American Finally Announces Changes to their Million Miler Status Program

Though speculation has been rampant over the past couple of years, it became clear by April that American was on the verge of changing its uber-generous million mile status qualification program.

At the Randy Petersen Travel Executive Summit in April, the President of AAdvantage confirmed that they were looking at changes and promised that there would be advance notice. And indeed they’re giving us 3+ months of notice.

For years, American has offered lifetime elite status based on all of the miles you earn in their program. In contrast, every other airline offering million mile recognition only counts those miles earned by actually flying.

As a result, and though I am not a frequent American Airlines flight customer, I’m a 2-million miler and have lifetime Platinum status.

Historically, American has offered:

  • Lifetime Gold at 1 million miles earned. Plus (8) 500-mile domestic upgrades for US residents, or (4) confirmed systemwide upgrades for international members.
  • Lifetime Platinum at 2 million miles earned. Plus (4) confirmed systemwide upgrades.
  • An additional (4) confirmed systemwide upgrades at each million mile mark thereafter

They’re making two changes to this program.

  • Beginning December 1, only flight miles will count towards the lifetime status counter. All miles earned through the end of November will continue to count towards your accumulated balance, but only actual flight miles will add to that balance. Bonus miles from flights do not count even. But unlike with United, miles flown on partner flights do count towards lifetime status. Also, to encourage engaged members of the program to adopt the airline’s new expensive high-end premium credit card, those with the card by December 1 will have miles from their spend through December 2012 billing statements continue to count towards lifetime status. While this could well be extended, as of now after December 2012 there’s no way to accumulate miles towards lifetime status other than by actually flying the airline.

  • The bonus on earning 1 Million Mile status converts to 35,000 bonus miles, which is an improvement (and could still be converted to 500 mile upgrades if you wished). Presumably non-US members do not continue to receive systemwide upgrades, however.

Looking at my own projected mileage earn I’m guessing I will end November at around 2.9 million lifetime miles in the program. I could convert hotel points, maybe Starwood points, over in order to push me past the 3 million mile threshold. But I don’t think I’m going to do that. I have enough American miles in my account now, I do like to diversify, and the four systemwide upgrades aren’t enough of an incentive for me. Especially when, being less than 100,000 miles away, I will eventually become a 3 million miler. Now, if there was a higher status or other bonus attached to the incremental million I’d probably go for it!

Deals We Like thinks now and for the next few months could be a good time to pour money in a BankDirect checking account as a way to earn miles quickly towards lifetime status. I’ve long used BankDirect as my primary checking account, and it’s a strong value proposition. I think it’s a great checking account for folks whose average balance exceeds $2500 (to avoid fees). As a place to put money instead of investing, it depends on the opportunity cost of those funds, though some folks like to do it because the miles are awarded tax free and we’re in a pretty low interest rate environment. Much more questionable call. But one could earn a bunch of miles quickly through BankDirect which awards miles based on your average balance each month, and you might even wind up liking the account (as I do).

Others will choose to apply (and quickly meet minimum spend requirements on) a Citibank American Airliens credit card, I was just approved for another one with 75,000 mile signup bonus myself (even though that bonus was supposed to expire at the end of February).

Regardless, I’m grateful for ‘platinum for life’ and figure someday I’ll wind up making good use of it..

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. 650k short 🙁 Dang. I was trying to mass-accumulate with the hopes of getting it within a year or two. Darn.

  2. Gary, seeing as I just crossed AA’s 1M threshold, is it worthwhile (and fairly easy) to rack up another 1M before the December deadline?

  3. In additon to the being the date when AA finally announced the Million Miler program, August 24 also happened to be the day I achieved LT Platinum status. It is offical now that I am 999,234 miles away from the benefits of earning 3M!

  4. Thanks Gary. Have you gotten two of the same exact card approved? (two Visa personal, two Amex personal or two Visa business)

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