American Elite Status – Is It Worth It?

Every year, a select group of flyers take to the skies with one goal: earning or renewing their elite status on their favorite airlines. While the benefits may change over time, the rewards remain constant in our minds. When we think of holding a frequent flyer status card, images of upgrades and lounge access immediately come to mind.

For the amount of money and flying it takes to earn elite status, does it make sense to earn elite status with one of the four major airlines? This week, let’s consider American Airlines’ AAdvantage program and their four tiers of loyalty. Is it worth your time and money to earn status?

The AAdvantage Elite Tiers

Last year, American AAdvantage introduced a four-tier elite program to match their legacy competitors with the creation of AAdvantage Platinum Pro. Although they may sound more exciting than other programs, there is a major difference between the bottom tier (AAdvantage Gold) and the highest tier (AAdvantage Executive Platinum). Here are the key benefits of each program:

American AAdvantage Gold – 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 30 Elite Qualifying Segments and $3,000 qualifying spend

  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 24-hour upgrade window
  • 40% elite mileage bonus
  • 50% off Main Cabin Extra Seats (complimentary at check-in)
  • Complimentary Preferred Seats
  • 1 free checked bag

AAdvantage Platinum – 50,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 60 Elite Qualifying Segments and $3,000 qualifying spend

  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • 60% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags

AAdvantage Platinum Pro – 75,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 90 Elite Qualifying Segments and $9,000 in qualifying spend

  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
  • 72-hour upgrade window
  • 80% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags

AAdvantage Executive Platinum – 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 120 Elite Qualifying Segments and$12,000 in qualifying spend

  • 4 one-way systemwide upgrades (with the ability to earn up to 4 more for a total of 8 per year)*
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades*
  • 100-hour upgrade window
  • 120% elite mileage bonus**
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats*
  • 3 free checked bags

Are there shortcuts to earning AAdvantage status?

While American AAdvantage doesn’t have a way to waive the required spending with a credit card, holding certain cards can help you get closer to earning elite status through elite qualifying dollars and elite qualifying miles. If you hold the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red, Aviator® Blue or Aviator® Business MasterCard®, you can earn up to $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 on qualifying net purchases during the calendar year. However, if you hold the top-tier AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver MasterCard®, you could earn up to $6,000 EQDs by spending $50,000 on qualifying net purchases each calendar year: $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 on qualifying purchases and another $3,000 EQDs after $50,000 on qualifying purchases.

But what about the miles? Only the top tier American credit cards – The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver MasterCard® – earn elite qualifying miles for spending. AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver MasterCard® account holders can earn 5,000 EQMs for every $20,000 in qualifying net purchases each calendar year (up to 10,000 EQMs each year), while Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite® Mastercard® cardmembers earn 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in purchases within the year.

When does it make sense to earn AAdvantage status?

Although it goes without saying, flyers who make American their primary carrier stand to earn the most out of elite status. That being said, the number of miles you fly with American also matters as well.

If you only fly or spend enough to make AAdvantge Gold or Platinum status, it may not make sense for you to dedicate your flying to get status. While the elite mileage bonus is nice, complimentary upgrades on flights 500 miles or less isn’t exactly a great upgrade to want. Furthermore, at Gold status, 50 percent off Main Cabin Extra seats is not a good deal. Plus, you can earn at least one free checked bag by holding the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® – which, even with the $95 annual fee, is a lot cheaper than spending $3,000 with the airline.

If you plan on doing a lot of flying with American – primarily in upgraded seats or international routes – or oneworld is your primary airline alliance, then earning AAdvantage Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum could make sense. With automatically requested upgrades and the potential to earn guaranteed systemwide upgrades at the highest level, the potential to actualize value from the $12,000 required minimum spend exists.

As with many programs, elite status truly benefits those at the top. If top-tier elite status is in your regular flying plans with American, then the rewards could balance out the costs. Otherwise, you could be better off collecting the miles instead of going for a less-rewarding elite status that won’t offer a payback for your loyalty.

Are you planning to earn status with American this year? Let us know your plans and why (or why not) in the comments below!

Joe Cortez
Joe Cortez is an award-winning journalist and blogger focused on travel, leisure, and loyalty programs. As a frequent traveler, Joe has flown across the United States, Canada, and Europe primarily on award bookings and discounted flights. In addition,…
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Earn (pt.)

Spend


3 months

30,000

$1,000


JetBlue Purchases

6.00

$1


Restaurants Purchases

2.00

$1


Groceries Purchases

2.00

$1


All Purchases

1.00

$1


The JetBlue Plus Card

  • Annual Fee: $99 fee waived for the first year
  • Foreign Fees: 0%
  • Card Type: Travel
FTG Review Reward Breakdown Points Breakdown
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire.
  • Earn and share points together with Family Pooling
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember’s first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card
  • Your first checked bag is free.

Breakdown

Earn (pt.)

Spend


3 months

30,000

$1,000


JetBlue Purchases

6.00

$1


Restaurants Purchases

2.00

$1


Groceries Purchases

2.00

$1


All Purchases

1.00

$1


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