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American Airlines Elite Qualifying Dollars: What EQDs are and how you earn them

Nov. 25, 2019
18 min read
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As part of its transition to a revenue-based program in August 2016, American Airlines introduced a new metric: Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD). This measurement for spending is now important for three reasons: elite status, upgrade priority and award mileage earnings on American Airlines-marketed flights.

But, as with AA's Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), EQDs aren't as straightforward as you might assume. Although you might expect to earn 600 EQD from spending $600 on a flight, you'll almost certainly earn less. Or — if the flight is booked through a partner — you might earn more than 600 EQD.

Let's dive into the wacky world of American Airlines Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD):

How many EQDs are needed for elite status?

American Airlines flyers have two ways of qualifying for elite status: by earning enough EQM or enough Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS). However, in addition to getting enough EQM or EQS, you're going to have to earn enough EQD. There's no waiver or way to get around this requirement.

To earn status in 2019 and beyond, you'll need to meet the following requirements:

Elite status levelElite Qualifying
Dollars (EQD)
Elite Qualifying
Miles (EQM)
Elite Qualifying
Segments (EQS)
AAdvantage Gold3,000and25,000or30
AAdvantage Platinum6,000and50,000or60
AAdvantage Platinum Pro9,000and75,000or90
AAdvantage Executive Platinum15,000and100,000or120

How EQDs factor into upgrade priority

In the past, American Airlines used to prioritize upgrades on a first-request basis. After grouping requests by elite status, the upgrade would be granted to the first traveler who requested the upgrade. This was great for travelers who booked flights in advance but was a bane for business travelers who often were paying significantly more for their last-minute flights.

So, in May 2017, American Airlines changed how it prioritized upgrades to reward high spenders instead of early bookers. Now, American Airlines processes upgrades based on the following prioritization:

  • Elite status (Concierge Key, Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, Platinum, Gold, no status)
  • Type of upgrade
  • Systemwide or mileage upgrade
  • 500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
  • 500-mile upgrades on award tickets (only available to Concierge Key and Executive Platinum elites)
  • 12-month rolling Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)
  • Booking fare class
  • Time of request

Related: What is American Airlines elite status worth?

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Although EQD may seem further down the list at first glance, it's often the primary tiebreaker. As it's very rare that two elites at the same level and using the same type of upgrade would have the same 12-month rolling EQD, the last two tiebreakers rarely factor into the decision. That means upgrade requests are effectively sorted as follows with EQD being the tiebreaker within each group:

Status LevelType of Ticket
Concierge KeySystemwide and mileage award upgrades
Concierge Key500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
Concierge Key500-mile upgrades on award tickets
Executive PlatinumSystemwide and mileage award upgrades
Executive Platinum500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
Executive Platinum500-mile upgrades on award tickets
Platinum ProSystemwide and mileage award upgrades
Platinum Pro500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
PlatinumSystemwide and mileage award upgrades
Platinum500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
GoldSystemwide and mileage award upgrades
Gold500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets

Put another way, you're going to need to be the highest-spending traveler at your elite level on the flight to get an upgrade. This works to incentivize frequent flyers to continue giving their business to AA even after reaching a particular elite status level.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on American Airlines

How to figure out which EQD earning chart to use

AAdvantage award miles, EQM and EQD earnings are based on the airline "marketing" the flight. For domestic flights on AA, this isn't going to be complicated. If you're flying on an American Airlines-operated flight and booking through American Airlines, you're surely booking an AA flight number.

However, it gets more complicated when you consider international itineraries. American Airlines has codeshares on many Oneworld and non-alliance partners -- and vice versa. So, you're going to need to pay attention to the flight numbers when booking a flight.

For example, while American Airlines doesn't operate flights to Tahiti, you can book American Airlines flight 7227 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) — which is a flight operated by Air Tahiti Nui.

Similarly, you can fly between Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Pittsburgh (PIT) on British Airways flight 4761 — which is a flight operated by American Airlines.

When it comes to AAdvantage award mileage, EQM and EQD earnings, the most important aspect is the airline in the flight number. This is referred to as the airline "marketing" the flight, and it can differ from the airline operating the flight or the airline that sold you the ticket.

In the first example, you'd earn miles based on the American Airlines earning scheme despite flying on Air Tahiti Nui as the booking has AA flight numbers. However, in the second example, your mileage earnings are based on the British Airways partner chart since you booked with BA flight numbers — despite flying American Airlines aircraft the entire way from London to Pittsburgh.

Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Earning EQD and award miles from flying American Airlines

When it comes to AA-marketed flights, you're going to earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) based on the amount you pay for the flight — excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.

No other spending on American Airlines counts toward EQDs. That means that checked baggage fees, seat selection fees, mileage upgrade copays, pet fees, lounge memberships or anything else you might pay the airline isn't going to help you toward elite status or award mileage earnings.

If you book an American Airlines-marketed flight through AA's website, you won't need to do any math; AA will tell you how many EQM, EQS and EQD will be earned from the trip on the review and payment page:

Unlike with EQM earnings, it doesn't matter what cabin you fly. The only thing that matters is the actual cost. That means that you could potentially earn more EQDs from a basic economy fare than a business class ticket.

Also, unlike AA's policy that all flights earn a base of 500 EQM, there's no minimum amount of EQD that you can earn from a flight. For example, I found this basic economy flight from Las Vegas (LAS) to Phoenix (PHX) for $33 that earns just 17 EQD after you exclude taxes:

Between the exclusion of government taxes and these additional fees, travelers who exclusively book American Airlines-marketed flights are going to end up spending well over $15,000 with American Airlines to earn the 15,000 EQD required to get top-tier Executive Platinum elite status.

In addition to helping you toward elite status and upgrades, EQDs are important to all AA flyers as it's the metric used to calculate how many award miles you'll earn from an AA-marketed flight. To figure out how many award miles you'll earn, EQDs are multiplied by a different earning rate based on the traveler's elite status:

  • AAdvantage member: 5x AAdvantage miles per EQD
  • AAdvantage Gold: 7x
  • AAdvantage Platinum: 8x
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro: 9x
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum: 11x

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Earning Elite Qualifying Dollars from partner airlines

While earning EQD on American Airlines is based on how much you spend, earning EQDs on partners is solely based on how far you fly and the relevant EQD earning rate for the airline fare class you booked into.

The good news is that you'll earn EQDs on most Oneworld partner tickets. However, there's a different award chart for each partner airline and the EQD earning rates can get complicated. As of publishing, you can earn American Airlines EQD on the following Oneworld partner airlines:

American Airlines has several non-alliance partners on which you can earn AAdvantage award miles: China Southern Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways and Hawaiian Airlines. However, you won't earn any EQDs on any of AA's non-alliance partners unless you book the flight with an American Airlines flight number.

Economy fares

If you're looking for EQM and EQD earnings, there are several partner economy fare classes that you'll want to avoid. The following partner fare classes earn zero EQDs -- no matter the distance of the flight:

  • Cathay Pacific: K, M, L, V, Q, S, G, N
  • Malaysia Airlines: N, O, Q
  • Royal Jordanian: N, O, G
  • S7 Airlines: P, W, G, Z
  • Sri Lankan Airlines: G

Except for the fares listed above, all other Oneworld economy booking classes are going to earn at least 5% of the flight miles as EQDs.

For example, a cheap deal on Iberia is likely to book into either fare class O or Q. Flights between New York-JFK and Madrid (MAD) are 3,589 miles each way. That means a round-trip is going to earn 359 EQDs (3,589 miles each way x 2 ways x 5% earning rate).

If you booked a cheap flight, it's likely that you booked into one of these fare classes — which almost all earn 5% EQDs:

AirlinePurchased fares booked inEQDs per mile flown
British AirwaysG, O, Q5%
FinnairA, G, N, O, Q, R, S, W, Z5%
IberiaO, Q5%
Japan Airlines
(international flights)
N, Q6%
LATAMS, N, Q, O, G, A5%
Qantas (other)N, G, O, Q
and S on non-U.S. flights
QatarG, N, S, Q, O, T, W5%

For travelers who end up having to pay extraordinarily high fares for full-fare economy (fare classes Y and sometimes B), the good news is that you'll earn 20% of the flight miles as EQD:

AirlinePurchased fares booked inEQDs per mile flown
British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines (international), Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, S7 AirlinesY, B20%
Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines (domestic), LATAM, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Sri LankanY20%

For the other fare codes between the "deep discount" and full-fare classes, earn rates range between 5% and 15% of flight miles as EQD.

Premium economy fares

The real sweet spot in the partner EQD earning chart is in premium economy. All Oneworld partner premium economy tickets earn at least 20% of flight miles as EQD. While LATAM premium economy "W" fares earn 25% of miles as EQD, all other Oneworld partner fares earn either 20% or 22%:

AirlinePurchased fares booked inEQDs per mile flown
British AirwaysW22%
British AirwaysE, T20%
Cathay PacificW22%
Cathay PacificR, E20%
IberiaE, T20%
Japan AirlinesW, R, E20%
QantasR, T20%

*Finnair doesn't operate premium economy on its own aircraft. However, you can book American Airlines, British Airways or Iberia premium economy through Finnair as part of the partnership between these airlines.

The ability to book AA flights through partners can be particularly useful for earning extra EQDs on the same flights. For example, take an American Airlines premium economy flight between Miami (MIA) and Madrid, Spain (MAD) for $893 round-trip. Booked through American Airlines, you'd earn 800 EQD — as well as 13,272 EQM and 4,000 award miles before elite bonuses:

However, if you book the same exact flights through British Airways (BA flights 1558 and1559), Finnair or Iberia (IB flights 4610 and 4611), you'll pay the same amount ($893), and the flights will earn at the following rates:

  • EQD: 20% of flight miles
  • EQM: 1.5x flight miles
  • Award miles: 100% of flight miles

As the round-trip covers 8,848 flight miles, that means you'll earn 1,770 EQD and 8,848 award miles (before elite bonuses) — as well as the same 13,272 EQM as booking through AA.

Related: American Airlines partner earning changes

Business-class fares

While premium economy is a sweet spot across the board, EQD earnings on business-class fares vary widely — from as little as 14% of flight miles up to 45% of flight miles.

Japan Airlines "I" fare class flights earn just 14% of flight miles as EQDs. If that sounds low, you're right. That's less than the 20% EQD earning rate in premium economy, and you're surely paying more for these business-class fares. Meanwhile, you can earn as much as 45% on Qantas "J" and "C" fare classes between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand. However, those fares are likely to be quite expensive.

Most of the other Oneworld partner EQD earning rates fall between 20% and 30% of flight miles — with only Finnair and LATAM having exceptions. As you can see, the business-class EQD-earning chart generally isn't much higher than the premium economy EQD chart:

AirlinePurchased fares booked inEQDs per mile flown
British AirwaysJ, C, D, I, R25%
Cathay PacificC, D, I, J25%
FinnairJ, D, C40%
IberiaJ, C, D, I, R25%
Japan Airlines (domestic)J22%
Japan Airlines (domestic)I17%
Japan Airlines (international)J, C, D, X25%
Japan Airlines (international)I14%
Malaysia AirlinesF, A, P30%
Malaysia AirlinesJ, D, C25%
Malaysia AirlinesZ20%
Qantas (non-US)J, C, D, I25%
Qantas (US-AU/NZ)J, C45%
Qantas (US-AU/NZ)D30%
Qantas (US-AU/NZ)I25%
QatarJ, C, D25%
QatarR, I20%
Royal JordanianJ30%
Royal JordanianC, D, Z25%
Royal JordanianI20%
S7 AirlinesJ, C, D25%
Sri LankanJ30%
Sri LankanC25%
Sri LankanD, I20%

First-class fares

Unfortunately for those travelers paying for first-class tickets, the earning rate doesn't get much better. Almost all Oneworld partner first-class fares earn just 30% of flight miles as EQD -- which is surely to be a fraction of the actual price paid. That means you're probably going to be much better off booking first-class tickets with an American Airlines flight number than a partner flight number where possible.

AirlinePurchased fares booked inEQDs per mile flown
British Airways, Finnair, IberiaF, A30%
Cathay PacificA, F30%
Japan AirlinesF30%
Japan Airlines (domestic)E25%
Japan Airlines (international)A30%
Qantas (non-US)F, A30%
Qantas (US-AU/NZ)F, A60%
QatarF, A, P30%

Elite Qualifying Dollars from credit cards

If flying is leaving you short of the EQDs you want to reach elite status, you don't necessarily need to book another flight. There are two credit cards that can help you earn elite status:

AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard

This card isn't available to apply for directly. Instead, you’ll need to have the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard for at least 90 days before you can call Barclays and request an upgrade to the Aviator Silver card. And the EQD-earning rules on this card depend on when you converted to this card.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Cardholders that upgraded between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2018 can earn up to 6,000 EQD in 2019: 3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 and another 3,000 EQDs after spending a total of $50,000. In 2020 and beyond, these cardholders can only earn 3,000 EQD for spending a total of $50,000 in purchases.

Cardholders that upgraded before Jan. 1, 2018 and since Nov. 1, 2018 can earn 3,000 EQD for spending $50,000 in purchases in a calendar year in 2019 and beyond.

Related: Should you upgrade from the AAdvantage Aviator Red to the AAdvantage Aviator Silver?

AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard

The other card that offers EQD earnings is the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard. You can earn 3,000 EQDs for spending $25,000 in a calendar year. Additional perks include a free checked bag (with limitations), preferred boarding, 25% back on food and drinks purchased on AA flights and 2x miles on AA flights, telecom, office supply and car rental purchases.

The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Featured image by (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.