American’s New 2013 Elite Rewards Offer Easier, More Generous Bonuses Than in Past Years

I haven’t gotten my email from American about this, but Pizza in Motion is already all over it.

American has launched a huge new promotion for elite members, their 2013 Elite Rewards which look far more lucrative than past versions of the program that they’ve run.

Fly 40,000 miles, earn 40,000 points, or fly 45 segments and you get to pick from the following extra rewards.

  • 10,000 miles
  • (3) 500-mile upgrades
  • 2 Admiral’s Club one-day lounge passes
  • Free BAGS VIP luggage delivery
  • 10% discount

Fly 75,000 miles, earn 75,000 points, or fly 80 segments and you get to pick from the following extra rewards.

  • 20,000 miles
  • (1) Systemwide (“eVIP”) upgrade
  • (5) 500-mile upgrades
  • (4) Admiral’s Club one-day lounge passes
  • (5) Single-segment wifi passes

Fly 125,000 miles, earn 125,000 points, or fly 130 segments and you get to pick from the following extra rewards.

  • 30,000 miles
  • (2) Systemwide (“eVIP”) upgrade
  • Gift Gold status to a friend
  • Admiral’s Club membership
  • 20% discount

Fly 150,000 miles, earn 150,000 points, or fly 160 segments and you get to pick from the following extra rewards.

  • 40,000 miles
  • (4) Systemwide (“eVIP”) upgrade
  • Gift Platinum status to a friend
  • Admiral’s Club membership
  • Global Entry fee reimbursement

Registration is required using promo code ELTA3 by December 31 and all rewards must be selected by February 28, 2014. Every American Airlines elite frequent flyer should register. Reward notifications will begin via email in May.

Why this is better than what American has offered in the past

In the past American offered “Elite Rewards” which were much more restrictive.

  • Rewards were only given based on ‘points’ — a metric that judges not just miles flown, but adjusts those based on fare paid. In other words, they predominantly offered extra rewards to elites flying on the highest fares.
  • An existing elite member could only earn awards for going beyond re-qualifying for their current level — a current Gold could earn rewards at 40,000 points, but a Platinum wouldn’t — they would only earn awards for hitting 75,000 points.

But this offer appears to throw both of those restrictions out the window.

First, the offer is clearly based not just on points but also offers qualification based on miles or on segments.

And second, the terms and conditions are very specific. Whereas in the past the offer said effectively that Executive Platinums get rewarded at 125,000, Platinums at 75,000, and Golds at 40,000, this year there is no such restriction.

In fact, the terms and conditions say,

The elite-qualifying miles, points and segments earned in 2013 will determine which reward options are applicable.

Your 2013 miles, points and segments determine the reward options that are applicable — not the status you earned in 2012 plus the miles, points and segments flown in 2013.

They also clearly state that you get to pick one item from each milestone that you reach — with no mention of current status (“if you’ve reached Milestone 2, you’ve also reached Milestone 1.”).

I kept re-reading this because honestly I was surprised. I don’t see why they want to be this generous, allowing a current Executive Platinum to be rewarded for flying 75,000 miles? In the past they’ve only wanted to reward stretching beyond just re-qualifying. Instead a current 100,000 mile flyer can pocket 30,000 bonus miles while flying less in 2013 than in 2012. But that’s clearly what they’re offering.

What this promotion tells you about American.. and yourself

Here’s where I’m least solid footing, reading the tea leaves. But there’s lots of speculation that Ameircan’s eVIP systemwide upgrades — upgrades valid at booking, from any fare, on any American flight including international — will be getting a whole lot more restrictive. It’s interesting to see that, if the airline were so concerned about restricting these that they are printing a whole lot more of the unrestricted ones through this promotion.

In the past they’ve been willing to extend an additional upgrade for the asking to some of their best, most lucrative customers flying on the highest fares as an exception. Here they’re issuing more of those to frequent flyers achieving milestones on any fare. I think it’s great, though I am a bit perplexed by the change of heart.

It’s also interesting that they’re printing more 500 mile electronic upgrades. American Golds and Platinums have to support their upgrades with upgrade certificates that they either buy or earn (four 500 mile upgrades per 10,000 miles flown). They don’t get “unlimited complimentary upgrades” like the rest of the airlines have gone to. My bet is that with the US Airways merger they’ll get rid of the 500 mile system, since they won’t want to “take away” complimentary upgrades from US Airways elites…. even though I believe the ‘paid for’ system is better for lower tier elites since it increases their chance of getting an upgrade (they aren’t fighting against every other elite every time, elites ration their upgrades). Printing lots of those that eventually could become useless, though since they’re being “earned” as an incentive, I wonder if getting rid of these would require converting them to redeemable miles?

There are lots of low value items being offered along with very high value items. I suppose some people don’t like miles, Platinum status for a friend, or confirmed international upgrades. And choice is good. People do redeem their miles for toasters. But skip the one-day lounge passes, wifi passes, and Global Entry reimbursement.. please.

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. […] That said, once you’ve achieved the highest status level is precisely when many top elites consider doing some business elsewhere. They’ve already achieved what they can with one program so they consider whether it makes sense to ALSO have status with a second. Airlines have learned to combat this, though, with programs that offer additional rewards (like more miles and more upgrades) for elites who keep flying even after hitting top status. See, for example, this year’s “Elite Rewards” from American. […]


  1. Thanks very much for posting this, Gary. But the offer looks even more generous than I inferred from your post. It reads: “You can choose one reward at each of four distinct milestones, as soon you reach them.” I.e., it is not a one-shot deal we benefit from once the year is over, but rather offers up to four cumulative rewards if we fly enough. Perhaps your post says this, but in quickly reading it that was not clear to me.

    As for the offer itself, too bad (from my selfish point of view) AA didn’t do it even sooner. It could have affected a couple of my travel decisions from earlier this year. But I’m certainly not looking this gift horse, which after all is coming less than one-third into the year, in the mouth.

  2. A more cynical theory could be that they’re trying to get people to go all in on AAdvantage so as to tie them to the brand before a huge post-merger devaluation…those 500 mile and systemwide upgrades still require that you fly on AA to use them…

  3. No
    this is matching their style of benefits to the US model of rewards
    US had rewards at 35k and 85k and 125k to keep flying.
    This does not bode well for most folks later

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