Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator: Round purchases to buy AAdvantage miles

Yesterday I received an email from Barclaycard introducing a very interesting program for its AAdvantage Aviator card. According to the email, I was invited to participate in a pilot for Flight Cents.

Flight Cents - How it works

The program allows you to round your charges for purchases to the nearest dollar. The additional cents to reach the next dollar are then converted to American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

  Email inviting me to AAdvantage Aviator Flight Cents pilot program

Email inviting me to AAdvantage Aviator Flight Cents pilot program

The graphic below - also from the email - gives an example of how the program works.

  An example of how Flight Cents works

An example of how Flight Cents works

In the example of buying morning coffee, when you round from $3.10 to $4.00, you are essentially using the $0.90 difference to buy 90 AAdvantage miles at a price per mile of one cent.

Does Flight Cents offer a good value?

First and foremost, Flight Cents allows you to buy miles at a price lower than the intrinsic value of the miles. Using The Points Guy's valuation of 1.5 cents per mile per AAdvantage mile, a price of one cent per mile would be an attractive way to buy American miles. Comparing this "purchase option" to buying miles direct from American Airlines, Flight Cents is even more attractive. If you were to buy 10,000 miles directly from American, the total price would be $295.00 or 2.95 cents per mile.

Whether looking at intrinsic value or alternatives for buying miles, Flight Cents is a value-adding program. You would trade-off purchase flexibility for lower pricing. By rounding up purchases, the most miles you could buy with any given purchases would be 99 miles. Even if you use your card 100 times per month, the maximum purchase would be 9,900 miles for $99.

Should you register for Flight Cents?

The question of whether you should register for Flight Cents depends on your situation. As you can see, the program is an excellent way to buy miles below value. That being said, the key there is that you are buying miles. There are certainly times to buy miles. I have done it when I needed a few more miles to reach an award level. In those cases I had the flexibility to buy the number of miles I needed on the spot (or with minimal delay). That instantaneous purchase is not available with Flight Cents. If you know you will be using your AAdvantage miles in the coming year and can work on topping off your account well in advance, Flight Cents could be a great opportunity.

What if you have no specific need for incremental American miles? Then you are in a situation of speculative buying which always carries an element of risk. If American devalues AAdvantage miles by increasing the mileage required for awards, the value equation for Flight Cents could change. I consider this to be low risk since American revised their award chart last year and, with Flight Cents pricing at two-thirds of intrinsic value, any devaluation would have to extreme to put your mileage purchases in the red.

The final consideration is whether the Aviator AAdvantage should be your primary credit card. Remember, the card only offers one mile per dollar of spend for purchases not with American Airlines. There are far more lucrative cards with bonuses for spending categories such as dining out and travel. The Amex Everyday Preferred Card offers great bonus categories as well as a 50% bonus on all points when you use the card 30 times during a billing cycle. On top of this, the American Express Membership Rewards Points earned by the card are inherently more valuable due to the ability to transfer them to a variety of airline partners rather than being locked into a single carrier.

Will I signup for the pilot?

I think I will because the value of the purchased miles is significant and I consider the risk of devaluation to be minimal. What I will not do is shift spend to the Aviator card that I would otherwise put elsewhere. I do use my Aviator card from time to time thanks to promotions for bonus points at certain types of stores. Also, each of the last two years, I was offered bonus points for meeting monthly spending targets near my annual renewal date. For the cases where I would normally use the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator card, I will round up my purchases for incremental AAdvantage miles and report back on my experiences in a future post.

Were you invited to participate in the pilot? Will you register?