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American Airlines announced the extension of elite status along with a number of other changes in response to the current coronavirus crisis.
Without people traveling, and with fewer immediate opportunities to spend accumulated miles, the airline has a challenge with its co-brand credit cards. They earn around $3 billion a year in revenue through their partnerships with Citibank and Barclays, but spending is going to fall both because of less travel and also because of the economy in recession.
The airline has an interesting approach to this, encouraging spend on their cards between May 1 and December 31, 2020. Spending on their Citibank and Barclays cards will earn credit towards lifetime elite status.
Million milers receive:
- 1 Million Miles: Lifetime Gold and 35,000 bonus miles
- 2 Million Miles: Lifetime Platinum and 4 one-way systemwide upgrades
- Each addition Million Mile Threshold: 4 one-way systemwide upgrades
This harkens back to the airline’s old playbook. Until December 1, 2011 all miles earned in the American AAdvantage program counted towards lifetime elite status. There was then a brief window where spending on American’s premium co-brand Executive card counted after that. However they’ve since transitioned to only counting actual flight miles towards million miler status.
For 8 months of 2020, though card spend will count again. It’s a reason to consider getting AAdvantage cards now as well. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has an initial bonus to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. It has a $0 annual fee the first year then $99.
There were a few things that were not clear in American’s description of the offer, so I want to clear up potential confusion or uncertainty.
Here’s the wording of the offer,
$1 spent on eligible AAdvantage credit cards equals 1 mile toward Million Miler status
For all Citi®/AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator® products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside of the United States, every dollar spent on net purchases that post to your AAdvantage account between May and December 2020 will count as one mile toward Million Miler status.
- Earn rate. The offer says you earn 1 million mile status mile per dollar spent, however where you earn more than 1 mile per dollar for your spending, you earn more than 1 million miler mile too. So when you spend on American Airlines tickets, you earn at a rate greater than $1 = 1 mile.
- New card initial bonus offers do not count. So while there are generous bonus offers available for new AAdvantage cards, those up front bonus offers won’t help you gain million mile status quickly.
- Other promotional bonus offers do not count either, for instance Citi is currently offering bonus points for online purchases, only the base earning wound count nad not the bonus.
- Statement close dates, not spending dates, matter. Miles reported and posted to a member’s account between May and December will count towards this offer. So purchases made in April but reported in May will count, while purchases in December that are part of a statement closing and reporting in January will not count.
I love the creativity of this offer, making spend more valuable for American’s customers who are motivated by elite status. Hopefully this will encourage a continued deepening relationship between brand and customers, which is needed when they aren’t traveling, and there will be lessons that carry forward into the future.
American makes earning elite status via card partners much harder than Delta, for instance. With co-brand partner contracts in the midst of negotiation, this is ripe for change.