American Airlines offers bonus frequent flier miles

From now through the end of October, American Airlines is offering bonus miles to AAdvantage® members who buy additional miles. Depending on when, where and how you travel, purchasing additional miles could make financial sense.

For example, Dallas-headquartered American (NASDAQ:AAL) is offering a bonus of 42,500 miles to members who buy from 100,000 to 150,000 miles. A purchase of that size would cost approximately $4,787 including the miles, Federal excise tax and
processing fee but, with the bonus, would net 192,500 miles.

American Airlines Boeing 737 departs Sea-Tac Airport, SEA, NYSE:BA, Seattle
American Airlines jet departs Sea-Tac Airport
At this writing, a round-trip business class ticket from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International (CGD) in early November could be obtained using 115,000 miles. Purchasing the same ticket would cost around $10,000, meaning that an AAdvantage member who bought the miles in our example would save around $5,200 before the taxes and fees associated with using frequent flier miles, and would still have 77,500 miles to apply to future travel.

The carrier is also offering bonuses when miles are purchased in small increments. For example, a purchase of 20,000 to 39,000 will earn a 7,000 mile bonus while a purchase of 40,000 to 59,000 will earn 15,000 additional miles. Buying 60,000 to 74,000 miles will net an additional 22,500 miles, and buying 75,000 to 99,000 miles will get AAdvantage members 30,000 miles more.

Do the math

If you are considering such a purchase, do the math before moving forward, taking into account your travel style and future travel plans. Also, bear in mind that tickets purchased farther in advance often come at a substantially lower price than those purchased at the last minute.

Finally, if you are planning to purchase additional miles, consider the advantages of moving to the next higher bonus category. For example, purchasing 99,000 miles would net 129,000 total miles with the 30,000 mile bonus at a cost of $3,170, per Moving up to 100,000 miles would cost $3,201 and would buy a total of 142,500 miles, meaning the additional 13,500 miles cost an additional $31.

Now might be precisely the right time to top off one’s AAdvantage account. As of Aug. 1, the carrier began crediting miles based on the base price of the ticket modified by the passenger’s Elite Status level, as opposed to the prior method of crediting the miles flown.

Frequent travelers who maintain frequent flier accounts with more than one airline may also want to consider which carrier offers the best chance of actually being able to book a seat using those miles.

The most recent annual survey of award seat availability conducted by the IdeaWorksCompany showed that passengers’ ability to book a “saver” seat using accrued miles on U.S. carriers ranged from a high of 100 percent of the flights operated by Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) to a low of 56.4 percent of the flights operated by American.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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