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TPG reader Ben emailed me to ask about earning AAdvantage miles:

“I know American Airlines is changing how miles are earned in the second half of 2016, but if I purchase a ticket now for a flight in October, will I earn miles based on the current system (flight distance) or the new system (ticket price)?”

Last fall, American Airlines announced major changes to the AAdvantage program, including a devaluation of the award chart and plans to adopt a revenue-based system for mileage accrual. While redemption rates have already been updated, the new earning rates won’t take effect until the second half of 2016. Ben wants to know if he can purchase tickets now and earn miles based on the distance flown, rather than the price of his fare. The short answer is probably not, but there are a few exceptions.

American Airlines spells out the new rules pretty clearly in its description of the AAdvantage program updates, and even addresses this specific question in the award miles FAQ. To paraphrase, miles will be awarded based on the policy in effect when you travel, not when you buy your ticket. However, there’s still some uncertainty there — we’ve been told the change will take place in the second half of 2016, but we don’t know when. It could be as early as July, but I think American would have announced the date by now if that were the case.

Ben isn’t flying until October, but it’s possible that he’ll still earn miles based on the current system. That could be helpful if you’re planning a mileage run, since many flights will be less rewarding once miles are awarded based on the ticket price. American already increased EQM earning rates this year, so it won’t make a difference which system is in place for those targeting AAdvantage elite status.

Cathay Pacific plane over Hong Kong banner
Your mileage may be calculated differently if your flight is marketed by Cathay Pacific or another partner airline.

Keep in mind that those new earning rates apply to flights marketed by American Airlines. Flights marketed by partner airlines (but credited to the AAdvantage program) will mostly earn miles based on a percentage of the distance flown, with bonuses awarded for some premium fares. That also applies to some vacation packages and other tickets where the fare isn’t disclosed. It’s not clear yet whether those partner-earning rates will also be adjusted in the second half of 2016, so stay tuned for more information if you’re ticketed with Cathay Pacific, British Airways or another carrier.

As with Delta and United in previous years, there will be winners and losers in the new program. The shift to a revenue-based program has numerous effects on leisure travelers, but overall I think it underscores the importance of earning points and miles through other channels (like credit card spending and partner bonuses). Award travelers can take some comfort in the fact that American Airlines hasn’t adopted a revenue requirement for elite status, and that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has no plans to go revenue-based (for now).

For more on how to maximize the AAdvantage program post-devaluation, check out these posts:

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

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.