We all love free stuff! And by using your accumulated AAdvantage points to book, you can get free flights to almost anywhere in the world. The problem is, most of these flights aren’t actually free.

No matter what kind of flight you’re booking, they all come with at least some fees, taxes, and surcharges. Here, we go through American’s fee structure and show you how to avoid as many charges as possible when making American Airlines reservations using your points.

Reservation Fees

If you book with American over the phone or in-person at airport ticket counters, you will pay a fee. Booking through the reservations office incurs a fee of $30 for travel within the US and a fee of $40 for international travel.

Booking through a travel center incurs a fee of $35. See the AAdvantage site for details.

You can avoid these costs by booking online, which is fast and easy and does not involve any fee. If you need to be able to book via phone or in-person, it’s worth acquiring tier points and working your way up, as there is no fee for Executive Platinum members and their companions.

Close-In Ticketing Fees

If you book your trip less than 21 days before travel, you will be charged a close-in fee of $75. This applies to all trips, regardless of destination.

There is no fee if you’re booking from an account with Gold status or higher.

It’s possible to avoid this fee by changing your flights. There is no fee for changing the dates of your flight with American, if the new dates are provided more than 21 days after the original booking. If you’re not sure when you’ll be traveling, book as far in advance as possible and then take advantage of free changes afterward to move your dates.

Change and Cancellation Fees

American charge a cancellation fee of $150 per ticket for flights booked using award miles. If your plans have changed, it’s always preferable to try and change your booking instead of canceling. Unlike some airlines, they do not offer free 24-hour cancel, so be sure of your decision before you book.

As mentioned above, changes to dates and connections are free, but changes to the origin and destination are $150 per passenger. This includes switching to a different type of award or downgrading from business class to economy, for example.

Fuel Surcharges

A few years ago, the airline started adding fuel surcharges to offset the rising cost of oil. They stuck even after oil prices dropped, and now they’re a standard part of most airline tickets.

American Airlines does not charge separate fuel surcharges on its own flights, but it does pass them on from some other carriers, most notably British Airways and Iberian. This means if you book a flight through American and it is operated by BA or Iberian, you will be paying a hefty cash charge in addition to your AAdvantage points.

Make sure that the flight you are booking is actually operated by American. Look out for flights where AA are codesharing with another airline, and check the specific airline operating the flight before you book.

Taxes and Surcharges

Other possible fees which may be included as part of your itinerary are:

  • International Departure Taxes
  • Immigration and Customs User Fees
  • Passenger Fees
  • Federal Inspection Fees
  • Facility Charges

In the US, you are also responsible for Federal Security Charges of around $12 per person.
The easiest way to see these costs before booking is to use AA’s award flight booking page to search for your flights and compare options before booking an award.

Minimizing and Avoiding Fees

To recap, the best ways of avoiding fees and getting the full worth of your points are:

  • Gaining elite status of Gold or above, with Executive Platinum being the most useful
  • Booking in advance and taking advantage of free changes
  • Only booking flights operated by American

American AAdvantage also allows you to put a freehold on your reservation for up to five days. This means if you spot a good deal, but you’re not ready to book, you can freeze the ticket for five days and book later on the same terms.

You can also change the ticket for free as many times as you like during the hold period.