Earning Elite-Qualifying Miles with the Citi Executive Card
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I love having AAdvantage Executive Platinum, but not everyone flies enough to earn or maintain elite status each year. However, there are other options. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen discusses how you can collect elite-qualifying miles with some strategic spending.
If you're not already aware, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 miles after making $7,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. While it's not quite as lucrative as some past offers, this is nevertheless a great way to boost your account and unlock some very valuable award redemptions.
In addition to the sign-up bonus and the other benefits of the card (like Admirals Club membership and a statement credit for Global Entry), one of the best perks is the chance to add 10,000 elite-qualifying miles to your account and improve your chances of earning AAdvantage elite status. In this post, I'll explain how you can earn those bonus elite miles, and give you some strategies to boost your spending if you're going to fall just short of the required threshold.
Earning the Bonus
The criteria for earning this bonus is simple: you'll earn 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. Unfortunately, the timing of this increased sign-up bonus is less than ideal for earning the extra EQMs by the end of December, since you have less than half the year in which to spend the same amount of money. Still, earning the bonus can go a long way toward elite status qualification: 10,000 EQMs puts you 40% of the way to AAdvantage Gold status, 20% of the way to Platinum and 10% of the way to top-tier Executive Platinum.
Here's a snapshot of the key benefits for each of these tiers:
Normal Qualification Requirements
25,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles/Points
30 Elite-Qualifying Segments
50,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles/Points
60 Elite-Qualifying Segments
100,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles/Points
120 Elite-Qualifying Segments
Short-haul upgrades on American (500 miles or less)
Longer-haul upgrades on American (>500 miles)
Must use 500-mile upgrades
Must use 500-mile upgrades
Upgrades on US Airways
Advance Upgrade Window
Elite Mileage Bonus
Main Cabin Extra Seats
50% off in advance; complimentary at check-in
1 free bag
2 free bags
3 free bags
Same-Day Flight Change
Complimentary on US Airways
Complimentary on US Airways
Complimentary on American and US Airways
Award Change / Reinstatement Fee Waiver
|Systemwide Upgrade Certificates|
Remember that elite members can earn some lucrative bonuses for paid premium class travel in 2015, especially on long-haul routes (including JFK to LAX and SFO). For complete details on all the perks that AAdvantage offers, visit American's elite benefits page.
Meeting the Spending Requirement
Spending $40,000 in a full calendar year is hard enough; hitting that same threshold in less than half the year is even tougher! Fortunately, there are some ways to boost your spending to earn this bonus that you may not have considered in the past:
1. Buy gift cards
One of the easiest ways to boost your spending without incurring fees is by purchasing retail gift cards. You can find these at major supermarkets, pharmacies and office supply stores (though you'd be able to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points at the latter using the Ink Plus Business Card, so keep that in mind). This can be valuable if you know you'll make purchases at specific stores in early 2016, but want to earn the miles for those purchases now. For example, you might be taking on a home improvement project (Lowe's or Home Depot), hosting a lunch or dinner event at restaurants like Seasons 52 or Maggiano's or have a future trip on Southwest Airlines (just to name a few).
While online shopping portals typically exclude gift cards from earning cash back or bonus miles, I've had some success using the AAdvantage eShopping Mall to purchase electronic gift cards from Staples.com, so it can't hurt to try. Remember that you can also purchase American Airlines gift cards online, and these purchases should earn you 2 miles per dollar spent on the Citi Executive card (since you're buying directly from American Airlines).
2. Pay college tuition
Another large expense that may be looming for some TPG readers is college tuition. I wrote a post last year that looked at when it makes sense to use a credit card for tuition, and included annual spending thresholds as one example. In that post, I discussed earning the British Airways Travel Together ticket (a benefit of the British Airways Visa Signature Card), but hitting $40,000 on the AAdvantage Executive card to earn 10,000 EQMs might also be worth some added fees.
For example, let's say that you'll be just short of Executive Platinum status without these extra EQMs, and you have a tuition bill of $20,000 coming up. Assuming your college charges a 3% fee for using credit cards (which is relatively common), you would incur an additional $600 charge for paying with a card rather than writing a check or using a debit card. This isn't chump change, but depending on your travel patterns, it may be worthwhile to snag those EQMs and move from Platinum to Executive Platinum.
After all, TPG pegged Executive Platinum status at $8,100 in his AAdvantage elite status valuation (compared to $3,500 for Platinum), so paying $600 for an estimated $4,600 more in benefits sounds like a pretty good deal to me! In fact, I'd say that just the 8 systemwide upgrade certificates you'd receive for earning Executive Platinum status are easily worth more than $600.
3. Paying taxes
If you filed for an extension on your 2014 income tax return (and will wind up owing money), you may want to consider paying the IRS using this credit card. As Jason Steele notes in his post from earlier in the year, paying taxes with a credit card does incur fees starting at 1.87%. However, if you can use the extra EQMs to boost your status to the next level, the added cost could again be well worth it.
Other Options for Elite Status Qualification
If you earn these EQMs, why stop there? For those of you who opened a US Airways MasterCard before the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs integrated earlier this year, you may have been invited to upgrade to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card. This card not only gives you better earning on American and US Airways flights (3 miles per dollar instead of the 2 miles per dollar you earn on the Citi Executive card), it also offers you 5,000 EQMs for every $20,000 in annual purchases (up to 10,000 EQMs per year). If you can max out both the Citi Executive and Aviator Silver EQM bonuses, you'd walk away with 20,000 EQMs through credit cards alone, putting you well on your way to AAdvantage elite status.
It's also possible that the AAdvantage program will offer its elite status boost option again this year. While this won't help your elite-qualifying balance, it will let you pay to jump to the next level of status. However, there's no guarantee that this option will return for 2015, so don't bank on it as your only plan to earn or maintain status.
Spending $40,000 for a bonus of 10,000 EQMs on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard may not appeal to every TPG reader out there, but it's worth considering the impact those miles will have on your elite status qualification for the rest of the year. You only have less than 6 months to go, so if you're going to fall short of (re)qualifying for AAdvantage elite status, this option could help you close the gap.
Are you planning to go for the bonus EQMs on the Citi AAdvantage Executive card or the Aviator Silver card?