What is American Airlines elite status worth in 2021?

Feb 21, 2021

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If you’re a road warrior, selecting an airline to which you remain loyal is a critical yet difficult decision to make. Unless you’re a hub captive and “forced” onto a specific carrier, many travelers can pick an airline based on the perks it offers elite status members, including bonus miles, lounge access, priority airport benefits and many others.

Today, we’ll crunch the numbers on one of the major U.S. airlines to see if pursuing elite status makes the most sense for you. I’ll consider each tier’s various benefits to help you answer the following question: Is it worth pursuing status with the American Airlines AAdvantage program?

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In This Post

How I developed these valuations

People deplaning an American 737 Max
American elite status can make your travel experience more enjoyable. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Before we get to the details of the AAdvantage program’s elite status tiers, a couple of disclaimers.

First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level.

Everyone has his or her own way of valuing the various benefits of loyalty programs. Some may always pay for first and business class and thus have no need for complimentary upgrades. Others may travel exclusively in the U.S. and don’t care about free lounge access on international itineraries. Feel free to adjust the numbers I use to make them more relevant to your travel habits.

Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch, these values are a bit skewed since the first 25,000 miles you fly will provide no benefits. I’ve provided some analysis for those of you in that position toward the end of the post, including an Excel spreadsheet to help with your estimates.

This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of flying and a corresponding amount of spending. For the sake of the airline portion of the series, I’m making the following assumptions:

  • You earn 20% more Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) than the minimum required for the given status level.
  • You spend an average of 12.5 cents per EQM.

As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your given travel patterns. Those who travel exclusively in the U.S. may spend less than 12.5 cents per mile, while those who travel in paid first or business class internationally likely spend significantly more. You also may qualify on segments rather than miles, and you may have heavier travel in certain parts of the year.

For the sake of this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus miles earned based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler.

Related: Earn bonus EQMs and gain access to Admirals Clubs with this American credit card

Things to consider before chasing American elite status

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There are a few things to keep in mind as you decide whether or not to chase American elite status in 2021 — here’s a look.

How much are you traveling during the coronavirus pandemic?

It’s hard to talk about travel without discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has changed travel as we know it, and many of us are traveling less. Many U.S. airlines have responded to the pandemic by extending elite status and making it easier to earn status in 2021.

American did both. It extended 2020 elite status early on in the pandemic and recently reduced 2021 elite status requirements. American is reduced elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) required by 20% and elite-qualifying segments (EQSs) and elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs) by 20% to 33.

Here’s a look at how much you’ll need to fly (and spend) to qualify this year:

Metric Gold Platinum Platinum Pro Executive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) 20 45 70 95
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) $2,000 $4,500 $7,000 $12,000

That said, I am not reflecting these status qualifying changes in this article. Likewise, I am not taking the coronavirus’s impact on travel into account with my valuations.

Why? Simple: As the author, I can’t be sure of how much you travel. Make sure to go through your travel plans and see if it makes sense for you to chase elite status during the pandemic. Likewise, look toward the future and think about how much you’ll travel in future years.

Remember, you can edit the provided Excel sheet and make changes to my assumed valuations for a more accurate look at the value of elite status.

Further, elite status requirements will eventually return to normal once the pandemic is behind us. With the vaccine rollout starting worldwide, the future is bright for travel. This means we could see the industry make a return to some resemblance of normalcy in 2022, so I’d expect us to return to standard requirements next year.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Does American have a large presence at your home airport?

American in many U.S. cities., with the largest being at Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Charlotte (CLT), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Miami (MIA) and Philadelphia (PHL). Likewise, it maintains large hubs at Phoenix (PHX), New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia (LGA), Los Angeles (LAX) and Washington-National (DCA). This makes American a convenient option for many U.S. travelers as the airline’s hubs are spread out across most major metropolitan areas.

If you live near one of these hubs, American status could be a great option. Chances are you already fly American regularly, given the airline’s large presence in your airport. This is especially true in places like Dallas, where United is the only carrier with a major hub.

Alternatively, you may fly to one of American’s hubs often or — in the case of small airports — find that American has the best one-stop connections from your home city. Whatever the case may be, look at your flight habits and see if it makes sense for you to move the bulk of your flying to American and its Oneworld partners.

For example, if you live near Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), you may want to skip American elite status. The airline has limited service from this airport when compared to Delta. On the other hand, it may make sense for someone based in Charlottesville (CHO) to pick American, as all airlines have limited service to the city. Plus, you can conveniently connect through American’s Charlotte hub.

One last thing: American has fewer routes to Asia and Europe compared to United and Delta. Keep this in mind, as you’ll likely have to rely on partners like British Airways and Cathay Pacific when heading to these destinations. You’ll have some Oneworld elite status benefits on these flights, but not everything is reciprocal. You may want to consider another airline if you frequently travel to an international destination American doesn’t serve.

Related: American Airlines has ‘no plans’ to close hubs when it shrinks post-coronavirus

American is launching partnerships with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue

Alaska 737 with American and JetBlue planes in the background
(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

This year, we’ll see American partner with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue. On the Alaska side, the American will strengthen its existing partnership when Alaska fully joins Oneworld later this year. We can expect to see benefits like reciprocal upgrades, preferred seating for elites and other great benefits. This will increase American’s reach on the West Coast and make Anchorage (ANC), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA) pseudo-hubs for the airline. This will be a huge advantage for both American and Alaska elites.

Further, American and JetBlue are launching a partnership that focuses on the Northeast. Much of the details are still up in the air, but we can expect to see reciprocal mileage earning and redemption and limited reciprocal elite benefits. Again, this will benefit American and JetBlue elites as it expands both carriers’ reach and opens up new ways to earn miles.

Stay tuned to TPG for more information on these partnerships. That said, details aren’t yet official, so I’m not including these partnerships in the valuations.

Related: Here’s how American and JetBlue should team up to reward frequent flyers

You can fast-track to American elite status with a credit card

American’s suite of cobranded credit cards can help you earn elite status. Starting this year, American is allowing cobrand credit cardholders to waive the Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement after spending $30,000 or more on an American card. This takes some of the legwork out of earning status and may help you earn status cheaper. For example, if you usually take lots of low-cost domestic flights, you may have an easier time qualifying for status by meeting the Elite Qualifying Segment requirement.

That said, keep the opportunity cost of spending on an American cobranded credit card in mind. You may earn more points by putting your expenses on a transferable points card that earns bonus points on dining, travel and other popular categories. Points like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are generally more valuable than American miles due to their expansive list of transfer partners.

You can earn Elite Qualifying Miles with the premium Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. You’ll earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year. These EQMs do not count toward million miler status, and you can only earn the bonus EQMs once per year. Plus, the card includes an Admirals Club membership and other perks that offset its annual fee.

Related: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

How much do you value American miles?

You’re going to walk away with a solid stash of American miles when chasing status, so make sure you value them highly. Otherwise, you could be left with a stash of miles you can’t use.

American prices most awards based on a standard award chart but has elements of dynamic pricing. It publishes an award chart for partner awards and its own MileSAAver tickets but prices Web Special awards dynamically. Web Special awards can often be cheaper than MileSAAver awards but sometimes are discounted AAnytime tickets. AAnytime is American’s last-seat award tier that lets you book expensive award tickets on almost all American flights.

Again, we value American AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents per point, but you may value them differently. I recommend that you create your own valuation by averaging together the redemption value of redemptions you’re likely to make with your American miles.

You can do this by finding the cent per point value of a handful of redemptions you’d make and then averaging them out. To do this, find the points and cash cost of a flight. For example, this Cathay Pacific round-trip flight from New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) in business class costs 140,000 American miles and $68.35.

JFK HKG Cathay Pacific American Award Ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

The same ticket costs $8,274. You can find the cent-per-point value for this flight by subtracting the award taxes and fees from the cash fare. Then divide that number by the points required to book. In this case, the math looks like this: (8,274-68.35)/140,000 = 5.86 cents per point.

JFK HKG Cathay Pacific
(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Doing this for multiple flights will give you a better look at how much American miles are worth, based on your travel habits. If this number is lower than TPG’s valuation, you may want to choose another program.

All that being said, where do the four elite levels of the AAdvantage program land? Here’s my analysis:

AAdvantage Gold ($855)

You’ll enjoy priority boarding along with other key perks as an AAdvantage Gold member. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.)

The lowest tier in American’s program is AAdvantage Gold status, which normally requires 25,000 EQMs or 30 elite-qualifying segments plus $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs). For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 30,000 EQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $3,750).

Upgrades on flights under 500 miles ($50)

As an AAdvantage Gold member, you’ll enjoy unlimited complimentary upgrades on flights that cover a distance less than 500 miles. This doesn’t give you a ton of time to enjoy the perks, and you’ll be prioritized below all other AA elite members, but it’s certainly better than nothing!

500-mile upgrades ($200)

Gold members can also get into first-class by using 500-mile upgrades for flights longer than 500 miles in distance. You’ll need one upgrade for every 500 miles you fly, and Gold members will earn four for every 12,500 EQMs they earn. You can also use these upgrades to bring a companion up to the front of the plane. With the assumed flying from above, you’d get eight of them in 2021. You can actually purchase additional upgrades for $40 each, but I’ll value these at a more conservative $25 apiece.

40% mileage bonus ($105)

Gold members will earn 7 miles for every dollar spent on flights, 2 miles more than a non-status flyer. Based on the assumed spending above, that would give you an additional 7,500 miles, worth $105.

Priority check-in, security and boarding ($100)

Gold members can also utilize priority services at the airport, with elite lines for check-in and security plus early boarding. These can be helpful if you’re running late but certainly aren’t the most valuable benefit out there.

Checked bag fee waiver ($100)

As a Gold member, you’re allowed to check one bag for free on all American flights, a privilege that costs regular travelers $30 per flight. The savings can really add up if you frequently need to check bags, but since this perk is also available on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (for a $99 annual fee), I’m going to cap it there. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

Complimentary same-day standby ($75)

Gold members also don’t have to pay the $75 fee to standby for an earlier or later flight. I’ll assume that you use this benefit once per year, but if you frequently need to change your plans, it can be worth much more.

Priority phone line ($50)

Getting priority access to phone agents can be helpful during storms or other major problems, but it’s not the best perk out there.

Complimentary access to preferred seats/Main Cabin Extra ($150)

As a Gold member, you can access preferred seats at the time of booking, and you can also grab Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats for free within 24 hours of departure. These perks also extend to up to eight passengers traveling on the same reservation as you. Domestic MCE seats even come with free drinks as of June 2018. It’s hard to pin an exact value on this since each flight charges different fees for these seats, so I’ll stick with a conservative $150 valuation.

Partner benefits ($25)

American belongs to the Oneworld alliance, and Gold members will enjoy Oneworld Ruby status, though this only provides priority check-in and standby.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on American Airlines

AAdvantage Platinum ($2,145)

Platinum travelers enjoy upgrades to first-class but must use 500-mile upgrades for flights of over 500 miles in length. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.)

The second tier in American’s program is AAdvantage Platinum status, which normally requires 50,000 EQMs or 60 elite-qualifying segments plus $6,000 EQDs. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 60,000 EQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $7,500).

Upgrades on flights under 500 miles ($125)

Like Gold members, Platinum travelers will enjoy complimentary upgrades on short flights. I’ve bumped the valuation here slightly based on double the flying and the fact that Platinum upgrades are more likely to clear than Gold ones, though you’ll still fall below Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum flyers.

500-mile upgrades ($480)

Platinum members will also earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs they travel, giving you 16 of them based on the assumed flying above. However, I’m bumping the value of each to $30 to reflect the fact that Platinum members have priority over Gold travelers.

60% mileage bonus ($315)

As a Platinum member, you’ll earn an extra 3 miles per dollar spent when compared to non-status flyers. With $9,000 of spending, that equates to 22,500 extra miles, worth $315.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($250)

The first three perks here are the same as those offered for Gold members, but I’m adding another $50 thanks to the priority baggage delivery at this tier.

Checked bag fee waiver ($200)

Platinum members can check two bags for free on domestic flights, though they’re limited to 50 pounds apiece.

Priority baggage delivery ($25)

Of all the elite status perks I’ve used, this is probably the most sporadic. On a 2016 trip with American, our bags were almost last to come out after traveling home in business class from Madrid. Nevertheless, if it works and you’re in a rush, it can be nice to have.

Complimentary same-day standby ($150)

Same benefit as Gold members, but I’ll assume that you use this twice per year.

Priority phone line ($100)

Same benefit, twice the utilization, though Platinum phone agents will be slightly more knowledgeable.

Complimentary preferred/MCE seats ($350)

Platinum members can select both preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking. Depending on the flight length, this can save quite a bit of money.

Partner benefits ($150)

Platinum travelers will be granted Sapphire benefits when traveling on Oneworld airlines, including the same priority check-in and standby offered to Golds plus priority boarding and lounge access when traveling internationally. This also extends to American’s Flagship lounges when departing on or connecting to a same-day, qualifying international flight in any class, a great perk when you’re connecting through Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) or New York-JFK.

Related: Last-minute elite status strategies for American Airlines AAdvantage

AAdvantage Platinum Pro ($3,780)

As a Platinum Pro flyer, you’re eligible for upgrades to first-class on all short- and medium-haul routes. (Photo by Daryl Chua/The Points Guy.)

The third tier in the AAdvantage program is Platinum Pro, which normally requires 75,000 EQMs or 90 elite-qualifying segments plus $9,000 EQDs. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 90,000 EQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $11,250).

Upgrades on flights under 500 miles ($250)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Upgrades on flights over 500 miles ($800)

One of the biggest differences between Platinum and Platinum Pro involves upgrades. Platinum Pro travelers will enjoy unlimited, complimentary upgrades on all flights eligible for 500-mile upgrades (generally those within the U.S. and between the U.S. and the Caribbean/Central America). You’ll be prioritized behind Executive Platinum travelers, but it’s a step up from needing to use 500-mile upgrades.

80% mileage bonus ($630)

Platinum Pro members will earn an extra 4 miles per dollar spent over non-status travelers. With $13,500 of spending, that equates to 45,000 extra miles, worth $630.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($375)

Same perks, more frequent utilization.

Checked bag fee waiver ($250)

Same perk as Platinum members but with slightly more frequent utilization.

Complimentary same-day standby and flight change ($225)

Platinum Pro flyers will enjoy the same standby perks as lower-level elite members, but as of February 2018, they also can make complimentary same-day flight changes. I’ll assume that you utilize one of these benefits three times during the year, though if you regularly need to adjust your plans on the day of your flight, you could get significantly more value from these two perks.

Priority phone line ($150)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization and more knowledgeable agents.

Complimentary preferred/MCE seats ($525)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

One choice benefit ($350)

Starting in 2021, Platinum Pro members can choose from one of seven rewards upon qualification. These range from a single systemwide upgrade to bonus AAdvantage miles.

Here’s a look at what Platinum Pro members can choose from:

  • One systemwide upgrade (SWUs)
  • 20,000 bonus AAdvantage miles, 25,000 for cobrand credit card members
  • One-time 15% award ticket discount
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
  • Six Admirals Club one-time passes
  • $200 American Airlines travel voucher

The systemwide upgrade is generally seen as the most valuable benefit on this list. You can use this to upgrade from coach (excluding Basic Economy) to business class or business class to Flagship First on any American-operated flight of up to three segments. These can also be transferred to family members or friends, even when they’re not traveling with you.

Note that you do need to find upgrade inventory for your desired flights (C for domestic first-class or international business class and A for international first-class), and I’d strongly recommend using ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to set alerts if there aren’t seats at the time of booking.

This can be worth thousands of dollars on a high-end international flight — especially on flights from the U.S. to Asia. That said, I’ll follow last year’s systemwide upgrade value of $350 for this benefit.

Partner benefits ($225)

Same benefits as Platinum, more frequent utilization.

Related: American CEO Doug Parker talks about alliances, travel rebound

AAdvantage Executive Platinum ($6,735)

The systemwide upgrades you can choose as a choice reward can bump you from economy to business class on virtually any flight in American’s network. (Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

The AAdvantage program’s final tier is Executive Platinum status, which normally requires 100,000 EQMs or 120 elite-qualifying segments plus $15,000 EQDs. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 120,000 EQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $15,000).

Complimentary upgrades ($1,500)

Like Platinum Pro members, Executive Platinum travelers will enjoy unlimited, complimentary upgrades on all short- and medium-haul flights (including award tickets). However, Executive Platinums will be given higher priority on the upgrade list.

Two choice rewards, including systemwide upgrades ($1,400)

Like Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum members can pick rewards after qualifying for status. Executive Platinum members can pick two rewards from this list:

  • Two systemwide upgrades (SWUs)
  • 25,000 bonus AAdvantage miles, 30,000 for cobrand credit card members
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
  • Gift Gold status to another member
  • Individual Admirals Club membership (requires two choices)
  • 10,000 bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (can only be selected once)
  • $200 American Airlines travel voucher
  • Choice of Bang & Olufsen products

This benefit is a replacement for the four systemwide upgrades Executive Platinum members previously received. I’d recommend using your two rewards for these upgrades as they’re likely to yield the most value. That said, you may want to mix and match if you don’t foresee yourself traveling long-haul in 2021. You may want to select the bonus miles in this case as they don’t expire so long as you have activity in your account once every 18 months.

I’ll keep the value for this benefit the same as last year’s valuation for four systemwide upgrades at $1,400.

Note that you can earn more rewards after earning 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQM during normal travel years. These tiers have been lowered to 120,000, 160,000 and 200,000 EQM for the 2021 status year. The choices are a little different — here’s a look:

  • 2 systemwide upgrades
  • 40,000 bonus miles
  • Gift AAdvantage Gold to another member (Platinum at 200K/250K levels)

120% mileage bonus ($1,260)

Executive Platinum members will earn an extra 6 miles per dollar spent over non-status travelers. With $18,000 of spending, that equates to 90,000 extra miles, worth $1,260.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($500)

Same perks, more frequent utilization.

Checked bag fee waiver ($350)

As an Executive Platinum member, you can check up to three bags for free on all American flights — though the weight is capped at 70 pounds. While most travelers probably aren’t checking three bags on every flight, it’s still nice to have that option.

Complimentary same-day standby ($150)

Same benefit as Gold, Platinum and Platinum Pro, but I’ll assume the same twice per year utilization because of …

Complimentary same-day confirmed ($300)

Like Platinum Pro flyers, Executive Platinum members can switch to a different flight on the same day without incurring the $75 fee. I’ll assume that you’d utilize this four times.

Priority phone line ($250)

Executive Platinum members get a dedicated phone line, and this often results in more personalized support. We’ve even heard from some travelers that this is their most valued benefit, so I’ll boost the value from Platinum Pro.

Complimentary preferred/MCE seats ($625)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Complimentary drink and snack in the Main Cabin ($50)

As an Executive Platinum, you’d hopefully be riding in first class for most of your trips, but if not, you can pick a drink and snack for free.

Partner benefits ($350)

Executive Platinum members enjoy Oneworld Emerald status, giving access to first- and business-class lounges plus extra baggage allowance along with the same perks outlined above for Platinum and Platinum Pro travelers. This includes access to some of the world’s best lounges like the Cathay Pacific’s The Pier and Qantas’ First lounge in Singapore, even when flying in coach.

Related: Successfully completing a status challenge: American Executive Platinum to Delta Platinum

What if I’m starting from scratch?

If you don’t currently have AAdvantage elite status, expect many flights at the back of the bus until you reach the qualification threshold for Gold. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.)

As I mentioned at the outset, these numbers are based on the benefits you’d enjoy by spending a full year with the given status. However, if you’re starting from scratch, the calculations become a bit more complicated since you won’t start to enjoy any benefits until you hit the 25,000-mile mark and earn Gold status.

To help modify the analysis for those individuals, I’ve taken the above valuations and converted them to a value per EQM, as follows:

  • AAdvantage Gold: $885 / 30,000 EQMs = 2.95 cents per EQM
  • AAdvantage Platinum: $2,145 / 60,000 EQMs = 3.57 cents per EQM
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro: $3,780 / 90,000 EQMs = 4.20 cents per EQM
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum: $6,735 / 120,000 EQMs = 5.61 cents per EQM

I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from the different AAdvantage elite status, levels given a certain amount of flying. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent the number of EQMs you expect to fly in 2021, and the spreadsheet will update with the corresponding value. This also includes the assumption that you’d select two additional SWUs when you reach 150,000 EQMs, 200,000 EQMs and 250,000 EQMs.

For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 60,000 EQMs. At this rate, you’d get no benefits from the first 25,000 EQMs, then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 25,000 EQMs (at a rate of 2.95 cents per EQM), and then enjoy Platinum benefits for the final 10,000 EQMs (at a rate of 3.57 cents per EQM). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll earn 60,000 EQMs in 2021, you’d be able to get $1,095 worth of perks from the AAdvantage program.

As always, feel free to adjust the numbers above for each tier (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.

Related: Consider jump-starting your travel in 2021 with an airline elite status match or challenge.

Is it worth it?

American Airlines planes
Only you can decide if pursuing AAdvantage elite status in 2020 is worth it. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

Given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status with American Airlines? Like any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this. It depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:

  • How much will you travel in the future? If you qualify for status in 2021, your status will last until January 31, 2023. It’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Executive Platinum, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
  • What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
  • How well does American’s route map match your typical travel patterns? Pursuing elite status with an airline that you don’t fly regularly is a fool’s errand. Be sure to consider American’s service from your home airport(s) and how easy it is to get to your desired destination.
  • How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many trade-offs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you book a one-stop American flight if United had a cheaper nonstop option? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn AAdvantage elite status (or any elite status, for that matter).
  • Could you enjoy elite-like perks with a credit card? The final consideration involves travel rewards credit cards. Many airline cobranded cards offer perks to cardholders that can mirror what you’d enjoy as an elite member. For American travelers, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard includes the first checked bag free on domestic itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation, preferred boarding and a 25% in-flight discount on food and beverages purchased on domestic flights. Likewise, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® provides an Admirals Club membership (with lounge access for your authorized users) in addition to the first checked bag free on domestic itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation, priority boarding and the 25% in-flight food and drink discount. It may be better to pay a flat annual fee for one of these cards and gain access to perks that matter to you without going out of your way to earn elite status.

These questions are also not easy to answer, as many different factors come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine if AAdvantage elite status is for you!

Related: Your guide to American Airlines lifetime elite status

Bottom line

No one will argue that elite status can make your travel experience less stressful and more rewarding, but pursuing status with a given airline or hotel chain may not make sense if it doesn’t align with your typical travel plans. Understanding how much the benefits are worth can go a long way toward helping this decision, so I hope my analysis of the AAdvantage elite program has been helpful.


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about American Airlines elite status, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest information. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to outdated information below.


Featured photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen

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.