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Earn American Airlines Elite-Qualifying Dollars With Credit Card Spend

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For many leisure travelers, the elite-qualifying dollar requirements Delta and United implemented in 2014 have made it much more challenging to earn elite status — even for flyers who still manage to fly many tens of thousands of miles a year. Fortunately for AA elites, American Airlines was a bit late to the party — its EQD requirement doesn’t kick in until January 1, 2017, so members have effectively had three years to enjoy status without a nasty spending requirement.

Members of competing programs, however, have also had a workaround. For customers able (and willing) to spend a significant amount on a co-branded credit card, Delta and United both offer EQD waivers — for Delta, you can earn all the way up to Diamond status after spending on cards like the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express (both of which also offer the ability to earn elite-qualifying miles), while United elites can earn up to Premier Platinum after $25k in spend on cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card.

Given that AA’s requirement has yet to kick in, we’ve been awaiting a similar announcement from American. Well, that just arrived, and it isn’t great news — at least not along the lines of what we’ve seen from Delta and United. Rather than offering a full EQD waiver, American is offering the ability to earn elite-qualifying dollars, and only with a few cards.

Beginning in 2017, you can earn $3,000 in EQDs after spending $25,000 with the AAdvantage Aviator Red, Aviator Blue and Aviator Business MasterCard. Or, you can earn $3,000 in EQDs after spending $25,000 and an additional $3,000 in EQDs after spending a total of $50,000 with the AAdvantage Aviator Silver MasterCard. You can’t earn beyond these limits, so if you have a Silver card and a Red card, you can only earn up to $6,000 in EQDs. There’s currently no option to earn EQDs with the Citi-issued co-branded cards.

Here’s what you’ll need to spend with each airline if you’re earning status without a credit card waiver:

Spending Required for Status American Delta United
Top-tier $12,000 Executive Platinum $15,000 Diamond $12,000 Premier 1K
Upper-tier $9,000 Platinum Pro $9,000 Platinum $9,000 Platinum
Mid-tier $6,000 Platinum $6,000 Gold $6,000 Gold
Lowest-tier $3,000 Gold $3,000 Silver $3,000 Silver

As you may recall, the Aviator cards were issued exclusively to former US Airways cardholders, but they’ll soon be available to new members as well. Beginning in January, new customers will be able to sign up for the Aviator Red and Aviator Business cards, but only in airports or during flights — you can’t apply online. Additionally, the superior Aviator Silver card will remain available exclusively for upgrades, and since you can’t upgrade within the first year due to the CARD Act, cardholders will need to stick with Red for at least the first year (though it may be possible to upgrade from another Barclaycard account now).

In addition to offering the ability to earn up to $6,000 in EQDs (after $50,000 in spend), the Silver card also offers 5,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) after spending $20,000 and an additional 5,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 — so if you spend $50,000 to earn $6,000 in EQDs, you’ll also walk away with 10,000 EQMs.

Overall, this is better than nothing, but many elites will likely be disappointed that American has opted to introduce its own limited-waiver program rather than adopting the full waivers offered by Delta and United (excluding Premier 1K). It’s also a bit puzzling that AA is only offering the ability to earn EQDs with the Barclaycard-issued Aviator cards, while leaving Citi-issued cardholders to earn elite-qualifying dollars exclusively via AA travel and partner flights.

Are you happy with the way AA’s handling its EQD waiver?

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