American and United Airlines love to charge a $75 USD “close-in” booking fee when redeeming miles for flights within 21 days of departure. The close-in booking fee is a total scam because it does not cost American or United any more money to issue a ticket closer to departure. Thankfully, there is a creative way to avoid the AAdvantage close-in booking fee.
I already mentioned how it was possible to avoid United’s close-in booking fee by simply booking an award further out and then calling United to change the award to the desired date. However, with American Airlines it still is possible to avoid the AAdvantage close-in booking fee.. that is you have to get creative. The trick works when you have AMEX or Chase points (which most of us have anyway) and the key is to transfer those points to British Airways Executive Club.
The BA Executive Club does not charge a close-in booking fee which means that you can redeem your BA Avios points (from AMEX or Chase) on any American Airlines flight that is available. Not only does this work beautifully, but it can also save you a ton of points – especially on short-haul and medium-haul flights, that is because British Airways has a distance-based award chart.
American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth much less than they were before and that’s because the award chart has been devalued and their partners (and AA themselves) do not release as many award seats as before. Also, if you’re booking awards on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines, it is better to book through Alaska Airlines as you’ll save a ton of points. The only aspirational award using AAdvantage miles remains the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment.
Be sure to check out some of the awesome Travel Rewards Credit Cards, Hotel Rewards Credit Cards, and Point Rewards Credit Cards that are available and will earn you lots of miles and great travel benefits!