Updated on January 31, 2015
Booking American Airlines Awards:
1. Getting Started, Earning and The Chart
2. The RULES
3. Booking Awards on American Airlines and Partners
So you want to collect American Airlines miles and book an award flight? That’s great! The first thing you need to do if you haven’t done so already is sign up for their frequent flyer program, American AAdvantage.
This is a very easy and free step that simply requires you to look on the AA.com home page.
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You can see in the top right corner that there is a tab for AAdvantage and after you click it there’s a drop down with the option, second to the bottom, allowing you to join.
Just fill out the info, they will send you an email and you are all ready to go.
How do I earn these miles?
Now that you have your account set up it’s time to fill it with miles.
Here are the main ways that I earn American Airlines miles. There are other ways through American Airlines many corporate partnerships, but these are my favorite.
♦Earn by flying American Airlines or one of their partners
♦Earn through credit cards
♦Earn through shopping portals
FLYING: Any time you fly on American airlines and enter your AAdvantage number you will earn miles for your flight. The same holds true if you fly on US Airways (currently merging with American) or any of their partners. This can usually be done by entering your number online when the flight is booked (when there is that option) or by telling the attendant at the airport when you check in. I suppose you could call the airline you were flying on as well to add it but I have never done this.
CREDIT CARDS: Credit sign-up bonuses are a good way to earn a large amount of American Airlines miles (or any miles) very quickly. This is how I get the majority of my miles. Some of these cards I keep and others I will only keep for a year while they are free and then call to see if my fee can be waived for subsequent years. If it can’t be, and I don’t value the benefits, then I usually cancel it. Each of the links below represent the best offer I can currently find for that card. Each gives you a 50K bonus except the Gold. (Each of these cards has additional benefits besides the miles which you will see on the application page.)
Citi AA Gold Mastercard
Citi AA Personal Platinum Mastercard
Citi AA Business Platinum Mastercard
Citi AA Executive World Elite Mastercard
SHOPPING PORTAL: The AAdvantage shopping portal (most airlines have some version of this) can also be an easy way to accumulate miles by simply going through their portal to purchase items you were planning to buy online. It’s as simple as going to the shopping portal website and clicking on the website your were planning on shopping at anyway. When clicking on the link you will be directed to the regular site but any money you spend there will be multiplied by a certain amount and added to your Advantage miles account. This is not a way I accumulate many miles but then again I don’t shop much. I use this more around Christmas or if there is an abnormally large multiplier.
The RULES (more in the next post)
American Airlines, like all airlines, has certain rules for using their miles. Most of these will be automatically put into practice if you are booking your flights on their website, but it is important to know them because A) sometimes the website is wrong and B) when looking for flights on alliance members and piecing together your trip a flight at a time, you will need to know what is allowed. Most things are pretty straight forward but some of them are a little annoying and seem to make things intentionally difficult. We will talk more about these RULES in our next post on this subject. First you need to start with the chart!
The Award Chart
Most major international airlines are either region based, charging a certain price to travel between or within a region, or distance based, where the distance, not the locations, are what matters. American Airlines uses a region based award chart. Below you can see the award charts for using miles on American Airlines and then a separate (but almost the same) chart for using partners:
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North American– U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, The Bahamas and the Caribbean
Central & South America– Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
South America 2– Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uruguay
Europe– Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia
Indian Subcontinent and Middle East– Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan
Africa– Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Reunion, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Asia 1– Japan, Korea, Mongolia
Asia 2– Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
South Pacific– Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa.
So, there is a lot of information jammed into this post and there will be quite a bit more in the next post (The RULES), but I wanted to highlight an area of the chart that I think is important and gives extra value to AA miles. The Off- Peak pricing. On the left side of the Partners chart and the level 1 area of the American Chart are off-peak sections. American Airlines and US Airways (merging) are the only US airline that have set off peak pricing and it can really make their currency valuable.
Here are the highlights:
As you can see there are A LOT of dates that awards are “off-peak.” For almost 6 months out of the year you can fly to Hawaii round trip for 35K miles! Or for 7 months out of the year you could fly to Europe round trip for 40K!
Now that we have signed up, obtained our points and taken a look at the award chart to figure out where we can go, it’s time to check out the rules and get these flights booked!
In our next 2 installments we will talk about the rules of booking and the best ways to find the flight segments you need.