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Miles & Points For Beginners
Part 3 – All About U.S. Airline Loyalty Programs – American & United
Note: I do not receive any commissions for cards linked to in this post. Card benefits and bonuses change. Please check directly with the credit card issuer for current terms and conditions of their offers.
In this series of two posts I hope to convey some basic information about the major U.S. airline loyalty programs so that you can start to formulate a strategy for accumulating the miles you need to take your dream trip.
While there are several smaller airlines in the U.S., this series will concentrate on the larger carriers including: Delta, United, American and Southwest. Today we will start with American Airlines and United Airlines.
As most people know American Airlines and US Airways have merged. US Airways will be integrating into American Airlines over the next year. The new combined airline will be the largest in the world. American Airlines Aadvantage miles are among my favorites and can get you almost anywhere in the world.
American Airlines Partners
American Airlines is part of the OneWorld Alliance of carriers. This means that you are able to use your Aadvantage miles to book flights on many different carriers that are members of that alliance. Additionally, American Airlines has partnered up with several other airlines outside of the alliance.
OneWorld Partners– Air Berlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines.
Other Partners – Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, El Al, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Gulf Air, Hawaaian Airlines, Jet Airways, JetBlue, Seaborne Airlines, TAM Airlines, US Airways (Until merger is complete), WestJet.
Here is a full list of AA partners and how you can earn and redeem miles on each.
Take a look at the American Airlines Award Chart to see how many miles are needed to reach any given destination. One of the nicer features of the AA Award Chart is MileSAAver Off-Peak pricing. During certain periods of the year you can fly from the U.S. to Europe for as little as 20,000 miles each way and to Japan or Korea for as little as 25,000 miles each way.
The American Airlines credit cards are issued by Citibank. While the best offer fluctuates from time to time, usually it is possible to get a bonus of 50,000 miles with the first year fee waived on both a business and a personal credit card. For a current list of the best offers, read the wiki on this Flyertalk thread.
Additionally, Citi just released a 100,000 mile offer for their Executive Aadvantage World Elite Card. I posted about all of the benefits last week. The current offer for this card comes with lounge access and a $200 statement credit. The $450 annual fee is not waived. For a full breakdown and the application link click here.
Key Card Benefits (May Vary By Product):
- Free Checked Bag
- Group 1 Boarding
- 25% off in-flight purchases
- Earn a 10% rebate on redeemed miles up to 10,000 miles back per year
American Airlines has a very strong domestic network and many partners as well. Flights to Europe can be tricky since they often require routing through London which can be expensive. Additionally, flights on British Airways and Iberia carry fuel surcharges. Thankfully flights on all of American’s other partners do not.
A great tool to find how to use American and other OneWorld airlines to reach your destination is this route map.
United Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance which is the biggest alliance of carriers in the world. For this reason they often have many different ways to reach your destination. On February 3, 2014 they implemented a new award chart that severely devalued their miles. The main focus of the devaluation was partner awards in premium cabins. This means that flying in business or first class with one of United’s partners costs significantly more than it did just a few days ago.
United Airlines Partners
Star Alliance Partners – Adria, Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Eva Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss, TACA, Tam Airlines, TAP Portugal, Thai, Turkish Airlines.
Other Partners – Aer Lingus, Aeromar, Cape Air, Germanwings, Great Lakes Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, Jet Airways, Silver Airways.
As I mentioned before, United just enacted a brand new award chart. The new chart separates awards flown solely on United planes with those that include partners. Unfortunately partner awards are more than United awards and in some cases, ridiculously expensive. Most of the coach awards increased slightly, but if you are looking to fly in premium cabins on Star Alliance partners, then you may want to study the chart closely.
Chase United Explorer – First checked bag free, No Foreign Transaction Fee, 2x miles on United purchases, Primary auto insurance, 2 free United passes per year, Priority Boarding.
The public offer for this card is 30,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of having the card. Some members on Flyertalk have been able to get a better targeted offer by going through a few steps. You can find the details of that in this thread. Last year when I applied for this card, I was able to get the better version so it is definitely worth investigating.
Ultimate Rewards Cards – Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points also work for United miles. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Chase at a 1:1 ratio.
Chase Ink Bold/Plus Business Cards– 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 within the first three months.
- Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services.
- Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limits.
Click here for a full list of terms and conditions.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. I believe this is the best overall travel card for beginner’s and both Jasmine and I have one.
- Earn 2x points on travel and dining.
- 7% annual points dividend.
- No foreign transaction fees.
Click here for a full list of terms and conditions.
United has a huge list of partners and several ways to earn their miles. Before this recent devaluation, they were a favorite among the points and travel junkies. While there are still some sweet spots on their chart, finding good awards is going to be harder. If you fly in coach as a family then this isn’t as much of a concern, but if you want to fly in premium cabins, things just got a lot more expensive.
In the next part we will look at Delta & Southwest airlines. Hopefully with the information provided in this post the world seems a little smaller. Perhaps you now have more of an idea of what to research in order to formulate a plan for getting to your dream destination. As always if you have any questions or concerns please let me know!
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