Update: American Airlines got rid of its RTW awards, so the best way to book RTW awards now is elucidated here.

Key Links:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Explorer Award chart (eliminated April 2014)
  • Explorer Awards: The Rules (eliminated April 2014)

Combined, the cards offer enough American Airlines miles for a round-the-world business class award with up to 15 stopovers.

You could take this trip in business class.

How can you go around the world in business class for just the taxes.

American Airlines has by far the best deal on round-the-world (RTW) awards, which it calls Explorer Awards. I’ve covered Explorer Awards before. If you know their rules, you can get business class awards with up to 15 stopovers for barely more miles than a roundtrip to Europe would cost.

The economy and first class Explorer Awards are an OK value, but the business class awards are incredibly under-priced at only 25% – 30% more miles than economy class awards.

According to the generous Explorer Award chart, you can fly 14,001 to 20,000 miles in business class for only 130k American Airlines miles. Or you can fly 20,001 to 25,000 miles in business class for only 150,000 American Airlines miles. Along the way, you can have up to 15 stops and fly in any direction you’d like.

While 130k to 150k American Airlines miles might sound like a stretch, for the next two days, they are well within reach.

If you opened the American Airlines card and both SPG cards and met their minimum spending requirements, you’d have 53k American Airlines miles plus 60k Starpoints (50k bonus plus 10k spending because each SPG card offers 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months.)

Sixty thousand Starpoints freely transfer to 75k American Airlines miles, so you could transfer them and have 128k American Airlines miles.

That means for $15,000 in spending total over the next six months, you could have a RTW trip in business class of up to 20k miles flown. That’s only $2,167 per month in spending, well within most folks’ reach.

For $35,000 in spending total done at your leisure, the business-class trip could be up to 25k miles flown.

These distances allow some incredible trips. You can play around at gcmap.com to see how far certain itineraries are.

I’ve created a few samples.

Sample 20k miles flown (130k AA miles) trip

Image from gcmap.com

You can fly from New York to Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Los Angeles for under 20k miles. Fly all of this in business class for only 130k American Airlines miles plus taxes and fees.

This post has a few more example itineraries under 20k miles flown, or build your own.

Sample 25k miles flown (150k AA miles in business class) trip

Image from gcmap.com

With 25k flown miles to work with, you can fly from Los Angeles to Lima, Madrid, Paris, and Hong Kong. Enjoy the LAN Dreamliner and Cathay Pacific business class on this trip–all for only 150k American Airlines miles plus taxes.

Exactly What to Do

Get the cards and meet their minimum spending requirements.

  • Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

The American Airlines card has a $3k spending requirement in the first three months, so meet that first. The SPG cards each have a $5k requirement in the first six months.

Plus you need to spend $2k more on any card to get to 130k AA miles.

That means it’s $15k total over 6 months, or just $2,500 per month, well within most people’s reach.

Neither card has exciting category bonuses to maximize during the minimum spending requirement. The Starwood cards are better for day-to-day spending after meeting the minimum spending requirement since 1 Starpoint is worth for more than 1 American Airlines mile.

The AA card has some great AA-related benefits that keep me holding on to the card. One that will come into play if you book an Explorer Award is that cardholders get a 10% miles rebate on awards booked up to 10k miles rebated per calendar year. Booking a single Explorer Award mentioned in this post would trigger a full 10k mile rebate, which is a great start on the next award.

After earning the Starpoints, transfer your Starpoints to American Airlines miles. You can only transfer 79,999 miles per day, and you want to transfer increments of 20k to maximize the transfer bonus, so I recommend transferring 60,000 per day. You do this before searching because it can take a few days for the miles to show up in your American Airlines account.

Piece together the award by searching according to my guides for Using aa.com and Using ba.com.

Book the award by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. You may find My Experience Booking an American Airlines Explorer Award helpful.


The re-emergence of a 50k offer on the Citi American Airlines card is awesome combined with the 20k SPG cards’ bonuses. If you get all three, you’ll have enough miles for a once-in-a-lifetime RTW trip in business class.

I’ve written extensively about American Airlines Explorer (RTW) Awards, and this post provides a few more sample itineraries.

Key Links:

  • Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
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