15 Best Uses of American Airlines Miles [2020]

The American Airlines (AA) award chart is full of sweet spots to destinations all over the globe. There are a few quirky routing rules that AA forces you to deal with but there’s still a tremendous amount of value to obtain within their award charts.

This article will first explain the AA award chart(s) and then go into detail about various sweet spots that exist within the award charts.

Interested in finding out the top travel credit cards for this month? Click here to check them out! 

Earning American Airlines miles

American Airlines is not a transfer partner of any of the major credit card issuer rewards programs like Chase, Amex, and even Citi.

However, they still have co-branded credit card relationships with Citi and Barclays. These credit cards often come with large bonuses making it very easy rack up AA miles.

Citi AAdvantage credit cards

Citi AA Card

Citi regularly offers 60,000 offers on its AAdvantage cards and sometimes you can even get matched to higher offers up to 75,000!

Two of the cards to look into are the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite and the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

Barclays AAdvantage credit cards

Then there’s the AAdvantage Aviator Red which often comes with a high bonus that gets up to 60,000 miles after just making a single purchase!

And there’s a business version which is pretty solid, too.

If you’re able to just get two of these credit cards you could easily hit 120,000 AAdvantage miles plus.

So that would be enough to try out some of the best first class products in the world, which is very exciting. You can find out much more about all of the different AA credit cards in this article.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

AA flight route map

American has a tool to view their routes and partner routes, which can be helpful in finding available flights.

  • You can find that route map here.
  • You can also use Google Flights to search schedules and cash prices for those routes. Read how to use Google Flights here.  

I don’t think there is an official American Airlines miles calculator.

Route map of American Airlines flights out of Dallas.
The AA flight route map.

How to use the AA award chart

American uses region-based award charts. This means that in order to figure out how many miles you need for a “free” flight, you just need to find the set award rate for going from region A to region B.

The first thing that you want to do is find where you are going to be traveling from. Let’s assume you’ll be traveling from the continental US. So on the AA award chart website, you’ll first click on “Contiguous 48 U.S. states.”

That is going to bring up the award chart for American Airlines flights departing from the continental US (so everywhere in the US except for Alaska and Hawaii). I’ve constructed my own award charts below for traveling from the US.

AA Main Cabin award chart

MileSAAver Off PeakMileSAAverAAnytime Level 1AAnytime Level 2
Contiguous 48 US & Canada125002000030000
Contiguous 48 US & Canada (≤ 500 miles)75002000030000
Central America12500150002750037500
South America Region 117500200003500050000
South America Region 2300005500075000
Asia Region 132500350006250080000
Asia Region 232500350006500085000
South Pacific400007000090000
AA Main Cabin award chart

The first AA award chart that you’ll see is for economy class which American calls “Main Cabin.” The Main Cabin chart has four different tiers of pricing known as:

  • MileSAAver Off-Peak 
  • MileSAAver
  • AAnytime Level 1
  • AAnytime Level 2

MileSAAver Off-Peak awards will be the cheapest while AAnytime Level 2 awards will be the most expensive.

The off-peak dates will differ depending on your destination but they have all of the off-peak dates listed on the website.

Also notice that for flights 500 miles or fewer, the lower redemption rate applies of 7,500 miles.

AA business and first chart

The next chart is for Business/First while the second chart is for first class. Both of these charts do NOT have off-peak awards. Note that for flights offering only two classes of service, the Economy and Business / First Class awards apply.

MileSAAver Off PeakMileSAAverAAnytime Level 1AAnytime Level 2
Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada*250004500055000
Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (≤ 500 miles)^150004500055000
Central America*250005000060000
South America Region 1*300006500090000
South America Region 257500110000150000
Asia Region 160000120000155000
Asia Region 270000140000175000
South Pacific80000175000195000
AA business and first chart.

First class AA award chart

For flights offering three classes of service (Economy, Business, and First) the First Class award chart below apply.

MileSAAver Off PeakMileSAAverAAnytime Level 1AAnytime Level 2
Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada500008500095000
Central America5000090000100000
South America Region 155000105000130000
South America Region 285000160000190000
Asia Region 180000170000200000
Asia Region 2110000180000210000
South Pacific110000220000260000
First class AA award chart

AA partner award chart

AA has some terrific partners that fly some of the best first class and business class cabins in the world. Between Etihad, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, JAL, and Qantas, there’s a lot to choose from.

In fact, since I don’t live near an AA hub,  I’ve almost exclusively used my AA miles to fly on partners.

Below is the award chart that will be used when making bookings on partners.

Main Cabin Off PeakMain CabinBusiness/FirstFirst
Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada+125002500050000
Central America+175002750052500
South America Region 1+200003000055000
South America Region 2300005750085000
Middle East*4000070000115000
Indian Subcontinent~4000070000115000
Asia Region 1^350006000080000
Asia Region 2^3750070000110000
South Pacific^4000080000110000
AA partner award chart

Oneworld partners

Here is the list of oneworld Alliance partners.

American Airlines 
British Airways 
Cathay Pacific 
Japan Airlines 
Malaysia Airlines 
Qatar Airways 
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Jordanian Airlines 
S7 Airlines 
SriLankan Airlines 
One world airline partners

List of other AA partners

AA also has a lot of partners that are not a part of the oneworld alliance.

Air Tahiti Nui 
Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air 
Cape Air 
China Southern Airlines
Etihad Airways 
Fiji Airways 
GOL Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines 
Seaborne Airlines 
Other airline partners
Qatar is a great AA partner.

AA award chart upgrade amounts

There’s a separate chart for figuring our the mileage requirements for upgrades. You can access that for AA flights here  and for British Airways and Iberia here.

AA award chart upgrade amounts
AA award chart upgrade amounts

AA award chart regions

American defines their regions in a pretty common sense way.

Here are the AA award chart regions:

  • Caribbean: includes Bermuda and The Bahamas
  • South America Region 1: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Manaus (Brazil)
  • South America Region 2: Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela
  • Asia Region 1: Japan, Korea
  • Asia Region 2: China, Hong Kong

You can find a much more extensive list of their regions used by their partner chart on their website by scrolling to the bottom to “Region Definitions.”

AA award chart routing rules

American Airlines has some specific and quirky routing rules that you definitely need to be aware of.

First, they do not allow stopovers which really blows because that would open up so many great travel opportunities at exciting partner hubs like Hong Kong and Sydney.

Second, American usually does not allow you to route via a third region. So for example, you can’t usually route from North America to Australia via Asia. However, they do have some exceptions depending on the route and the airline you’re flying with.

There a few other rules and nuances that you probably want to read about if you’re trying to fly multiple segments and regions. 

Booking AA partners online

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JAL
  • Qantas Airways
  • Qatar
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines

You can use other websites to search for oneworld flights like the British Airways Avios search engine, JAL, and Qantas.

American charges a fee for bookings on the phone but it’s possible to get the fee waived if you tell them that the airline is not bookable online, and I’ve never paid a booking fee for partner flights not bookable online.

Best uses of American Airlines miles

The AA award charts are full of sweet spots as you will see below.

1. US to Europe

  • Economy: 22,500 (off-peak); 30,000
  • Business: 57,500
  • First: 85,000

The awards rates to Europe using AA miles are pretty decent all around. Fees on American Airlines to Europe in business class aren’t terrible as you can fly roundtrip to Paris for $135 total in fees

Availability can be difficult but sometimes American Airlines will dump inventory.

You can try to fly to Europe on partners like Iberia and Finnair with fees as low as $100 but beware of “phantom availability” with Finnair.

British Airways usually has great availability but their surcharges can run you over $1,000 on a roundtrip.

However, it’s not that bad connecting one-way through the UK. For example, when we checked out the northern lights, we flew OSL->LHR->IAH in British Airways first class and the fees were “only”  $270. That’s still high but it’s not $1,000.

  • You can check out other ways to get to Europe on miles and points here.
First class seat on British Airways with window shades halfway down
British Airways First Class.

2. US to Middle East

  • Economy: 40,000
  • Business: 70,000
  • First: 115,000

The rates for economy and business class from the US to the Middle East with AA miles are great.

The price for first class is pricey thanks to devaluations but you’re able to fly on the Etihad Apartment for only about $100 fees.

I flew from AUH to JFK on the Etihad Apartment and it was one of the best flights of my life, so even though the miles are a bit high, I think it’s still a sweet spot given the product level you can experience with low fees.

Etihad first class suite with beds made.
The Etihad Apartment.

3. US to India subcontinent

  • Economy: 40,000
  • Business: 70,000
  • First: 115,000

Both the economy rate and the business class rate are among the best for this route.

It’s also nice that it’s the same price as the Middle East so you can utilize connection flights on Qatar and Etihad from the Middle East to get down to the Maldives for no additional cost.

We once flew Qatar business class down to the Maldives and Etihad on the way back which was a great way to use our AA miles.

Related: Hilton Conrad Maldives Review (Deluxe Beach Villa, Retreat Water Villa)

Aerial view of overwater villas at Conrad Maldives.
The Conrad Maldives.

4. US to Japan

  • Economy: 35,000
  • Business: 60,000
  • First: 80,000

The rates to Japan in business class and first class are solid on American Airlines.

These rates apply to flights on both AA and also partners. This is great because you can fly on partner JAL to Japan, which is one of the best first class products.

While you can route to Asia 2 via Japan, you’re not allowed to route to Japan via Asia 2 so that means you can’t use miles on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong unless you pay more. You can read about other ways to use miles and points to get to Japan here.

Related: Japan Airlines First Class 777 Review (HND to JFK)

Skyline of Tokyo over river.
Tokyo, Japan.

5. US to South Africa

  • Economy: 40,000
  • Business: 75,000
  • First: 120,000

The rates to places in northern Africa aren’t as great because American Airlines doesn’t divide Africa up but the rates to South Africa in economy and business are solid.

Africa is also made tricky by American Airlines routing rules. You’re only allowed to connect on through Europe or the Middle East (but only on Qatar). Qatar has a fantastic business class product and they also have the new Qatar Q-Suites so this is a great option.

British Airways is another option but they are going to force you to cough up some green for the surcharges. However, if you decide to go the British Airways route they fly to the following destinations:

You might have some luck checking Iberia, since they fly to a few African destinations including Johannesburg, South Africa.

View of Cape Town from helicopter.
Helicopter ride over Cape Town, South Africa.

6. US to South America 1

  • Economy: 20,000
  • Business: 30,000
  • First: 55,000

The business class rate of only 30,000 miles to South America 1 is fantastic and the economy rate of 20,000 miles isn’t bad either. There’s not a lot of options for direct flights to many of these cities like Bogota and Lima since Avianca is not a partner and can’t be used.

British Airways Avios can often be a great way to get from the US to the northern part of South American depending on where you’re departing (especially in economy) so be sure to consider using them if you can.

The rates to South America 2 (southern South America) aren’t quite as good but 57,500 miles for a one-way in business class isn’t that bad.

7. US to Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America

  • Economy: 12,500 (off-peak), 15,000
  • Business: 25,000
  • First: 50,000

The economy rates and business class rates to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America are among the best. However, you might want to think about booking these routes with Avios. Fees can range due to mandatory fees imposed by many Caribbean destinations but the Avios requirements for getting around the Caribbean on American are pretty fantastic coming from certain places in the country like Texas and Florida.

Diver swimming with whale shark
Whale shark diving off Holbox Island, Mexico.

8. Australia/New Zealand to Asia 2

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business: 40,000
  • First: 50,000

If you ever want to experience Qantas first class on the A380, you can find some great availability on this route. Since Australia is such a difficult place to get to on miles (especially in business or first), you can fly to Asia and then make a separate booking on another airline back to the US (or vice versa).

This isn’t a bad strategy because American has one of the cheapest redemption rates for flying this route in business or first class. Fees flying Qantas first class to Singapore can be around $50 for a one-way. You can also look into other airlines for this sweet spot like Cathay Pacific and Malaysia.

House in Hobitton
Hobitton in New Zealand.

9. Australia to South America

  • Economy: 45,000
  • Business: 82,500
  • First: 112,500

Australia is probably the destination I get asked about the most. People really struggle to find nonstop flights and then aren’t sure how to get there or back. But getting there via South America can be a great option.

10. Australia to Asia 1 (Japan and Korea)

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business: 40,000
  • First: 60,000

You can get from Australia to Japan or Korea for some of the best redemption rates available in business class and first class. JAL is going to be a good bet to Tokyo but Qantas also flies to Osaka so that can be another option. Fees for this route on Qantas to Osaka can be under $70, making this a fantastic redemption.

Only $68 in fees from Australia to Japan.

11. Australia to Asia 2 (Hong Kong, China, SE Asia, etc.)

  • Economy: 30,000
  • Business: 40,000
  • First: 50,000

The business class and first class rates from Hong Kong to Sydney are some of the best and both Qantas and Cathay Pacific fly this route so you’ll have two options to choose from. There’s also always Malaysia that you can use to get around this region as well. The fees on this route using AA miles should remain reasonable as well.

First class seat on Cathay Pacific.
Fly on Cathay Pacific first class.

12. Intra-Australia flights

  • Economy: 10,000
  • Business: 20,000
  • First: n/a

AA miles are a fantastic way to get around Australia. If you’re flying from one end of the country to the other (Perth to Sydney), you can utilize these ultra-low rates in economy and business class. And once again, fees are going to be very low. If you fly Qantas, you can expect to pay under $20 in total fees for a one-way.

13. Asia 2 (Hong Kong, China, SE Asia, etc.) to the Middle East

  • Economy: 25,000
  • Business: 40,000
  • First: 50,000

Using AA miles to fly from Hong Kong to the Middle East is one of the top sweet spots out of any redemption. The prices in all three classes: economy, business class, and first class are all great for this route.

Not only does Cathay Pacific fly to the Middle East (DXB) but Etihad and Qatar also fly to Hong Kong so you should have a number of choices to go with for this route. If you can’t find a straight shot you can always try to connect to a random place like Bangalore, where Qatar also flies.

View from the lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.

14. Intra-South America flights

  • Economy: 10,000 (w/in South America 1); 12,500 (between regions); 
  • Business: 20,000 (w/in South America 1); 25,000 (between regions); 
  • First: N/A

AA miles are a great way to get around the continent of South America. This is especially true because these flights can sometimes get very pricey when flying within South America.

With the loss of LATAM this is no longer a great option.

15. Europe to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

  • Economy: 20,000
  • Business: 42,500
  • First: 62,500

I recently used AA miles to book Etihad and Qatar first class flights from Europe to the Maldives and back (the Maldives is the same price as the Middle East).

These redemptions were fantastic value, and I got to experience some of the best first class cabins in the world (and some great lounges, too). This could also give you the chance to fly on Q Suites if you can find availability.

While the rates to the Middle East are decent, the rates to the Indian Subcontinent (home to the Maldives) are among the best for both business class and first class so that’s the true sweet spot.

Also, the fees flying on Qatar and Etihad are pretty reasonable as well depending on the direction and location ($75 to $150).

Qatar Airways business class
Use AAdvantage miles to fly the new Qatar Suites.

Final word

The AA award chart is one of my favorites because they have some of the most competitive rates for redemptions all around the world. And it’s often possible to pay very low fees on these awards, too. And finally, you can fly on some of the best products with partners like Etihad, Qatar, JAL, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific. For those reasons, you should give the AA award chart a lot of consideration.


  1. Pingback: Citi Platinum Select is live at 60K! - UponArriving
  2. This post made me realize I need to be earning more AA miles. So many solid redemptions.

  3. I second what John said back in May, a well done article. It certainly clarified some concerns I had on mileage levels to India!

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