I no longer try to amass American Airlines AAdvantage miles from credit card sign ups and BankDirect checking accounts. Award availability on American and its partners has been so scarce recently that I haven’t made any AAdvantage mile redemptions this year!
Why I (Used to) Like American Airlines Miles
For years I’ve successfully used American Airlines miles for booking award travel on both domestic and international trips. The American Airlines website was easy to use and there was plenty of award availability in both economy and business class. American airlines and its partners had award options in the locations that I liked to travel–mostly South America and Europe. You could usually get a saver domestic ticket for 12.5K miles, and off-season transatlantic tickets for 22.5K miles in coach or 50K in business. I loved taking advantage of the “free one way” where you could take up to a year to fly different segments on a one-way ticket. For example we flew from Kona to New York in September, and then New York to London in December, all on the same ticket. When B. did his 5-month South American bike tour, I flew five round trips down there to meet him, mostly on AA award tickets. Of course this nice option is no longer available.
How I Got My American Airlines Miles
AA tickets were so valuable to me that my goal was to always keep 100K miles in each of our accounts at all times. Fortunately AA miles were fairly easy to acquire. It seemed that one or both of us was always working on the minimum spend on a Citi AA card, with sign on bonuses of 50K miles for each card. I also opened some BankDirect checking accounts to earn American Airlines miles. Here are two posts that I did a while back on earning AA miles with BankDirect accounts.
Between credit card sign ups and the checking accounts, I was able to keep a healthy balance of AA miles, even though we were redeeming them on a regular basis.
Lack of Recent Award Availability Using American Airlines Miles
In the past six months, I’ve noticed that my AA miles account balance was pushing upwards of 150K miles. Usually I’m having to make a conscious effort to keep all of my mileage accounts up to levels of at least 60K miles (It used to be easy to find round trips to Europe for 60K AA or United miles.) The past few trips I’ve taken there just wasn’t availability in the low “saver” level. I’m still too frugal to book “anytime” awards although that may be changing if this lack of “saver” space continues. I just did a search yesterday for a trip that I would like to make to New Jersey in a few weeks. I could fly into Newark or Philadelphia. You would think that American would have a lot of availability into PHL, but there were only three days of the month that had saver tickets at 12.5K miles, and these flights left at 6:00 am. An anytime award ticket cost 20k-30K miles! There were NO saver tickets at all into Newark for the month of April. All award tickets from Atlanta to Newark were at the 20-30K level and none of these flights are non-stop. The same held true for flights into PHL, although I was able to find “saver” space on a one-way PHL-ATL ticket.
It’s been like this for the last few trips I’ve taken. I just can’t make it work on American! I’ve spent my Delta miles down to zero, and I just redeemed United miles for the ATL-EWR round trip. Since it looks like it will take me awhile to spend down the AA miles in our accounts, I closed the BankDirect accounts.
We could have just bought tickets for $200-$250, and I’m wondering if it is worth my time to keep mileage balances up in hopes that I’ll be able to redeem them for flights that we want.