I’m sure you’ve seen many bloggers say that AAdvantage domestic sAAver availability has gone down the toilet in the last few years. And it’s 100% true. It is especially hard to spot non-stop award tickets on flights that don’t leave at 5 AM. Those are like a unicorn.
That being said, last year I was able to find one sAAver seat (12,500 miles) from Orlando to Los Angeles on the exact flight I wanted. I had to keep checking for several weeks, but eventually it popped up. I used points from US Bank Altitude Reserve card to book the second ticket on the same flight.
Award availability will vary by route and season. If you are flying to Caribbean in the summer, finding four seats on the same flight will be much easier compared to spring months. I recommend you keep searching because you never know what may pop up. AA program seems to release sAAver seats in batches throughout the year. Besides, AA miles are useful beyond lowest level domestic award tickets.
1) AAnytime tickets
Don’t think “12,500 miles or bust.” I recommend you at least consider redeeming at “AAnytime” level, as long as you get a penny per each mile. Very often, the cost will still be less compared to what Southwest charges, especially around holidays.
I don’t know about you, but if I have a choice between spending 20k AA miles and 22k Rapid Rewards, I’ll pick the former any day. Of course, if you have a Southwest Companion Pass, it’s a different story. I’m just always amazed that folks simply give up on AA miles if there is no sAAver availability, and pay cash instead.
The goal is to save money. If you’ve acquired your miles via sign-up bonus and can get at least 1 CPM, I recommend you consider burning them. Ignore the 2 CPM rule. That’s for people who save up their miles for upper class. If you fly economy, set reasonable expectations and ignore the hype. No mile is (speculatively) worth 2 cents to me, period.
2) Using AA miles on hotels and car rentals.
I wrote about burning AA miles on a 2-bedroom vacation rental in Key Largo and getting about a penny per mile in value. There is also an option to use AA miles on car rentals at a fairly decent rate. Sure, there are drawbacks, plus the rate is non-refundable. But if you are fairly certain about your travel plans, it’s definitely a worthwhile option to consider.
3) Using AA miles on partners.
You can still get really good value when using AA miles on partners. It may require more work, like calling in, but the results will be worth it. Last year I booked economy flights from LAX to Tahiti at 40k miles each. It did require some effort, but I’m not complaining. I also burned AA currency on intra-Australia Qantas flights at 10k miles each, though once again, it was a bit of a nuisance.
Fancy a cheap(ish) business class? Consider redeeming 30k AA miles per ticket on Papeete-Auckland route, operated by Air Tahiti Nui, and where revenue fare runs at $900. There are many other “sweet spot” redemptions as long as you are willing to put forth the effort.
Loading up on AA miles is extremely easy if you are relatively new to this hobby
A few weeks ago I published a post where I was looking for best ways for my cousin-in-law to cover her flight to Venice via miles.
Ahh, Venice is one of my all-time favorites…
In it I’ve mentioned that she currently has close to 200k AAdvantage miles. All of those miles were acquired via sign-up bonuses. Every single one. Here is how she did it:
1) She applied for Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard (the offer does pay us commission)
A few months ago Doctorofcredit blog was the first to report that there was also a targeted 75,000 miles offer floating around the interwebs. Most people were able to match to it after sending a secure message in their online Citi profile. Just this week, MtM blog has reported a successful match.
You will qualify to receive the sign-up bonus as long as you haven’t opened or closed a personal AA-earning Citi card within the last 24 months. Below are the most important details on this limited-time offer.
- For a limited time, earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year
- The annual fee of $95 is waived during first year.
My cousin-in-law requested a match and received an extra 15,000 miles just for asking. Note that the business version of this card (read about it here) currently offers a whopping 70k miles bonus and could also be worth considering for some people.
2) She applied for AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard, issued by Barclays.
What’s better than receiving one stash of AA miles? Two, of course. She applied for this card when the bonus was 60k miles (it’s 50k miles now). Below are main details of the offer.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the $95 annual fee
- First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to four companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
- Receive 10 percent of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back (10,000 miles maximum per calendar year)
- $95 Annual fee, not waived
3) She applied for AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard.
You get 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1 and paying $95 annual fee. She has a legitimate business, and was approved without any issues. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same experience, but I switch cards way more often than she does.
Adding up the totals
Let’s say both you and your spouse have a good credit score. You’ve already applied for best Chase cards and are currently limited by 5/24 restriction. Depending on your goals, you may want to consider investing in AAdvantage currency next. It really is an excellent time due to 75k match possibility.
Even if you don’t have a legitimate business, you can easily accumulate 128k miles per person via two personal AA cards, assuming the match request is successful. That’s potentially four one-way tickets to Europe, three tickets to Tahiti, or six AAnytime-level tickets within US. Sure, using miles efficiently does require lots of energy at times. Is it worth it? It definitely is to me.
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Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.