Are Airline Rewards Programs Worth Joining?

I have been a member of American Airlines Advantage club for more than a decade and recently tried to redeem my miles for a free flight. Easier said than done. I’m not saying that the rewards are not worth the effort, but I will say that I had no luck finding a flight home to Hawaii without redeeming more than 70,000 miles to do so.

So is it worth being an AAdvantage member?

Here’s what you need to know:

You can redeem miles for free flights, but you can also get vacation packages, magazine subscriptions, hotel stays and various merchandise. MileSAAver awards start at 25,000 round-trip miles, but there are capacity limits and the airline has different mileage requirements for peak and off-peak flights. In addition, American has a thing called AAnytime awards, which require redeeming more miles (starting at 50,000 round trip), but you don’t have to deal with blackout dates.

On the bright side, you don’t have to pay a fee to become an American Airlines Advantage member. However, you will have to pay a $20 fee for booking over the phone. In addition, you will have to fork over a $50 fee for booking less than 21 days in advance, a $100 fee for booking less than seven days in advance, and a $150 fee for any changes made to a MileSAAver award ticket, though there’s no charge for AAnytime awards.

As a reward for loyal members, the airline offers bonuses like double miles for flights, though you have to register to qualify. In addition, I will say that unlike some other frequent flyer rewards programs, American Airlines Advantage is very explicit about its rules and restrictions. The carrier doesn’t try to hide things in very fine print. Moreover, I find that the customer service reps the airline employs in its call centers are very polite and very helpful. Recently, when I had to fly home for my grandmother’s funeral, I spoke with an exceptionally helpful rep, who went above and beyond the call of duty, to get me the cheapest flight available using my miles.

Related Articles:

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.