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TPG reader Chris sent me a message on Facebook to ask about the American Airlines status challenge:
“If I spend $20,000 on the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card, do the elite miles I get count toward an American Airlines status challenge?”
Status challenges can be a great shortcut to earning elite benefits with both airlines and hotels, especially if you already have a lot of upcoming flights or stays planned. By earning a relatively small number of elite credits during the challenge period (and in some cases paying a modest fee on top), you get full elite status as if you had met the normal qualification requirements. A few timely trips or a well-planned mileage run is often enough.
American Airlines is offering two status challenge options this year: You can reach Gold status by earning 7,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) in 90 days with a $120 fee, or you can reach Platinum status by earning 12,500 EQMs in 90 days with a $200 fee. Of course, there are other shortcuts to elite status, as some co-branded credit cards offer EQMs for spending above a certain threshold. For example, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card earns 5,000 EQMs for each $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 EQMs per year), and the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers 10,000 EQMs after $40,000 in annual purchases.
Aspiring elite flyers would have an incredible opportunity if these EQMs counted toward completing a status challenge, but unfortunately that’s not the case. To qualify for an AAdvantage status challenge, EQMs must be earned on flights marketed by American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines or Qantas. Naturally, you need to credit those flights to your AAdvantage account in order to accrue both redeemable and elite miles, and your earning rate on partner airlines will depend on the fare you’ve purchased.
Similar rules apply to status challenges from other airlines, as both Delta and United only count elite miles from flights — credit card spending won’t apply. However, elite miles from a co-branded card will still count toward your elite qualification for the following year, which could help you extend your benefits into the future.
If you participate in an AAdvantage status challenge prior to June 16, 2016, your status will last through the end of February 2017. On the other hand, any EQMs you earn from spending will be applied to your 2017 membership year, which doesn’t end until February of 2018. If you have a lot of travel planned for this spring, you could use the challenge to jump-start your AAdvantage status, and then use credit card spending to help sustain it.
Check out these posts for more info on status challenges, co-branded cards, and the AAdvantage program in general:
- How Often Can I Match or Challenge for Airline Elite Status?
- American Airlines Announces 2016 AAdvantage Program Changes
- Which Card Is Best for AAdvantage Awards After the Devaluation?
- Does Gifted Status Count as Elite Miles Earned?