Earning and Redeeming AAdvantage Miles, Part I: The Good Ways to Earn Miles

Terminal D Admirals Club, DFW Airport

So, we’ve talked about how to earn status with American Airlines, and I’ve gotten thousands of compliments on the information I provided (note: actual number of compliments far less, used Severe Rounding).  American posts all of the info, I just parsed through it and tried to explain it in as many Normal People terms as possible.

Quick review of some terms, although I’m sure everyone knows them by now:

EQM = Elite-qualifying miles
EQP = Elite-qualifying points
EQS = Elite-qualifying segments
RDM = Redeemable miles

And a new term:

CPM = Cents per mile

If all of the elite status stuff bugged you or you were quickly overwhelmed by all of it, or if you simply don’t fly that much, this post is for you, for it answers the age-old question:

How can I travel wherever I want, and in whatever class I want, for free?

YES.  I love that attitude.  You and I will get along very well.  Forget about EQM, EQP, and EQS, we’re going to now focus on RDM and CPM.

To travel wherever you want, you need one of two things: a pilot’s license or redeemable miles.  RDM are probably a bit easier, if I’m honest.  There are endless ways to get redeemable miles, I’m going to focus on the most well-known arenas for mileage earning: flying, shopping portals, and dining services.  Credit card sign-up bonuses, the most efficient and effective way of earning miles, will be covered in a later post, as that is a completely different world and has nothing to do with actually flying on the airlines to earn the miles.

CPM comes into play when thinking about redeemable miles, you want to earn as many RDM as you can for as little cost (CPM) as possible.

Flying
This is the old-fashioned way of earning miles and, if it’s the only way you earn miles, is probably why your mileage balance is so low.

Whenever you fly on American, what is called Base RDM is calculated from the number of miles you actually fly (you can use www.milecalc.com to figure it out for your itinerary).

So let’s take Bill.  Bill enjoys waiting for car services at LaGuardia Airport (inside joke).  Bill flies DFW-London then London-DFW.  DFW-LHR (London’s Heathrow Airport) earns 4750 miles on American, LHR-DFW another 4750 for a total of 9500 roundtrip (if you thought to yourself “Man, Bill should do a Gold or Platinum challenge, he’d qualify almost immediately depending on how much he paid for his ticket” give yourself a high five).

Base RDM = 9500 miles

Now, if Bill doesn’t have any status and was flying in coach, that’s all he’ll earn for the trip.  Still isn’t bad, but let’s imagine Bill had status (which gives you bonus RDM depending on your status level) and was flying in coach:

Base RDM with no status = 9500 miles
Base RDM plus Gold Bonus (25%) = 11875 miles
Base RDM plus Platinum or Executive Platinum Bonus (100%) = 19000 miles

So, you can see how status not only gives you benefits, but it can accelerate how quickly your mileage balance increases. But that’s not all, folks. Let’s take a look at what happens with what are called Class of Service bonuses (25% for Business and 50% for First).

Base RDM with no status = 9500 miles
Base RDM with no status in Business Class = 11875 miles
Base RDM with no status in First Class = 14250 miles

Can these benefits be stacked? You bet. Bonuses are always calculated from the Base RDM.

Base RDM with no status = 9500 miles
Base RDM with Gold status in Coach = 11875 miles
Base RDM with Gold status in Business = 14250 miles
Base RDM with Executive Platinum status in First = 23750 miles

Can I only earn miles on American flights?
Nope.  You can earn RDM (and for that matter, EQM as well) on just about any member or partner airlines in the Oneworld alliance.  American’s charts are really better than mine here, so here’s the link to the landing page at which you can click each partner airline to see how much mileage and any bonus miles you can earn with them.  Fare classes matter, but since you read through my previous article you’re an expert on those: Earn Miles with Partner Airlines

Do I get miles for tickets I book using mi
I’ll stop you before your hopes get too far up.  No, flights booked using miles do not earn you any miles whatsoever, unless there’s a large-scale IT catastrophe at American, and even then any miles you’d earn would be taken back later.

In summary, flying on American or Oneworld partners isn’t a bad way to earn miles, but in a Good Better Best ranking, it’d be probably at Better.  There are many people in the mileage earning world that have millions of AAdvantage miles and haven’t flown on American in years.

Shopping Portals and Dining Services
American Airlines has a shopping portal at www.aadvantageeshopping.com.  This lets you log in with your AAdvantage credentials and earn miles for purchases made at participating stores.

It’s pretty straightforward, and they run promotions from time to time for more miles, but generally the only thing to say about shopping portals is that they’re good for developing the habit of getting miles for money you’re already spending.  That’s the key lesson to learn.  If you’re going to spend the money, get the miles for it.

American also does a mileage program with various restaurants at http://aa.rewardsnetwork.com/.  These are really easy.  All you do is register your credit/debit card with the service, and any time you eat at a participating restaurant, you’ll get usually a mile per dollar you spend.  Again, straightforward, and an easy way to get miles for money you’re already spending.

Buying Miles
American will straight up let you purchase AAdvantage miles.  This can be a good deal for you if you need to top off your mileage balance before your next trip and don’t want to take a flight.  They often run promotions to give you bonus miles if you purchase a certain amount (upwards of 50% sometimes, right now it’s up to 40%).

The CPM for these typically runs from 1.5-3.5CPM, which isn’t bad.  That’s usually better than you can get for flying on a flight, but not as good as you can get through credit card bonuses or spending money through the shopping portal or dining services (since those don’t really have a CPM, since it’s money you’d be spending anyway).

Mileage Multiplier
Have you ever checked in at one of the kiosks in the airport and it asks you if you’d like to purchase some more miles?  Sometimes these can be worth it, but my general rule would be to purchase them only if a) you absolutely need them then and/or b)they’re under 2cpm.  Otherwise there’s probably a much better way.

A note
When you’re earning miles, it’s important to think about why you’re earning them.  Spending money to accrue miles is useless if you have no plan on using them.  So I’d advise against buying miles just for the heck of it.  Have a plan for what you want to do with your miles, and then buying miles may make a little more sense.  There are still better ways though.

That’s all for today, stay tuned for Part II: earning AAdvantage miles through credit card sign-up bonuses.

3 Comments

  1. Hey! Did you ever make the post about earning miles by credit card sign ups? I can’t find it. I’d be interested to read your take on it. I’ve read million mile secrets blog, but feel like there might be 1 or 2 gaps missing in my understanding. Thanks!!

    Reply
  2. Hi Andy! Quick question.

    If I have only 100k AA miles, but I have platinum status — can’t i fly as many times as i like for the duration of my status using just those 100k miles because of the 100% bonus?

    for example, if i fly to europe for 50k miles, i’d normally have only 50k miles left…but because of the 100% bonus, i’d basically be flying to europe for nothing.

    Do i have that right???

    Reply
    • That’s incorrect. You do not earn miles on award tickets.

      Reply

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