I just took advantage (or should I say AAdvantage?) of an incredible deal on a pretty big scale, and figured I’d share my thought process, given the risk, uncertainty, etc.
I bought AAdvantage miles for 0.42 cents each (hopefully)
I’ve written about the incredible SimplyMiles promotion that’s available right now. Long story short, there’s a promotion offering 5x AAdvantage bonus miles for purchases with select retailers. If you do take advantage of this, make sure you know what you’re doing, and read all the SimplyMiles terms & conditions, FAQs, etc.
Not all retailers offer the same rewards, and there’s one option that stands out. Donations to Conservation International ordinarily offer 40 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. Since you can earn an additional 5x AAdvantage bonus miles per dollar spent, you’re looking at a total of 240 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent.
That’s a cost of 0.42 cents per AAdvantage mile (not factoring in credit card rewards), which is an incredible deal. For context, I value AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each, so I bought the miles at just 28% of what I value them. I’ll admit, I took a “go big or go home” approach here, and I bought millions of miles. Well, or at least I made donations with the hopes of receiving millions of miles when all is said and done.
Just to put that into perspective, currently a Qatar Airways Qsuites business class award from the United States to the Middle East costs 70,000 miles one-way. At 0.42 cents per mile, that’s like paying under $300 for the ticket.
Why I decided to “go big” on this offer
Over the years the miles & points world has seen some incredible offers along these lines. Sometimes they’ve been honored, sometimes they haven’t been honored. More often than not I don’t bother taking advantage of these offers, since I figure it’s not worth the risk or hassle.
This time was different. Why? First of all, Conservation International is an awesome cause. Presumably it’s not Conservation International on the hook for this promotion and the bonus miles, but rather SimplyMiles, Mastercard, AAdvantage, etc.
In general I’d have serious concerns about this offer being honored, but in this case I feel as confident as I could possibly feel with an offer this generous:
- Emails to SimplyMiles members were explicit about the intention of the bonus, which is to offer 5x additional bonus miles, for a total of 6x the number of miles one would ordinarily earn (“For example, if you earn 100 miles on a purchase of $30 or more, then you will actually earn 100 miles + 500 bonus miles for a total of 600 miles.”)
- An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed to View from the Wing that “the offer is as described”
- While there’s the theoretical clause in the terms stating that the offer is “subject to availability of bonus miles,” this offer continues to be promoted on the SimplyMiles website, and I think we could all agree that it would be unreasonable to continue to promote the offer if bonus miles aren’t available
- Upon making a donation I received an email confirming I was earning the standard 40 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent, so at least the first part of the offer is working as expected
- It has been an entire business day, and the offer hasn’t been pulled; heck, a lot more people were just targeted for this offer in recent hours
- I took screenshots of everything
Then there’s the general concept of parting with cold hard cash in exchange for miles, which could be devalued at any time:
- I’m buying AAdvantage miles for less than 30% of what I value them, so even if AAdvantage miles were devalued to the point that redemptions cost twice as much (which I don’t anticipate anytime soon), that would still be an amazing value
- Admittedly I’m parting ways with a significant amount of cash (and I’m lucky to be in a situation where I have the liquidity), though at the same time this seems to me like a reasonable “investment” — if Hyatt or Marriott sold gift cards and offered a 100% bonus, I’d buy a lot of gift cards as well
- Also, let me say upfront that I recommend always playing by the rules, as I’m sure some mileage brokers will take advantage of this offer and have their accounts shut down after selling miles, and if that happens they deserve that; only buy as many miles as you’ll practically be able to use for yourself, family, and friends, without trying to barter or sell them
Do I think this promotion will be honored?
On the surface I don’t see any way that SimplyMiles can’t honor this promotion, especially with American confirming this was the intention of the promotion, and with this continuing to be offered even after a business day. It’s one thing if this were only possible for a few brief hours over a weekend, but that’s not what’s happening here.
That being said:
- I don’t have a full understanding of who is picking up the tab for this promotion, which will likely determine how this plays out — is it SimplyMiles, Mastercard, AAdvantage, or a combination of all three?
- Absolute worst case scenario, I’d expect a full refund to be offered in the event that this somehow isn’t honored; if that were to happen, I’d still make a (smaller) donation to Conservation International, just out of goodwill
- I think the optics around this will be interesting, given that this money is going to a great cause; even if the intent weren’t to honor this, perhaps the various parties will come together to turn this into something positive, and this will also bring awareness to SimplyMiles
Frankly there’s a thrill to taking part in these promotions. It has been years since I’ve participated in an offer like this, so after putting some thought into it, I decided I couldn’t say no.
Over the years the miles & points world has seen quite a number of “too good to be true” deals. In some cases they’re airline or hotel mistake fares, and in some cases they’re offered with airline and hotel partners. Sometimes they’re honored, sometimes they’re not.
While this offer does seem too good to be true, I’m not sure what more could be done in terms of due diligence here. The airline has confirmed that this promotion is being offered as intended, and it continues to be available, even after a business day. Add in that the money is going to a good cause, and this just seemed like something that was worth giving a spin.
As I cautioned in the last post, if you decide to take advantage of this offer, make sure you study the terms carefully, realize what you’re getting yourself into, take screenshots, and don’t spend money that would have a material impact on your situation (in the event that this somehow doesn’t pan out, and/or your money is held for an extended period of time without the miles).
I’ll report back on how this works out, so hopefully all OMAAT readers at least get a bit of entertainment out of this…
If you’re eligible, did you take advantage of this offer? If you’re not eligible, would you have taken advantage of this offer?