American Airlines is the largest domestic carrier and the latest to switch to a revenue-based program. Unlike past years, American no longer issues elite qualifying miles. Instead you’ll accrue loyalty points, which can be earned through flying as well as a variety of other travel and non-travel activities. Also gone are elite qualifying segments, elite qualifying dollars, etc. Loyalty points are the only thing you need to worry about.
You’ll continue to earn redeemable miles (or what most people just call “miles”). Redeemable miles are the miles you use to book free tickets. One of the convenient things about loyalty points is that you’ll earn them at the same rate as redeemable miles. In other words, if you earn 1,000 miles you’ll also get 1,000 loyalty points.
Why have loyalty points then? Well, sometimes you’ll get bonus miles for a particular offer, and that won’t necessarily early loyalty points. And while points expire every year when status resets, miles can be extended indefinitely as long as you keep active in the program by earning and redeeming.
How to Earn Loyalty Points
One of the simplest ways to earn miles and loyalty points is by flying, and member with existing status will earn even faster. This means you’ll face an uphill challenge the first year but should find it easier to requalify in subsequent years.
Miles and points are earned based on the price of your ticket, excluding certain taxes and fees. You can earn as little as 5 or as much as 11 points/miles per dollar as a top-tier Executive Platinum member.
- General Member – 5 miles and 5 loyalty points per dollar
- Gold – 7 miles and 7 loyalty points per dollar
- Platinum – 8 miles and 8 loyalty points per dollar
- Platinum Pro – 9 miles and 9 loyalty points per dollar
- Executive Platinum – 11 miles and 11 loyalty points per dollar
Always remember to include your American Airlines loyalty number in your reservation if you want to earn credit for your travel. You can confirm this by reading your ticket details on confirmation online. It’s difficult to get credit if you use a different airline’s loyalty number by mistake. As a last resort, get it fixed when you check in for your flight or at the gate.
You can also earn loyalty points through a number of other activities. For example:
- Fly on partner airlines such as members of the Oneworld Alliance or other non-alliance partners including JetBlue and GOL Airlines.
- Purchase items with a co-branded AAdvantage credit card. Examples include the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.
- Book vacations, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through American Airlines.
- Make purchases with other retail partners such as FTD on American’s partners page.
- Use the AAdvantage eShopping and AAdvantage Dining portals.
As you can see from this list it’s possible you could spend $200,000 on an AAdvantage credit card and earn enough loyalty points for Executive Platinum status without actually flying a single mile.
Unfortunately any bonus miles from a sign-up offer or even category bonuses (think 3X miles on airfare) do not count. Some cards do offer bonus loyalty points, but it must be made explicit, such as the 10,000 bonus loyalty points awarded each year with the Citi/AAdvantage Executive card. To avoid spending your way to bankruptcy most of you will want to combine this with other earning methods, including some flying.
I actually think the closest comparison to American’s new loyalty points system is Southwest Rapid Rewards, which also issues the same number of redeemable points and tier qualifying points. But American is unique in letting you earn through so many non-travel opportunities. More about Southwest later this week!
Qualification Criteria for Elite Status
Once you start earning loyalty points you’re going to need to know how many are required for elite status. Points reset each year on March 1, so you have one year from March 1 through February 28 (or 29) to earn as many as possible. Hit the threshold required and you’ll earn status in one of the following tiers:
When you reach the threshold, your status should update immediately and will continue until March 31 of the following year. Notice there is a one-month shift in the calendar between when you earn points and when you benefit from status. Another way to think about this is that you’ll have an extra month during March to enjoy your status even if you didn’t earn enough points by the end of February to requalify.
Your loyalty points balance and progress to elite status will be reflected on your AAdvantage account dashboard when you log in at American Airlines.
Benefits of American AAdvantage Elite Status
American Airlines is one of the world’s largest airlines, and since their alliance partner Alaska Airlines is also a large U.S. carrier, you have lots of choices to earn and redeem miles. Earning AAdvantage status means you accumulate miles and loyalty points more quickly, so it’s easier to keep in future years.
American also recently relaxed its domestic upgrade rules so that all elite members have a chance at first class without needing to earn and redeem cumbersome certificates.
American AAdvantage Gold Benefits
- Complimentary upgrades on domestic flights, beginning at 24 hours before departure
- Complimentary seating in Main Cabin Extra if seats are available at check-in, and complimentary Preferred seats at booking
- 1 free checked bag
- 40% bonus miles and loyalty points (7 points per dollar instead of 5)
- Oneworld Ruby status
American AAdvantage Platinum Benefits
- Complimentary upgrades on domestic flights, beginning at 48 hours before departure
- Complimentary seating in Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats at booking
- 2 free checked bag
- 60% bonus miles and loyalty points (8 points per dollar instead of 5)
- Oneworld Sapphire status
American AAdvantage Platinum Pro Benefits
- Complimentary upgrades on domestic flights, beginning at 72 hours before departure
- Complimentary seating in Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats at booking
- 3 free checked bag
- 80% bonus miles and loyalty points (9 points per dollar instead of 5)
- Oneworld Emerald status
American AAdvantage Executive Platinum Benefits
- Complimentary upgrades on domestic flights, beginning at 100 hours before departure
- Complimentary seating in Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seats at booking
- Complimentary food and drink items when seated in the Main Cabin
- 3 free checked bags
- 120% bonus miles and loyalty points (11 points per dollar instead of 5)
- Oneworld Emerald status, and the ability to upgrade to first class on Alaska Airlines
American AAdvantage Million Miler Benefits
In addition to the standard elite tiers, you have the opportunity to earn Million Miler status, which means you’ve flown a million miles. This is still measured by actual miles flown and not using loyalty points. American AAdvantage tracks both your actual distance flown on American Airlines-operated flights as well as base miles (excluding bonuses) on eligible partner-operated flights.
One million miles flown will earn you lifetime Gold elite status and 35,000 bonus redeemable miles. Fly two million miles to earn lifetime Platinum status. You’ll also get 4 one-way systemwide upgrades every year.
Loyalty Choice Awards
And just when you thought loyalty points made it so simple, ditching miles and segments out the window, American introduced Loyalty Choice Awards. These require both loyalty points AND a minimum of 30 qualifying flight segments. You get additional choices each time you reach a new tier.
- Level 1: 125,000 points and 30 qualifying flight segments
- Level 2: 200,000 points
- Level 3: 350,000 points
- Level 4: 550,000 points
- Level 5: 750,000 points
So you see it’s possible to get level 1 as a Platinum Pro member if you also fly 30 segments, and levels 1 and 2 as an Executive Platinum member. While you could potentially earn these elite tiers without setting foot on a single plane, you wouldn’t earn Loyalty Choice Awards if you took that approach.
Level 1 earns a single choice, while each additional level earns two more choices. Choices include such perks as system wide upgrades, bonus redeemable miles, Admirals Club day passes, $200 trip credits, or gifting elite status to a friend.