Warning upfront — make sure you’re sitting down, because this is huge. American AAdvantage has completely reimagined how elite status is earned. Say goodbye to elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying dollars.
Instead earning AAdvantage elite status will be significantly simplified, and won’t just account for how much you fly with American, but also how much you engage with American’s partners. You can now earn top tier status exclusively through credit card spending, if you wanted to.
I’m still trying to figure out what exactly to make of these changes, because this is just such a radical departure from what we’re used to. Let me share the details, and then I’m curious to hear what OMAAT readers think.
Earn American AAdvantage elite status with Loyalty Points
Starting in 2022, American AAdvantage elite status will be based exclusively on how many Loyalty Points you earn. Every qualifying AAdvantage mile earned will earn you one Loyalty Point. For 2022, AAdvantage elite status requirements will be as follows:
- AAdvantage Gold status will require 30,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum status will require 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status will require 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status will require 200,000 Loyalty Points
Note that with this new program, status will be earned between March and February of a given year, and will then be valid through March 31 of the following year. That means status is no longer based on the traditional calendar year.
Of course the major question is what miles qualify as 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
You can earn Loyalty Points for flying American Airlines or a partner airline. If flying American Airlines:
- You earn 5x base miles per dollar spent
- Elite status bonuses also count as Loyalty Points, and those bonuses range from 40-120%; for example, as an Executive Platinum member you’d earn 11x miles per dollar spent, and all of those would qualify as Loyalty Points
- American basic economy tickets are eligible to earn Loyalty Points
When flying partner airlines, including oneworld partners and JetBlue:
- You earn redeemable miles at the same rate as before, except those miles would also qualify as Loyalty Points
- Elite status bonuses also qualify towards 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 towards Loyalty Points
- Just to give an example, say you’re an Executive Platinum member booking an “I” class ticket on Alaska Airlines (this is a discounted first class fare bucket, and you can find the earnings chart here) on a 1,000 mile flight; you’d earn a total of 2,700 Loyalty Points (1,000 base Loyalty Points, plus a 50% cabin bonus, plus a 120% elite status bonus)
How to earn Loyalty Points for credit card spending
Most 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’d still only earn one Loyalty Point
- There will 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, all base miles earned from spending with AAdvantage Dining, AAdvantage eShopping, and SimplyMiles count towards Loyalty Points.
Note that options with some partners are apparently still being worked out. For example, I asked about Bask Bank, the World of Hyatt partnership, and Rocketmiles, and was told “stay tuned,” so we’ll see if those qualify.
What activity doesn’t earn Loyalty Points?
There are several types of activity that don’t earn Loyalty Points, inclduing:
- 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 or Citi ThankYou points)
- 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)
On the one hand I’m not surprised that buying miles doesn’t count towards Loyalty Points. On the other hand, I also don’t follow the logic of that, because presumably when American sells miles directly to consumers, it’s higher margin than when selling miles in bulk to a partner. I guess the logic is just that American thinks that this would be too easy of a way to earn status.
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 will continue with the new program, with a slight change.
American AAdvantage will introduce 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’ll need to log 30 segments on American or a qualifying partner airline during your membership year. Interestingly American Airlines marketed award flights even count towards that requirement.
In other words, this is a way to avoid giving those perks to people who don’t actually fly American frequently. There will be 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 will be 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 will be 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 will be similar for higher thresholds as well, though it’s stated that we should expect some new benefits going forward as well.
Loyalty Points will determine upgrade priority
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, but with the new program your rolling 12-month Loyalty Points total will determine your upgrade priority within your elite rank.
Currently upgrades are prioritized first by elite tier, and then by your rolling 12-month elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) total. It makes sense that with the new program Loyalty Points will be the tiebreaker.
What happens to American AAdvantage Million Miler lifetime status?
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 will remain unchanged, and will be unrelated to Loyalty Points.
Instead miles towards 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 extending status, double-dipping opportunity
American AAdvantage has already made status significantly easier to earn in 2021, and now there’s yet another new opportunity:
- American is extending all AAdvantage elite status through March 31, 2022
- All elite qualifying activity in January and February of 2022 will count towards both 2022 and 2023 AAdvantage status qualification
If you’re trying to decide whether to do a mileage run to earn status, it could be highly advantageous to do it in the first two months of 2022, rather than at the end of 2021. You’ll have 14 months to earn this year’s status, and also 14 months to earn next year’s status, and that travel would count towards both years.
In theory I love these AAdvantage changes
In theory I think these program changes are great. 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 are 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.
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 requires 80,000 elite qualifying miles and 12,000 elite qualifying dollars
- In 2022, Executive Platinum status will require 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; by my math, 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
- Bask Bank offers AAdvantage miles in lieu of interest when saving money, and you earn one AAdvantage mile for every dollar saved over the course of a year, so having $200,000 deposited would earn you 200,000 AAdvantage miles; however, it hasn’t yet been announced if miles earned with Bask Bank will qualify
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.
There’s no AAdvantage award chart devaluation, yay!
For a while there had been widespread rumors of a big AAdvantage devaluation. Many assumed that this meant that American would devalue its partner award charts, since no major changes have been made to those for the past five years.
The good news is that nothing is changing when it comes to partner award charts, and for that matter there are no imminent plans to change partner award pricing. I’m sure this will be a huge relief to many.
American AAdvantage is completely changing how elite status is earned. Starting in 2022, you’ll 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, or even earning miles with other 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.
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 at first glance.
What do you make of the new AAdvantage program?