“Turn your spare change into travel. ”

I’m always excited to receive offers in the mail from the credit cards in my wallet. I’m usually excited when Barclays sends me one as they’ve been quite lucrative when it comes to small total purchases equating to fairly large bonuses, especially the Aviator Red MasterCard. So it comes as no surprise when I received this latest postcard in the mail with those aforementioned words about turning change into travel through a new pilot program.

The offer states: We’re extending to you an exclusive invitation to participate in our new Flight Cents pilot. With a first-of-its-kind twist, Flight Cents rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar, and turns that rounded up amount into American Airlines AAdvantage miles-boosting your mileage balance on top of the miles you already earn, so you can take flight faster. 

Now this is something different, but not completely in terms of how it works.  Years ago I recall Bank of America sending out the opportunity to customers to round-up any purchases they may have with the rounded up amount being deposited into a separate account. It functioned very much like a Christmas Savings Club account and allowed you to interest on the rounded amounts. I never took advantage of that opportunity but I found it intriguing since I’m in the financial industry. Here I am several years later and looking with fresh eyes at the rounded up idea.

Here’s how the Barclays Red Aviator offer works:

Flight Cents turns rounded up cents into AAdvantage® miles on top of the miles you already earn on purchases. So at the end of every month, we’ll take the total rounded up amount and multiply that number by 100% to determine the total number of miles acquired. You’ll see that total rounded up amount charged to your account each month. See how far your cents can take you.

They offer a scenario that shows how the program will work.

On the surface this looks like a surprisingly easy way to amass miles if I choose to use this card. The offer states that it will run from October 1, 207 thru March 31, 2018. This is a pretty good way to amass some serious miles for only pennies. From their example alone it appears that a 3 point purchase could actually be 93 miles? This seems off the charts and before I get too giddy, I really need to think this one out. I will note that the flight cents are not looked at as single transactions, instead it is a cumulative amount of round-ups. See this snapshot that explains it in detail.

How does Flight Cents work?

During the Flight Cents pilot, all purchases made with your AAdvantage® Aviator™ Mastercard® will be rounded up to the next whole dollar and the total rounded up amount at the end of the calendar month will be used to acquire American Airlines AAdvantage® miles. You can also set up a monthly threshold to determine your maximum rounded up amount (see FAQ below for more information on this). For example, if your monthly Flight Cents round up on all of your purchases totaled $49.38, we would charge your account that amount and you would acquire 4,938 AAdvantage® miles. However, if your Flight Cents monthly threshold was $45 but your Flight Cents round up totaled $49.38, you would be charged $45 and would acquire 4,500 AAdvantage® miles. The Flight Cents round up total (the number of cents rounded up from transactions that occur while you are enrolled in the Flight Cents pilot) and the corresponding AAdvantage® miles will be posted to the Aviator credit card account by the fifth day of the month following the month in which the purchases were made. Flight Cents miles (the number of AAdvantage® miles acquired from the cents rounded up in a Flight Cents purchase, up to the monthly threshold) will be sent to the AAdvantage® account once per month at the time of the billing cycle. Please note that no additional miles (in addition to the Flight Cents miles) will be earned on the Flight Cents round up amount.

If you read between the lines, it would appear that there are ways to manipulate just how much rounded up cents you could accumulate. For instance, if I only spend on items that equal a few pennies over each transaction, I should be able to increase my miles quite easy. For the most part I rarely use the Red Aviator unless I have a bonus offer come my way for minimum spends as I stated above. But, like the BoA offer I mentioned from years ago, I’m intrigued. Needless to say I’m going to register my card and see what happens over the course of a month or two.

I foresee me trying the minimalist approach and spending very little with room for much rounding up. I would assume from the rules if I routinely charged small amounts, say in the $1.05 range per transaction, I’d be charged $2.00 on my card but would receive 95 AA miles. Not bad at all, especially if you do this over and over. Which leads me to this statement in their FAQs:

Yes, you can adjust your monthly threshold through your AAdvantage® Aviator™ Mastercard® online account. The maximum round up amount per month is $500. The threshold as of 11:59 p.m. ET on the last day of the month will be used as the threshold for that month. If you would prefer to suspend your participation in the Flight Cents program at any time during the pilot, you can adjust your monthly threshold to $0. 
Unless I’m reading incorrectly, you would be charged that round-up amount of $500 but in return would receive 50,000 miles back. The question is would that be worth it or is the reality that you just spent $500 on 50,000 points. This isn’t like your normal spend when you’re looking at meeting a bonus. For this extra money you’re essentially buying points but you can cap the amount you wish to be rounded up so that’s a plus. Unfortunately, I’m a marketer in the financial industry and not one that routinely questions the point value. That being said here’s a rundown of the FAQs.
I plan on doing my homework on this one in order to quickly learn if this is, in fact, a good deal or simply the impression of one. I will say from a standpoint of marketing, it’s different and when you’re trying to keep your head above water in the credit card issuer world, different usually works. That is until the reality of it comes clear.
Has anyone else out there received this pilot offer and have you considered opting in? I’d love to hear other comments on this intriguing offer that is certainly not the norm. What would you do and where would you cap it?
“Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them”