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How to Earn American Points

americanSince it’s one of the biggest airlines, and the one which lays claim to the title of “U.S. national carrier,” it’s likely there’s an American Airlines flight in your future. And if you’re one of the people who flies American regularly enough to make it count, then you’ll want to pay special attention to how to earn points on American – especially because it’s not just about taking flights.

American’s AAdvantage program was the first frequent flyer program, and remains the world’s largest. Like most airline frequent flyer programs, American’s offers special perks for those who are loyal American customers as well as those who frequent the partner companies American works with. The American Airlines AAdvantage program is also similar to other airline reward programs in that you’ll have lots of ways to use the points you’re earning once you’ve accumulated enough.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage points – you can probably figure out how to “spend” them easily.

Air Travel
The easiest and most clear way to earn American points is by flying on an American flight. You’ll earn points based on the nonstop distances between the airports you’re flying between. Additionally, if you buy a ticket in Business Class or First Class you can earn more points per flight than just the miles covered. Business Class tickets can earn 25% more points, and First Class tickets can earn 50% more points. Flights on American Eagle and AmericanConnection function the same way as flights on American Airlines.

American has partnerships with 21 other airlines (many of which are in the oneworld Airline Alliance), which means you can earn American points by flying any one of those airlines just by presenting your American AAdvantage number when you purchase your ticket or at check-in. The additional miles earned on Business or First Class also apply for the partner airlines, too.

Some of American’s partner airlines are British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Japan Airlines, Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and El Al.

Hotel Stays
American partners with several hotels as well as airlines, so if you present your AAdvantage membership number at check-in you can earn points toward American rewards just for choosing certain hotels.

The list of hotel partnerships is long, so you’ll want to consult the most updated version before you’re planning your next trip, but a few of the hotels which partner with American Airlines are Comfort Inn, Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inns, Hyatt, La Quinta, Wyndham, Marriott, Loews, Sandals, Sheraton, Sofitel, W Hotels, and Westin. The number of points you’ll earn depends on the hotel chain, but a typical reward is 250 points per stay.

Credit Cards
Even if most of your business travel is by car, you can still earn points toward an American flight just by having (and using) one of the airline’s participating mileage credit cards. The list of credit cards you can choose from is long, so you should be able to find one that suits your needs.

The Citi AAdvantage card comes in a few varieties. You can get a Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard, the Citi Select AAdvantage American Express Card, or the CitiBusiness AAdvantage MasterCard. All three earn 1 AAdvantage mile for each US dollar charged to the card, and if you make $750 worth of charges within the first four months of having the card you’ll earn 25,000 bonus points right away. If you live or work primarily outside the United States, there are Citi AAdvantage cards available in several other countries, too.

By banking with Citibank, you can get a Citibank AAdvantage Debit Card that will also earn points toward an American reward. With the basic level, you get 2,000 bonus points just for opening an account, and then 1 AAdvantage mile for every $2 you spend using the card (up to 60,000 points per year). With the premium level, the enrollment bonus is 4,000 points and you can earn 1 point for every $1 spent using the card (up to 100,000 points per year).

In addition to these main cards associated with American’s AAdvantage program, you can also earn AAdvantage points with certain cards from Diners Club, Scotiabank, Republic Bank, Butterfield, and TD (among others, and depending on where you live).

Rental Cars
American Airlines partners with all the major car rental companies so that your points can accumulate even more quickly just by renting a car with one of the companies they work with. Just present your AAdvantage membership number when you make your car reservation or when you pick the car up. Some of the companies American partners with are Alamo, National, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, and Avis. The number of points you earn will vary depending on the company, so be sure you check the details of each car rental company’s plan to make sure you’re getting the most points for your rental that you can.

Financial Services
You can earn points toward American rewards just by working with certain banks or investment companies for some of those financial services you’d probably need to deal with anyway. Some of these partnerships are:

  • Wells Fargo – Earn 1,000 points with a home mortgage for every $10,000 financed
  • Fidelity – New Fidelity customers can earn up to 25,000 points
  • TD Ameritrade – You can earn up to 25,000 miles by investing with TD Ameritrade
  • Chase Bank – Open a home equity loan or a line of credit with Chase and earn up to 25,000 points
  • Liberty Mutual – Get a quote for car or home insurance and earn 500 points

Dining & Shopping
American has its own program, called AAdvantage Dining, which lets you earn as many as 5 points for every $1 you spend dining out – and you don’t even have to be using one of American’s specific credit cards when you pay. You just have to join the AAdvantage Dining program (which is free, by the way) and register up to 6 of your credit cards. Then, when you eat at any one of the program’s participating restaurants, you’ll automatically be earning AAdvantage points when you pay the bill (including tax and tip!) with one of the credit cards you already registered to your AAdvantage account.

As far as other shopping goes, American has partnerships with a long list of merchants that will all earn you points simply for shopping with them and presenting your AAdvantage number at the time of purchase. Several of the retailers are ideal places to go shopping for client gifts, but there are merchants and service providers on the list you no doubt already use – such as Netflix, Office Depot, Neiman Marcus, Harry & David, and DirecTV. The number of points you can earn varies depending on the merchant in question – sometimes it’s a flat award for signing up for a service, other times it’s a points-per-dollar situation based on each transaction.

Phones & Internet
You talk on the phone a lot, so why not earn American points for it? Just by activating a BlackBerry smartphone you can earn 4,000 points. Earn 14,000 more by signing up for T-Mobile wireless service and another 5,000 by getting T-Mobile high-speed WiFi for your laptop or PDA. And if you’ve been contemplating using Network Solutions, perhaps knowing you can earn bonus miles on American with them might help make your decision easier.

Vacations & Cruises
American may be an airline company, but they’ve got a whole division dedicated to vacation planning and cruises. So every time you book a trip using American Airlines Cruises or American Airlines Vacations you’ll earn points toward your AAdvantage membership. When you’re thinking about redeeming the points you’ve earned, you can also do that with American’s cruise and vacation package people, too.

But not only that, American has a partnership with Marriott’s Vacation Club International – so if you already use and love that and aren’t interested in switching to American Airlines Vacations, then rest assured you can still earn American AAdvantage points by booking your Marriott Vacation Club holiday by presenting your AAdvantage membership number.

You probably already have a favorite charity, and you probably already enjoy the warm fuzzies you get from making a donation, but did you know you can also earn American points along with your warm fuzzies? American works with several non-profit orgnizations, and donations you make to any of them can earn you AAdvantage points.

Donations to Susan G. Komen for the Cure earn 5 American points per dollar donated, and every Operation USO Care Package you sponsor will earn you 125 points. Of course, you can also stick with the warm fuzzies and donate your American miles via Miles for Kids in Need or Operation Hero Miles, too.

To find out more about the AAdvantage program and get details on each of the earning possibilities listed above, visit the official American Airlines program website. American also has a website set up, called Mileage Maximizer, to help you figure out the quickest ways to earn more points, too.

photo by Mike Miley