Don’t Try to Scam AAdvantage Lifetime Elite Status

In the desperate days before American Airlines changes the way they count miles towards lifetime status (no longer counting miles earned from any source beginning December 1), some folks are turning towards sketchy ways of bumping up their lifetime mileage balances.

One way, and several folks this past weekend at the Chicago Seminar mentioned this, I’ve known about it for a long time but never felt comfortable doing it myself — the lifetime miles counter increments upward when you earn miles, such as via their shopping portal, but when miles are taken away out of your account after merchandise returns that lifetime miles counter doesn’t drop.

You can imagine that there are some folks attempting to exploit this loophole in the AAdvantage IT system. So I thought it important to pass along a warning.

JonNYC at TravelingBetter writes that AAdvantage is specifically looking at this sort of activity.

I was told about a month ago that AA would contacting and/or examining members who were clearly and unambiguously running up their PTD counter using the return-mercahndise-scam– not sure if they are focusing on serial-scammers (like the one(s) Tom911 refers to:…5&postcount=33)) or single-time-abusers as well. Nor, do I know way the threshold for such is– RDM vs PTD, credit cards companies involved or not, etc.

But I’d be very wary at this juncture of using return merchandise scam to boost PTD and/or RDM miles, etc. And don’t be surprised if we see a few “account locked?? what did I do wrong?!” type posts.

Bottom-line is that AAdvantage seems well aware of the activity and is none too amused, so there is certainly risk involved, I wouldn’t go there…

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. I completely agree but this would be very hard to police. As a matter of course, I order a lot of “stuff” online and much of it gets returned. I placed a decent size order from Ralph Lauren a few weeks ago for jeans, etc. Almost nothing fit correctly and most of it is going back. But, a review of my online accounts would show this type of activity. Is AA going to review my lifetime history at to make sure I have history of buying a lot of stuff and returning a lot of stuff? Can you imagine the manhours involved with that type of research?

  2. The man-hours aren’t actually that significant. Run a couple queries against the CRM where the numbers exceed a particular threshold and then go after the presumed cheaters.

    The bigger question is whether the folks doing this truly believe they deserve to have those points count towards lifetime status. If they do then perhaps it is time to come back into the real world.

  3. I shop most of my wardrobe and household goods through the advantage shopping porthole and 50 percent or more of it gets returned because of fit, quality, etc…

    I did all my Xmas shopping early this year in order to get those miles and definitely got some items which I will need to return.

    I don’t feel my measly 20,000 or so lifetime miles on returned goods are scamming the system. However, I would never purchase and return diamonds just to get lifetime status like the ft poster in your link. That is intentionally scamming the system with goods that you never intended to keep. I personally felt the mint deal was pretty unethical but was surprised it was not seen that way within most of the FT community.

  4. The Costco and some-other-retailers item return scam is another one of Mr. Pickles shady ideas that he was spouting about at the Chicago seminars and on twitter as far back as this spring. Why the Frugal Travel Guy would associate himself and his seminar with that is beyond me.

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