How to Save Money Flying on American Airlines

by Ann deBruyn

If you’re planning to fly with American Airlines soon, you may be wondering how to save some money. Airfare costs can take up a significant portion of your travel budget, but with the right strategy, you can lessen the cost of your next flight.

Here are 10 ways to save money flying on American Airlines.

10 ways to fly American cheaper

1. Join the AAdvantage loyalty program to earn rewards

It pays to be loyal to an airline. Whether you fly with American Airlines occasionally or often, you'll want to become an AAdvantage member. This airline loyalty program is free to join and offers member benefits that could improve your flight experience. As an AAdvantage member, you can earn miles and redeem them for nearly-free flights.

Here are some ways you can earn AAdvantage miles:

  • Flying with American Airlines and its airline partners.

  • Booking travel with travel partners.

  • Dining at participating restaurants.

  • Shopping through the American Airlines Advantage eShopping portal.

2. Book basic economy fare tickets for the lowest rate

American has several ticket fare types. For the most affordable fare option, consider booking a basic economy ticket , which are often sold at the lowest price.

Though cheaper, there are some restrictions for this ticket type to keep in mind. For instance, your ticket doesn’t include a checked bag for most routes, it isn't eligible for any changes or cancellation, and you'll be the last to board the plane.

If you can deal with these limitations, buying a basic economy on American Airlines to save money may be a good idea.

3. Book American Airlines deals

American Airlines publishes travel deals on its website. You can view current low fares for select domestic and international destinations. You can also browse available travel deals and discounts for savings on vacation packages and bonus mile offers.

Bookmark these pages, as the deals offer an easy way to save money on flights.

4. Use an American Airlines credit card to earn miles faster

With an American Airlines credit card, you can earn miles as you spend with the card. Plus, you may get additional perks like free checked bags, early boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.

Here are some options:

Having an American Airlines credit card can speed up the number of miles you earn — especially if you are able to earn a lump sum of points from a welcome offer. With award flights available for as few as 10,000 miles round trip, getting an airline credit card could be a smart move.

5. Book discounted award flights

If you have AAdvantage miles that you need to use, you may be able to save yourself some money by booking an award flight. You can make your award miles go further by booking cheaper award flights. Here are some more affordable award ticket options:

  • MileSAAver award tickets: These award tickets can be booked for 7,500 miles each way (plus taxes and fees). Having flexibility with your travel dates will make it easier to secure the limited award tickets.

  • Web specials: These award tickets are discounted and may be available on select flights and dates for as few as 5,000 miles each way (plus taxes and fees). Keep in mind that you can't make changes to web special award tickets, but you can cancel and get your miles back.

If you can find a MileSAAver award ticket or web special award ticket that fits your needs, you could maximize the value of your miles, which could allow you to book more award tickets.

6. Earn a companion certificate

American Airlines companion tickets allow you to bring a companion at a reduced price of $99 plus taxes and fees. While your companion's ticket won't be free, it could be a lot cheaper than paying the regular ticket price, and it could save you money on the cost of your trip.

Some American Airlines credit cards include this perk after meeting spending requirements. Here's a breakdown of the cards that offer this benefit:

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® : Earn one companion certificate per card anniversary year after spending at least $20,000.

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® : Earn two companion certificates per card anniversary year after spending at least $20,000.

  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® : Earn one companion certificate per card anniversary year after spending at least $30,000.

7. Take advantage of no change fees on eligible fares

Many American bookings qualify for no change fees. All domestic, short-haul international, and select long-haul international main cabin, premium economy and premium cabin tickets qualify for no change fees. Travelers only need to pay the difference in fare if the new ticket is a higher price.

This policy can give you the confidence to book a ticket sooner and cancel and rebook later if the ticket price becomes more affordable.

Note: Basic economy fares bought on or after April 1, 2021, are nonrefundable and nonchangeable.

8. Veterans and their families can save 10% on airfare

You can save money on American Airlines flights if you're a veteran. American Airlines offers a 10% discount for veterans and their families through the VetRewards program, made available through Veterans Advantage.

You'll need to book your flight with Veterans Advantage, but if you're a VetRewards member, this can be a great way to save money.

9. Download the app for free inflight entertainment

Take advantage of this little-known American Airlines Wi-Fi hack: If you download the airline's app ahead of travel, you'll be able to access movies, TV shows and music free of charge for the duration of your flight. This can save you $10 or more per flight.

10. Browse flights on the low fare calendar

Search the AA Low Fare Calendar  to find deals from your home airport and plan future redemptions. Input your dates, interests and budget, and the tool will recommend popular destinations from your airport of choice.

Note that the prices listed may be for basic economy fares.

The bottom line

Flying on American Airlines doesn't have to be overly expensive. There are ways to save money on your next airfare purchase. If you're planning to purchase a flight ticket with American, consider using the tips above to keep more money in your wallet.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022 , including those best for: