I Almost NEVER Use American Airlines Miles the Way They’re “Intended” – Here’s What I Do Instead

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I Almost NEVER Use American Airlines Miles the Way They’re “Intended” – Here’s What I Do Instead

JasminI Almost NEVER Use American Airlines Miles the Way They’re “Intended” – Here’s What I Do InsteadMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Earning American Airlines miles is a big part of my miles and points strategy.  While I have a few paid flights a year, most of the American Airlines miles I’ve earned have come from credit card welcome bonuses and spending – for example:

Thanks to these cards and others, I’ve accumulated hundreds of thousands of American Airlines miles over the years.  But would you believe I almost never redeem them for American Airlines award flights?

Wait, That’s NOT American Airlines! But This Incredible Lie-Flat Business Class Seat My Son Enjoyed Came Courtesy of American Airlines Miles

That’s not to say I never book American Airlines award flights – I do, but I don’t use American Airlines miles (more on that later).  For me, when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles, partner award flights are the way to go.

Avoid Frustration and Get Huge Value:  Redeem American Airlines Miles for Partner Airline Flights Instead

Read our Ultimate Guide to American Airlines Miles

Read about All the Ways to Earn American Airlines Miles

American Airlines can be pretty stingy about offering low-level award seats, particularly in Business Class.  If your travel dates aren’t flexible or you’re traveling at peak times to popular destinations, you might find your options limited for American Airlines award flights.

I’ve had much better luck using American Airlines miles for award flights on partner airlines.  Because they’re part of the oneworld alliance, you can redeem American Airlines miles for flights on airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LATAM, and Iberia.  Or book non-alliance partner flights like Etihad, Alaska Airlines, or Air Tahiti Nui.

We Crossed the Pacific in Japan Airlines’ Amazing Business Class by Redeeming American Airlines Miles – and Saved Thousands of Dollars

It might seem strange to collect American Airlines miles if you don’t plan to use them for American Airlines flights.  It actually makes a lot of sense, because you’ve got a ton of options with partner airlines where award seats are sometimes easier to find.  You can often get outsized value when you redeem miles this way – especially on international Business and First Class flights.

For example, in the past few years, I’ve redeemed American Airlines miles for:

  • 4 round-trip Business Class tickets between Manila and New York (via Tokyo) on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific – I saved over $18,000 by redeeming American Airlines miles and we even got to spend ~23 hours in Tokyo
  • 2 one-way Business Class tickets between Toronto and Berlin (via Helsinki) on Finnair and Air Berlin (no longer in existence) – We even squeezed in an overnight layover in Helsinki – such a charming city!
  • 2 one-way Business Class tickets between Honolulu and the US mainland on Hawaiian Airlines – Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to book Hawaiian Airlines awards between the continental US and Hawaii with American Airlines miles, but you can still redeem for inter-island flights
  • A round-trip coach ticket between New York and Berlin on Air Berlin (again, RIP) – This was extra cheap because it was during the off-peak season
The Smoked Salmon Appetizer in Finnair Business Class Was Very Civilized!

All told, we’ve taken flights worth ~$40,000 just by redeeming American Airlines miles on partner flights.  That’s why I’ll continue to earn (and redeem) American Airlines miles.

Wait, What About American Airlines Flights?

I mentioned I’ve booked award flights on American Airlines with other airline miles.  For short-haul flights within North America, I prefer using British Airways Avios points (also a oneworld partner) because of their distance-based award chart.  Flights 1,151 miles or less on these routes cost just 7,500 British Airways Avios points one-way in coach.

While American Airlines has the same pricing on very short flights, it’s only valid on routes that are 500 miles or less in distance, which really limits your choices.  Plus, British Airways doesn’t add close-in booking fees like American Airlines does, so redeeming Avios points is ideal for last-minute getaways or emergency travel.

Using 7,500 British Airways Avios Points Instead of 12,500 American Airlines Miles on Shorter Flights Is a Better Deal

The great thing about British Airways Avios points is they’re super easy to earn, because British Airways is a Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott transfer partner.  So if I ever need more points, I just move them over from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

Then I can save my American Airlines miles for more partner trips.  I’m currently stocking up for (hopefully) another epic trip to Asia in a year or two.

Bottom Line

It might sound odd, but I very rarely redeem American Airlines miles for flights on on American Airlines.  Instead, I use them to book partner award flights on airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Finnair for incredible value.  And it’s often easier to find seats on partner airlines because American Airlines award flights can be hard to find if you’re not flexible with your travel dates.

All told, I’ve probably saved ~$40,000 on amazing flights to Europe, Hawaii, and Asia by booking this way.  And when I need a short American Airlines flight within the continental US, I use British Airways Avios points instead.  They’re easier to earn (I just transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred) and many short-haul flights are cheaper compared to booking with American Airlines miles.

You can earn American Airlines miles quickly with cards like:

I’d love to hear your strategy for redeeming American Airlines miles.  Do you get more value on partner flights, or have you had luck using them for American Airlines flights?

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I’d like for you to expand on this topic. How exactly do you do that? Do you search for awards on partners website or, AA? What about fuel surcharges? There’s a lot about redeeming AA miles on partners that could generate a few other articles.


Hi G – Andrew beat me to the punch but yes, check out this guide:


You can search for some partner awards on the AA website, but most folks find it easier to search for oneworld partner awards on the British Airways or Qantas websites. I usually start with British Airways.

Yes, Please elaborate. I’ve got half-a-million AAdvantage miles and I cannot find anything I want to use them on flying out of Denver.

Hi Greg!

Sometimes you can book award flights on AA’s own website, but other times you might have to call. It just depends on which airline you’re ultimately looking to book.

Our guide on how to use American Airlines miles to book flights on partner airlines goes a bit more in detail. Hope this helps!


i agree. please explain the logistics and how-to on how to do this! thanks.

Hi rmah!

Here’s our guide on how to book partner airlines with American Airlines miles. The Cliff Notes version is that sometimes you are able to book it directly on AA’s own website. Other times you’ll have to call, and sometimes you can only see award seats by looking at the partner airline’s website.

It is a bit of extra work, but it can really be worth it!


It would be helpful to share a way to use British Avios on American airlines for domestic travel in USA or to Central or South America. As it stands now, I have over 200K in Avios but it is almost impossible to find seats on the BA site? You are forced to click on each day to see if there is availability and there never seems to be ANY seats, I usually end up giving up and use other miles on United, Delta or SWA.. . BA is the most antiquated and non user friendly site of any airline….. Is there a more efficient way to find seats other than clicking on each day, so I can begin to use my useless Avios [the fees and taxes on BA are almost as much as if i just buy a ticket to Europe!!

Sylvan Cornblatt

Americanairlines are just difficult to schedule a trip. And almost allways you have to use anytime miles.


Hi Sylvan – Yes, it can be tricky to find awards on American Airlines depending on the route and time of year. I’ve had much better luck finding partner award seats.

One additional question. I’m not understanding of how to earn BA Avios points. Any information is appreciated. Thank you.


Hi Vince – Check out this post on how to earn British Airways Avios points and redeem them for American Airlines award flights:


Hi Vince!

Are you looking to use your American Airlines miles to book flights on British Airways? If so, here is our guide on how to do just that


I currently have the Aadvantage Platinum Select card which has accumulated a good amount of point since I’ve been unable to travel for some time. As I look forward I have been looking at the Executive World Elite card, primarily because of the lounge access. I only yesterday read the fine print online which says the lounge access with the Executive card does NOT extend to lounges for the “partner” airlines! I found this odd and it certainly makes me think twice about whether this card is worth it. Any thoughts?


Hi Vince – I’ve had the Citi Executive card in the past and it comes with Admirals Club membership which gets you into Admirals Clubs and certain partner lounges – list here:


I’d consider your travel plans and airports you’ll be visiting to decide if it’s worth it. One cool thing about the Citi Executive – it’s free to add authorized users and they’ll get access to Admirals Club lounges too – but it’s not a full membership, so they can’t access the partner lounges from the list above.

Hope that helps. Also don’t forget you’re not eligible for the Citi Executive card if you opened the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card less than 24 months ago:


“All told, I’ve probably saved ~$40,000”
Did you though? Would you really have spent $40k on flights? My guess is no. Most people wouldn’t have paid to fly biz class everywhere. A better, more relate-able tag line would be something like “My points allowed me to take flights worth about $40k- something my family couldn’t have done without these cards!”

THANK YOU! I highly doubt this person was going to spend $40K on biz class flights for his daughters. I mean maybe I’m wrong, but probably not. I wish these writers would be more realistic with the tag lines


Hi Erin and Vanessa – Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re right, I would not have actually spent that much money, and I appreciate the feedback. I’ll tweak the phrasing and remember your input for the future.

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