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One of the benefits of the AAdvantage Aviator Red (and Silver) is a program called Flight Cents.
It’s a nifty little way to rack up more American Airlines AAdvantage miles without even thinking about doing so but is it really worth it?
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about Flight Cents.
What is Flight Cents?
Flight Cents is a way to earn additional American Airlines miles by rounding up your Aviator credit card purchases to the nearest whole dollar.
For each cent that is rounded up, you’ll automatically purchase half an AAdvantage mile up to a certain threshold.
It’s a little confusing so let’s walk through an example.
Let’s say that you make a purchase of $3.01.
Flight Cents would round up the purchase to $4 (the nearest whole dollar) which means that the rounded up amount would equate to $.99.
Half of $.99 is 49.5 which means that you would earn 50 miles (rounded up to the nearest whole mile) from Flight Cents.
You would also earn an additional 3 miles from your purchase which means that you would earn a total of 53 miles.
Getting about 50 miles this route is not bad but the rounding up process can require a very high volume of transactions to max out (or to even come close to maxing out).
If you were somehow to get a $.99 round up from every transaction, that would require ~500 transactions per month.
With normal spend, you are obviously going to get much less than that so it will take a very high volume of transactions to get enough round ups to $500 which is the monthly maximum amount you can get.
I would also advise against trying to game this benefit by making a lot of unnatural small purchases because Barclays is known to crack down on so-called “gamers.”
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How does Flight Cents work
To take advantage of Flight Cents you will need to first set the threshold to the maximum amount that you would like to round up to each statement.
You can set your threshold amount anywhere ranging from $1 to $500.
Once you hit your threshold, you will get a half a mile for every one cent that is rounded up to the nearest whole dollar for each purchase.
And if you don’t hit your threshold, you will simply earn miles based on the amount rounded up at the end of your statement.
So let’s say that you maxed out your $500 threshold.
That would mean that you had 50,000 total cents rounded up from transactions. That will come out to a total of 25,000 miles for that statement period.
You can always view the Flight Cents summary page at AviatorMastercard.com/FlightCents to see an itemized list of rounded up purchases.
How to enroll
In order to trigger the benefit, you need to set your threshold above $0 which you can do at AviatorMastercard.com/FlightCents. Click on “adjust your threshold” to set your threshold and get started with the program.
Keep in mind that you can always change your threshold at any time to the default of zero dollars.
Whatever your threshold is set at as of 11:59 PM Eastern time on the end of the day before your billing cycle, that will be used as a threshold for your next billing cycle.
Is Flight Cents worth it?
The big debatable question with Flight Cents is whether or not it is worth it to participate.
You are essentially buying one AAdvantage mile for two cents.
A lot of people will probably feel that this is not an amazing deal.
For one, a lot of people value American Airlines miles at somewhere around 1.6 cents per mile.
So you are purchasing them above their valued price.
But there are a few things to say about that.
The first is that this is still significantly cheaper than purchasing AA miles at normal rates.
I checked the price for 5,000 AA miles and that would’ve cost $188.13. This comes out to 3.7 cents per mile. So two cents per mile is still a bargain compared to this.
Even if I chose to purchase more miles, the rates are still not as good as two cents per mile.
For example, for purchasing 25,000 miles I would receive a 15% discount and the total price would be $799.54.
This would come out to 3.1 cents per mile so once again getting miles for two cents per mile is still better than purchasing them out right.
Just note that on some occasions you can find special promotions where you can purchase miles at a much better rate.
The other thing about getting miles at two cents per mile is that if you regularly use your miles for business class and first class redemptions, you know that your miles can be worth much more than 2 cents per mile.
In those cases, picking up miles at two cents per mile could work out to be a bargain.
I think what a lot of people also like about this route is that it is a passive way to continuously build up your American Airlines balance without having to really think about it.
So there’s sort of a convenience factor here.
Ultimately, I would prefer not to use it because I don’t really like the idea of paying two cents per mile but if I was coming up on a redemption and I needed miles, this could potentially be a cheaper way to get them, so I would be okay to give it a shot.
I think Flight Cents is an interesting benefit. It’s not the most lucrative way to earn AA miles but it can be significantly cheaper than purchasing them.
If you know you are going to get outsized value from your miles well above two cents per mile then I think it definitely makes sense to go all in on this program and try to earn as many miles as you can.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.