It’s a big day for American AAdvantage, as the carrier’s new loyalty program is launching as of March 1, 2022. While we first learned about these changes back in October 2021, I wanted to recap the details now that the program is live.
The Fort Worth-based airline completely reimagined how elite status is earned, and eliminated the concept of elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying dollars. Instead earning AAdvantage elite status has been significantly simplified, and doesn’t just account for how much you fly with American, but also accounts for how much you engage with American’s partners.
You can now earn top tier status exclusively through credit card spending, if you wanted to. This is such a radical departure from the old system, and I’d largely consider that to be a good thing.
Earn American AAdvantage elite status with Loyalty Points
American AAdvantage elite status is now earned exclusively based on how many Loyalty Points you rack up. Every qualifying AAdvantage mile earned earns you one Loyalty Point. For 2022, AAdvantage elite status requirements are as follows:
- AAdvantage Gold status requires 30,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum status requires 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status requires 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status requires 200,000 Loyalty Points
Note that with this new program, status is earned between the beginning of March of a particular year and the end of February of the following year, and is then valid through March 31 of the year after that. That means status is no longer based on the traditional calendar year.
You’re probably wondering what’s considered “qualifying” for the purposes of Loyalty Points. Yes, spending $200,000 on a credit card would earn you Executive Platinum status, but buying 200,000 AAdvantage miles wouldn’t earn you Executive Platinum status. So let’s go over those details.
How to earn Loyalty Points for flying American Airlines
The most popular way to earn Loyalty Points is by flying with American Airlines. When flying American Airlines:
- You earn 5x base miles per dollar spent, all of which qualify as Loyalty Points
- Elite status bonuses also count as Loyalty Points, ranging from 40% to 120%; Gold members get a 40% bonus, Platinum members get a 60% bonus, Platinum Pro members get an 80% bonus, and Executive Platinum members get a 120% bonus
- In other words, an AAdvantage Gold member earns 7x Loyalty Points per dollar spent, while an Executive Platinum member earns 11x Loyalty Points per dollar spent
- American basic economy tickets are eligible to earn Loyalty Points
How to earn Loyalty Points for flying partner airlines
In addition to being able to earn Loyalty Points for flying with American Airlines, you can also earn Loyalty Points for flying with partner airlines:
- You can earn Loyalty Points for flights on all oneworld airlines, plus JetBlue and GOL
- You earn redeemable miles at the same rate as before, except those miles also qualify as Loyalty Points
- Elite status bonuses also qualify toward Loyalty Points on partner airlines, and those range from 40-120%
- Cabin bonuses (where you earn miles for flying premium economy, business class, or first class) also qualify toward Loyalty Points
Let me give a couple of examples. Say you’re an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member booking an Alaska Airlines first class ticket from Los Angeles to Seattle in the “I” fare class. That flight covers a distance of 954 miles, so how many Loyalty Points do you earn? Based on the mileage earning chart:
- You earn 100% base miles, so that’s 954 miles
- You then receive a 50% class of service bonus, so that’s 477 miles
- You then earn a 120% elite bonus, so that’s 1,145 miles
- Altogether you earn 2,576 AAdvantage miles, all of which would qualify as Loyalty Points
Say you’re an AAdvantage Gold member booking a British Airways first class ticket from San Francisco to London in the “A” fare class. That flight covers a distance of 5,367 miles, so how many Loyalty Points do you earn? Based on the mileage earning chart:
- You earn 100% base miles, so that’s 5,367 miles
- You then receive a 150% class of service bonus, so that’s 8,051 miles
- You then earn a 40% elite bonus, so that’s 2,147 miles
- Altogether you earn 15,565 AAdvantage miles, all of which would qualify as Loyalty Points
How to earn Loyalty Points for credit card spending
Most American AAdvantage credit cards issued by Barclays and Citi earn Loyalty Points:
- You earn one Loyalty Point for every base mile earned on the card, which would generally be the rate of one Loyalty Point per dollar spent
- Welcome bonuses don’t count as Loyalty Points
- If you’re spending in a category that’s bonused, you only earn Loyalty Points for the “base” spending, meaning one Loyalty Point for every dollar spent; in other words, if a card offers two AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on American Airlines flight purchases, you still only earn one Loyalty Point
- There are some opportunities to earn bonus Loyalty Points for credit card spending, which you can learn more about here
How to earn Loyalty Points for other partner activity
As far as non-flying activities go, there are some other partners beyond credit cards that allow you to earn qualifying Loyalty Points. Specifically, base miles earned with the following partners can earn you Loyalty Points:
- Platforms: AAdvantage Dining, AAdvantage eShopping, SimplyMiles
- Hotels: bookaahotels.com, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Marriott Vacations, RocketMiles (this includes miles earned with the American & Hyatt partnership)
- Cars: aa.com/car, Avis, Budget, Payless, Hertz, Dollars, Thrifty, Alamo, National, Sixt
- Cruises & vacation packages: bookaacruises.com, aavacations.com
- Retailers: Shell, WeWork, Vinesse, FTD, Vivid Seats, NRG Energy, Reliant Energy, Xoom, Miles for Opinions
Even if you hadn’t considered these programs in the past, these could be worth another look, as you can rack up Loyalty Points based on your everyday purchases.
What activity doesn’t earn Loyalty Points?
There are several types of activity that don’t earn Loyalty Points, including:
- Buying, gifting, or transferring miles
- Government taxes, fees, and other charges associated with buying airline tickets
- Conversion of another program currency to AAdvantage miles (for example, converting Marriott Bonvoy points, rather than selecting Bonvoy points as your earnings preference for stays)
- For AAdvantage credit cards, welcome bonuses don’t qualify, and neither do “accelerators” or “multipliers” (like extra miles for each dollar spent in certain categories)
- Miles earned with Bask Bank, which offers AAdvantage miles based on how much money you have deposited
I find these exclusions to be interesting. I’m not surprised that buying miles doesn’t count toward Loyalty Points, though at the same time, I don’t follow the logic of that:
- Presumably American selling AAdvantage miles directly to consumers is higher margin than when American sells miles to partner programs (whether it’s Citi or SimplyMiles)
- I suppose the logic is that American thinks it would be too easy to earn status that way, and doesn’t want to do that; but what does and doesn’t qualify really doesn’t fully make sense
American AAdvantage Loyalty Choice Rewards
In 2020 American Airlines revealed the concept of Elite Choice Rewards. Rather than just giving Executive Platinum members four systemwide upgrades per year, the idea is that both Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can choose the rewards they value most. That continues with the new program, with a slight change.
American AAdvantage has introduced Loyalty Choice Rewards, whereby Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can continue to choose rewards when earning Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status. There’s one major catch, though. In order to be able to earn Loyalty Choice Rewards, you need to log 30 segments on American or a qualifying partner airline during your membership year. Interestingly American Airlines marketed award flights even count toward that requirement.
In other words, this is a way to avoid giving those perks to people who don’t actually fly American frequently. There are Loyalty Choice Rewards perks at the following tiers:
- Level 1 — 125,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 2 — 200,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 3 — 350,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 4 — 550,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 5 — 750,000 Loyalty Points
Platinum Pro Loyalty Choice Rewards
When earning 125,000 Loyalty Points plus completing 30 qualifying segments, Platinum Pro members are able to select one of the following:
- One systemwide upgrade
- 20,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if you have an AAdvantage co-brand credit card)
- One-time 15% AAdvantage award savings (applies to a roundtrip award for up to two travelers on any oneworld airline in any cabin, and the rebate will be applied after travel)
- $200 American Airlines travel voucher
- Six Admirals Club one-day passes
- Carbon emissions offset
- $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
Executive Platinum Loyalty Choice Rewards
When earning 200,000 Loyalty Points plus completing 30 qualifying segments, Executive Platinum members are able to select two of the following:
- Two systemwide upgrades
- 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (30,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if you have an AAdvantage co-brand credit card)
- Gift of AAdvantage Gold status
- Admirals Club membership (this requires two choices)
- Choice of Bang & Olufsen products (this includes headphones, speakers, and earbuds)
- Carbon emissions offset
- $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
- $200 American Airlines travel voucher
Rewards are similar for higher thresholds as well, and you can read more about those here.
AAdvantage accounts should be updated to reflect Loyalty Points
If you log into your AAdvantage account today, you should see an all new interface that looks completely different than the old one. If you think you should already have some Loyalty Points but don’t see them in your account, don’t be alarmed. American says that these balances will be updated in the first week of March, so it could take several more days.
Loyalty Points now determine upgrade priority
With the old American AAdvantage program, upgrades were prioritized first by elite status, and then by your rolling 12-month elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) total. The concept of EQDs has been eliminated, so now upgrades are prioritized by elite status, and then by your rolling 12-month Loyalty Points total.
Keep in mind that American is also shortly making changes to its upgrade program. Soon all elite members will be eligible for complimentary upgrades, and upgrades will be cleared earlier at the airport.
American AAdvantage Million Miler lifetime status remains unchanged
American AAdvantage has lifetime elite status, whereby you can earn AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status for life, for passing one million or two million lifetime miles (respectively). The requirements to earn that are remaining unchanged, and are unrelated to Loyalty Points.
Instead miles toward Million Miler are calculated based on the distance flown for American marketed flights, or base miles earned for travel on eligible partner marketed flights. That means you can’t earn lifetime status through credit card spending (as an example).
American AAdvantage status double-dipping
As mentioned above, qualifying for elite status in the new AAdvantage Loyalty Points program is based on activity between March 1 of a given year, and February 28 of the following year. This is a reminder that American has made it easier to earn status in 2022.
Specifically, all mileage activity in January and February of 2022 counts toward status qualification. In other words, in 2022 members have 14 months to earn elite status. That’s why you may notice that your AAdvantage account already shows some Loyalty Points, even though the qualification year has just started.
In theory I love these AAdvantage changes
I think these program changes are great… at least in theory. In recent years airline loyalty programs have become too transactional and complicated, and have missed out on the big picture. The concept behind these program changes is brilliant — members can be rewarded for their overall loyalty to AAdvantage, rather than just how much they fly.
Given that well over half of airline miles nowadays are earned through non-flying means, it makes sense to reward people for that as well. It’s perfectly logical to reward someone not just for how much they fly with American, but also for how much they use an American Airlines credit card, dine through the AAdvantage Dining program, etc. I do find the choices of what does and doesn’t qualify as Loyalty Points to be rather arbitrary, though.
Of course the concept is one thing, but how is this in reality?
Crunching the numbers on AAdvantage Loyalty Points
To be honest, I’m still trying to do the math on Loyalty Points, and I’m not sure whether to think that this is totally reasonable, or think the thresholds are a bit high. For context:
- Executive Platinum status used to require 100,000 elite qualifying miles and 15,000 elite qualifying dollars
- In 2021, Executive Platinum status required 80,000 elite qualifying miles and 12,000 elite qualifying dollars
- In 2022, Executive Platinum status requires 200,000 Loyalty Points
With that in mind, a few thoughts on the math here:
- If you’re earning 11x Loyalty Points per dollar spent on American flights, you’d have to spend ~$18,200 per year on flights to earn Executive Platinum, which is a significant increase
- Interestingly Executive Platinum status is even harder to earn if you’re starting from scratch, since you don’t earn the same 120% mileage bonus from the start; you’d have to spend over $27,000 on flights to get to Executive Platinum status from scratch
- On the other end of the spectrum, spending $200,000 per year on a co-branded credit card would also earn you Executive Platinum status, though you’d only receive the Loyalty Choice Benefits if you flew at least 30 segments
- To take a hybrid approach, if you’re an Executive Platinum member you could spend $100,000 per year on a co-branded credit card and spend ~$9,100 per year on flights to maintain Executive Platinum status
I’m curious to hear what OMAAT readers think of the new requirements. I think that this is one of those things where qualifying might be easier than we expect once we put our heads together and figure out some of the more lucrative opportunities out there.
American AAdvantage has today launched its new loyalty program, which takes a completely new approach to awarding status. You now earn elite status exclusively based on how many Loyalty Points you earn, rather than based on any other metrics. Loyalty Points can be earned through flying, credit card spending, and activity with AAdvantage partners.
I’m a fan of the concept behind these changes. The new Loyalty Points concept simplifies earning elite status, and does a better job of considering a member’s overall engagement in a loyalty program, beyond flying. After all, that’s how a loyalty program makes money and best engages with members.
However, at first glance the Loyalty Points thresholds seem high. Then again, I guess if you can earn status based on a combination of credit card spending, online shopping, dining, and flying, qualifying might not be as challenging as it seems.
What do you make of the new AAdvantage program?