvantage dining program is a set it and forget it way to earn extra miles!  Log in to the website using your American Airlines credentials and link any credit cards you typically use (you do NOT only need to use an American Airlines branded card) and earn bonus AA miles when you use your card at over 10,000 participating restaurants, bars, or clubs.  It’s a hands-off, easy way to earn miles.

7.   Not Being Flexible With Travel Dates

When booking flights there are a couple of different situations.  You might know exactly where you need to go during a specified time period, or you could be exploring possible destinations with more flexible dates.  To make the most of your American Airlines miles, the latter is a better situation to be in, because American Airlines offers discounts on travel during less popular travel times, which can lead to HUGE savings!

These off-peak awards are typically during during less popular travel dates to certain destinations.  For example, most folks like to travel to Europe during the summer and fall, but if you are willing to travel in the winter, you can save significantly.

Off-peak awards are very affordable, but they do have a few restrictions to keep in mind:

  • You can only book coach flights (NOT Business or First Class)
  • In order to get the off-peak pricing, the award ticket must be available at the MileSAAver level and take place within the region-specific off-peak dates
  • With the exception of Europe, you must fly on American Airlines or American Eagle flights (not partner airlines) to qualify for off-peak pricing
  • There are no off-peak award flights for domestic flights (other than Hawaii)

This is a great way to stretch your AA miles when you have some flexibility in your travel plans.

8.   Not Taking Advantage of Short Haul and Reduced Mileage Awards

Two more lesser-known deals American Airlines offers are cheaper short-haul award flights within the US and Canada, and reduced mileage award flights for certain American Airlines credit card holders.

Short-haul flights (non-stop on American Airlines which are 500 miles or less) within the US and Canada cost only 7,500 American Airlines miles each way.  Typically, a one-way domestic flight on American Airlines costs 12,500 miles, so this sweet spot is a perfect way to stretch your miles balance.

If you’re looking to save even more miles per flight, check out American Airlines’ reduced mileage awards.  Every 2 months, American Airlines releases a set of cities with discounted award flights over the coming 4 months!

For flights in our sweet spot of 500 miles or less, you will get a 2,000-mile reduction in the number of miles you need to book a round-trip flight, or a 1,000-mile reduction on a one-way flight.  That means you can book a one way flight for only 6,500 American Airlines miles, which is a steal!

To take advantage of these reduced mileage award flights, you’ll need to have one of these cards:

9.   Not Having a Credit Card That Earns Bonus Miles for American Airlines Purchases or Offers Free Checked Bags and Other Discounts

The great thing about the Citi American Airlines cards is that they come with extra benefits in addition to sign-up bonuses.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® gives you access to Admirals Club Lounges for free!  You’ll also get:

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (every 5 years)
  • First checked bag free (for you and up to 8 companions traveling on the same reservation) on American Airlines domestic itineraries
  • Priority check-in, security (where available), and boarding
  • 10,000 elite-qualifying miles if you spend $40,000 or more on the card in a calendar year
  • 2 American Airlines miles per $1 you spend on American Airlines

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® lets you earn 2X American Airlines miles per $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines.  You also get:

  • Free first checked bag for you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation (domestic flights only)
  • Preferred boarding for you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation
  • 25% off eligible in-flight purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights

If you are a small business owner, you should really consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®.  In addition to the sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 2X American Airlines miles per $1 spent at certain telecommunications and rental car merchants, at gas stations, and on American Airlines.  You’ll also get:

  • Free first checked bag for you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation (domestic American Airlines flights only)
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • 25% savings on in-flight Wi-Fi purchased with your card
  • Companion Certificate after you spend $30,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renew your card

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are some of the most valuable miles you can have.  With all of the partners you can book award flights with, and the great deals you can get with off-peak and short-haul flights, you can really stretch your American Airlines miles.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® comes with a welcome offer of 50,000 American Airlines miles after making $2,500 in purchases in first 3 months. If you are looking for a personal credit card, this is a great way to build up your American Airlines miles balance.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is another personal card which currently offers 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  This card comes with free Admirals Club membership for you and access for up to 2 guests or immediate family traveling with you.

If you are a small business owner, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is a great card to get.  That’s because you can currently earn 60,000 American Airlines miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Finally, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is great to pair with any of the other Citi American Airlines cards, because it isn’t affected by Citi’s 24 month rule. It has no annual fee and comes with a 10,000 American Airlines mile bonus and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Check out these other resources full of tips for you to get the most out of your American Airlines miles:

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

  • Designed for businesses
  • Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases in first 3 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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The exclusion of the barclay’s card is a major mistake. It definitely gives the impression that you only recommend cards that you undoubtedly get a commission. Please prove me wrong and update this article since the Barclay card is an easy way to score a ton of miles for only a single purchase.

After booking an award flight on an AA flight using BA avios , I was charged for check bags even though I have the Citi/Advantage Plantinum Select World Elite credit card. How do I add my AA information onto my BA booking in order to avoid checked bag fees?

You can check bags for free with AA credit card only in domestic flights. Not a great benefit.

I was able to find flights from PDX to OSL for 22,500 miles each way, but the search results always include British Airways which charges exorbitant fees. Is there any way to use American miles to Europe without having to use British Airways?

Was curious if someone has used the AA Shopping Portal to book hotel stay? (Marriott currently 6 miles/$) Can you double dip –with portal for airline miles and hotel loyalty card for hotel points. Would these bookings receive status benefits and credit for stays? Or is there a hidden catch?

What about the Barclay AA card and what it offers.

Great summary! Can you also add which cards offer 10% back in redeemed AA miles in a calendar year? Thanks!

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