Travel Tuesday: Discovering American Airlines Web Specials
As I’ve admitted several times before, I find the whole “points and miles” game to be pretty intimidating at times. That’s why I’m always excited to find something that I believe I can definitively state is a good deal — and is easy for me to understand. This happens to be the case with American Airlines’ Web Specials. To my surprise, I discovered that these discount award booking rates can lead to some impressive (in my opinion) redemption options. What’s more, there are several ways to earn AAdvantage Miles that don’t even require you to fly much.
So what exactly did I learn about American Airlines Web Specials that has me so jazzed? Let’s take a look at my specific example, how I happen to earn American Airlines miles, and more.
What Are American Airlines Web Specials and How Do They Work?
Finding web special
I wish I could tell you that there was some science or secret to finding Web Specials on American’s site. Instead, it’s really just a matter of looking up flights and searching for the lowest price. Still, there are a few options you have.
First, as you might expect, you’ll want to head to AA.com — which is not for recovering alcoholics but is the official site for American Airlines. On the homepage, you can enter your starting point, destination, and dates. But the crucial step comes next: check the “Redeem miles” box located above the destination airport and to the right of the “Round Trip”/”One Way” options.
When you run your search, you’ll see the lowest award booking price for each day. Chances are, these low prices (especially if they seem dramatically lower than comparable flights) are likely an indication of a Web Special. Oddly, however, they aren’t overtly labeled as such. Instead, you’ll need to click the “Details” link to see if a rate is designated as a Web Special.
This is key as, for whatever reason, even fares that are much higher than the lowest available may still technically be Web Specials, so be sure to check. But, if you skip this part, American will remind you of the Web Special restrictions before completing your booking.
By the way, Web Specials don’t just stop at Economy either. In some cases, you may find First Class Web Special fares that still require fewer miles than certain economy routes. Moreover, if you have flexible travel dates, you can click the Calendar button in the upper right of your search to see when the lowest award redemption rates are available. In doing this, I was able to spot a one-way Web Special fare for as low as 6,000 miles (from SGF to CLE) — or just 16,000 for First Class on the same route.
There’s a minor catch that comes with Web Special awards bookings — but I do emphasize minor here. With these bookings, changes are not allowed. However, don’t confuse “changes” with “cancellations.” In fact, if you do wish to cancel your booking, you can do so and have your miles reinstated.
I’m sure there are times when booking a Web Special causes someone a headache because they can’t make changes and don’t want to cancel (presumably since prices may have gone up significantly since their booking), but I think this is a pretty good trade-off for most people. Honestly, I would have expected that these rates would come with a no-cancelation clause, so I think this is a win overall. Nevertheless, it’s something to be aware of before making your booking.
Last week, I was looking to book a one-way ticket from Springfield to Cleveland for my wife. Initially, running a cash search, it seemed that most flights were $494, give or take a few dollars. However, since I had a few miles, I decided to see what that option might yield. Sure enough, I was surprised to find Web Specials for as low as 9,000 miles (plus $5.60)! What’s crazy is that these flights had the same cash price as others that were listed at 50,000 miles or more.
In the end, due to the last-minute nature of the booking and the limited flight options available for the Web Specials, we did actually pay cash for a more preferable departure time. Still, this discovery that my measly amount of miles still might actually be worth nearly $500 if I find the right flight was pretty eye-opening. Thus, I’ll definitely be checking for Web Special options in the future.
How I Earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles (and Other Options)
Did you know that you can earn frequent flyer miles by frequently flying on an airline? Mind-blowing, right? Yes, well, it’s true.
Although American isn’t my go-to airline, I have gained a handful of miles from them — mostly from a Thanksgiving trip I took a couple of years ago. I honestly couldn’t even tell you just how many miles this earned me without looking it up, so I imagine it wasn’t many. But, for others who do fly AA regularly, this will obviously make up a much larger percentage of their mileage earnings.
A few years back, Bask Bank launched a savings account that earned AAdvantage miles instead of traditional interest. To their credit, the bank retained the same milage accrual rate throughout the low interest rate days and has now been steadily revising it upwards as rates explode. Currently (as of March 2023, at least), you can earn 2 AAdvantage Miles per dollar in your account over the course of a year. I realize that’s a weird sentence so here’s an example to make it clearer: If you hold $1,000 in your account, you’ll earn a total of 2,000 AAdvantage miles over the course of a year, with miles being paid out on a monthly basis. Incidentally, this also prevents miles you’ve earned elsewhere from expiring as you’re consistently earning new miles and extending the expiration.
Rounding out the AAdvantage mile options I do or could use, it just so happens that American Airlines is one of Bilt Rewards’ numerous transfer partners. As a result, I could transfer my points at a 1:1 ratio. In fact, when I was looking to book a Web Special and was just a couple hundred miles short, my plan would have been to top off with Bilt Rewards points. It’s definitely nice to know that this is an option for the future should a similar situation arise. By the way, you can read much more about Bilt and the Bilt Mastercard in my full review.
Moving into the options I don’t actually use, it turns out that American Airlines has a shopping portal. From what I can tell, this seems similar to Rakuten or the like, meaning that you can install a browser extension and earn miles when you make purchases from participating sites. It also looks as though eShopping has a bonus offer going right now. If you install the extension and spend at least $25 using the service by March 26th, 2023, you can earn 1,000 bonus miles. That might not sound like much but, hey, it could actually be one-sixth of the way toward a free one-way flight.
Co-branded credit cards
Finally, I do feel compelled to mention that American Airlines offers a number of co-branded credit cards. These cards not only earn AAdvantage miles on purchases but also include some perks when you fly the airline. Perhaps most importantly, they also feature welcome bonuses that could easily equate to free flights (especially if you find Web Specials to redeem for). You can browse the full slate of AAdvantage credit cards on American’s site.
Ultimately, while it’s hard to say how viable American Airlines’ Web Specials will be for my travel needs in the future, I think they could be a big win for those with flexible plans. Even better, for those like me who don’t even fly American too often, there are several easy ways to earn AAdvantage Miles — including banking accounts and third-party credit cards — that might just earn you a free flight when you need it. For those reasons, I think it’s worth taking a gander at that AA site the next time you’re looking for a little, affordable getaway.