Earning American Airlines Lifetime Elite Status Via Credit Card Spend

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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.

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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

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Comments

  1. So on credit cards that earn 2 miles for every $1 spent in certain categories, it would earn 2 million miler miles as well?

    I’m at 880000 lifetime miles and see this as my best way to spend to lifetime status

    thanks for all the great info you provide

  2. As a lifetime Platinum I thought that I had something special. Over two million AA miles the old fashioned way, butt in seat. However American Airlines has gone out of their way to destroy Platinum members. They have watered down the benefits by introducing Platinum-Pro and other moves designed to minimize Platinum for Life. Just one more reason I despise American Airlines.
    Don’t bother to switch all of your spend over to AA credit cards just to get Plat-4-Life. It’s not worth it.

  3. Lifetime Platinum is near worthless thanks to American destroying the core value with too many tiers and too many members chasing to few seats
    Other programs offer far more to their elites
    Add millions newly minted lifetime in the mix and it can’t get any-worse except yet longer lines
    I’ve been Lifetime Platinum for 15 plus years and its a waste of time to qualify these days
    I appreciated it greatly pre Doug Parker and the merger
    I now earn my status elsewhere
    Despise American Airlines and its management
    like the employees and feel sorry for the front lines with the pandemic

  4. Instead of churning out your daily junk to earn a few pennies, why don’t you call out your Affiliate partners like AMEX, Masterard & Visa and ask them why they are doing nothing to help the Virus crisis? The production of handwipes for ATMs or payment terminals would be a good start.

  5. I don’t think you’re interpreting the earn rate correctly, unless there’s some other clarification not mentioned in this post. Bonus miles earned are not calculated as net spend, so the terms of the offer don’t seem to include those bonus miles (AA purchase, gas, groceries) toward Million Miler status.

  6. @Paul Davis the promotion is very specific – for every dollar you spend, you earn 1 million miler mile. , regardless of however number of redeemable miles you earn.

  7. So all I need to do is spend a million dollar on my AA credit card and I’m set for life.
    Very cool. 🙂

  8. @Tom. Spend a million dollars and you become a lowly American Airlines gold elite. However, around the world, you are thought of as only a peon Silver Elite because American Airlines Gold is equivalent to the other airlines’ silver elite. However, if you spend two million dollars, you will get the more valued AA lifetime platinum. Happy spending.

  9. I can understand why someone who makes a living pitching credit cards might find this offer interesting but, in the real world — even the semi-real world of “points enthusiasts” — this offer is nearly worthless. It’s one thing to put a few thousand dollars on a credit card for a nice bonus: it’s quite another to put HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS on a credit card — especially for a bonus that seems pretty “meh.” Gary, you don’t really believe this is actually a useful offer, right?

  10. @Ken A
    Haha, good point, I guess I need to spend 2 million dollars.
    My credit limit is $5K so I need to spend $5K & pay it off & repeat 400 times.
    Now I need to find something that costs $5K and it’s something I can buy 400 times.

  11. I would be interested to see another article analyzing the value of gold and platinum status respectively. For example, do complimentary upgrades ever actually clear for gold members?

  12. Gary, I’ll take the discord one step further. I pay $450/year for the Citi Executive AA Card. As you alluded to, we used to get this benefit – then they stripped it (along with Citibank stripping all the ACTUAL travel benefits last year). I find it insulting and disgusting that they are now spoon-feeding that very benefit back to us as an incentive to use the card they stripped down. Further, the fact that now ALL Citi AA cards are getting the MM benefit (even temporarily), rather than distinguishing the $75/year and $100/year from the $450/year card is downright insulting. They SHOULD waive our $450/year annual fee since the overwhelming majority of us cannot use the ONLY REMAINING BENEFIT- Admirals Club access – since we’re not flying – and they’re almost all closed anyway.
    Serious food for thought.

  13. For those complaining about lifetime Platinum status man that is a “first world” problem (and I really hate that term). I’m lifetime Platinum on AA and lifetime Gold on DL with around 3 million miles on each airline.

    To me there IS a lot of value in lifetime Platinum (and Gold on DL which is basically same level in their program). First of all upgrades are not nearly as frequent even for Executive Platinum (I was EP for last 5 years until I retired in 2019 so now fell back to my Platinum status). That is mainly because the airlines are trying to sell those seats (as they should to maximize revenue) and there aren’t as many upgrades for ANYONE.

    To me benefits of lifetime status are no checked bag fee and ability to select any seat on plane for no fee (including Main Cabin Extra on AA ). DL doesn’t let you select Comfort + but you usually get upgraded to it as Gold. Also you can preboard so no issue w finding overhead space. Finally if you buy a cheap basic economy ticket (I do a good bit now that I’m retired and have a lot of flexibility) you can still preboard and get checked bag due to status so only issue is paying for a seat (great use IMHO for Amex Platinum $200 airline credit).

    I do see value in lifetime status at these levels. Maybe you are spoiled and think they “owe” you an upgrade or some special recognition. Get over it. Take the benefits and move on. The biggest benefit to me if I NEVER have to chase status anymore so can fly ANY CARRIER I want based on price, convenience, service cabin preference, etc. Don’t discount this – when you get older and retire this provides a lot of flexibility (just like having lifetime or recurring high level credit card status with hotel chains which I have with 6 of them).

  14. Gary,

    Can you double check that CitiBusiness AA card is eligible for the Million Miler program promo? AA’s language says ‘eligible’ Citi and Barclay AA cards. That makes me think the not all of them are included. (Or it would have read: ‘All’ Citi and Barclay cards). Thanks! I am 11K mi away from million miler and getting gold status for life, while not the highest elite status, does give 1 free bag – so no need to pay $99 yr annual fee for a AA credit card to get this benefit. And you also get a one time 35K mi bonus for achieving Million Miler status.

    On another note, a really cheap trick to add new fees as part of this multi pronged announcement. There are now award change fees if you change inside of 60 days (which is when most changes would happen I would imagine, the closer the fly date gets). To hit their most loyal customers, frequent fliers using awards – especially when cash is tight now – is awful. By adding a $150 change fee. You could always change dates, and many times even, without any fee. (Just a redeposit fee). Many AA loyalists chose AA because of this benefit – no award change fee.

    So the announcement is not all good news. And very bad for AA award fliers.

  15. Not sure I would encourage people to get more than 1 AA Citi card since they’re shutting down anyone with 3 or more bonuses in 24 months.

  16. I’m with Alan. Having earning Lifetime Platinum then watched as they watered it down I began avoiding AA whenever possible.

    The real kicker was when they promised our old miles would be good for life and then welched. I wish them a happy bankruptcy.

  17. I just do not see how this would move the needle in spending on AA cards. How much someone willing to spend on those cards in 8 months? $20K? $50? That is just too little to move the needle in your lifetime counter for the devalued and even more uncertain benefits in the future. I have ditched my AA cards a few years ago and I am not coming back.

  18. The main value of lifetime AA Platinum is oneworld Sapphire is oneworld lounges without worrying about requalifying. Useful if you fly a lot of oneworld long haul Y.

    But if you fly a lot of oneworld long haul Y, then just credit to JAL in a particularly busy/J heavy year, then every year after that you pay JAL 5k RDM and they give you Sapphire. And that Sapphire is even better than the AA Platinum Sapphire since it gets you into Flagship Lounges on US Domestic flights.

    If you can’t even get to 5k RDM a year to requalify for JAL, then why the fuck do you care about elite status anyways?

  19. Good to hear that others think it’s not worth it, given I’d have to spend $233,000!

  20. Do the credit card bonus count toward MM? The platinum select card gives a bonus for restaurant and gas station purchases.

    Mine just posted this week but the bonuses didn’t count toward MM on the platinum select.

  21. I am with Mohammad Ali, the category spend bonuses don’t seem to be counting toward MM status. This was a bait and switch (I shouldn’t be surprised)

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