Update: You can no longer book stopovers on American Airlines awards.

The card offers listed at the conclusion of this post have expired. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

American, Delta, United, and US Airways all offer some version of a free stopover on award itineraries booked with their miles. Free stopovers are a great way to add tremendous value to your awards, but free stopovers can add complication to the booking process.

A natural instinct might be to call up the airline to book whenever your dream award includes a free stopover. Fight that instinct. By knowing how to book your free stopover online, you’ll save yourself a $25 per passenger phone booking fee and the headaches of hold time, talking to computers, and talking to incompetent agents.

American, Delta, and United allow you to book a free stopover online as long as the airlines you’re flying are bookable online. US Airways does not allow you to book a free stopover online, but at least the $25 phone fee is waived by US Airways when you’re calling to book an award you can’t book online.

Let’s start with American. On the aa.com homepage where you can search flights, check the box that says Redeem AAdvantage Miles, then click the link that says Multi-city.

This will bring you to a screen like the one shown below. Note what I’ve highlighted in red boxes.

The first two things I’ve highlighted show that you should automatically be brought to the AAdvantage Award tab with Multi-city selected. If you weren’t brought there, get there. Next search for the itinerary until the stopover and for the itinerary after the stopover.

Here I’ll be searching for my award LA to London (LAX-LHR). I’m taking advantage of American’s free oneway stopovers to get a free flight from Honolulu to LA (HNL-LAX) before my trip to London.

So I’ve typed in HNL-LAX for Flight 1 and LAX-LHR for Flight 2. Important: Type in your origin to your stopover for Flight 1, and your stopover to your destination for Flight 2. Do not type in each individual segment. For instance if I wanted everything the same but a destination of Paris not London, I would type in HNL-LAX and LAX-PAR. I would not type in HNL-LAX, LAX-LHR, LHR-PAR.

Next I’ve highlighted the dates just to point out that the stopover can be as long as I want. In this example, my stopover is almost eight months, which is convenient since I live in LA, and this is not really a stopover, but an award to London with a free trip to Hawaii tacked on.  The stopover is only limited by the fact that all award travel must be competed within one year of booking.

After filling out the form, click the red GO button.

You should now be brought to a screen like this:

Look at what I’ve highlighted in the middle: the computer knows you’re getting a free stopover!

Now it’s up to you to choose what class you want. If you want Economy, select the Economy MileSAAver Off Peak for both legs. If you want business, select Business/First MileSAAver for both legs. First class is not available these weeks, but if it were, you’d select that in both places.

At the top, choose the date of the HNL-LAX leg. Why are there dashes instead of prices at the top? Because this is a free stopover, so the leg adds nothing to the miles prices, which are listed below for the main award leg.

After selecting dates, you can select flights. After selecting flights, we come to the checkout screen. Look at that price: 20,000 miles and $5 for 16 hours of flying!

What an incredible deal. And by knowing how to book this stopover online, we saved $25 and the hassle of calling American.

Check back in the next few days for step-by-step guides on how to book United and Delta stopovers online.

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