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When it comes to using miles & points for travel the highest value redemptions are almost always international Business or First Class flights. But I find using miles for domestic travel to be a practical and useful way to redeem my rewards. And the vast majority of my domestic flights are with American Airlines.
I can usually find economy awards on the flights I want and you can use British Airways Avios points to book American Airlines awards, which opens up a few options for finding some great deals.
Here’s why I love using American Airlines miles (or Avios points) for domestic flights and why some of you will be better off flying Southwest (especially with the incredible Companion Pass offer that’s out right now).
3 Reasons American Airlines & British Airways Are My Go to For Domestic Award Travel
1. Super Easy to Earn Miles & Points
American Airlines miles & British Airways Avios points are some of the easiest airline rewards to collect.
First off there are tons of co-branded American Airlines credit cards because they partner with Citi and Barclays. So you can earn American Airlines miles with any of these cards:
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
But there aren’t many flexible points programs that transfer to American Airlines. Right now the only points you can convert to American Airlines miles are Marriott points.
British Airways Avios points are the opposite, they partner with all sorts of useful flexible points programs, but have only one co-branded credit card, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. British Airways is part of the Avios rewards program, so you can transfer Aer Lingus & Iberia Avios to British Airways, although it can be a bit tricky. You can check out our guide if you get stuck.
Personally, I get British Airways Avios points by transferring them from:
You can also transfer Marriott points to British Airways. Or you could open the Iberia Visa Signature® Card or Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card and transfer the Avios you earn with those cards to British Airways.
The information for the British Airways Visa Signature Card, Iberia Visa Signature® Card & Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
2. I Can Book Most of My Flights for 7,500 Miles or Less One-Way
One-way American Airlines awards within the lower 48 states & Canada are 12,500 miles for flights over 500 miles and only 7,500 miles for flights that are 500 miles or less. But British Airways has a distance based award chart, so any one-way nonstop award flight that is 1,151 miles or less is only 7,500 British Airways Avios points. And, as I mentioned earlier, you can use Avios points to book American Airlines flights.
So why wouldn’t I just use British Airways Avios points for all my American Airlines domestic flights? First, British Airways charges per segment, so if I have a connection I’d end up paying more. Also, you can get even cheaper flights with American Airlines if you have certain co-branded credit cards, which I do.
Most, but not all, of the American Airlines cards I mentioned earlier will get you access to American Airlines reduced mileage awards. These are discounted flights to and from a rotating list of select airports (the current list includes 200+ locations).
You can get a discount of 5,000 to 7,500 miles on round-trip flights over 500 miles one-way and a 1,000 to 2,000 mile discount per round-trip flight that is 500 miles or less. The discount you’re eligible for depends on which American Airlines card you have. You can see which cards are eligible and learn how to book these reduced mileage awards here.
And if you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard you’ll get a 10% mileage rebate on award bookings (up to 10,000 miles back per calendar year). This perk doesn’t stack if you have both cards.
If you can only get one American Airlines credit card, go with the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select card. It is eligible for both the highest reduced mileage award discount and the 10% rebate. So just having that card means you could book a round-trip flight that’s over 500 miles for only 15,750 miles (25,000 miles – 7,500 mile discount – 10% rebate off the discounted price). And for flights that are 500 miles or less it would only cost 11,700 miles round-trip (15,000 miles – 2,000 mile discount – 10% rebate off the discounted price).
But the reduced mileage awards may not be available to the airport you’re visiting or flying out of on the dates you want to travel. So it’s nice to have the British Airways option in your back pocket.
Also, your change and cancellation fees will vary depending on which airline you book with.
3. Easy or Cheap Options for Changing Your Flight
If you need to cancel or change a flight the fees you’ll pay will vary depending on which airline miles you used to book the flight, even if both awards are on American Airlines’ planes.
You can change the date or time of an American Airlines award flight (booked with American Airlines miles) for free as long as the origin, destination, and award type stay the same. This is a nice benefit that I’ve used several times before. The catch is that there needs to be award seats available (at the same price level) for the time or date you want to change to. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay a $150 fee for most other award changes if you booked your flight with American Airlines miles, including canceling and redepositing your miles.
Note: American Airlines also charges a $75 close-in booking fee on award tickets booked within 21 days of departure.
British Airways doesn’t allow the free changes if your origin, destination, and award type are staying the same, but overall their fees are much more reasonable. They only charge $55 per ticket to make any changes or to cancel and redeposit your miles.
But you’ll only need to pay the $55 fee if you want the taxes you paid for the award ticket back. So if you paid more than $55 in taxes on your flight pay the fee, otherwise just forfeit the taxes. On domestic flights, this is a steal because you only pay $5.60 in taxes one-way!
Why You Could Be Better Off Flying Southwest – Especially for Families
Other than the reasons I already discussed, I like flying with American Airlines for 2 reasons:
- They fly out of my closest home airport
- They fly nonstop to smaller airports close to family
If you live near a Southwest hub, you could end up much happier flying with them. Not only do they not have change or cancellation fees, but you don’t need to spend time searching for open award seats. You can just book any flight with your Southwest points.
Granted it may end up costing you more points if it’s an expensive flight because the cost of a Southwest award ticket is tied to the cash price of the flight. But saving yourself the time and headache can be worth it. This is especially true for families. With Southwest you won’t have to struggle to find 4+ award seats on the same flight. And you’ll get 2 free checked bags for every passenger.
To top it all off, right now all of the Southwest personal credit cards have a sign-up bonus that might just be the deal of the year – you can get a Southwest Companion Pass and 30,000 Southwest points just by signing up for the card and meeting the minimum spending requirements.
With a Southwest Companion Pass you can bring along a guest on any Southwest flight for just the cost of taxes! If you’re not familiar with the Companion Pass check out our guide for it here.
What’s your go-to airline for domestic travel?
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