American Making Changes to Small Business ‘Double Dip’ Program Upgrade Awards

I really like small business frequent flyer programs. In addition to travelers earning points in their own mileage account, a business earns points for their travel as well. The earning isn’t the same, or necessarily as generous, but it’s a double dip and across several travelers in a company the rewards can really add up.

At American, the program isn’t run by AAdvantage but by Sales. Spending on just my own travel each year seems to earn enough points for me to give someone AAdvantage Gold status and also redeem for an Admirals Club membership.

One of the quirks of American’s program Business ExtrAA is that points expire at the end of calendar year two calendar years after which they’re earned. So points earned in January 2016 (or June or December 2016) expire December 31, 2018 if unused.

As a result of points expiring at the end of a calendar year, there’s also a spike in redemptions as the year ends. Most awards are issued electronically, but upgrades and lounges passes are issued as paper certificates. Apparently they ran out of paper certificates, because earlier today the Business ExtrAA website included this note,

NOTICE: Upgrades & Admirals Club Day Pass Awards BXP1, BXP2, BXP3 and BXP7 may be delayed due to upcoming award changes. You may continue to redeem points for these awards and Business Extra will fulfill them as soon as they become available.

It seems that upgrades are already back in stock, and the notice is gone from the website, but I asked American about ‘upcoming award changes.’ It turns out that there are a few more fare types that have been excluded from being upgraded with these certificates.

There are three types of Business ExtrAA upgrades: one segment domestic upgrades, one-way international upgrades (full fare), and one-way international upgrades (domestic fares). American tells me they’ve made these changes:

  • One segment domestic upgrade: added ‘B’ fares to the list of exclusions, so these certificates are now valid on all fares except for B, N, O, Q and S.

  • One-way international upgrade (full fares): removed B from the allowable fares, so the upgrades only now are valid for J and Y (true full fare) fares.

  • One-way international upgrade (discount fares): added B, N, and Q fares to the list of exclusions, so these certificates are not valid on all fares except for B, N, O, Q, and S. [I believe Q, W, and V fares were also already excluded.]

They’ve also added the language that American “reserves the right to change the inventory restrictions at any time, without notice” to these certificates and also that they are not valid on “fares that do not allow upgrades.”

These changes do not yet appear on the terms and conditions for the awards on the Business ExtrAA website, but apparently are included in the new certificates.

While there will be folks who are disappointed by these changes, and greater restrictions are never good, they strike me as relatively minor. And I still get great value out of the program. For instance instead of redeeming for a club membership and giving someone Gold status, I could use my points for 8 or 9 confirmed upgrades or for free award travel without spending my AAdvantage miles.

I would, however, have greatly preferred to have seen an announcement in advance of these changes for the same reason that I don’t like changes without notice to frequent flyer programs.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Better than the Delta one that hates small biz owners. I have one reader who has spend tens of thousands of dollars with Delta SkyBonus but will be kicked out Friday. Loyalty rewarded?

  2. Thanks for blog – I’d forgotten I have 2,400 points expiring. have total 3.8K I’ll need to triangulate 3 award possibilities. 1st class seat domestic (not sure if ow or rt); Gold status instead of paying $1k to keep Platinum; or Admirals Club, instead of Citi card.

    Advice, suggestions?? Thanks!

  3. Wait, how does this make any sense? B is the second-most-expensive economy fare. Why should it be excluded from upgrades when cheaper fares allow upgrades?

  4. At this point for upgrades on international discount fares, what is actually included? It sounds like practically every discounted fare is excluded? Is there any way to run a search based on fare type to see what’s possible?

  5. I was hoping to use the int’l upgrade cert from discounted fares to supplement the loss of some of the SWU’s from next year’s (2016) program. With these add’l exclusions for int’l upgrades on discounted fares, I’m wondering if it’s worth it to use the certs?? What fares are left to be used as upgradeable discounted fares?

    Also, nice trick on the ‘B’ fares . . . No more upgrading on the transcon A-321 with that move, and if they think ‘B’ is a discounted fare, why not keep it for upgrades on int’l flights? My guess is, hopefully, we’ll see some aggressive ‘B’ fares in 2016 as the new program goes into effect as incentive to ‘buy up’ to B . . .

  6. If a person is self employed with no other employees, can they have a business account and does it make sense.?

  7. Do you know if they’re retractively applying these changes to certificates that were already issued?

  8. @Judyg- yes and yes. you are getting free “extras” and no cost or down side. Takes 3 minutes to open an account.

  9. I decided to take the free RT N.Am 1st class award, which could net out a little less than paying to keep my Platinum. So I’ll pay to keep my Platinum which should be worth more than Gold.

    Happy New Year everyone & Go Hawkeyes! Rose Bowl!

  10. I was just reading the rules and it claims a company needs to have 2 or more employees. Although my husband does not travel for business for my ” company” , He does travel with me on occasion when I go for business. ” most of my business travel is for conferences” . Do you think that is acceptable. I would not want to lose my private account.

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