9 ways to earn American Airlines miles

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American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that American Airlines miles are among the most useful – and easiest to earn.

While the value of American Airlines miles can vary widely, we estimate you should find an average value of 1.4 cents each. And as part of the oneworld alliance, there are plenty of ways to use American Airlines miles for both domestic and international travel. With American Airlines miles, you can reach luxurious destinations like Hawaii and the South Pacific, visit historic cities in Europe, or explore exotic spots in South America.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or want to top-up your account for a dream vacation, you have lots of options. The fastest way to earn American Airlines miles is from welcome bonuses on some of the best American Airlines credit cards, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

But there are lots of other ways to earn AA miles. Some might surprise you.

American Airlines miles took Joseph to Peru for a 48-mile hike to Machu PIcchu. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler)

Flying on American Airlines flights

You will earn American Airlines miles when you pay for American-marketed flights. Miles are earned based on the cash price of the ticket and the amount you’ll earn depends on your American Airlines elite status:

  • AAdvantage member – 5 miles per dollar
  • Gold member – 7 miles per dollar (40% bonus)
  • Platinum member – 8 miles per dollar (60% bonus)
  • Platinum Pro member – 9 miles per dollar (80% bonus)
  • Executive Platinum member – 11 miles per dollar (120% bonus)

You can earn a maximum of 75,000 miles per ticket. Here are some examples of what you’d earn with each status.

Flying with American Airlines partners 

You can also earn American Airlines miles when flying with certain partners. However, the routes and earning rates vary depending on the airline. It’s best to check out the specific rules for each partner here. Let’s take a look at a few good ones:

British Airways

  • First class – 150%
  • Business class – 125%
  • Economy – 100%
  • Discounted Economy – 25-50%

Japan Airlines (international flights)

  • First class – 150%
  • Business class – 70-125%
  • Economy – 70-100%
  • Discounted Economy – 30-50%

Qatar Airways

  • First class – 150%
  • Business class – 100-125%
  • Economy – 100%
  • Discounted Economy – 25-50%

In many cases, you’ll earn more American miles flying partners than you had you actually flown American Airlines. For example, a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to London is a distance of 5,456 miles each way. Had you found a $550 round-trip flight on both American Airlines and British Airways in Discounted Economy, you’d earn:

  • 5,456 miles on British Airways (50% of the total miles flown)
  • 2,750 miles on American Airlines (5x miles per dollar spent)

However, if you had American Airlines Executive Platinum status, the 120% bonus you earn on miles would earn you more than had you flown on British Airways. But if you have AA Executive Platinum, you should be flying on AA anyway for all the perks!

Earn with American Airlines co-branded credit cards

The easiest way to collect American Airlines miles is by earning welcome offers from the best travel credit cards. Citibank and Barclays both issue personal American Airlines credit cards for personal and small businesses. Each one varies in terms of the welcome bonus, annual fee, and miles earned in bonus categories.

Here’s a round-up with the important details. Be sure to check our in-depth reviews of each card for more information.

American Airlines Credit CardsWelcome BonusMinimum SpendAnnual Fee
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®65,000 American Airlines milesSpend $4,000 on purchases within the first four months of account opening$99, waived the first 12 months
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines milesSpend $2,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening$99, waived the first 12 months
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card10,000 American Airlines miles + $50 statement creditSpend $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening$0
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines milesSpend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening$450
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®Up to 75,000 American Airlines miles– 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days- 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card$95
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines milesAfter first purchase within first 90 days of account opening, and paying the annual fee$99

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, CitiBusiness AAdvantage, and Barclays Aviator cards has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Here’s an easy guide to the Citi American Airlines application rules. If you’ve had an American Airlines credit card, you should take a quick look.

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines

You can earn hotel points in a large number of programs that can be transferred to American Airlines, including:

  • Choice – 5,000 points = 1,000 American Airlines miles
  • Hyatt – 5,000 points = 2,000 American Airlines miles
  • IHG – 10,000 points = 2,000 American Airlines miles
  • Marriott – 30,000 points = 10,000 American Airlines miles

The rates are terrible, frankly, with the exception of Marriott. Marriott points transfer to airlines at a 3:1 ratio. Additionally, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus miles for every increment of 60,000 points you transfer. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 American Airlines miles.

The easiest way to earn Marriott points is with welcome offers from cards that earn Marriott points, like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card. Just note that you can only earn the welcome bonus on American Express personal or business cards once per lifetime.

Earn by shopping online 

You can earn miles every time you shop through the AAdvantage eShopping portal and directly through participating retail partners. Every partner offers a different earning rate, but you can often find some nice bonuses. For example, when you sign-up for a 12-week Wall Street Journal subscription for $12 through the portal, you’ll earn an additional 500 American Airlines miles (these offers change frequently).

One benefit of shopping through online portals is the opportunity to double dip. You’ll not only earn the bonus American Airlines miles but you’ll earn credit card rewards, as well. Just make sure you’re using a shopping portal comparison tool, like CashBack Monitor, to compare rates with other online portals easily.

Earn with the AAdvantage dining program

You can regularly earn bonus American Airlines miles when you link your rewards credit cards or debit cards with American Airlines’ dining program and visit participating restaurants. All of the travel-related dining programs share the same network, and you can only enroll your card with one partner at a time. You can link your card with American Airlines’ dining rewards if you want extra miles for your next award.

There are often promotions to earn a nice chunk of bonus miles when you spend a certain amount at a participating restaurant within a certain period from enrolling, too. Head back to the landing page now and again to check for offers.

Booking rental cars 

You can earn at least 500 American Airlines miles every time you rent a car from Avis and Budget or any one of the airline’s rental car partners. Here’s what you’ll earn with each qualifying rental:

  • 500 miles – AAdvantage members
  • 750 miles – Citi® / AAdvantage® cardholders and AAdvantage® Aviator® MasterCard® cardholders
  • 1,000 miles – Platinum Pro, Platinum and Gold members
  • 1,250 miles – Executive Platinum members

American Airlines partners with other rental agencies, too. Here’s what you’ll earn with them:

  • Payless – 500 miles per rental
  • Alamo – 50 miles per day
  • National – 50 miles per day
  • Dollar – 50 miles per day
  • Thrifty – 50 miles per day
  • Hertz – 1 mile per dollar spent

Staying in hotels

If you want to earn airline miles when you book hotels, American Airlines has you covered. You can earn miles for qualifying stays with hotels when you book with American Airlines’ hotel partners. You can earn up to 10,000 miles each night using American Airlines hotels or PointsHound. Just note that when you book through a third party like this, you won’t earn elite night credits or hotel points – and your elite status won’t be recognized.

You can also book direct with hotels and earn:

  • Hyatt – 500 miles per stay
  • Marriott – 2 miles per dollar
  • IHG – 2 miles per dollar
  • Wyndham – 2 miles per dollar

Buy American Airlines miles

You can always buy American Airlines miles if you’re close to an award. You’re allowed to purchase up to 150,000 American Airlines miles per calendar year in increments of 1,000 miles, starting at 2,000 miles. There are also frequent bonuses for purchasing miles. It’s not uncommon to see an 80% bonus.

Buying miles should be treated the same as converting hotel points – only worthwhile in specific situations, like if you’re a few miles shy of an award flight of your dreams.

Bottom line 

There are tons of ways to earn American Airlines miles from the welcome bonuses of the best credit cards for travel and their ongoing spending, such as the Citi AAdvantage Executive card. You can earn miles indirectly by transferring points from hotel programs like Marriott, too.

Beyond that, American Airlines gives opportunities to earn miles with partners, including dining, renting a car, or staying at a hotel. You can also purchase miles if you need them right now – but we don’t recommend that unless you need just a couple of thousand miles to top-off your account for an award flight. 

Between all the ways to accrue American Airlines miles quickly, you’ll be on your next adventure sooner than you think! Tell me your favorite way to earn (and use) American Airlines miles.

Sarah Hostetler is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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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