How 15k AAdvantage miles saved me some serious time and more than $500

Collecting airline miles and hotel points isn’t always about First Class flights and $1000 hotel rooms. Yes, those are awesome and highly doable, but the flexibility they give you in other situations can be amazing as well! Here is one such case.

I live near Tampa, and needed to be in Miami for a cruise with my family. It’s about a 4 hour drive each way, which I’ve done a few times before. Seems easy enough, right? Well, even though I love to drive, when I added up the costs for parking at the hotel the night before, and a whole week at the Cruise Port, suddenly taking my car didn’t seem like the most economical idea.

When I used to fly every month for work, my most practical route to my office in Costa Rica was Tampa – Miami – San José, CR on American Airlines, so I knew American had several flights a day from Tampa to Miami. I also knew that they had what amounts to a monopoly on the route, and that it was mostly used for people connecting in their Miami hub to other parts of the U.S., or the world, so the price for the short hop alone was very high.

The cruise was leaving on a Sunday, and I wanted to spend a couple days in Miami beforehand, so I took a look at prices for the dates I wanted to fly, 12/13 to 12/23. What I found didn’t surprise me at all, but did make me consider driving again! For the little 40 minute flight it was $361 roundtrip, for the times I needed, and that was for Basic Economy! Check out all the restrictions in the screenshot below!

Reading most miles and points blogs will lead to major guilt for even considering using miles for anything other than aspirational awards in exotic first class cabins, but I say you should use them for whatever works for you. In this case, I found the exact flights I wanted for 7,500 AA miles each way. A value of approximately 2.4 cents each. Factoring in the $5.60 each way for taxes and fees, I was able to keep about $350 in my wallet from the ticket alone.

American AAdvantage is notoriously stingy with the Economy MilesAAver awards, and indeed, even just after I booked my flight, and with many seats still available on the same exact flight, the Tampa to Miami flight went up to 15,000 miles, but when I first started my search, there were many dates with 7.5k availability.

Check out the cost on 12/27 for the 40 minute flight – 50,000 miles!! No thanks AA!

It’s worth noting that there is a ridiculous $75 award booking fee if your travel is within 21 days, so keep that in mind. I was able to avoid this fee because of my Platinum Pro status with American.

Final Thoughts:

Having the flexibility to book last minute travel with miles and points has saved me more than one time. This certainly wasn’t an emergency, but I was able to keep $350 in my wallet, plus the cost of parking, save on gas and the excruciatingly high parking fees in Miami, and also I won’t have the 8 hours of driving time down to Miami and back. As far as getting to the airport in Tampa, and to the hotel and cruise terminal in Miami, I’ll use up the $50 in December Uber credits I have from my American Express Platinum card. It’s certainly possible to get more than 2.4 cents per mile in value from your AAdvantage miles, but I’m very happy with my redemption.

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