Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® or 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Here are the three primary scenarios:
1. Miles become worthless — hasn’t happened to a national U.S. airline yet
Except for Southwest, all of the legacy U.S. network airlines went through bankruptcy at some point — United, US Airways, Delta, and now American. The lesson — in each of these large airline bankruptcies miles did not become worthless, and the airline continued to operate and honour the miles. Many years ago when Pan Am and Eastern folded completely, other airlines honored the miles. An exception was Independence Air, a small regional carrier, which was liquidated in 2006 and and saw its miles become worthless. The caveat to it all — everything is in the hands of the bankruptcy court. American has to ask permission for the ability to continue with its operating plans. Again, in the big bankruptcies of the last 10 years this hasn’t been a problem with so many vested interests.
2. Miles become less valuable via a merger
Another airline could decide to buy some or all of American’s assets. This could lead to miles being converted into another frequent flyer program. The general perception is Delta miles are less valuable than others due to more restricted ‘low level’ award availability and many Northwest flyers are still upset their miles don’t feel worth as much as they were before Delta took over the program post their merger. It wasn’t a catastrophic devaluation — the average flyer probably didn’t notice, but super frequent flyers were dismayed by the new program’s less generous options.
3. Miles see no change or increase in value
If American is allowed to continue operating as United, Delta, Northwest, and US Airways did during their bankruptcies it may well keep its mileage program as is. This is what American communicated to its frequent flyer members and is the course for now. Again, no guarantees, but there are a lot of vested interests (banks and airline) to keep the program as is and rewarding for flyers. If anything, American may be more generous with mile bonuses to entice flyers who may be skeptical of flying during bankruptcy. United and Northwest did this during their bankruptcies and made many flyers especially loyal in the process.
A strategy to help lower risk
We recommend earning credit card miles using cards that earn in a neutral point program not run by the airline. These programs let you transfer to one of several airline or hotel programs when you’re ready to use the miles for a trip, so you’re not held hostage by any one airline’s financial situation.
If you use an American Airlines credit card today, you might want to consider adding one of these credit cards and putting more spending on them to give you some extra flexibility:
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