One perk of holding an American Airlines co-branded credit card is the ability to book American Airlines reduced mileage awards. These awards allow you to save up to 7,500 miles per round-trip depending on the card you hold and the length of the trip. This is a great savings over the standard award rate!
I’ve been worried that American will discontinue their reduced mileage awards at some point as they move toward dynamic award pricing. Given that these awards represent some of the best value you can get when booking domestic economy tickets, it will be a real shame if they do.
Save With American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards
There are two groups of cards that give you different levels of savings with the reduced mileage awards. The free or cheap co-branded cards offer far less savings. There are also two tiers of awards. Because American Airlines already only requires 7,500 award miles for trips under 500 miles one-way, the savings aren’t as good on these routes.
Most credit cards offer a savings of up to 7,500 miles per round trip for itineraries over 500 miles and 2,000 miles per round-trip for itineraries of less than 500 miles. Here is the list of credit cards that offer these savings:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Select MasterCard®
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite MasterCard® and Aviator® Red MasterCard®
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Business MasterCard®
This reduces the cost of a typical round-trip saver award from 25,000 miles to only 17,500 miles. This is a 30% savings! I always check the American Airlines reduced mileage award list before booking domestic flights.
Here are the credit cards that give you access to a 5,000-mile discount for awards over 500 miles and 1,000-mile discount on round-trips itineraries of less than 500 miles:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold MasterCard®
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Blue MasterCard®
Holding one of these cards will let you book a ticket to one of the listed destinations for only 20,000 miles per round-trip. A hop of 500 miles or less will only cost you 14,000 miles round-trip.
The cool thing is, you don’t have to book a round-trip award. If you book a one-way, the savings are simply half of the round-trip savings.
There are some other cards included in both of the lists that offer access to the American Airlines reduced mileage awards, but I’m not sure they are offered anymore. I believe all the ones listed are those currently available.
How to Find a Qualifying Award
American Airlines offers a good number of destinations every month on their reduced mileage award chart. There are some airports that never make the list, typically major ones. But several dozen destinations make the list every month. The chart is updated every other month, and the booking window is always for at most the next four months. Don’t expect to be able to lock in AA reduced mileage awards way ahead of time.
Head over to the American Airlines reduced mileage award page to view the list of destinations offered. The first paragraphs explain the discounts and process, after which you’ll find the table of current reduced mileage destinations. Note the months in the header at the top and then scroll through the list (or use the web page search) to find your destination. The green check-marks indicate that a destination is available for the reduced mileage price for that month. As you can see, summer often sees fewer options than off-season travel.
For example, if I’m interested in flying to Appleton, Wisconsin, I can book a reduced mileage award for any of the months shown above. I can also fly out of any nearby airport served by American Airlines. It doesn’t matter if your origin airport isn’t on the chart as long as the destination is. If I’m interested in flying to Asheville, notice that I can only book that at the reduced mileage award price for flights in September.
The current list for September 2019 is a gold mine. Most of the airports shown on the list are available for reduced mileage awards that month. Chances are you’ll find the destination you’re looking for if you’re willing to travel outside of peak summer season.
A Potential Loophole
Some people have previously reported that if your origin is on the AA reduced mileage award list for a given month, you can get the reduced mileage price to fly anywhere in the lower 48! Not all agents would abide by this, but by using the “hang up, call again” (HUCA) trick, you can often book them.
However, I don’t see this in the terms. Everything refers to the destination being on the list. Only the destination airport has to be on the list for a one-way or round-trip. The origin doesn’t seem to play into the equation at all. I could be wrong on this, though, or the terms could have changed such that they are now in line with my understanding. In any case, you’re more than welcome to try to see where you can get with an agent. Some airports are routinely available, and it would be amazing to fly for AA reduced mileage prices much of the year.
How to Book an AA Reduced Mileage Award
You have to call reservations at 800-882-8880 to book American Airlines reduced mileage awards. However, you’ll first need to make sure there is space available for the award you want, and I suggest doing this online. Head to aa.com and look for MileSAAver space. You cannot use the reduced mileage award codes for standard awards.
You’ll also need the award code for the credit card you hold. You can find these on the American Airlines reduced mileage awards web page. The agent will ask for a code when you go to book the award.
My most recent experience booking an AA reduced mileage award was pretty painful. I called American Airlines reservations, provided our travel date, origin and destination into the automated system, and was connected with an agent within only a few minutes. That part was fine.
But things broke down after I explained that I wanted to book a reduced mileage award. The lady said I could do it online, which was news to me. I told her that I did not think that was the case, but she insisted, so I decided I’d better check. Of course, she was wrong. You must call to book AA reduced mileage awards.
The next agent was familiar with the process and immediately asked for the code. She spent a minute confirming that our destination was on the list, and our tickets were booked shortly thereafter.
The reservation service charge is waived for these awards since they are not bookable online. If the agent tries to charge you, politely remind them of this. You have been instructed to call reservations to book these. The only taxes and fees mentioned on the website is the $5.60 TSA fee.
Final Notes on American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards
American Airlines reduced mileage awards offer fantastic value for families since you can fly round-trip domestic itineraries for so much less. A family of 5 flying on a reduced mileage award ticket only needs 87,500 miles rather than 125,000 miles. Considering that some of the American Airlines co-branded cards sometimes offer a sign-up bonus of 60,000 or even 70,000 miles, a single card application plus a bit of spending can easily get you free flights for the whole family!
Some final things to note:
- The terrible (might I say AAwful) $75 close-in booking fee still applies to itineraries 21 days out or less.
- The discounts only apply to awards within the lower 48 United States.
- You can actually apply the discount to business and first class domestically. The discounts are the same off of the saver rate. I’m just never interested in premium cabin domestic awards, so details like this tend to slip my mind.
- Finding American Airlines award space can be an issue at times. Don’t expect to see wide-open award availability to any of these destinations, but expect to be able to make something work if you’re flexible with your dates.
Hope you make great use of the American Airlines reduced mileage awards!