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If you’re a cardholder of one of the many different American Airlines credit cards offered from both Citi and Barclays banks, then you no doubt enjoy some of the many well-known perks that these cards offer. Some of the notable perks of these cards (perks vary among the cards) include benefits such as priority boarding, a free checked bag on domestic itineraries, a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases, bonus miles for all American Airlines spending, and more.
The exciting news is there is a lesser-known perk that all of the different American Airlines credit cards offer that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. This benefit can save you up to 7,500 AAdvantage miles on a roundtrip economy award ticket depending on the route you’re taking and the type of card that you possess.
The benefit is called a reduced mileage award, and it is a discount on an American Airlines MileSAAver award flight to a rotating list of select cities in North America.
These valuable perks offer domestic MileSAAver economy round-trip award tickets for 17,500 AAdvantage miles instead of 25,000. That’s a savings of 30%!
And if your flight is under 500 miles, instead of normally costing 15,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip, it’ll only cost 13,000 AAdvantage miles.
Your first thought may be “there’s no way I live near a qualifying airport.” You may be right, but the chances are really good that you’re actually mistaken – the current list of qualifying destinations for December 2018 – March 2019 includes 174 airports!
Sure, bigger airports like Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco and Seattle make appearances on this list, but the number of smaller airports like Asheville, NC, Burlington, VT, Waco, TX, and Bentonville, AR is really quite astonishing!
So, if you have some upcoming domestic American Airlines award travel to book, knowing the ins and outs of the reduced mileage awards benefit that American Airlines offers, you can stretch your AAdvantage miles even further.
Let’s learn more about the reduced miles awards benefit.
Eligible Credit Cards
To book reduced mileage awards, you have to be a cardholder of a qualifying American Airlines credit card. Other than that, there are no other rules or limitations regarding eligibility, and you can use this benefit as many times as you want so long as you have enough AAdvantage miles and can find MileSAAver award space availability on your desired flights.
If you’re a cardholder of any of the following cards, you’re eligible to save 7,500 AAdvantage miles off of a round-trip award ticket (3,750 off of a one-way) that is greater than 500+ miles traveled, or 2,000 AAdvantage miles off of a round-trip award ticket (1,000 off of a one-way) that is less than 500 miles traveled:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Visa
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select American Express
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Select Visa
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Select Mastercard
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard
- AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard
- AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard
If you’re a cardholder of any of the following lower annual fee cards, you still qualify for this benefit, however at a reduced savings. You’re eligible to save 5,000 AAdvantage miles off of a round-trip award ticket (2,500 off of a one-way) that is greater than 500+ miles traveled, or 1,000 AAdvantage miles off of a round-trip award ticket (500 off of a one-way) that is less than 500 miles traveled:
- Citi AAdvantage Gold American Express
- Citi AAdvantage Gold Visa
- Citi AAdvantage Gold MasterCard
- AAdvantage Aviator Blue MasterCard
- You can use the reduced mileage award benefit if you fly to any eligible airport on the availability list OR your originating airport is included on the availability list for your desired month of travel.
- Even if you own multiple American Airlines credit cards, you aren’t able to stack this discount across cards. No matter how many cards you have, you are only eligible to receive the benefits of the highest qualifying card that you hold.
- The only other way to stack an additional savings benefit is if you also hold an AAdvantage card that offers a 10% rebate on redeemed AAdvantage miles up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles per year. You will still receive the 10% rebate on your redeemed miles along with the reduced mileage award savings. So a normal MileSAAver round trip economy flight costing 25,000 AAdvantage miles would essentially cost 15,750 AAdvantage miles if you’re able to stack a reduced mileage award with your 10% rebate (if eligible), a savings of 37%.
- You can use the reduced mileage award benefit for any cabin of service operated domestically by American Airlines, but the discount amount is the same no matter which cabin you book. So even though you can use this benefit to book economy, domestic business and domestic first, by using it for booking economy seats you’ll save more on as a percentage of the base award.
- You’re only eligible for the reduced mileage award benefit if you are a cardholder of one of the qualifying American Airlines credit cards. Therefore, the only way to include this benefit for family members would be to add them as authorized users to your eligible card. They would then be able to enjoy this benefit as well. Fortunately, many American Airlines credit cards allow you to add authorized users for no extra charge.
- To take advantage of this benefit, you’ll need to book your reduced mileage award during the month prior to when you wish to travel. So if you wish to travel in February, you need to book your reduced mileage award ticket by January 31st to ensure that you’ll still receive the discount.
- The $75 close-in booking fee still applies if you book your reduced mileage award within 21 days of your travel dates, so plan ahead. However, this fee is waived for eligible elite members.
How It Works
Every quarter, American Airlines releases an updated list of destinations that qualify for the reduced mileage awards for the next few months. They make this list available on their website, as well as all of the important information on how to find and book reduced mileage awards.
Availability of each destination changes monthly, so as a part of your planning, you should study the availability chart to ensure that your destination is available for the reduced mileage award during your desired month of travel. Some destinations are available for all 4 of the months that the chart displays availability for, whereas some are only available for 1 month, and any and every combination in between.
There is one important detail to note that isn’t explained very well on the American Airlines website – they describe the airports listed in the availability chart as “destinations”. However, you can book these destinations using the reduced mileage awards whether you are departing from or arriving at the specific airport. You may occasionally get an American Airlines agent that insists otherwise. If this is the case, you should politely hang up and call again.
For example, my home airport of Greensboro (GSO), NC is a pretty small airport and therefore is almost always included in the reduced mileage award chart. It doesn’t matter if I’m flying from GSO to an airport that’s not listed as a qualifying destination, or returning from a non-qualifying destination to GSO, as long as my flight includes GSO as either the origin or destination (not simply a connection), I’m able to book at the reduced mileage award rate.
How to Book
Now that we know some of the backgrounds on reduced mileage awards, let’s walk through how to book them.
Reduced mileage awards are not terribly complicated to book, but unfortunately, they do have to be booked over the phone with American Airlines Reservations.
The first step in booking a reduced mileage award ticket will be to determine your destination and confirm with the American Airlines website that either your origin or destination is listed with reduced mileage award availability during the month of your desired travel dates (remember, either the origin or the destination has to be listed with availability to qualify for this benefit).
Once you confirm the reduced mileage award availability, it’s time to start searching for Economy MileSAAver award space on AA.com.
For my search, I’m interested in doing some late winter skiing in Jackson Hole. I’ve confirmed that my home airport of GSO is listed as a reduced mileage award destination for March 2019, but as an added bonus, Jackson Hole (JAC) airport is also listed as a reduced mileage award destination for March 2019, so I’m double covered! If only I got a double discount!
Once I confirmed reduced mileage award availability for my destination (or origin), it was time to hunt for some Economy MileSAAver space. I headed to AA.com and easily found some Economy MileSAAver space with only 1 stop each way.
When running my searches, I found a number of 1 stop Economy MileSAAver options from GSO to JAC. Cash prices for these tickets were $477, which isn’t terrible for the middle of peak ski season. The award tickets priced out at 25,000 AAdvantage miles plus $11.20. Not a bad award redemption value for AAdvantage miles, but we can do better thanks to the reduced mileage award.
Now that I’ve found my desired award availability, the next step in the booking process requires a phone call to American Airlines Reservations as it, unfortunately, can’t be done online at this time. So, I’ll call 1-800-882-8880 – or use an elite reservation phone number if you are eligible – and ask to book a reduced mileage award ticket.
Even though I have to call in to book this reduced mileage award ticket, since it can’t be booked online, this type of booking does waive the usual $30 phone-booking fee that American Airlines would normally charge to book a flight over the phone.
In order to book the reduced mileage award, you have to provide the reservations agent a discount code based on the cabin, savings amount and flight distance. Fortunately, American Airlines provides these codes on their website, so they’re easily accessible.
Now that I’ve called into American Airlines Reservations and provided the agent with the discount code that corresponds to my eligibility and the flight distance, they will help me complete my booking. I’ll simply provide them with the dates and flight numbers that correspond to the search I ran on American’s site and the award space I found. Once I do that, they’ll have me booked in no time!
In the case of my ski trip to Jackson Hole, this now means that my roundtrip Economy MileSAAver flight will drop in price from 25,000 AAdvantage miles + $11.20, to just 17,500 AAdvantage miles + $11.20.
But, since I’m also eligible for my 10% rebate on redeemed AAdvantage miles up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles per year, that essentially drops my flight cost again to just 15,750 AAdvantage miles + $11.20. Now that is something to get excited about!
Depending on where you’re flying, you may still find yourself doing better booking with British Airways Avios, even with the reduced mileage award. British Airways Avios can often be easier to earn than AAdvantage miles since they’re a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Marriott Rewards.
However, there are times when these reduced mileage awards can really come in handy. If you’re an eligible cardholder, these awards provide a wonderful opportunity to make AAdvantage miles stretch a lot further on American Airlines round-trip award flights.
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.