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TPG reader Ahmed Tweeted me the following question this week:

“Deciding between United 1K and American Executive Platinum. Which has a better award?”

The 2014 elite-qualifying year is still young and we’re still in a time where you can be flexible when strategizing which airlines to fly as you think about 2015. It’s the perfect time to think about changing alliances, it’s better to do it earlier in the year so you have all year to achieve that top-tier status. Now, you can status match or challenge after July 1 for 2015, but it is more difficult to fully retain elite status and hit the amount of miles you need to keep it going. Not only that, but challenges can be difficult because they only give you a 3-month window to hit your mileage requirement, so if your travel plans do end up changing and you don’t fly as much as you thought you were going to, you could waste that opportunity. So what I would recommend if you’re going to switch is to do so earlier in the year so you can hit the mileage/segment requirements on your own without having to pay for a match or challenge.

A status challenge could score you elite status until 2014.
Status challenges can be a good way to earn status, but they come with some drawbacks.

In terms of Ahmed’s question, I would have said that if you were just focusing on mileage redemptions, United would be my top choice – the main reason being if you want to use your miles to fly to Europe, the fees are going to be much lower on United awards (on United or on other partners like Lufthansa) than on American awards, many of which route through London on AA or British Airways, or through Spain on Iberia, and incur carrier-imposed surcharges in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

However, United is drastically devaluing their miles come February 1, with some mileage redemptions increasing almost 90%, so American will probably be the better mileage program afterwards. That being said, American and US Airways are merging this year, and they could also devalue their mileage programs as well. But even if they do, I don’t think it will be nearly as bad as what United and Delta are both about to pull, so your miles are probably better off there.

Executive Platinum is the better program in my opinion.
Executive Platinum is the better program in my opinion.

I would also say Executive Platinum is the better top-tier elite status because of valuable benefits that United does not match, including complimentary upgrades on transcontinental routes where American is operating some of its beautiful new planes. United gives its 1K’s 6 restricted Global Upgrades compared to American’s 8 potentially ultra-valuable Systemwide Upgrades that can be used on any paid fare, and American’s generous system of Elite Rewards.

In general, Executive Platinum is a better elite status, and certainly lately in my personal experience American has been a better airline and customer service experience than United. So I’d say go American, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Though the Business Gold Rewards card doesn’t have the benefits package of the more premium Business Platinum Card, it also doesn’t have that card’s $450 annual fee. In fact, the $175 annual fee on this one is waived the first year, so getting it is like a risk-free trial of its benefits plus it comes with appealing bonus spending categories like 3x on the category of choice and a range of 2x spending categories as well.

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More Things to Know
  • Special Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Get 3x points - Choose 1 out of 5 categories
  • Plus, 2X points on the 4 remaining categories and 1X points on other purchases
  • 3X and 2X apply to the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the 5 categories per year, 1X point per dollar thereafter
  • Track, organize, and stay on top of your business expenses with powerful expense-tracking tools
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
  • Terms and limitations apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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