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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

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

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Limited Time Offers: Earn 60,000 miles with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard or 70,000 miles with the  CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard after meeting minimum spend requirements.

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 use them for American Airlines award flights?  Instead, I redeem them for American Airlines partner award flights for much more value.

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

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 Got Flights Worth 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 – We got flights worth 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 American Airlines miles 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 gotten amazing flights to Europe, Hawaii, and Asia worth ~$40,000 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?

To read more about American Airlines miles, check out these posts:

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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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.

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

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-use-american-airlines-miles/

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!

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-use-american-airlines-miles/

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!

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-use-american-airlines-miles/

If I book an award on AA metal using BA Avios, do I retain my AA EP status benefits, specifically boarding, checked bags, upgrade availability, waived change fees, etc.?

I’m trying to go to thailand from washington dc, do you have any recommendation of best way to use AA miles? I can transfer from chase UR too

How easy and how do you use American American Miles for Latam flights in Brazil ?
I understand only need 7500 miles each way anywhere Latam flies in Brazil.

I have searched for an answer to this question. How do I make sure I receive my free checked bag by having the Citi AAdvantage World Elite credit card after booking an AA flight using Avios? I was charged for checked bags on a domestic flight because I didn’t understand the process. Apparently BA does not have a way to enter my AA frequent flyer number when booking a flight through their site.

When you book through BA they usually give you an AA record locator that you can use on AA.com to look up your reservation and add your AA frequent flyer number. Once you do that, you will get the free bags your entitled to from your credit card. We did this last summer and it saved us a bundle!

Nice post but I didn’t see the word “Qantas” in it … some of the best values for your points can be on one-ways to the South Pacific and then returning to Australia from a different island. And if you’re on a round-the-world trip then Qantas one-way from Australia to South Africa or South America is a great use of points.

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