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Which American Airlines Executive Platinum Milestone Elite Reward is the Most Valuable?

by on September 29, 2013 · 16 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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

American Airlines Elite Rewards table.

American Airlines Elite Rewards table.

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.

American First Class 777-300ER

American First Class 777-300ER

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?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Wardell

    Considering that I still have two SWUs that expire in February.. I am tempted to take the miles myself. While I have a good stash of miles, I can’t seem to make use of all my SWUs any more. Perhaps with a possible merger coming along, it makes sense to take a SWU. I was even tempted to try the 10% and 20% off codes, but I have yet to choose either award.

  • Docklander

    Exp Companion upgrades are only free if the companion is traveling on a full fare ticket so the 500 mile upgrades would probably still be useful for most Exps traveling with a partner/companion

  • thepointsguy

    Exec plat EVIP upgrades are good on all classes – even for companions

  • Warren Poschman

    EVIPs are good on all fares and classes but the companion upgrades (500-mile) are only complimentary if the companion is on full fare. Basically, it is the same way for the companion as if they are Plat/Gold regardless if you are ExPlat.
    But I agree – the EVIP is the most valuable if you are on a long haul.

  • Michael K

    I went with the EVIP. Here’s a little exercise I did recently using them when I wanted to book a personal flight to Europe in business class.

    I could do the flight using 100K miles + $247 in taxes & fees. Figuring a mile is worth about $.015 that would have been a ticket value of $1,747. Before I booked, I called the EP desk and talked to the agent about which flights would have better upgrade inventory available if I purchased and used the EVIPs. While they couldn’t tell me directly, I got an “If it were me booking, I’d shift it to flight XYZ.” Using that information, I booked online, got a $970 RT fare and then got both flights immediately upgraded with EVIPs. The bonus was I earned miles for the flights too so with the EP 100% bonus, that was 22K miles earned or using the same $.015/mile math, $330 in value.

    Looking only at value (not cash spent), my ticket had a net value of $640 ($970 fare paid minus $330 in value of miles earned) so I saved $1,107 ($1,747 mile/fee fare minus $640 net value paid) which made each EVIP worth about $550 in this case and not only did they save me 100K miles but they helped add 22K more.

    Two tricks to this are: a little flexibility in flights and getting a good agent to see which flights are your best shots. I’ve used this strategy of calling first successfully many times now to pick flights to use EVIPs to jump classes and if I get an uncooperative agent, I just hang up and call back. The right EP agent can give you good information to help you decide which way to go. For me, it’s EVIPs because of the flexibility on how to use them.

  • Docklander

    I was replying to this statement in the blog: “Since Simon is already an Executive Platinum, he gets unlimited complimentary upgrades and companion upgrades…….” which is incorrect/misleading as EXP complimentary upgrades for companions are only free on full fares. The discussion was about 500-mile upgrades so discussion of SWUs is neither here nor there.

  • thepointsguy

    Nice- FYI you can use expertflyer.com to search which flights have EVIP upgrade availability that will clear at time of booking

  • anon

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I just had to tell you that this post made my day (possibly week, month and year). I didn’t know this promotion existed and although I don’t even qualify for gold, my father does travel a lot!

    He’s already EXP and I think he’s close to reaching the last milestone. I think it’s a fair deal if I get Plat in exchange for telling him about the promotion so he can get the first 3 milestones’ rewards :D

  • Chad

    If we’re discussing the most valuable reward, then . . . . are we also taking nominations for the cheesiest award? “Gift of Platinum Status to a Friend”? Seems to further devalue the efforts of those of us who actually earn the status levels through . . . . flying.

  • Ryan C

    One thing to keep in mind is that EF doesn’t always show all of the inventory that is accessible to EXPs. On multiple occasions, I’ve been confirmed right away even if EF showed C0. So it’s sometimes worth phoning the desk to see if they can confirm on your desired flight.

  • Scott

    I got to the 1st level (40K) and chose 10,000 miles. This was a week
    ago and has yet to credit. I am wondering what’s up? I think something is
    wrong (in that I am over 40K in both EQPoints and EQMiles.)
    Agreed? Also, I agree, the companion unlimited is only if the
    companion is on full fare. The other ones did not seem very valuable.

    AA gave me an exep. Plat. Challenge after writing a letter to senior
    management. 25K POINTS (not miles.) Thank GOD I had an exp. friend
    with 8 upgrades expiring on 2/14. They took too many out (I used 3 and
    the took out 5) but I got one back-working on getting the other
    back. They love to debit the SWU balance but are reticent to credit it
    when it actually is not used, so watch your balance closely. It seems they
    also don’t have the ability to re-credit unless they can find the one that was
    unused, which gets more difficult as the PHN (fully used) ages. I was
    able to still get them to be able to read my flights, and after about 10 phone calls, they were pretty rude to me saying they were keeping the integrity of my friends EXP account by not giving me information. Obviously I knew him as I had his EXP number and address, but nevertheless watch out for that. It gets tricky using someone else’s SWU. This has been a disappointing experience with being EXP again after a hiatus of 12 years.

  • Greg

    I agree that the Evip is the most valuable out of the list. The only problem with the Evip’s is they are getting very hard to use and confirm in advance. Although as an executive platinum I have had a better then 75% success, especially as I usually book 5-6 months ahead and waitlist. Sometimes the waitlist even clears 1 or 2 months out. Not sure I would value the Evip as much as you do though.

    The miles wouldn’t expire if you kept your account active, so in that respect the miles could be more valuable.

    However another complaint I have is how poor American’s availability is getting. I was looking over the next 11 months, and there is virtually no days from Dallas to London non-stop where two people could redeem for a business class award. Even connecting through Chicago or New York there was much much much less inventory then American used to release.

  • APage

    I choose the 1 Systemwide @75k as my reward. I’ve flow 4 long haul flights since then (thisss close to ExecPlat) and NEVER got upgraded. It’s probably a nice feature once you hit ExecPlat but until then, it’s basically worthless.

  • Brent Tharp

    I agree with going for EVIP, but also agree with the availability comments. I was EXP for seven years in a row, but probably used about half of the EVIP upgrades. The worst possible situation was the one time when I wanted to use them on a trip from LAX to Denmark and Paris. We ended up getting upgraded on the portion from LAX-Chicago outbound, and none of the other segments.

  • AKTCHI

    Interesting choice. (i) 500-mile stickers are most durable: never expire, don’t devalue to 400- or 300-miles, :) and will be useful sooner or later, either for a companion or when you are no longer EXP. (ii) SWUs are most valuable IF you can use them in time, otherwise they expire. (iii) Miles are always useful too, can even be used for hotels/cars, but losing value gradually.

    Your choice will depend greatly on your specific situation. However, the one I would never bother with is AC membership. :)

    One correction. EXPs get complementary upgrades for themselves , but companion upgrades need to be paid with 500-mile stickers. I don’t think you can give your stickers to someone who is not traveling with you. I could of course be wrong.

  • AKTCHI

    Let me add that one problem I increasingly see with SWUs is that AA has been reducing its long haul flights. At least on my routes. I valued them for ORD-DEL, now I can only use them to LHR, then coach on BA. Similarly, ORD-NRT has gone from a daily flight to only a few days a week

    Of course, I could always burn a SWUs on domestic flights, perhaps on MRs in order to earn more SWUs, but AA has been reducing their usefulness for my flying needs.

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