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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

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Earn 50,000 miles after $2,500 spent within the first 3 months. The sign-up offer alone is worth up to $700. If you're a frequent American flyer but don't have status, additional perks that come with this card like first free checked bag on domestic AA itineraries, preferred boarding on American flights can be extremely valuable.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
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  • New: Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
Annual Fee
$99, waived for first 12 months*
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.

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