Should American Airlines Cardholders Book Award Flights Now? Plus One Crazy Idea!

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Should American Airlines Cardholders Book Award Flights

Should American Airlines Cardholders Book Award Flights Now?

News came out last week that American Airlines credit cards would be losing the 10% rebate on award bookings.  This was an easy way to essentially net 10K in American Airlines miles each year.  With this upcoming change the cards have become kind of worthless.  They don’t have a very good earning structure and the other perks don’t amount to much. The only other thing to consider is if you take advantage of the reduce priced awards that cardholders get often enough to justify the annual fee. That had me wondering should American Airlines cardholders book award flights now to get the savings one last time.  And I also have one other kind of crazy suggestion.

Why Booking Now Makes Sense

The perk of 10% back up to 10,000 miles per year ends on May 1st.  So I would encourage you to focus on booking American Airlines flights, when award prices are competitive, in order to take advantage of the rebate.  That is assuming you haven’t already maxed the perk out.  If you don’t use it then you are leaving about $150+ of value on the table.

My One Crazy Idea

A risky, and somewhat crazy idea, is to book a flight that you don’t plan on using, at least right away.  American Airlines has a very customer friendly flight change policy when it comes to award changes.  As long as the departure city and arrival city remain the same you can change the dates etc. for free.  This is allowed up to one year from the date of booking.  All flights must be completed by that date. So if you book the award on April 20th you have until April 20, 2020 to take the flight.  You can move the flight around until you reach that far out.

My thinking is you can book a saver award for dates far out to a destination you know you will go to in the next year.  This will trigger the 10% credit.  This works for people who don’t know the exact dates they want to travel on but have some flexibility.  You can then move it to the dates you want to travel when you get that nailed down as long as there is saver space.

That last sentence is key because there is a risk saver space never opens for particular dates.  So be sure that it is a destination that frequently shows award space.  You also want to be sure that you have a few different travel dates so you have a better chance of locking in saver space.

If you really want to get risky and you have specific dates that are not showing saver award space you can book for different dates to get the rebate. You can then check back often to see when space opens up and move your booking.  Since your dates are locked this increases the risk a lot more.  It is a risk that could end up costing you $150 per ticket to cancel the flight and redeposit your award if it doesn’t work out.


I would implore you to do your best to max out the 10% rebate perk if you can.  It may even be worth it to some to try the more risky approach to lock in the savings.  I plan on working hard on maxing out this perk one last time over the next two months.  What are your plans?

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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    • Someone else said they got something for November 1st form Barclays. Maybe it is just Citi – everyone was under the assumption that it was both providers. Can you email me a copy of the letter Max?

  1. Grabbed the following on 3/28 for 54,000 miles (60,000 less the 10% mileage savings and $121 in fees / taxes – most being $80 at LHR) CHO-ORD-LHR-KRK returning KRK-LHR-JFK-LGA-CHO

    Not a bad redemption.

      • Ended up changing my return flights to KRK-LHR-PHL-CHO

        Fantastic AA lets us do that for no extra charge on award travel.

        Now I don’t have to worry about finding a hotel in New York and changing airports. Looking at the Premier Inn Terminal 5 hotel by Heathrow for one night.

  2. Actually it has to be the same origin and destination AIRPORT, not city, in order for your booking to qualify for no fee change. I booked a LGA-BOS-NRT flight and wanted to change it to JFK-NRT. AA insisted on charging me change fee. Escalated to supervisor to non avail.

  3. You mentioned earlier “As long as the departure airport and arrival airport remain the same there is no charge assuming identical award space is available.” What if my initial booking was OGG-PHX but can change it to OGG-PHX-ORD if the flight is available for the same points?

    • I think that is YMMV and would depend on the agent since you would be adding a segment. If it was OGG-PHX-ORD and then found a direct flight OGG-ORD that would be fine though.

  4. I have a similar question. IF I buy Economy tickets but really want business (saver) tickets, is it free to call to change if those open up? (and on a different route that begins and ends at the same cities).

    • Yes you can upgrade tickets and simply pay the difference in the miles. You can also pick a different route as long as they begin and end in the same locations.

  5. Good news! So if I booked an AA award saver today at 20k points and wanted to move the date to another AA award saver fare that cost 22.5k would they allow me as long as I pay the 2.5k increase? Do I get a point refund if it is less? I would expect so but wanted to confirm.

    • I am not sure on that. You most likely wouldn’t get the miles back if it drops in prices and I am not sure if you can pay more to book a more expensive flight without a fee. I know you can upgrade to a better class and pay the difference without paying a fee. I would dig into that flyertalk link above. They probably have data points saying what has worked and what has not.

  6. Thanks for the clarity…. Much appreciated!
    I did want to understand one aspect better regarding the AA rewards customer friendly flight change policy. How does moving the dates work? I read up to 12 months, but does it apply to both the departure and arrival dates? For example, each year I visit Hawaii during Christmas holidays. I can normally find AA saver awards availability if I look early enough but sometimes I book and would like to move a couple of days forward or backward, what would be the best way to book my departure/arrival dates from ORD-OGG? If 2019/20 Christmas holiday starts Dec 21, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020. If I booked my initial AA departure date of Jan. 15, 2020 and my return flight of Jan 23, 2020 would this allow me to move my ORD departure date to anytime earlier date? If I did move the ORD-OGG departure to say Dec 22 could I then move it to Dec 25 if I found AA saver award availability? Does this also apply to my return date from OGG-ORD. So one question I am asking is once I set my initial departure and arrival dates can move them forward and back a few days as long as it does not exceed my initial booking dates? Does this make sense?

    • You have a year from the date you booked the flight to complete all flights. So the date on which you purchase the flight is the important date not the actual dates of the flight. So if you booked the flights today you would need to complete all flights by March 10, 2020

  7. After reading this post I think I must have been living in a cave! I had no idea these perks existed with American Airlines despite several conversations with American. I am a frequent traveler and points saver so hearing about the 10% points perk and the flexible AA flight change policy is a great perk that will help me out greatly if I am understanding it correctly. This will resolve so many of my travel issues and strategy on how I book flights with AA if this is true!!!
    I do have several questions.
    Your post mentions “American Airlines has a very customer friendly flight change policy when it comes to award changes. If the departure city and arrival city remain the same, you can change the dates etc. for free. This is allowed up to one year from the date of booking. All flights must be completed by that date. So, if you book the award on April 20th you have until April 20, 2020 to take the flight. You can move the flight around until you reach that far out.”

    Here are my questions:
    I am an AAdvantage Citi Business Platinum Select Mastercard holder. I have 3 current American airlines flights booked with AA points that will take place this next year. I book with AA reward points and paid the taxes & fees with my Chase Sapphire reserve card. Should I have received a 10% AA points bonus points back? or would I have to use my AAdvantage Citi Business Platinum Select Mastercard to pay for taxes to get the 10% reward point back? Is there still a way to change this to get the 10% AA point back not that I have already booked?

    Regarding the free AA change policy:
    1. If I book 12 months in advance and do not use the tickets will the AA cancellation fee for me and my wife be $150 or $300 because it is for two people?
    2. Does the 10% AA points back apply to flights in the USA only or abroad to South America and Europe? Can I also change flight dates and times as long as it is within the 12-month policy stated above?
    3. If I am understanding correctly if I book an award on April 25, 2019 I have until April 25, 2020 to take the flight as long as I keep the departure and destination city the same? I can move the flight date around until I reach that far out? I expect I need to keep the same class of seat which is the “saver award”.
    4. Does the AA 12-month free change policy apply to whenever you pay with AA reward points or do you also have to have an AAdvantage credit card of some type?
    5. Is there somewhere that has the official language about this clause on AA web site. I am sure if you tell me it is true, I will find out when I call them. Not sure why American never told me about this perk.

    • Eric unfortunately the 10% back perk is only on the AA personal cards and not the business cards. Do you have either the Barclay or Citi AA personal card?

      If you have one the points are automatically deposited back into your mileage account after booking. Which card you use to pay the taxes and fees does not matter.

      It would be a cost of $150 for the first ticket and $25 for any additional ticket I believe.

      For the free date changes the seat class would need to remain the same and there would need to be saver space available to change the flight to. It is available on AA award bookings and it doesn’t matter what card you pay the taxes and fees with since it is a part of the AA program and has nothing to do with the credit card.

      I wouldn’t use this as a standard booking procedure though. There is a lot of risk involved and it could end up costing you cancellation/redeposit fee. I suggested it solely to maximize the 10% back perk before it goes away. But you should be aware of it in case your plans change etc. it is an option to you.

      You can find a lot more info on it all here

  8. … if you book a flight way out there and the schedule changes (which they usually do) you can tell them that the new schedule will not work for you and ask for a refund. You will then get you miles back but still retain the 10% rebate.

      • That is my memory as well they deposited the miles back into my account minus the rebate. It was a few years ago so I am not 100% on that but I am pretty sure that is how it worked for me.

    • As long as the departure airport and arrival airport remain the same there is no charge assuming identical award space is available.


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