Airlines frequently offer elite status buy back (pay to get this past year’s status) or buy up (pay to get a higher status) offers. On their face they seem expensive. Here’s how to know whether they’re right for you.
There are two questions to ask about the elite status you’re considering:
- How much status benefits are worth to you?
- How much you’ll use those benefits next year?
My general rule is that if you’re going to fly more next year than you did this year, you’ll likely get good use of the benefits, and can consider either (1) buying up the status you want, or (2) mileage running to earn the status.
A buy back/buy up offer has the virtue of not requiring you to spend time or money flying. Whether a paid status offer is worth it compared to flying to earn status (mileage run), you need to factor not just how expensive it would be to fly the miles required for status but assign a value to your time as well.
And in this era where minimum spend is at least as important as flying in earning status, paid offers can even work out to be less expensive than flying and spending enough to earn status (depending on how far away from status you are).
Delta offers to let you buy segments and qualifying miles rather than buying status as such, in other words paying for the difference between what you’ve flown and what you need.
American Airlines is out with their offers to buy status and the details are targeted. You can spend money or miles worth one penny apiece. I will just barely requalify for Executive Platinum status this year, although I have one trip left to book to make it.
For instance I’ve seen one report of an American AAdvantage Platinum member who has just 5000 qualifying miles and under $1000 in spend so far this year – they aren’t even close to Gold status – being offered:
- $699 for 2020 Gold status
- $1345 for 2020 Platinum status
They plan to fly much more next year, maybe even close to earning Platinum again. So they’re seriously considering spending $1345. That’s a lot of money just for elite status, but if they’d spend money for Main Cabin Extra extra legroom seats on 15 roundtrips they’d make it back. Plus there’s some value to the 60% mileage bonus they’ll earn when they fly, to priority check-in, and priority boarding and free checked bags as well as free standby.
As a general matter I don’t think these offers are worth it. Even top tier elites don’t get upgrades the way they used to. The bottom-tier benefits are largely replicable with just a credit card, and it can be cheaper to buy the benefits you’ll use on an a la carte basis. However there are edge cases like this one where it makes sense (and indeed buy Platinum status for less spend than is normally required in a year for Gold).
One Mile at a Time reports offers of $1895 for Platinum Pro and $1345 for Platinum. As a general matter ‘moving up’ is more expensive than ‘renewing’. I’ve seen offers ranging from $675 to $2,325 for Gold, ; $1165 – $1475 for Platinum; $1795 for Platinum Pro; $2695 – $3195 for Executive Platinum. What’s your offer?