*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Feb 11, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Travelers who fly American Airlines regularly know that when it comes time to book reward travel on the AAdvantage® loyalty program, you go to the airline’s booking website and hope for the best.
American Airlines flies almost 6,700 flights a day out of nine hubs to 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. When you add its membership in the oneworld airline alliance, that grows to 14,250 daily flights to more than 1,000 destinations to 150 countries.
So there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you redeem your AAdvantage® miles in ways that maximize their value. Whether you’re new to the AAdvantage loyalty program or want to learn earn more how to maximize your redemption, we’ve created this cheat sheet with everything you need to know to get the most out of your miles.
We’ll uncover where to look when it’s time to book a flight, any fees that come with award travel, alternatives to flying on American and even how to get extra miles when you need them.
In this article
- Airlines you can book and where to find award space
- Award charts: How much do AAdvantage awards cost?
- What are award change and booking fees?
- What are the best AAdvantage award values?
- Can you upgrade with AAdvantage miles?
- Options when you can’t find MileSAAver award space
- What routing is allowed?
- Can you hold an AAdvantage award seat?
- Alternative miles to book American flights
- What hotel points can you transfer to AAdvantage miles?
- What credit cards earn AAdvantage® miles?
- Do AAdvantage® miles expire?
- The bottom line
Airlines you can book and where to find award space
The list below shows all the airlines you can book with AAdvantage miles and where to search for available award seats.
|Region||Airline||Where to check award space|
|Asia||Cathay Pacific||British Airways, Asia Miles, or Qantas website|
|Asia||Japan Airlines||British Airways website|
|Asia||Jet Airways||JetAirways.com (registration required) or call AA|
|Asia||Malaysia Airlines||British Airways website|
|Europe||S7 Airlines||British Airways or Qantas site|
|Europe||Sri Lankan Airlines||British Airways or Qantas site|
|Latin America||LATAM Airlines||British Airways or Qantas site|
|Middle East||Etihad Airways||Etihad Airways website (look for 'Guest' award seats)|
|Middle East||Gulf Air||ExpertFlyer.com (not free)|
|Middle East||Qatar Airways||British Airways or Asia Miles website|
|Middle East||Royal Jordanian||AA.com|
|North America||Alaska Airlines||AA.com|
|North America||Cape Air*||Call|
|North America||Hawaiian Airlines (except to Mainland U.S. after 9/2015)||AA.com|
|Pacific||Air Tahiti Nui||ExpertFlyer.com (not free)|
|Pacific||Fiji Airways||Qantas website|
*You can only earn and redeem miles on American Airlines codeshare flights.
You won’t find some partner airline flights at all on the AA.com website, including Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. To get around that, you can try doing an award search on the British Airways, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, or Qantas websites. They are all American’s oneworld partners and their award search tools will display most of the partner airlines you can book with American AAdvantage miles.
Here are the airlines you’ll find on each site that you won’t find on AA.com, and links to guides that explain how to search on each site:
- British Airways – Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, S7, Sri Lankan Airlines, LATAM, Qatar Airways
- Qantas – Cathay Pacific, S7, Sri Lankan Airlines, LATAM, Fiji Airways
- Etihad – Etihad Airways
When you find flights with award space available, you can call AAdvantage® to make the reservation and pay the usual AAdvantage® mileage prices.
And if you don’t want to mess with those sites, call AAdvantage® phone agents at 800/882-8880 to help you search for space on these partner airlines. There’s no fee to book flights by phone that aren’t visible on the American Airlines website.
Tip: If you’re trying to book Etihad Airways flights, some people report having better luck using the AAdvantage® phone number for Australia on 02-9101-1948 24 hours a day. Those agents sometimes see more award inventory than agents handling U.S. phone lines.
Tip: The Qantas site is easier to use than the British Airways site, since you can start an award search by choosing ‘Search Classic Flight Awards’ from the home page. Just note it doesn’t show Japan or Malaysia Airlines space. It also has a nice month-long calendar view of availability.
Award charts: How much do AAdvantage awards cost?
American charges based on what regions you’re flying between, no matter what the distance or the number of stops along the way. Here are the award charts for flights to and from the mainland U.S.
Prices are one way, so a roundtrip will cost double the one-way price.
MileSAAver awards are the lowest priced, but can be hard to find, so you’ll have to be flexible with dates, times, and connecting flights to take advantage of those prices.
The partner price applies when your trip includes a flight on one or more of American’s partner airlines like Alaska, Iberia, or Cathay Pacific.
|Destination||Mile SAAver - Off Peak||Mile SAAver||AAnytime - Level 1||AAnytime - Level 2|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||N/A||12,500||20,000||30,000|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (nonstop, 500 miles or less)||N/A||7,500||20,000||30,000|
|South America Region 1||17,500||20,000||35,000||50,000|
|South America Region 2||N/A||30,000||55,000||75,000|
|Asia Region 1||32,500||35,000||62,500||80,000|
|Asia Region 2||32,500||35,000||65,000||85,000|
|Destination||Mile SAAver - Off Peak||Mile SAAver||AAnytime - Level 1||AAnytime - Level 2|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (nonstop, 500 miles or less)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|South America Region 1||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|South America Region 2||N/A||40,000||80,000||105,000|
|Asia Region 1||N/A||50,000||80,000||105,000|
|Asia Region 2||N/A||50,000||85,000||115,000|
|Destination||AA Flights Off Peak||AA Flights Saver||AA Flights - Level 1||AA Flights - Level 2|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||N/A||25,000||45,000||55,000|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (nonstop, 500 miles or less)||N/A||15,000||45,000||55,000|
|South America Region 1||N/A||30,000||65,000||90,000|
|South America Region 2||N/A||57,500||110,000||150,000|
|Asia Region 1||N/A||60,000||120,000||155,000|
|Asia Region 2||N/A||70,000||140,000||175,000|
|Destination||Mile SAAver Off Peak||Mile SAAver||AAnytime Level 1||AAnytime Level 2|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||N/A||50,000||85,000||95,000|
|Canada & Alaska||N/A||55,000||90,000||105,000|
|South America Region 1||N/A||55,000||105,000||130,000|
|South America Region 2||N/A||85,000||160,000||190,000|
|Asia Region 1||N/A||80,000||170,000||200,000|
|Asia Region 2||N/A||110,000||180,000||210,000|
Note that if you’re flying within the U.S. on a plane with a three-class cabin — first, business and economy — American may add 7,500 miles to the price of the award because they have nicer international-style seats.
Here’s the list of countries that apply to each region:
|North America||U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico|
|Caribbean||Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Vigin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad/Tobago, Turks/Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands|
|Central America||Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama|
|South America Zone 1||Bolivia, Brazil (Manaus only) Colombia, Ecuador, Peru|
|South America Zone 2||Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile (excluding Easter Island), Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|Europe||Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom|
|Indian Sub Continent||Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan|
|Middle East||Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates|
|Africa||Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
|Asia Zone 1||Japan, Korea|
|Asia Zone 2||Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam|
|South Pacific||Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau, New Caledonia, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu|
If you’re not flying internationally, here are additional price charts for award flights:
Tip: If you’re doing an advanced search using fare codes, economy class awards on American come from ‘T’ class, and business class seats come from ‘U’ class, while first-class seats come from ‘Z’ class.
What are award change and booking fees?
- Close-in fee: $75 when you book less than 21 days before departure (waived for executive platinum, platinum pro, platinum and gold members using miles from their account)
- Change date: Free if 1) the new date is more than 21 days after the date you originally booked the award, 2) your origin/ destination cities stay the same, 3) the award level stays the same, and 4) you’re not removing a non-oneworld airline like Etihad from your trip. This is one of the best benefits of using AAdvantage® miles. For all other situations, you’ll pay a $150 change fee.
- Change airlines: For MileSAAver and AAnytime awards, origin or destination changes are $150, even with same award type. For awards on other airlines, changes are $150, even when retaining the same award type. The change fee is waived for executive platinum members using miles from their account.
- Change origin/destination cities: $150
- Cancel and redeposit miles: $150
What are the best AAdvantage award values?
Some of the better values if you can find them are:
- Business class seats to Europe for 57,500 miles one way on American’s flights.
- First class to Japan and Korea for 80,000 Mile SAAver miles one way on American or Japan Airlines. You can’t book Japan Airlines online, but check the British Airways site for seats and call in to book.
- Business class to Asia for 80,000 Mile SAAver miles one way on American, Cathay Pacific, or Japan Airlines.
- Business class to Australia for 110,000 miles one way. Award space is very hard to find on Qantas or American, but Fiji Airways is another option via Los Angeles.
Can you upgrade with AAdvantage miles?
Yes, you can, although you usually get more value from your miles by booking a first or business class award on its own, as American charges cash fees for miles upgrades.
The fees range from $75 for domestic flights to $350 for flights across the oceans and to South America Region 2. Here’s a guide to upgrading with AAdvantage® miles.
Tip: Make sure you request an upgrade more than 21 days in advance if you’re not an AAdvantage® elite member. Otherwise you’ll get hit with a $75 close-in fee on top of the upgrade fee.
Tip: If an upgrade isn’t available, you can be placed on a waitlist if upgrade space opens later on. Miles and the cash fee won’t be charged until your upgrade clears.
Warning: The cash fee for upgrades is nonrefundable once you’re upgraded.
Options when you can’t find MileSAAver award space
Unfortunately, you can’t waitlist for award space if the type you want isn’t available. You’ll have to keep checking and book when you see space open up.
Tip: If you can’t find MileSAAver space on your flight, you might have luck calling AAdvantage customer service at 800/882-8880 and ask if they can open up space. American has a computer system that will sometimes release award seats on request. It’s rare that it will help, but it’s always worth a call to try.
What routing is allowed?
AAdvantage® has some quirky rules governing where you can connect when traveling internationally on an award. Here’s a full rundown, but some of the most important are:
- To reach Africa, you can only connect in Europe or use Qatar Airways via Doha. The Qatar Airways option is useful because it helps you avoid British Airways fuel surcharges.
- To reach Australia, you can’t go via Asia, which basically limits you to Qantas and American flights from the U.S., along with Fiji Airways flights via Fiji.
- To reach Asia, you must go over the Pacific Ocean. You can’t cross over via Europe or the Middle East. The exception is India, which is considered part of the Middle East region, and to reach India you can cross the Atlantic Ocean and connect in the Middle East or Europe, or you can cross the Pacific if you fly Cathay Pacific or American Airlines to Hong Kong, and then connect onward to India from there on Cathay, Dragonair, or Jet Airways.
If you really want you can get around these rules, you’ll need to pay for two separate awards. For example, you’d have to book a U.S. to Asia award and then an Asia to Australia award if you want to fly to Australia via Asia, paying separate prices for each award.
The number of flights you take on an award is also limited.
For each one-way award redeemed for travel within the United States and Canada, a maximum of three segments are permitted. For all other destinations (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands), a maximum of four segments are permitted.
Can you hold an AAdvantage award seat?
Yes, you can hold awards for up to five days before committing to them at no charge — if you book between 15 and 331 days before departure. Awards are held for a day when you book between one and 14 days before departure or up to two hours before departure when you book within 24 hours.
Alternative miles to book American flights
If you’re short on AAdvantage® miles, you can book American flights using miles other than American AAdvantage®.
Any oneworld partner’s miles can access the basic MileSAAver level award seats, which opens up a few options to book American flights without using AAdvantage® miles.
Note: While you can book American flights with these partner airline miles, you can’t combine these miles with your existing AAdvantage® miles.
- Alaska MileagePlan is a close partner with American and has award prices that are similar to what American charges.
- British Airways Executive Club Avios, a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards®, often has much better prices than American for short nonstop flights. You can fly for as few as 10,000 points one way within the UK. The catch is British Airways charges separately for each flight segment, so trips with connecting flights cost more than nonstops.
- Etihad Guest, a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou®, has prices that are lower than American’s current award prices.
Asia Miles, a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou® and American Express Membership Rewards®, can sometimes cost fewer miles than using AAdvantage®. For example, you can fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in first class for for 110,000 miles each way with Asia Miles, compared to 180,000 miles with AAdvantage®.
What hotel points can you transfer to AAdvantage miles?
You can convert your hotel points into AAdvantage® miles any time with no charge for the conversion. Every hotel program has a different conversion rate:
- Marriott Bonvoy™: 3 points = 1 mile. Check out Marriott Bonvoy conversion
- Hilton Honors: 10,000 points = 1,500 AAdvantage miles.
Points to miles vary by airline. See the complete list of Honors airline transfer
- IHG® Club: 10,000 points = 2,000 AAdvantage miles. Points
to miles vary by airline. See IHG’s complete list of airline
- Radisson Rewards: 10,000 points = 1,000 miles.
- World of Hyatt: 5,000 points = 2,000 miles.
- Wyndham Rewards: Transfers start at 6,000 points. Points to miles
vary by airline. See the complete list of Wyndham airline transfer
What credit cards earn AAdvantage® miles?
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage®*
Earn 2 miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores* & for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
No annual fee & 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases
- Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
- No Annual Fee*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
- Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
- Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
See additional details for American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
The information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases in first 3 months of account opening
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines® purchases
No foreign transaction fees and first check bag free on domestic itineraries
- Designed for businesses
- Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases in first 3 months of account opening
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries to reduce travel costs and boost your bottom line*
- 25% savings on American Airlines inflight Wi-Fi when you use your card*
- Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*
- Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*
- No Foreign Transaction Fees*
See additional details for CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Up to 7X Hilton Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases
No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad
- Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
- Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
- Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
- No Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Hilton Honors American Express Card
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Up to 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases
Earn Hilton Honors Diamond status
- Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
- Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
- Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
- Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
- $95 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card
The information related to the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Note: Some of these offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available.
125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of Card Membership
12X at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio, 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases, 3X Everywhere Else
Enjoy complimentary Gold status
- Welcome Offer: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Earn Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card: 12X at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio, 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases, 3X Everywhere Else. Terms & Limitations Apply.
- Enjoy complimentary Gold Status with your Hilton Honors Business Card.
- Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
- Earn another Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend an additional $45,000 in purchases on your Card in the same calendar year.
- Relax with 10 free airport lounge visits each year once enrolled in complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership, which offers access to over 1,000 lounges in over 120 countries.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
You have to pay if you want to transfer miles from your account to someone else, and American charges $13.75 for every 1,000 miles you transfer.
It’s not a terrible deal, but if you can, you’re better off booking an award for someone else from your own account, since you can use your miles to book tickets for anyone you’d like, even if you’re not traveling.
Do AAdvantage® miles expire?
AAdvantage® miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Any earning or spending of miles counts as activity, so as long as you do that, it will extend the expiration date of your miles another 18 months.
If you plan to earn miles to keep them from expiring via online shopping, for example, make sure your earning activity happens about two months before your miles are set to expire, as it can take a while before partner miles appear in your account.
If your miles did expire, you can pay a fee to reactivate them, based on how many you’d like to get back.
Thanks to its oneworld membership and extensive airline partnerships, American’s AAdvantage loyalty program gives travelers plenty of options to redeem their miles around the world for seats and upgrades in all cabins.
The trick of getting what you want is research, patience and flexibility. By using the tips in our cheat sheet, you can find different ways to get from point A to point B — sometimes with fewer miles — on American or one of its myriad partners. Bookmark this cheat sheet so that when you’re ready to book that next AAdvantage award trip, you can do it knowing that you got the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to redeeming your miles.