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American Airlines makes it easier to earn status, extends loyalty benefits again

June 03, 2021
9 min read
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Calling all American Airlines frequent flyers.

The Fort Worth-based carrier just became the last of the Big 3 U.S. airlines to announce mid-year loyalty program adjustments. Though the news is all part of one major update, it's broken down into six individual changes that together make it easier to earn elite status this year and take advantage of your existing benefits.

In explaining these changes, Rick Elieson, the president of the AAdvantage loyalty program, told TPG in a meeting at the carrier's Skyview headquarters that these adjustments will hopefully encourage renewed interest in the airline.

"What I want is people to engage with our airline. I have an elite program, and I want it to be bigger every year. I want more people to qualify. I want them to push me," he said.

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Bonus elite-qualifying miles

To Elieson's point about growing the elite population, every AAdvantage member can now log in to their account and register for a bonus elite-qualifying promotion.

The EQM promotion is capped at the first ten segments flown through Aug. 31, and there's no minimum spend, fare class or booking date requirement. The bonus amounts are as follows:

  • Non-elites and Gold members earn 250 bonus EQMs per segment, up to 2,500 EQMs
  • Platinum members earn 500 bonus EQMs per segment, up to 5,000 EQMs
  • Platinum Pro members earn 750 bonus EQMs per segment, up to 7,500 bonus EQMs
  • Executive Platinum and invite-only Concierge Key members earn 1,000 bonus EQMs per segment, up to 10,000 bonus EQMs

Though the promotions vary by your current status tier, the fine print remains the same. You'll receive bonus elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) per segment flown from the time you register through Aug. 31.

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Additionally, the promo is valid on partner airlines — any flight that is eligible to earn elite-qualifying credit is eligible for bonus EQMs, except for basic economy fares. As such, it could make sense to credit upcoming Alaska or JetBlue flights to AA to take advantage of the offer.

As a reminder, in late 2020, American Airlines made it easier to earn status, by slashing the traditional thresholds by roughly 20 to 33 percent, per the chart below.

The carrier also rolled over all elite-qualifying progress earned in the fourth quarter of 2020 into the 2021 program year. Remember that any status earned in 2021 will be valid through Jan. 31, 2023.

Related: Complete guide to AA's elite-qualifying miles

The following reduced thresholds aren't changing as part of the promotion — rather, you're just getting a boost towards the goal post as part of the latest promotion.

MetricGoldPlatinumPlatinum ProExecutive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)20,00040,00060,00080,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS)20457095
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)$2,000$4,500$7,000$12,000

An elite-qualifying dollar deposit

In addition to the EQM promo, AA's giving all current elites another fast-track to requalifying with an elite-qualifying dollar (EQD) boost.

The number of EQDs you'll receive will vary based on your current status. You can register for this boost in your personalized AAdvantage promotion center on aa.com.

  • Gold members receive 500 bonus EQDs
  • Platinum members receive 1,000 bonus EQDs
  • Platinum Pro members receive 1,500 bonus EQDs
  • Executive Platinum and invite-only Concierge Key members receive 3,000 bonus EQDs

Note that there's no flying required to earn the EQD boost — once you register, the EQDs will be automatically deposited within 24 hours.

As mentioned above, you'll need to earn either the reduced number of EQMs or elite-qualifying segments (EQSs), as well as hit the EQD threshold in order to requalify for status this year. (Note that American isn't currently offering an EQS promo or boost.)

All AA elites are getting an EQD boost (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With airfares still lower than pre-pandemic levels, giving elites an EQD boost should help them close the gap on requalifying.

While the EQD promo should help account for lower-than-normal airfares, AA's EQM boost still requires elites to get back in the air with American. These promotions feel fair for a mid-year adjustment, though some elites, especially those with restrictive corporate travel policies, may fall short of requalifying despite the bonuses.

However, if you're still too far away from the thresholds, the carrier rolled out another path to hitting the EQD goal late last year.

If you spend $30,000 on purchases on any cobranded AAdvantage credit card during the calendar year, you'll be exempt from the EQD requirement, up to Platinum Pro status.

Unfortunately, this promotion doesn't apply to Executive Platinum, so if you're gunning for top-tier status, you'll still need to earn the required $12,000 EQDs, minus however many EQDs you received as part of the mid-year boost.

Related: Complete guide to AA's elite-qualifying dollars

One-time EQM purchase opportunity

When registering for American's mid-year loyalty promotions, current elites will be offered the opportunity to purchase a package of EQMs.

The cost to purchase is $495, which will earn you 495 EQDs, as well as the following number of EQMs:

  • Gold members receive 2,500 EQMs
  • Platinum members receive 5,000 EQMs
  • Platinum Pro members receive 7,500 EQMs
  • Executive Platinum and invite-only Concierge Key members receive 10,000 EQMs

This is a one-time opportunity that you'll only receive when registering for the promotion.

Mileage expiration paused through 2021

Of the Big 3 U.S. airlines, American is the only one with a mileage expiration policy.

Due to the pandemic, the carrier paused the expiration of miles to June 30, 2021. Now, the carrier's throwing in the towel on the rest of 2021, by extending all miles that were slated to expire at any time this year to January 2022.

This is a welcome move and one that many anxious frequent flyers will appreciate. In the meantime, be sure to bookmark our guide to keeping your points and miles from expiring if AA indeed follows through with its January 2022 expiration date.

Despite all the uncertainty around the pandemic, American isn't planning to eliminate its expiration policy for good. Elieson, quoting AA's managing director of AAdvantage, Heather Samp, told TPG that "a good loyalty program will have an expiration date and nobody's miles expire. That would be the sign of success."

For Elieson and his team, the expiration policy is a way to create behavioral triggers that encourage members to engage with the airline. For now, it's here to stay.

Systemwide upgrades extended through mid-2022

As first reported earlier this week, American Airlines is rolling out an extension for its systemwide upgrades that were originally slated to expire this year.

In a statement shared with TPG, an AA spokesperson said that “we are pleased to share with our elite AAdvantage members that all active systemwide upgrades scheduled to expire in 2021 will have a new expiration date of July 31, 2022.”

Using your systemwide upgrades just became easier (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The updated expiration date should already be reflected in your account and can be seen by looking at your "Wallet" section of your AAdvantage profile.

American's upgrade extension is now the most generous of the major U.S. airlines. Delta's regional and global upgrade certificates selected between March 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2020, have already been extended through the end of 2021.

United, on the other hand, gave top-tier Premier members two six-month extensions on PlusPoints that were slated to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Those PlusPoints are now valid through Jan. 31, 2022.

Companion certificates and flight discounts extended

In addition to systemwide upgrades, many of AA's most popular co-branded credit card perks are being extended as well.

If you’re a qualifying Barclays or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® cardholder with a companion certificate expiring this year, you’ll receive an extension through June 30, 2022.

This applies to all existing AAdvantage Aviator Red, Silver and Business cardmembers, as well as those with the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, who hold an unused companion certificate with an original expiration date between Dec. 31, 2020, and May 31, 2022.

American is also extending the validity of its $125 American Airlines flight discount that's earned after spending $20,000 or more on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® each cardmember year after account renewal.

All unused flight discounts expiring between June 30, 2021, and July 31, 2022, will receive a six-month extension from the current expiration date.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and Citi Business 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.

What's coming next

While Thursday's AAdvantage update is quite comprehensive, Elieson pledged to continue adapting the program as needed, based on travel trends and the outcome of the pandemic.

"You set a tone, you set a pace and then just continue to adapt," he told TPG. "If this doesn't do the trick, we'll announce more after that... none of these are one-time deals," he continued.

For those holding out hope that AA outright extends status again this year, that's likely not going to happen, according to Elieson. Rather, for elites who aren't ready to return to flying, the carrier is figuring out how to "engage them and allow them to earn their way back towards status" while remaining grounded.

Expect more promotions for non-flight spend, an American Airlines spokesperson confirmed to TPG. The details remain to be seen, but the carrier is clearly thinking outside the box to get travelers to engage with the program, despite the pandemic.

As for what's on the horizon, Elieson is leaning into personalized offers. "Come fall, I would expect to be much more individually targeted. Because right now I still think people can solve this themselves."

For now, however, the goal of the mid-year adjustments is to convince travelers to fly with American.

As Elieson succinctly quipped, "let's put the rules in such a place that actually engenders the behavior we want, which is engagement with American Airlines."

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.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023