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American AAdvantage Cheat Sheet for Using Miles: Airlines, Fees, Alternatives, and More

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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.

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.

Airlines you can book with AAdvantage miles
Region Airline Where to check space
Asia Cathay Pacific British Airways, Asia Miles or Quantas website
Asia Japan Airlines British Airways website
Asia Jet Airways (registration required) or call AA
Asia Malaysia Airlines British Airways website
Europe British Airways
Europe Finnair
Europe Iberia
Europe S7 Airlines British Airways or Qantas site
Europe Sri Lankan Airlines British Airways or Qantas site
Latin America ALTAM (registration required) or call AA
Middle East Etihad Airways Etihad Airways website (look for ‘Guest’ award seats)
Middle East Gulf Air (not free)
Middle East Qatar Airways British Airways or Asia Miles website
Middle East Royal Jordanian
North America Alaska Airlines Call
North America Hawaiian Airlines (except to mainland US)
North America Seaborne* Call
Pacific Air Tahiti (not free)
Pacific Fiji Airways Qantas website
Pacific Qantas

*You can only earn and redeem miles on American Airlines codeshare flights.

You won’t find some partner airline flights at all on the 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, 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.

Main cabin
Destination MileSAAver-Off Peak MileSAAver 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
Alaska N/A 15,000 25,000 40,000
Hawaii 20,000 22,500 40,000 15,000
Caribbean 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
Mexico 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
Central America 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
South America Region 1 17,500 20,000 35,000 50,000
South America Region 2 N/A 30,000 55,000 75,000
Europe 22,500 30,000 47,500 65,000
Asia Region 1 32,500 35,000 62,500 80,000
Asia Region 2 32,500 35,000 65,000 85,000
South Pacific N/A 40,000 70,000 90,000
Premium economy
Destination MileSAAver-Off Peak MileSAAver 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
Alaska N/A 25,000 40,000 55,000
Hawaii N/A 50,500 65,000 85,000
Caribbean N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mexico N/A N/A N/A N/A
Central America 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
Europe N/A 40,000 75,000 110,000
Asia Region 1 N/A 50,000 80,000 105,000
Asia Region 2 N/A 50,000 85,000 115,000
South Pacific N/A 65,000 130,000 155,000
Destination MileSAAver-Off Peak MileSAAver AAnytime-Level 1 AAnytime-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
Alaska N/A 30,000 50,000 65,000
Hawaii N/A 55,000 67,500 90,000
Caribbean N/A 25,000 50,000 60,000
Mexico N/A 25,000 50,000 60,000
Central America N/A 25,000 50,000 60,000
South America Region 1 N/A 30,000 65,000 90,000
South America Region 2 N/A 57,500 110,000 150,000
Europe N/A 57,500 110,000 135,000
Asia Region 1 N/A 60,000 120,000 155,000
Asia Region 2 N/A 70,000 140,000 175,000
South Pacific N/A 80,000 175,000 195,000
Destination MileSAAver-Off Peak MileSAAver 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
Hawaii N/A 80,000 107,500 130,000
Caribbean N/A 50,000 90,000 100,000
Mexico N/A 50,000 90,000 100,000
Central America N/A 50,000 90,000 100,000
South America Region 1 N/A 55,000 105,000 130,000
South America Region 2 N/A 85,500 160,000 190,000
Europe N/A 85,000 140,000 175,000
Asia Region 1 N/A 80,000 170,000 200,000
Asia Region 2 N/A 110,000 180,000 210,000
South Pacific N/A 110,000 220,000 260,000

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:

List of countries by region
Zone Countries included
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.

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. 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:

What credit cards earn AAdvantage® miles?


  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard®

via Transfer

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® 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.

The bottom line

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.

The information related to the , and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.