How to Earn Miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage Program

Dec 1, 2018

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Out of the top three domestic carriers, American Airlines offers some of the easiest ways to earn miles through cobranded credit cards. There are currently three cards from two different banks that can earn miles in the airline’s program. It’s also one of the largest carriers in the world. But did you know there are a number of other ways to earn American AAdvantage miles?

If you’re just getting into the world of points and miles, you’ve come to the right place, as today I’ll take you through the myriad of ways that you can boost your AAdvantage account balance. We’ll discuss how to earn miles by flying, through credit cards and through other program partners, including portals like AAdvantage Dining and the AAdvantage eShopping mall.

Earn by Flying

Earning AAdvantage miles by flying may seem like it needs no explanation, but how you earn miles for flying has changed over the years. Here’s how you can earn AAdvantage miles flying on American and airlines in the Oneworld alliance, as well as on non-alliance partners.

Flying on American Airlines

When flying on American Airlines you’ll earn miles based on the price of your ticket minus taxes. The amount of miles you earn also varies based on your AAdvantage elite status. As you would expect, the higher the status, the higher number of miles earned.

Here’s how many miles each status tier earns per dollar spent:

  • No status – 5 miles
  • Gold – 7 miles
  • Platinum – 8 miles
  • Platinum Pro – 9 miles
  • Executive Platinum – 11 miles

So if you buy a one-way American Airlines ticket from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to New York-JFK that costs $120 and includes $20 in taxes (note that these amounts around rounded), you would earn 500 miles as an AAdvantage member without elite status. The math looks like this: (120 – 20) x 5 = 500.

Note that AAdvantage elite status is still earned by the number of miles flown, not the price paid for those tickets. These miles qualify you for elite status, but cannot be used for award flights. The example above would earn 737 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), as that is the distance between Chicago-O’Hare and New York-JFK.

Flying with partners

Flying with an American Airlines partner will earn miles in one of two ways. If the partner flight was booked through American and is ticketed on American Airlines ticket stock, you’ll earn miles the same as if you were flying on an American Airlines flight.

Booking a ticket on a partner’s website and adding your AAdvantage number to the reservation will earn miles based on how long your flight is — just like EQMs. Here’s an example of the earning chart for Iberia-operated flights:

Earning AAdvantage miles when flying on a flight ticketed on Iberia.

As you can see, the number of miles earned per mile flown depends on the fare you booked. You can see the fare class booked by looking at your e-ticket or by calling the airline and asking. Once you’ve located the fare class, go to American’s list of partner airlines, click on the operating carrier of your flight and find the corresponding fare class on that list. Then, multiply the mileage flown by the percentage in the Fare Class column. Premium fare classes will also earn the bonus listed in the Cabin Bonus column.

For example, if you’re flying Iberia Premium Economy in the W fare class from New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD), you’ll earn 100% base miles plus a 10% cabin bonus. Since the flight clocks in at 3,589 miles in distance, this comes out to 3,948 miles earned each way.

Earn Through Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to earn American AAdvantage miles is through cobranded credit cards, both via sign-up bonuses and everyday spending. Both Citi and Barclays currently issue American credit cards, giving you six different options with different welcome bonuses and point-earning abilities.

Citi’s American AAdvantage portfolio is the most attractive of the two banks when it comes to earning bonus miles on everyday credit card spend. Currently, Citi offers four AAdvantage cards:

  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere.
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after making $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on telecommunications, cable/satellite providers, car rental merchants, gas station and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on grocery store and American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere.

Barclays offers two American AAdvantage cobranded credit cards. Bonus categories are not as good as those on the Citi cards, but you only needs to make a purchase and pay the annual fee to earn the sign-up bonus. These are the two cards by Barclays currently open to new applicants:

  • Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after making a purchase and paying the annual fee within the first 90 days, earn 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile elsewhere.
  • Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days, earn 2x AAdvantage miles on office supply, telecom, car rental and American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile elsewhere.

Apply for the credit card that best fits your lifestyle, and be sure that you can meet the minimum spend needed to get the welcome bonus on Citi cards. These offers provide tremendous value, and putting your everyday spend on any of these cards will help you rack up a lot AAdvantage miles quickly.

Earn Through Partners

You can also earn AAdvantage miles through American’s many partners. Each of them offers miles for different activities that you already do like shopping, dining or banking.

AAdvantage eShopping mall

American Airlines’ AAdvantage eShopping mall awards points for everyday online purchases. Using the portal is simple: sign up for an account and find your merchant on the eShopping mall before you make a purchase. By clicking through this site rather than going directly to the merchant, you’ll take home bonus miles in addition to the earnings you’ll get on the credit card you use. Each merchant offers a different amount of miles per dollar spent, so you could get a hefty haul of miles on your holiday shopping.

In addition, the AAdvantage eShopping mall offers spend bonuses occasionally, especially as big shopping periods approach. For example, it was offering 4,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after making $1,200 in purchases the week before Black Friday.

AAdvantage Dining

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Dining out can be doubly rewarding at select restaurants through the AAdvantage Dining program. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Think of AAdvantage Dining as a shopping portal for eating out. Just sign up for an account and link your favorite credit cards. You earn miles based on how much you use the restaurants in the service. You can earn earn five AAdvantage miles per dollar spent if you are a VIP member, three AAdvantage miles per dollar spent as an online member and one AAdvantage mile per dollar spent as a member. Just like the shopping portal, these earnings are in addition to the standard rates on the credit card you use, so be sure to swipe one that offers a category bonus when dining out.

You’ll become an online member by signing up for email alerts, and you can obtain VIP status after making 12 transactions within 12 months. If you have not provided a valid email address you are considered a basic member. If you dine out a lot and happen to frequent restaurants that participate in the program, you can rack up miles pretty quickly with AAdvantage Dining.

AAdvantage Dining even has a welcome bonus, too. Currently, you will earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $25 at an participating restaurant within 30 days of opening your account.

Open a BankDirect account

Opening a new bank account can also help you earn a large amount of AAdvantage miles. Online banking company BankDirect offers a few financial products like checking and money market accounts that earn bonus AAdvantage miles. Here’s what the bank currently offers:

New checking and money market account offers

  • 1,000 miles when you open a new Mileage Checking or Mileage Money Market account
  • 10,000 miles when you set up a payroll direct deposit for a Mileage Checking account
  • 5,000 miles when you use BankDirect’s bill pay service or your BankDirect debit card

Certificate of deposit offers

  • 1,000 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 2-year Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000
  • 500 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 1-year Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000
  • 250 miles for every $1,000 you invest in a 6-month Mileage CD up to $50,000; 25 miles per $1,000 invested over $50,000

Note that these financial products may not earn as much interest as comparable accounts, so do your research before moving your finances to BankDirect. The bank also offers monthly bonuses for some accounts.

Move your cell phone to Sprint

Sprint and American Airlines recently partnered to award AAdvantage miles to new Sprint subscribers. You’ll earn a lump sum of miles up front, as well as an annual award for each year you keep your Sprint mobile service active. Here’s how many miles you can earn:

  • Earn 20,000 AAdvantage® miles when you activate a new account with Sprint
  • Earn up to 5,000 AAdvantage® miles each year your Sprint account is active

Transfer miles from hotel programs

A sign is posted in front of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Marriott and American Airlines have a partnership agreement that allows you to earn bonus miles when you transfer hotel points to the airline. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

You can also transfer hotel points from a variety of programs directly into your AAdvantage account. While most of these offer a relatively poor value proposition, an exception is the integrated Marriott/SPG program. Marriott points transfer to American AAdvantage at a ratio of three Marriott points to one AAdvantage mile. However, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to an airline partner, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus. This drops the effective ratio to 2.4:1 when you transfer in increments of 60,000 points.

That’s not all

This was just a sampling of American Airlines’ many partners. You can see the full list on the carrier’s website to find opportunities that will help you pump up your mileage balance with everyday spending.


American also partners with a wide variety of transportation partners, including numerous rental car companies and airport transfer providers.


Another option for earning bonus AAdvantage miles is when you’re planning your next vacation. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by booking a combination of flight, hotel and/or car reservations through American Airlines Vacations. In addition to earning the miles you normally would on flights and gaining access to discounted, unpublished rates, you’ll also earn an additional 250 miles for every package booked through the site.


One final way to earn bonus miles is through charitable donations. American currently partners with three different organizations that offer you 10 miles for every dollar you donate:

Bottom Line

Despite AAdvantage not partnering with any major transferable point programs, miles can be easily earned through flying, cobranded credit cards and numerous retail partners. Once you have your miles, make sure to research the best ways to use them for low-cost domestic flights and international business class, while also keeping a few redemption quirks in mind.

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