American and US Airways award discounts

As I've mentioned, in January I was approved for both the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard and Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard. Having met the minimum spending requirements for both cards, I paid them off and stuck them in a drawer.

Of course, now I've got all those miles on my hands! Since I have an expensive domestic roundtrip coming up in March, I thought I'd check out what kind of award availability the airlines had on the dates I needed (hint: not much!).

That got me to wondering about the award discounts offered by the two airlines to their co-branded credit card holders. I found it intensely confusing, so I thought I'd throw up a quick summary in case any of my readers recently signed up for the same cards.

American Airlines: 10% mileage rebate & reduced mileage awards

There are two kinds of discounts you get as a Citi / AAdvantage cardholder. First, there's a 10% mileage rebate on all the miles you redeem out of your account each calendar month, up to 10,000 total miles (on 100,000 in mileage redemptions). Second, there are "reduced mileage awards" which are offered to a changing list of (domestic) destinations throughout the year. That program is clearly decided to be as difficult to take advantage of as possible: you need to look up the eligible cities for each month, copy down the code, and input it when making your award reservation.

Oddly, the terms and conditions of the 10% rebate program don't even require these redemptions to be for flights, so if you find a good redemption for hotels or car rentals, or if you redeem your miles for an Admiral Club membership, you should receive the rebate on those redemptions as well (I don't know how this works in practice).

Finally, for bookings made through February 27 for flights through April 4, there's another active promotion whereby non-stop MileSAAver economy award flights between Los Angeles and cities in the continental United States, and all MileSAAver economy award trips between Las Vegas and cities in the continental United States cost 10,000 AAdvantage miles each way, instead of 12,500. The 10% mileage rebate should apply to the final (post-discount) cost of each flight.

US Airways: 5,000 mile award discount

When you're a Barclaycard US Airways cardholder in good standing, you are designated "Dividend Miles Select." As far as I can tell the only benefit of that "status" is that you receive a flat, 5,000 Dividend Mile discount on all US Airways-operated flights.

I'm not going to lie, I've been messing around on US Airways' website for the last hour and I cannot for the life of me get the 5,000 mile discount to apply to any award tickets. Presumably if I actually wanted to book an award I could call in and have a phone agent apply the discount.


The added wrinkle in all this is that starting a few weeks ago, you've been able to use American miles to make award reservations on US Airways, and vice versa. That means that it's possible to receive a 10% discount on US Airways award reservations by making the reservation through your American AAdvantage account. So when deciding which account to make a reservation through, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I already received 10,000 miles through the AAdvantage rebate program this calendar year? If so, you won't receive any additional discount this calendar year.
  • Is this award ticket operated entirely on US Airways aircraft? If not, it's not eligible for the 5,000 mile discount.
  • If it is operated entirely by US Airways, is it more or fewer than 50,000 Dividend Miles? If it's more, you'll be better off using AAdvantage miles. If it's fewer, use your 5,000 Dividend Mile discount and save your rebate headroom for a more expensive redemption.

Finally, consider checked bag fees. The US Airways MasterCard famously does not include free checked bags, while the AAdvantage card does. American's website currently has the following helpful information:

"Q: Do the First Bag Checked Free Waiver and Group 1 Boarding (or Priority Boarding) benefits on select Citi®/AAdvantage® cards apply to US Airways flights?

"A: Not at this time. These benefits will not be available for travel on any US Airways flights, including any codeshare flights."

That means that if you're deciding specifically between American-operated and US-operated flights, booking the American flight with a 10% discount may be more economical than booking the US Airways flight with a 5,000 mile discount; it depends on whether the difference in miles is worth more or less than the $50 you'll pay roundtrip per first checked bag and $70 per second checked bag on US Airways.

Confused yet? Me too. Let me know in the comments if I'm missing anything obvious.