American Airlines Introduces: Earn Elite Status Based on Spending Alone in 2020

American Airlines will still let you earn elite status next year from flying and meeting minimum spend requirements. However they’re copying United with a new spending-only path towards status.

United Introduced Status Based On Spend Alone In October

United increased its spending requirement for elite status earned next year and introduced a new spending-only level to earn status. United’s status levels can be earned with $5,000; $10,000; $15,000, and $24,000 in spend for Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K status respectively.

American Is Testing Different Ways to Copy United

AAdvantage accounts, under promotions, have a new offer to register for to earn elite status in 2020 based on qualifying dollars only without a flight requirement at all. That takes making elite status about spending even further than United. MileagePlus still requires a minimum of 4 flights on United to earn elite status regardless of spending.

Reach elite status by earning EQDs only

Exclusive opportunity to qualify for elite status in 2020

Register by Dec 30, 2019
In 2020, you have an alternative way to qualify for status and keep it through January 31, 2022. Either qualify with the normal requirements or by only earning Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs):

$5,000 EQDs for Gold
$10,000 EQDs for Platinum
$15,000 EQDs for Platinum Pro
$24,000 EQDs for Executive Platinum

Register by December 30, 2019
Earn qualifying EQDs when traveling on eligible American Airlines and oneworld® flights from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020

American Airlines Oasis First Class

This is a targeted offer. It appears that while I’ve been offered the exact same spend levels as United’s new program, there are other versions out there as well. Here’s a report of $5000, $9000, $13,000 and $22,000 so slightly lower for status levels above Gold.

What’s Behind American’s New Spend-Based Elite Status

There are two ways to think about American’s new option for qualifying for elite status based on spending rather than flying.

  1. American doesn’t want to lose business from high spending customers who will earning more status under United’s scheme than their own.

  2. As a test to see how members opting in respond. They want to know whether this incentivizes additional spend. They also want to know what spend levels work best. The answers to those questions will help them decide whether to follow United completely placing an even greater emphasis on spend alone in awarding elite status.

New Spend-Based Status Means More Elites Competing For Fewer Benefits

It’s striking of course that, like United, they’re giving elites less than ever while asking for more money than ever. Both airlines are monetizing premium cabins more than they have in the past, making upgrades scarce. Will the move towards measuring cash alone – rather than wallet share or shift in business – be enough to push people off the status treadmill?

Will I Spend A Lot More Time In The Back Of The Plane In 2021?

A new way to earn status layered on top of the current method will mean more elites. This means more people competing for fewer upgrades than ever and that’s after handing out Executive Platinum status to a subset of Hyatt’s tens of thousands of Globalist members.

Offer Terms and Conditions

The terms of the offer (promotion code S129P) says it’s targeted. Is it available in your account? And what are your spend levels?

This exclusive offer is only for members who receive the offer directly from American Airlines
Register by 11:59 p.m. CT on December 30, 2019
Flights that don’t earn EQDs won’t count toward this promotion
Bonus EQDs don’t count toward EQD thresholds for this promotion
Offer applies to eligible purchased, published fares flown from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020
After you reach the required thresholds, your elite-status benefits will be extended through January 31, 2022
You can only participate in 1 alternate method of elite qualification in the 2020 calendar year
You must requalify for elite status membership annually
American may, at any time and without notice, change, stop or end this promotion in part or in full
EQDs are awarded based on ticket price (includes base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, but excludes government-imposed taxes and fees) on American-marketed flights
Flights marketed by oneworld® carriers will earn EQDs based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class purchased

Notably it appears that spend on Barclays-issued Aviator Silver and Business cards, which can earn elite qualifying dollars, won’t count towards this new way of earning status. It’s money directly to American that counts, and not money to American via a credit card partner, that they see as valuable here.

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. Is there any reason to *not* register for this?

    Maybe from the T&C: You can only participate in 1 alternate method of elite qualification in the 2020 calendar year

    Is that implying that an additional alternative way will happen?

  2. I’m scratching my head a bit here, Gary. While, technically, it may be true that AA is making it possible to “earn elite status in 2020 based on qualifying dollars only without a flight requirement at all”, how — practically speaking — would one amass 24K EQD without flying…a bunch? Who, really, is the target here? Folks with 24K to burn but who don’t want to spend the time “butt in seat” and also earn RDMs? What is the strategy here?

  3. They’re not really copying United if the AA offer is targeted. This isn’t a change in program rules, it’s just a promotion (at least for now).

    I’m AA LT Gold with little flying in 2019, and haven’t received any offer.

  4. @Charles – If you fly full fare, intl F a few times, you could get there on a last minute ticket and not fly 100,000 miles.

  5. The alternative method of elite qualification language is confusing. Alternative to the regular way? No Hyatt status challenge allowed? Very confusing.

    This seems like a good opportunity to gain status by flying special fares or on partners that give EQD based on distance.

  6. @Jim F – very possible to hit $24k spend without flying 100,000 miles.

    @swag – there seem to be different levels offered but like united there’s a mileage path and a pure spend path, though we don’t know exactly what aa will settle on for 2021

  7. @JimF – An LA based executive who flies twice/year to SYD on last-minute, full-fare F tickets would likely spend $24k while only earning ~44k EQMs. He isn’t particularly loyal, but would be EP.

  8. “More Elites Competing For Fewer Benefits”.
    Not really. If someone is buying 2-3 full-fare, last minute, J/F tickets. They would get the $24K spend and thereby earn status. However, I’m not really competing with them because they only fly a few times a year and they’re paying for their seat anyway. They didn’t cut me in the upgrade list, have an extra upgrade cert, or otherwise add any competition over benefits.

  9. @I Love Dan – do you think people flying international business class only buy premium cabin domestic? Many companies have policies where they’ll buy premium cabin over X hours.

  10. I mostly agree with Gary here, where it’s clear that this is primarily a way to match UA.

    However, as with the CK discussion, the motivation for AA to do this seems to retain high-spenders and confer something without them having to fly as much. As I noted in that thread, upgrades are simply not a motivator for high-spenders, since they’re extremely likely to already be paying for a seat up front (ie they’ve already been ‘monetized’). Wondering why anyone wants EP because you’re not getting upgrades as it is, entirely misses the point.
    The fact that they’re _not_ sitting in seats enough to earn status the flying is the icing on the cake for AA, since that means they have an extra available seat to monetize.

    Fast-tracking non-flyers-but-spenders through the elite ranks who pay for their first/biz seats just makes sense. Breed loyalty for lucrative high-margin flyers.

    @Doug – the fact that your hypothetical 2-flight EP is paying full-fare is the perfect target for AA. AA just banked the cash, while basically giving honorary status to someone who won’t even use it – and thus costs them almost nothing.
    If the flyer sticks with AA, do you really think the person who can afford full-fare F is going to play the upgrade lottery on their next flight and duke it out with the 22 other EP’s??? Of course not. They’re going to pay full-fare F again.
    By conferring EP status, AA is hoping that they can sway – if only a little bit – the flyer to choose AA for their next paid F ticket.

    While I can see EPs not liking this change, thinking it will swell the ranks, the reality is that if you’re able to hit $24k EQD without hitting EQM, you’re probably up front before the upgrades start anyways…

  11. Just pure luring of business travelers….

    As someone who spends a lot of $ but doesn’t accrue a lot of MQMs…It’s really tempting.

  12. As current EP and lifetime Platinum I have no problem with this at all. As someone posted, if you hit the spend levels you likely would qualify for the status lever under the “normal” method (requires flights but EQD levels are lower). I agree someone could take a last minute F flight to Asia or Australia and spend close to $20,000 but (a) that would earn probably close to 50,000 EQDs (full fare F are 3x the miles), (b) you would still need more flying to hit the EP level and (c) if you spend that much on AA I agree you should be recognized.

    This is a business approach to ensure high dollar travelers have an incentive to stay with AA which is good. Yes there may be some additional elite members as a result but I wouldn’t expect that to be a significant number since the vast majority that hit these spending levels would qualify anyway.

    Glad to see AA as looking at ways to ensure they attract and retain high spending customers since that is, in the long run, beneficial to the airline.

  13. I wish I got this promo. I spend $15-18k per year on AA for work. Normally qualify for PP on segments, as I travel frequently, but on short trips. Despite how much I spend, I’m frequently trying to get additional segments. This promo would actually make me spend more on AA as it would give me incentive to go for Ex Platinum.

  14. Every single OPM flyer in the US flying for work a couple times a year will now be elite.
    Good luck AA flyers!

  15. @Doug – based on your scenario of an LA based executive flying to Sydney twice a year on last minute F which would hit the $24,000 spend and, in your opinion, that didn’t constitute “loyalty” please consider the following math.

    LAX-SYD is 7496 miles (based on a flight distance site I used) so r/t is 14992. 2 r/ts would be 29984. You do realize that full fare F is triple the EQMs right? This would make the total EQMs earned by just these 2 trips at 89952. This is assuming the flight was only LAX-SYD with no connections and the person had no other flights during the year.

    Basically they qualify for EP under the “normal” process with a couple of connections or a few other trips throughout the year.

    Again people, this isn’t about “loyalty” it is a business decision on the part of AA and I think a good one since these are EXACTLY the type of passengers they want to attract and retain.

    If you don’t like it find another airline but quit looking at it in a self serving way, step back and understand the business reasoning behind it. Also, as others have noted, the extreme example above is not really in competition with other EPs. Frankly, I think raising the EQD level for EP with LESSEN the number of EPs so those of you that qualify should have an easier time with upgrades (except for all airlines monetizing them instead of giving them out as free upgrades).

    I’m EP, now retire and falling back on my lifetime Platinum status (3 million miles with AA). Also lifetime Gold with DL (3 million miles on them) so have ZERO loyalty. It is who gets me where I want to go for the best price in the class of service I prefer. God it feels good to not worry about chasing miles or getting so worked up over the ever changing rules of a FF (or hotel) program.

  16. No offer; don’t care.
    Perhaps AA can give me an offer to downgrade from domestic first to exit row aisle for more space.
    Of course, I’d be missing the bar in the back of first class.

  17. Interesting the discussion on the limited number of travelers this would impact…I have only just started travelling regularly this year, have $22K spend and only $60K miles and 105 segments. It would definitely help me, as I will find it tough to generically hit EP this year.

    I happen to do short-haul, short notice trips, generally running over $500 for an economy seat for less than 400 BIS miles. Figured this would be typical for a sales traveler, but based on the other comments here, I guess not!

  18. I will just make platinum pro this years with 75,800 miles and $25,500 spend without credit card adds. I would gladly take the offer but it wasn’t offered to me.

  19. @Mark – you’re the kind of flyer AA wants. If you don’t see an offer, you might want to send them an email inquiring how you can take… AAdvantage… of such an offer.

  20. Just got the “lower” offer posted above – $22K for EXP. Considering that two people can get EXP for about that, definitely not interested. Already have 105K EQM and $14,566 EQD booked for 2020. I’m good.


  21. I received the offer ($24k for EXP), this year I’m at $27 spend and 151k miles. I’m not sure I want them to use me as a data point however. To compare, I’m also 1K w/ $18k spend and 96k miles (I’ll hit 100k next week). Not sure where to focus in 21, but I need to figure that out since I’m about to book a business trip to Asia in January.

  22. No offer here… I checked email and “promotions”.

    Probably because I am TOO loyal to AA. Million miler, plenty of miles banked, and an EP for MANY years.

    This year was a bit tough (as I was flying less), so I’m making some international biz class mileage runs. Take a look at

    Hat tip to Gary in letting me know 2 1/2 hours in Dubai is enough to make a turn!

  23. To Gary, TheJetsFan & Doug who all responded kindly to my reply saying, e.g., “A few last minute F or J internatIonal trips could easily amass $24K without the corresponding EQMs” and “very possible to hit $24k spend without flying 100,000 miles” — my point was that it isn’t possible to “Earn Elite Status Based on Spending ALONE in 2020” as the headline says. One still has to do SOME flying; status can’t be purchased outright. The question of how EP status is worth $24K on high-cost tickets (unless one was going to purchase them anyway) remains.

  24. I have 90k miles 14.5 EQD no cc spend and did not get the offer. I will hit EP by 12-31 and don’t really care. I don’t see this as a huge negative to the people that earned it the hard way…

  25. They are basically using FF programs as marketing tools, if you buy Premium cabin tickets your identifying as a customer they want. They don’t actually care about loyalty in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more “Loyalty” as in how much of your wallet share will you give me, now that i know you have a big wallet?

  26. I qualified Platinum last year and this year from flying only. I did not receive this offer or a buy up offer that others were getting. Last year I had a buy up to Platinum offer but already had the flights booked to fulfill Platinum.

  27. @Jim F

    “The question of how EP status is worth $24K on high-cost tickets (unless one was going to purchase them anyway) remains.”

    The ONLY way that I can think of that someone would spend $24K without flying, and make that happen is if they were some sort of informal travel coordinator…. Sell a trip package, then purchase the ticket.

    Or… if they were the worlds worst flyer / shopper… bought a $24K first class non-refundable ticket to Dubai and then chose not to go.

    It could happen… there is a $28,000 ticket from Denver to Dubai right now, with stops in ORD and HKG You would have to be a moron to buy it… but it could happen.

  28. If it is from American you can be sure it won’t be of any benefit to the consumer…that is not the purpose of this company or of this promotion. Don’t try to figure it out…it is simple. Give me more money and we will continue to attempt to fly you someplace relative close to where you want to go and within a few days of when you hoped to be there.

  29. If I sign up for this promotion and AA decides to end this way of earning status, do I get to go back to my lifetime Platinum status? Or do I forfeit that status by choosing the new promo and have to start all over again?

  30. Actually, this would suite me quite well. I’m one that falls through the cracks. I have spent $29k so far this year and have only flown 56000 miles and 88 segments. I’ll just make platinum pro since I have a flight at the end of the week. My flights are always under 300 miles so I could never qualify under the system as it stands my segments don’t quite get there and my miles will never get there. But my spend is already 14k over the requirement….think it will level the playing field a little more for us that fly regionally imho.

  31. You say AA “wants to know whether this incentivises additional spend.” In other words for most high-value customers, can the employee spend more of the employer’s money than the employee would spend without the promotion. This promotion underscores the inherent conflict of interest frequent guest/flyer programs present for companies and the challenge employees have in refraining from putting their interests above those of the employer. AA and the other airlines are well aware of this conflict and seek to exploit it for their profit.

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