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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.
TPG reader Simon asks:
“I have been Executive Platinum for five years and will most likely make it six with five weeks of travel this fall. I just hit the second milestone in AA’s newest scheme and its unclear which reward has the best value.
Do the systemwide upgrades expire like they do for Executive Platinums? The 500 mile upgrades don’t seem worth it as I get the complimentary domestic upgrades already. 20,000 in miles is nice but I haven’t really done much with the 1.5M I’ve already acquired (I upgrade my parents when they travel out west, but don’t really get on a plane when I go on vacation). What do you think is best?”
What Simon is asking about is American’s new system of Elite Rewards, the airline’s incentive program for its elite flyers who go above and beyond their status qualification thresholds by offering them gifts such as high mileage bonuses, additional systemwide upgrades and the ability to gift elite status to friends and family among other benefits.
You achieve those benefits at the following thresholds:
-Milestone 1: 40,000 miles or points or 45 segments: Choose one of the following – 10,000 bonus miles OR three 500-mile upgrades OR 2 Admirals Club Day Passes OR Free Bags VIP luggage delivery OR 10% aa.com discount
-Milestone 2: 75,000 miles or points or 80 segments: Choose one of the following – 20,000 bonus miles OR 1 Systemwide Upgrade OR five 500-mile upgrades OR 4 Admirals Club Day Passes OR 5 single segment WiFi passes
-Milestone 3: 125,000 points or miles or 130 segments: Choose one of the following – 30,000 bonus miles OR 2 Systemwide Upgrades OR Gift of Gold Status (good through February 28, 2015) for a friend OR Admirals Club membership OR a 20% aa.com discount
-(New) Milestone 4: 150,000 points or miles or 160 segments: Choose one of the following – 40,000 bonus miles OR 4 Systemwide Upgrades OR Gift of Platinum Status for a friend (good through February 28, 2015) OR Admirals Club membership OR Global Entry Fee sponsorship
So Simon has just hit the 75,000-mile mark and can choose among the benefits offered at that threshold including bonus miles and a systemwide upgrade. Here’s how I see it.
Simon already has 1.5 million American miles stashed up – which I consider mileage hording! I always counsel to use your miles as the need arises since they don’t ever gain in value, and that should be clear after recent devaluations by Delta and Flying Blue, for example. So for that reason, if I were him, I’d forgo the 20,000 award miles. If you are pondering this same question and do go for that elite reward, I’d peg its value at around $300 or so.
The Admirals Club day passes are worth about $50 each, putting their value at $200, but I’d never pay that much for lounge access, so I’d skip that gift too. Besides, there are so many credit cards out there that offer lounge passes or even membership as a benefit that these are rarely worth it. Just with the Platinum Card from American Express alone, you get access to American, Delta and US Airways clubs as well as Priority Pass Select membership, for example.
WiFi passes are worth about $15 each for an all-day pass on American, so you’d only be getting $75 in value there. The five 500-mile upgrades are an interesting choice. Since Simon is already an Executive Platinum, he gets unlimited complimentary upgrades and companion upgrades, but if he wanted to give these to a family member or friend flying without him, that could be a good use, though there’s no telling if the upgrade would actually go through or not depending on the itinerary and how many elite flyers are on your route.
So in this case (and what I would do personally), I’d suggest that Simon takes the EVIP Systemwide Upgrade. I find these to be super valuable because they can be used on pretty much any paid (non-government, military or award) fare and can be used on American Airlines flights to upgrade from Economy to Business or Business to First. The upgrade you earn now will also be good until February 28, 2015, so you have some time to decide how to use it.
That’s what I would do. Have any of you gotten your American Elite Rewards? What did you end up choosing?