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Over the past few days, I’ve covered the three tiers of American AAdvantage elite status – Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum – as well as the qualification thresholds, benefits packages and strategies for each. For the final post in the American Airlines portion of my elite status series, I’m going to talk about other unique elements of the AAdvantage program that can really help you maximize your status and miles on the airline.
Like other airline co-branded cards the Citi AAdvantage credit cards come with a suite of benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding and onboard discounts, but they also have some miles-related perks.
Reduced Mileage Awards
All Citi AAdvantage cardholders can book reduced-price awards on certain routes within the US and Canada originating within the 48 contiguous United States, which only used to be bookable on roundtrip awards, but are now also available for one-way bookings as well. Also instead of being available between various city pairs on a quarterly basis, the reduced mileage award routes will now change monthly (which is a mixed bag, in my opinion), though many cities remain on the list for a few months at a time.
Depending on the Citi AAdvantage card you have, you could get either 7,500 or 5,000 miles off a roundtrip award. The following cards yield the 7,500-mile discount (for a total award redemption of 17,500 miles roundtrip, or 8,750 one-way):
These cards only earn a 5,000 mile discount on roundtrips, so you’re looking at 20,000 miles (10,000 miles one-way):
In order to book these discounted awards:
- Check the current list of eligible destinations and check MileSAAver awards, since there must be MileSAAver availability to take advantage of this offer, to find the flight dates and times that work for you.
- When you are ready to book, call American Airlines AAdvantage reservations at 1-800-882-8880 and have the award code ready and a reservation representative will book your flight for you. Unfortunately there’s a $25 fee, but it’s waived for Executive Platinums.
10% Miles Refund
Cardholders of personal (non-business) Citi AAdvantage cards like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Visa or Mastercard also earn 10% of their redeemed AAdvantage miles back up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles each calendar year, which for me more than pays for the annual fee of the card since I value 10,000 miles at about $180.
Per the terms: For benefit to apply, your Citi / AAdvantage account must be open and active at the time of redemption. The American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles you earn through this benefit will be based on 10% of the total AAdvantage miles you redeem each month during the calendar year. The maximum number of AAdvantage bonus miles you can earn annually from this benefit is 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles per calendar year, regardless of how many AAdvantage miles you redeem in that calendar year. This benefit only applies to AAdvantage miles redeemed from the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage account.
Earning Elite-Qualifying Miles
The Citi Executive AAdvantage MasterCard gives cardholders 10,000 elite qualifying miles when they reach $40,000 in purchases each calendar year – just under halfway to Gold status. While the public offer on the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard usually hovers around the 30,000-mile mark when you spend $1,000 in 4 months, there is currently an offer available for double the bonus miles – 60,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. If you just got the card recently during this special bonus offer period, you might have a hard time hitting $40,000 spend quickly enough for the bonus EQM’s, but if you’ve had this card for a while, check up on your annual spending so far because you might be closer to that threshold than you think, and those 10,000 EQM’s can really come in handy if you’re close but not quite up to an elite threshold.
Unlike most airlines that award either Elite Qualifying Miles (based on how far you fly and in what class of service, which generally benefits long-haul flyers) and/or Elite Qualifying Segments (number of individual flights you take, which is better for frequent short-haul flyers), American has a third qualification system, which is heavily weighted towards premium fares: Elite Qualifying Points. It is generally cheaper to qualify on elite qualifying miles, because most discounted fares only earn .5 points per mile flown, however, if you are a business traveler who regularly purchases full-fare economy or business class airfares, you might find yourself qualifying faster under the points system than with either miles or segments.
However, if you fly higher fare classes, it’s worth keeping track of your points. That’s because since the numbers of miles or points to qualify you need are the same, initially it might look like elite-qualifying miles and elite-qualifying points are the same thing, but that in fact is not true at all.
Flyers earn elite-qualifying points for flights on American Airlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection and American Airlines-marketed codeshare flights (info for other participants can be found at the links above) in the following ratios based on fare class.
So the higher the fare code or class of service you buy, the more elite-qualifying points you earn, ranging from 0.5-1 point per mile flown on deeply discounted economy tickets (like most of us buy) all the way up to 1.5 points per mile on full-fare economy, business and first class fares. For more information on miles vs. points, read my post here. Sadly, you cannot combine miles and points, so if you fly a mixture of premium and discounted fares, you still may have to qualify based on miles.
Elite Rewards is American Airlines’ 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.
In the past, American based Elite Rewards on earning points instead of miles, but now it offers Elite Rewards based on elite qualifying points, miles and segments and you can qualify throughout the year as you hit four successive 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
Just remember, to participate in Elite Rewards, you must register prior to December 31, 2013, and choose your reward by February 28, 2014. Use registration code ELTA3 to register.
MILLION MILER PROGRAM
American’s Million Miler program used to be very generous and would count every AA mile you earned, even from other sources than flying, such as credit card bonuses. Since December 1, 2011, however, only base miles earned by flying on American Airlines, American Eagle or the AmericanConnection carrier or any eligible AAdvantage program participating airline counts towards Million Miler status – so you have to fly to earn it.
Here’s how you qualify for each level:
AAdvantage Members will enjoy the following benefits when Million Miler status is reached:
- At one million (1,000,000) Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Gold status and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles
- At two million (2,000,000) Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status and four (4) one-way systemwide upgrades
- At each additional Million Miler mark, AAdvantage members will receive four (4) additional one-way systemwide upgrades
ELITE BOOST AND RENEW
American announced a new set of options for elites having a hard time requalifying where they can pay to boost up to their current elite level if they’re just a little bit short, or to renew their status altogether if they’re far short of requalifying.
From January 2014 through May 31, 2014, American elites will have two options.
- Boost: If you end the year close to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum, or Gold status but don’t quite make it, you can boost to the next level.
- Renew: If you are an elite status member in 2013 but aren’t able to retain your status by the end of the year, you are eligible for a status renewal.
Here is how the new options breaks down:
- If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of reaching Gold status, you can boost to the status for the cost of $399. If you are you already Gold and are way off from retaining it and out of the “boost” range, you can buy it back for $649. Gold normally requires 25,000 miles or 30 segments.
- If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $899. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost for $699. If you are you already Platinum and are way off from retaining it and out of “boost” range, you can buy it back for $1,199. Platinum normally requires 50,000 miles or 60 segments.
- If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Executive Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $1,799. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Executive Platinum, you can boost for $1,199. Unfortunately there is not a renewal option for Executive Platinum, which usually requires 100,000 miles or 100 segments.
So though American discontinued its “soft landing” policy, there are still some ways to make sure you requalify for status even if you can’t squeeze the last few miles you need in – granted it’ll cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, but you might find it worth it.
Business ExtrAA is American’s business frequent flyer program that is open to companies with two or more employee travelers, though the terms might actually be more flexible than that. Travel agencies or wholesalers, companies that have corporate sales agreements with American, and individuals are not eligible.
With Business ExtrAA, a company’s employees put in the Business ExtrAA account number when booking tickets in addition to their own AAdvantage numbers. Employees still earn AAdvantage miles, but the company earns Points that it can use for various awards, including elite status gifts, club passes and award flights.
The site says, “Your company will receive two points for each $10 you spend to fly on published fares during the month.” Companies also earn Business Extra points on qualifying codeshare flights operated by British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Qantas Airways and Finnair. Tickets must be issued on American Airlines 001 ticket stock in order to earn Business Extra points.
Then companies can redeem those points for over 50 award redemption offers including travel (2,000-37,500 points), upgrades (650-5,000 points), Admirals Club day passes (300 points) and memberships (3,000 points), conference room rentals (900 points) and Gold status (2,400 points).
There are also incentives listed like this one, where a company can earn 2,000 bonus points for every 40 travelers that fly on a Group & Meeting Travel reservation.
While you might not be using these points to fly international first class anytime soon, it’s still a decent way to double dip on your earning. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.