Last-Minute Elite Status Strategies for American AAdvantage

Nov 20, 2018

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There’s just about a month left in 2018, which means time is running out to qualify or re-qualify for airline elite status in 2019. If you haven’t done so already, check your balances, strategize your travel for the rest of the year, and see where that puts you in terms of elite status for the next year.

If you find you’re going to come out short of your goals, here are some ideas for earning the qualifying miles, segments and dollars you need before the end of the year. Today’s post will focus on American Airlines AAdvantage status.  You can see our last-minute elite status qualification guide for Delta that just published.  Stay tuned for the United version later this week.

Useful Posts

American Airlines has made some changes to its mileage program in the past year. So before you start planning, take a look at these helpful posts for information you should have on hand as we enter the final countdown.

Now that you have all that information at your fingertips, let’s look at the benefits of elite status and plans to get you there.

Elite Status Qualification and Benefits

Let’s start with some basics on American Airlines elite status. You can find information on the AAdvantage program and its membership tiers here. Below, we’ll look at the qualification requirements and benefits of each tier.

While you now earn award miles and elite-qualifying dollars based on your airfare on American Airlines flights, you earn elite-qualifying miles and dollars based on distance flown and fare class purchased on partners….much of which is also changing in 2019.

AAdvantage Gold

This is the first level of elite status. Currently, it requires flyers to earn 25,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or 30 elite-qualifying segments (EQSs) andspend $3,000 elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs) per calendar year.

The benefits include:

  • Earn 7 award miles per dollar spent on airfare (a 40% bonus)
  • Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades for flights of 500 miles or less
  • Earn 500-mile upgrade vouchers
  • 24-hour upgrade window
  • Dedicated elite phone customer service
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • One free checked bag
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of departure, and complimentary preferred seats
  • Waived award ticketing and close-in booking fees
  • Complimentary same-day standby
  • Discounted Admirals Club membership
  • oneworld Ruby status

AAdvantage Platinum

The second tier of elite status is twice as hard to earn metrics-wise, but comes with several more benefits. Currently, you must fly 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs and earn $6,000 EQDs in a calendar year to qualify.

Additional benefits include:

  • Earn 8 miles per dollar spent on airfare (a 60% bonus)
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Two free checked bags
  • Priority baggage delivery
  • oneworld lounge access, priority boarding and security
  • oneworld Sapphire status

AAdvantage Platinum Pro

To qualify for the third tier of elite status, you must fly 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQSs and earn $9,000 EQDs.

The additional benefits at this tier include:

  • Earn 9 miles per dollar spent on airfare (an 80% bonus)
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades
  • 72-hour upgrade window
  • Complimentary same-day flight changes
  • oneworld Sapphire status

AAdvantage Executive Platinum

Finally, American’s top-tier level of earned status (Concierge Key is invite-only) requires customers to fly 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs and earn $12,000 EQDs in the calendar year. Note that starting in 2019, the EQD requirement is increasing to $15,000.

If you hit this tier, you’ll enjoy the benefits listed above, plus:

  • Earn 11 miles per dollar spent on airfare (a 120% bonus)
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades
  • 100-hour upgrade window
  • Complimentary upgrades on award tickets
  • Four systemwide upgrades
  • Complimentary upgrades on award tickets
  • Expanded award seat availability on American Airlines flights
  • Guaranteed availability in Main Cabin
  • Free same-day change on American-operated flights
  • Complimentary snacks and alcoholic beverages in the main cabin
  • Three free checked bags
  • Waived ticketing, award reinstatement fees
  • oneworld Emerald status

With an understanding of the requirements and benefits of each tier, let’s look at how you can actually achieve your desired status.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 24, 2018: An American Airlines Airbus A320 passenger plane is serviced at a gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.


Last-Minute Earning Strategies

You have just about a month left, so it’s time to make some hard decisions about what is possible and what’s not. That said, a month can be plenty of time to meet the earning thresholds of your elite status tier of choice and there are some quick and easy options to get you over the hump.

Tried and trusty options like old-fashioned mileage runs are no longer as cost-effective thanks to more restrictive policies on same-day flight changes and earning on special fares.  But, there are still a few other tricks to help you along your way. Here are the ones to consider.

Credit Card Spending

Like some other airlines, American Airlines AAdvantage lets members earn elite-qualifying miles and/or dollars by spending on certain co-branded credit cards.

Cardholders of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard can earn 10,000 EQMs every calendar year they spend $40,000 or more on purchases on the card.

If you have the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard or AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard, you can earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year, though this benefit will be going away in 2019, so this is the last year to take advantage of it.

The AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite offers $3,000 EQDs when you spend $25,000 and an additional $3,000 EQDs if you spend another $25,000 within the calendar year. The total potential is $6,000 EQDs upon hitting $50,000 annual spend on the card. Unfortunately, this will also change in 2019 so that you’ll have to hit $50,000 in purchases just to earn $3,000 EQDs. But at least for 2018, the old levels are still in effect.

Buy-Up To Elite Status

As in past years, American has started offering frequent flyers the chance to “elevate” their elite status and either re-qualify for their same tier or advance toward a higher tier by paying a certain preset amount. To see what your offer is, check this page.

The offers vary individually by your current status and progress toward elite status. Anecdotally, though, members have been offered a range of options including $699-$799 to re-qualify for Gold, $800-$1,800 for Platinum and $1,400+ for Executive Platinum, so it really can differ for each person.

The good news is, these offers tend to change based on your continuing activity and through at least January of the following year. So if you’re not ready to commit just yet and have some flight activity planned it could be worth waiting to see the offer you land on and decide from there.

Special Fares

Let me start this section by reiterating that this will all be changing in 2019 for the worse. However, if you are utilizing special fares to hit elite-status thresholds for 2018, your strategy is still sound.

Special fares are a subset of travel bookings where you earn award miles, EQMs and EQDs based on the distance of your flight and the fare class of your ticket rather than simply on your airfare. Basically, it’s a way flyers can still maximize cheap fares on long-haul flights at higher earning rates than booking a regular ticket. Typically, these are available for bookings via portals like Citi ThankYou Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Check out this post for more details.

Rear view of flight attendant indicating exits to passengers in airplane
If you have some flying ahead of you, now might be your time to complete a status challenge.


Status Challenge

Another shortcut to elite status is to initiate a status match or challenge. Basically, you send the airline your current elite status information with another airline and ask them to match you to either Gold or Platinum. Then, you will have 90 days to complete a certain amount of flying and spending on the airline. Here are the current requirements for each level.

Gold: 7,000 EQMs or 8 EQSs and $1,000 EQDs

Platinum:12,500 EQMs, 16 EQSs and $2,000 EQDs

Note that you’ll have to pay a $200 fee even to start a challenge, so factor that into your costs. To enroll, your best bet is to call AAdvantage’s customer service desk at (888) 697-5636.

Business Extra

American Airlines has a loyalty program specifically for businesses called Business Extra. It exists separately from the AAdvantage program, which is for individuals. Companies that enroll in Business Extra earn one point per $5 spent on tickets purchased on American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia, and on Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas flights as long as the tickets are marketed by American Airlines.

Those points can then be redeemed for various benefits including award tickets and lounge passes. However, companies can also redeem 3,200 Business Extra points to confer AAdvantage Gold status on employees. That’s the equivalent of having spent $16,000 on airfare, although you might catch a break with double-points promos like one currently running for flights between North America and South America or Europe.

That’s still a lot of spending, but companies earn these points for all registered employees’ travel. If you work for a big company, the travel manager might have some points to throw your way toward status. It never hurts to ask.

Mileage Run Scenarios

Now that achieving elite status requires earning both elite-qualifying miles or segments andhitting spending thresholds, mileage runs are not necessarily the useful tool toward qualifying they once were. However, if you’re up to the EQD spending threshold for your desired tier but still lack some miles, you have some time to make up the deficit.

If you plan to credit flights on American’s airline partners to your AAdvantage account, just be sure you’re aware of the earning rates for the specific fare class you purchase. And remember that Basic Economy fares on American only earn 250-mile minimums, half EQMs and half EQSs, so be sure you don’t purchase one of those by accident.

You should check the Mileage Run Forum on FlyerTalk for news about cheap fares. In the meantime, here are a some ideas for how to rack up a few thousand extra miles before the end of 2018.

1,000 miles short:It might seem ridiculous, but some folks miss out on elite status by fewer than 1,000 miles. If you could be in this bucket, it’s time plan a quick turnaround and avoid this fate.

Thanks to 500-mile minimums, East Coasters could do a quick jaunt between Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) on a single morning and be back in town in time for a full work day for just $155 and 1,000 EQMs.


If you have more time but need to stick to a budget, you could travel between the airline’s hubs in Dallas (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX) on a basic economy fare for just $122 and earn 1,235 EQMs.


5,000 miles short:Have a few more miles to go? Look for a quick round-trips from coast to coast like this cheap one-day itinerary from Los Angeles (LAX) to Miami (MIA) via Charlotte (CLT) and returning via Orlando (MCO). For $267, you’d earn 5,493 EQMs and 4 EQSs.

You could do a round-trip from New York (JFK) to San Francisco (SFO) via LAX in one direction for just $267 and 5,561 EQMs and 3 EQSs.


10,000 miles short:You could meet this requirement with a series of short- and mid-haul flights. However, it might be better to book an inexpensive long-haul flight instead to avoid the possibility of cancellations or missed connections due to winter weather and holiday travel.

The best bets at the moment seem to be cheap flights from the US to China. This two-day round-trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) is a mere $495 for 14,520 EQMs.

Or this one from New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG) via Los Angeles (LAX) is$613 for 19,470 EQMs.


If your mileage-run strategy centers on earning segments instead, check the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Forum for ideas and then use Google Flights’ Multi City search to piece it together. I was able to construct a same-daysix-segmentitinerary originating and ending at New York (JFK) via Charlotte (CLT), Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW) and Chicago (ORD) for $364.


Although earning EQDs on American Airlines flights is pretty straightforward, it gets more interesting when it comes to partner flights. If you purchase your ticket with partners instead of via American, you tend to earn EQDs based on your fare class and the distance of travel. That means if you can find some ultra-cheap long-hauls that still book into certain fare buckets, you can rack up EQDs at a faster rate than spending. You an also really come out ahead if you find some cheap premium fares. Check the FlyerTalk Premium Fare Deals thread for ideas.

Have any American AAdvantage strategies of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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