This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard 

TPG reader Max had this question about earning status on American Airlines:

“What’s the difference between American elite-qualifying miles versus points?”

The recent merger of US Airways Dividend Miles into American Airlines AAdvantage has created a lot of changes for flyers, including how elite upgrades work. There are no more freebies for Silver, Gold and Platinum Dividend Miles members, who will now need to use E500 upgrades for flights of 500 miles and over. There are also plenty of changes regarding how to redeem your miles.

American Airlines has a unique approach to elite qualification. Most airlines allows you to qualify on elite miles or segments, and give you bonus miles if you buy first class or other premium fares. American Airlines AAdvantage allows you to qualify based on either miles, segments (which isn’t my favorite), or elite qualifying points, and if you buy premium tickets, you get a bonus in points but not in elite miles.

AA’s system of elite-qualifying points, miles and segments can be confusing. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The exact definitions of each are as follows:

  • AA elite-qualifying miles — the actual miles (including applicable minimum mileage guarantees) you earn on eligible purchased tickets for flights on American or partner airlines.
  • AA elite-qualifying segments — the segments you fly on eligible purchased tickets for flights on American or partner airlines.
  • AA elite qualifying points — these are based on a combination of earned miles and the class of service purchased. For American Airlines marketed codeshare flights, your ticket must reflect an American Airlines coded flight number. On American you earn 0.5 EQP on G, Q, N, O, and S fares; 1 EQP on H, K, M, L, W, and V coach fares; and 1.5 EQP on all Y,B, W, D, I, J, R, A, F, and P fares.

So with American, cheap and premium fares even out to about the same, whereas United, Delta and other carriers will give 100% elite-qualifying miles plus a bonus. Basically, American penalizes those who buy both cheap and expensive tickets.

It’s frustrating if you end up qualifying on points after earning elite-qualifying miles from a co-branded credit card (like the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard or the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card), because those elite-qualifying miles are useless when you qualify on points.

Unfortunately even with the merger, AAdvantage did not make things any less complex, and has kept this rather antiquated system that allows a mix of elite-qualifying points, segments and miles. It truly is a pain for those who purchase a mix of both cheap and premium fares, and I hope it will change in the near future.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card



CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.