As I wrote that I expected yesterday, American is back with their offer to let you buy the difference in miles or segments you need for the elite status you’re after.
US Airways will have something that should be identical coming within a few weeks.
You don’t have to take an end of year mileage run. You don’t have to spend time in planes, away from family at the holidays. And you don’t have to take seats and upgrades when planes are already full.
It’s not inexpensive. In fact it’s quite pricey. But for some, especially those who highly value their time, it could be just the trick. But you’ll need to play it strategically.
American Elite Boost Offer Details
You can renew existing Gold status for $649, or existing Platinum status for $1199.
Or you can pay for the final elite qualifying miles or segments (but not ‘points’) you need to earn status.
Last year you could buy 5000 or 10,000 miles towards status. This year they’re letting you buy more. And they haven’t increased pricing.
Here’s the price for buying miles or segments towards Gold:
The pricing for Platinum.
And the pricing to buy the miles or segments you need to get up to Executive Platinum.
Does This Make Any Sense?
First, the question is whether status or a higher level of status makes sense for you next year at all. That depends on how much value you’ll get out of the status — how much you’ll use it.
Remember that the 2015 American AAdvantage program will have 3 elite tiers. And they’ll offer more bonus miles to mid-tier elites than US Airways did (eg a mid-tier US Airways elite goes from a 50% to 100% mileage bonus).
For some, plans to fly enough next year could mean that the extra bonus miles earned pay a good chunk of the way towards the cost of status. And being better-positioned for upgrades, and standby during irregular operations, can be helpful too.
But if you’re not going to fly more next year than this year you should look really hard at the purchase or mileage run — if you aren’t flying enough for a status this year, are you flying enough next year to amortize the cost?
Is the Price Right?
At the low end you’re paying 8 cents a mile to buy 5000 miles towards Gold status. If you literally needed the full 5000 miles, $399 may be cheaper than taking a flight — at least if you value the time spent doing something other than flying for a day. Of course Gold will get you the least back.
On the other hand, 5000 miles towards Executive Platinum at $1199 is ~ 24 cents a mile. You might consider taking a flight instead, especially if you enjoy flying or want to have lunch in another city.
Interestingly the cost per mile goes down the more miles you need to buy.
- It’s a better deal at fixed 5000 mile increments. They aren’t selling you a price per mile, they are selling chunks.
- So if you needed 1000 a flight is probably cheaper since you have to buy a full 5000 mile package
Strategizing With US Airways and Figuring Out Whether You Really Need This
Start with how many miles you have now, and how many miles short you may be for elite status next year.
You can wait to buy this until you know how many miles you really need — you may not take a trip, something unexpected may come up.
How to Play it With the US Airways Merger
American and US Airways will merge frequent flyer account activity come (hopefully the early part of) the second quarter next year. If you have US Airways elite qualifying activity — I have 10,000 qualifying miles from spend on my US Airways credit card — that will get folded into your AAdvantage account. You may lose or drop down in status on March 1, but get your status back when accounts get merged.
As I revealed yesterday, you aren’t really buying elite qualifying miles — the number of qualifying miles in your account does not go up. Instead you are paying to eliminate the need for those qualifying miles.
- That means if you have US Airways elite miles getting combined into an AAdvantage account, you’d lose benefit from doing this now. You want to wait until the accounts get merged to buy up.
- It also means that you can’t buy, say, 15,000 qualifying miles on each side and expect those to get combined as 30,000 when the accounts are merged.