What’s the Best Use of 20,000 AAdvantage Miles?

Written and Published May 14, 2013

I've previously outlined certain circumstances where using 20,000 or less United Mileage Plus miles could be better than booking with cash.

I'll recap again here:
- Booking Costly Last Minute Travel
- Booking Not So Last Minute Travel but Travel Still Costly
- That Mileage Run You Booked Several Months Back but Took a Bump and the City You're Now in Makes You Feel Uncomfortable so You Squeeze an Award in Between Before Your Flight Back (Or Some Other Variable Similar To This)
- Hotel Stays
- Car Awards

The same rules apply with American Advantage Miles though each situation should be individually evaluated. Do what makes sense for you. The following will serve as a summary as to what you could do with 20k or less AAdvantage Miles.

1. Off-Peak Awards
Not all Domestic Airlines offer Off-Peak Awards. American is 1 of 2 that do. The other is USAirways though soon 2become1 (yes, I just referenced the Spice Girls, get over it). AA, however, only offers this option for economy redemptions to Hawaii, Europe, Asia Zone 1, or South America Zone 2. For the purpose of this post, we will highlight options that use 20,000 or less AAdvantage miles.

Economy Off-Peak Dates from North America
Hawaii : Jan. 12 - Mar. 8, Aug. 22 - Dec. 15
South America Zone 2 : Mar. 1 - May 31, Aug. 16 - Nov. 30
Europe : Oct. 15 - May 15
Asia Zone 1 : Oct. 1 - Apr. 30 ← No options under 20,000 =(

MileSAAver Off-Peak Options Under 20,000 [AAward Chart>

Within Continental US/Canada/Mexico/The Caribbean - 12,500
Continental US/Canada/Mexico/Caribbean to Hawaii - 17,500
North America to Central America and South America Zone 1 (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, or Valenzuela) - 15,000
North America to South America Zone 2 (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, or Uruguay) - 20,000
North America to Europe - 20,000

Upon searching January 2013 availability, I found OW to ARN costs $2249, or $1109 RT on American. There's also $868 RT with Air Berlin though it books in W, only earning 25% miles. These are decent fares though given the chance to take advantage of discounted off-peak awards, I'd probably opt for using miles.

I did a sample booking for LAX-ARN one-way during January and returned plenty of options for 20k.

What’s the Best Use of 20,000 AAdvantage Miles?

2. MileSAAver Peak
These are awards available during regular peak dates. They are capacity controlled but available for fewer miles than AAnytime awards.

All awards listed in economy unless stated otherwise.

American Airlines Award Chart

- Within Continental US/Canada - 12,500
- Within Hawaii - 5,000
- Between Continental US/Canada/Mexico/Caribbean - 17,500
- North America to Central America and South America Zone 1 - 17,500
- Within Japan/Fiji/Jordan - 7,500 in Economy, 12,500 in Business/First
- Within Australia/New Zealand, Finland, India, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and the Balearic Islands,
Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom - 10,000 in Economy; 17,500 in Business/First
- Within Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador - 6,000 in Economy; 17,500 in Business/First

One World and Other Airline Award Chart

- Within Europe - 10,000 miles in Economy; 20,000 miles in Business
- Within Central America and South America Zone 1 - 10,000 in Economy
- Central America and South America Zone 1 to South America Zone 2 - 15,000 in Economy
- Within South America Zone 2 - 10,000 in Economy
- Within Africa - 10,000 miles in Economy; 17,500 miles in Business
- Within Asia Zone 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia) - 10,000 Economy; 20,000 in Business
- Asia Zone 1 to Asia Zone 2 (Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam) - 20,000 in Economy
- Within Asia Zone 2 - 15,000 in Economy
- Within South Pacific (Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa) - 20,000 in Economy
-Within Indian Sub-continent & Middle East (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan) - 17,500 miles in Economy
- Indian Subcontinent & Middle East to Europe - 20,000 miles in Economy

Using MileSAAver Peak awards for LAX to Bogota, for example, will set you back 17,500 miles one-way. Roundtrip fares LAX-BOG in September cost ~$500, one-ways ranged from $230-300. These costs are normal for this route but you can compare your options and needs to gauge which direction you want to take.

Example of availability of an Economy MileSAAver award LAX-BOG

What’s the Best Use of 20,000 AAdvantage Miles?

3. AAnytime Awards
These are awards that are available all the time though are more costly than the MileSAAver options.
AAnytime Awards for 20,000 miles? Yeah, not so much. You're not going anywhere. Stay at home. :p

4. Hotel Stays and Car Rental Awards
Since AA offers special elite redemption rates, it's certainly better when you hold status. However, this option may still work for you depending on your needs.

Here are random examples when redeeming your miles without status:

Buenos Aires: I found the Galerias Hotel for different dates in August averages about $113 in cost or you have the option of burning 18,100 AA miles. Not that great of a great value, in my opinion, but it may work for someone.

What’s the Best Use of 20,000 AAdvantage Miles?

Montreal: An Avis Rental in an Economy/Compact Car in June retails for $77 or you have the option of burning 11,000 AA miles.

What’s the Best Use of 20,000 AAdvantage Miles?

Though AA charges $75 (or waived for all elites) for award tickets booked within 21 days of travel they also provide a lot more options for redeeming 20,000 or less miles especially given the ability to redeem Off-Peak awards. Whether you need to reposition yourself for further travel or just looking for a getaway, you've got stash of miles to help you get there. They're not just there for aspirational awards. They also give you options.

How have you used 20,000 AAdvantage miles?