Why I Can’t Decide Where To Credit Miles, Even Though The Math Is Obvious

Filed Under: Alaska, Alaska Mileage Plan

I’m curious to hear how you guys would handle this situation. In the past deciding where to credit miles for a particular flight was a fairly straightforward process for me, though I’m finding myself not sure where I should credit miles for an upcoming trip.

My two choices

I’ll soon be flying from Mexico City to Easter Island thanks to an incredible ~$1,150 roundtrip LATAM business class fare.

I have American AAdvantage Executive Platinum status as well as Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold status, and both programs partner with LATAM. For what it’s worth, these flight are booked in the “Z” fare class, and the entire trip covers a distance of 12,840 “butt in seat” miles. Regardless of which airline I credit the miles to, it won’t impact the status I earn, and it won’t get me to any sort of a higher bonus threshold (for example, American gives you two more systemwide upgrades if you pass 150K EQMs).

If I credit the flights to American AAdvantage I’d earn a total of 150% elite qualifying miles and 220% redeemable miles (100%, plus the 120% bonus I get for being an Executive Platinum member). So that means I’d earn a total of 28,248 redeemable miles.

If I credit the flights to Alaska Mileage Plan I’d earn a total of 125% elite qualifying miles and 325% redeemable miles (125%, plus 100% additional bonus, plus 100% bonus for being an MVP Gold member). That means I’d earn a total of 41,730 redeemable miles.

What’s not factored in is that I value Mileage Plan miles significantly more than AAdvantage miles — I value them at roughly 1.8 and 1.3 cents, respectively. So in reality if I credit to American I’d earn $367 worth of miles, while if I credit to Alaska I’d earn $751 worth of miles.

So crediting to Alaska Mileage Plan seems like a no brainer… right?

Why crediting to Alaska isn’t that obvious

This is what I’m scratching my head over. As I said above, with neither program will these flights impact what status I earn. Here’s my current requalification status with American:

So why would I even consider crediting to American? Because as of earlier this year, American prioritizes upgrades based first on status, and then based on your rolling 12 month Elite Qualifying Dollar total. Yes, the airline prioritizes your upgrades based on a specific dollar amount. So if I credited the flight to American, I’d earn an additional 2,568 elite qualifying dollars (12,840 miles times 20%, which is how it’s calculated here).

My upgrade percentage this year with American hasn’t been that great. American is selling more first class seats than in the past, so being Executive Platinum is no longer enough for scoring an upgrade in many markets. It also matters where you rank as far as Executive Platinum members go.

What should I do in this situation? Should I take the sure thing, and earn more Alaska Mileage Plan miles, or should I forgo a significant amount of mileage value in order to boost my EQD total? I’d be curious to hear how anyone in a similar situation is handling American’s new EQD requirement.

  1. US mileage programs have become incredibly stupid. EQDs, EQMs, EQs… obviously all done to obfuscate and confuse customers. How this builds “loyalty” is beyond me.

  2. I like certainty.

    Thus, I’d take the cash in hand instead of rolling the dice hoping for increased upgrade potential. In other words , Alaska.

    If you want to be more mathematical…
    $384 (difference between your valuations) will buy you about 2 one-way upgrades from Y to F on a short to midrange domestic flight.
    How many extra upgrades will the additional AA status get you in a year?

    If you think the elevated AA status will upgrade you 3 more times next year (knowing AA’s strategy of selling First which reduces upgrade numbers) then maybe do AA

    Regardless, I’d love it if you could do this type of “where to credit” post more often (weekly?) so we can learn the best way to do it. Case studies are great ways to teach.. they’re engaging, practical, and effective.

    I recently agonized about crediting a China Eastern J ticket to Delta vs Flying Blue… and would have loved help figuring that out…


  3. Agree with @JRMW wholeheartedly. Even you admit to buying F outright more often these days. I find myself doing the same repeatedly, especially as airlines are lowering F prices as departure approaches and seats remain empty.

    If they’d rather sell them than give them away to elites, I think you need to take loyalty and loyalty upgrades out of the equation altogether and look strictly at cash value of the miles.

    Also like JRMW, I would be delighted to see a/many post(s) about where to credit flights. I’m starting to rack up tons of DL flights but not enough for meaningful status with them. Plus SkyMiles and the associated program are essentially worthless as the devaluations keep coming. Where should those miles go instead? An “If/Then” chart would be amazing.

  4. I used to credit Singapore flights to United, now? Alaska.
    Lucky, you should credit your LAN flight to Alaska, too. No EQD/PQD/MQD (whatever is called), more chance to upgrade as Gold 75K, and highest earn rate of any airline they partner with.

  5. Alaska!

    Don’t reward AA for being greedy. Not only did you have to spend $ to get the status but now you have to spend money to be upgraded too!? That’s greed at its finest.

  6. Alaska. Best loyalty program around. AA is going to *&#$. Even United has better hard product and service now on most domestic routes.

  7. Alaska is definitely the better option. Your EQD might not even get you an upgrade when you need it, but the extra bonus earning on Alaska is sure worth it (Considering that you can use them for Emirates’ new First Class).

  8. AS… Miles are worth so much more and you’re getting a ton more of them. The EQD factor is likely to be pretty minimal IMO

  9. Take the money and run: file them with Alaska. The AA EQD factor is secondary to status. If the extra AA EQD/EQM aren’t enough to bump you up in status by year end, having higher EQD but staying in the same class will not have much effect– maybe a couple more upgrades.

  10. I`d guess most of the platinums youre competing with have spent not just a bit more than you to get the status and the couple of dollars that would add arent changing that picture. You´d likely be still far behind most of your competitors. So, Alaska.

  11. Agreed with @Ben (not Lucky). Given how many EQDs frequent business travelers earn, the increase that Lucky would get by crediting to American seems likely to be immaterial.

  12. Alaska…DUH . not even close. Shoukld not even be a consideration. Those extra 13,000 much more valuable miles are worth better upgrade odds because there is no guarantee that the extra EQD will mean a thing.

  13. Alaska, more miles and lower resumption requirements. That’s more than halfway to a JAL SE Asia- US first class redemption.

  14. Alaska. You know exactly what you’re getting.

    There’s no way to determine how the additional EQDs helps you in AA. Yes it increases your EQDs, but you’re blind to your competition. No way to know if it puts you “over the top” of competition for upgrades, or well behind what everybody else has spent.

  15. Alaska all the way.
    I’m only platinum on AA with about $15k spend.
    It is very likely you are at the very bottom of the Executive Platinum spend and as stated previsouly a few more dollars won’t help.

    At executive platinum I imagine you primarily compete with business travelers with full fare tickets and a much higher spend.

  16. Playing American’s 12-month spending game is dumb. You are not going to get anything measurable just because you credit another $1,500 in qualifying dollar spending, you would need 5-10 times that amount to make any real difference. American established that criteria because Doug has no vision for AA and he keeps getting kicked around by analysts on every earnings call about his RASM. It’s just his ham handed and unimaginative way of telling everybody that he needs more money so that it looks like he’s doing his job, it’s easier for him to just ask for more money than to do anything to earn it, so he made a policy that rewards people who spend other peoples money.

  17. this is what i deal with every day this year and next year as i have 3 oneworld round the world tickets. i have been lucky this year that i fly a lot of qr which must be credited to aa. all my cx, jl ba goes to as.

    but next year, i wont need to fly qr and where will i credit my cx jl qf ba ay? i have some cx pe fare which will be credited to aa since the loss of value when crediting to aa is less as as does not give premium cabib bonus to cx pe. so i have about 40k aa eqm and 3k eqd taken care of.

  18. AS. The way I look at it, the argument for AA is diminished given that it is not only a crap shoot, but also a rolling 12 month dollar figure for which you can’t benefit from as long as you can the added miles (despite their ongoing depreciation).

  19. I’d say Alaska seems like a no brainer. You’ve already got elite status covered for both and AS gives you more value than AA. I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to compete with fellow passengers on EQDs, it’s always a bad lottery game.

  20. Take upgrades out of the equation. If you want to sit up front domestically you need either a certificate or to buy a discount F fair. Alaska (per Scott) is a no brainer.

  21. I tend to fly two types of airlines: those that retain my 1K status and those that credit a healthy chunk of AS miles. If I were you, having already made status, I’d take the AS miles and enjoy a great redemption down the line. I’ve also done this MEX-IPC fare, and you’ll probably need to be vigilant about the LATAM flights crediting to AS if you go that route. In the end, only 1/5 of my flights posted and I had a small back-and-forth with AS about the correct crediting rate.

  22. I’m going with the majority: credit to Alaska.

    From a purely economical point of view, crediting to AA only makes sense if you value some nebulous “greater upgrade potential” (discounted for the great uncertainty) higher than you would $384 for certain. Given that it sounds like you aren’t going to be loyal to AA much in the future (switching to DL?), the “sweet spots” in AA’s program right now are booking PE on partner airlines (for EQD) and outright purchasing discounted business class tickets (for the EQM), it is hard to imagine that some higher chance at upgrades would be worth more than $384 in your decision calculus.

  23. AA must be thrilled that you are even considering crediting miles to them to increase the chance of getting an upgrade which they have gone out of their way to be more difficult to get.
    Don’t play their games. Credit to AS.

  24. I’ll also chime in to say Alaska. I fly little with either AA or Alaska, but I’d rather have something certain (lots of miles) than the *possibility* of an upgrade, especially given how stingy airlines are with upgrades these days – plus, as lots of people have pointed out, that $2K probably won’t make much different in your upgrade qualifications.

  25. AS all the way if I traveled as much as you I would see this as a no-brainer, better redemption availability.

  26. I would go with Alaska, I’m not smart enough to figure out AA program. You could have a group of engineers doing a flow chart on AA program.

  27. I have had platinum status with AA for 1.5 years and have never been upgraded at random, and seldom accepted when requesting to use my allotted 500 mile upgrades for a flight. I switched over to Alaska loyalty and within a year obtained MVP Gold using partner airlines (and now 75K.) I get upgraded ALL the time with Gold on Alaska flights and now that I have 75K it’s almosf a given. Plus as someone mentioned, 75K gets you a hefty number of bonus miles, you can nominate someone else for MVP status, get lounge access, get chocolate on the plane (!) etc. I’m so happy to have made the switch to Alaska, the most personable and accommodating US based airline (in my opinion!)
    I should say I was really saddened to read about the recent incident of harassment on Alaska Air. I really hope this doesn’t reflect the company as a whole.

  28. Credit to Alaska.

    With AA I would liken it to you throwing money down to buy a surprise box which may be empty and if there is something in it it probably is something you already have and is of no use to you (slightly increased upgrade priority that makes little difference to your upgrade chances).

    If you were asking the same question next year when there may be some evidence to measure the benefit of throwing money at AA then you might have a good basis to throw money at them. This year I would go with the sure bet – AS.

  29. The real question is how many upgrades do you think you’ll get with the extra eqd and are they actually worth the ~$400 in points you’d be giving up? The flights I’ve taken lately, paying for F isn’t that much of a premium, so it’d absolutely be worth it to take the Alaska miles. But I don’t know what you fly and whether the eqd would really make a difference.

  30. I would credit to British Airways and transfer to Aer Lingus or Iberia. JFK to MAD 34,000 Avios in business class? That’s hard to beat.

  31. Alaska.

    You and other travel bloggers have pointed out several times in recent months the interesting redemption possibilities available with Alaska miles — so good to have more of them for that flexibility.

  32. you’ll fly on aa & partners anyway – don’t need the pqd’s per se. i’d bank the miles in as bc that will offer you more versatility (ha) when redeeming

  33. Lucky, this is such a strange post. U knew its AS to bank in, but you are enticed by the AA lucky draw where u know your winning odds arent great nonetheless, but u seemed keen to still participate.

  34. Lol I read every single comment and literally only 1 person voted for American and it wasn’t even backed up with reasonable evidence or anything, just personal inclination.

    Therefore Ben, can’t be a difficult decision at all. Alaska obviously.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *