American completely revamps how you earn elite status with new ‘Loyalty Points’

Oct 26, 2021

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Paging all American Airlines flyers: The carrier is completely overhauling its elite-status program.

Rebuilt from the ground up, American’s AAdvantage loyalty program is bidding farewell to its various elite-qualifying metrics in favor of a new currency, Loyalty Points.

To quell your doubts, this isn’t a heartbreaking change that makes elite status totally unachievable. But, if you’ve been on the AAdvantage hamster wheel for many years, you might want to pour a cup of coffee and read up on all the changes that American is making to earning status.

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In This Post

Say hello to Loyalty Points

American is introducing a brand-new rewards currency called Loyalty Points. You’ll earn these throughout your journey with the airline, and they’ll contribute to your elite-status progress.

Earning Loyalty Points

Historically, achieving elite status with American AAdvantage has required racking up a mix of elite-qualifying miles, segments and dollars, earned through flying with the airline and its partners.

Going forward, American will still award status progress from flying, but it’s expanding the qualifying activity to include spending on cobranded credit cards and other non-flying activities.

You’ll earn one Loyalty Point for each qualifying AAdvantage mile earned from the following activities:

Big changes: 11 things you might’ve missed in American’s massive loyalty program update

  • Flying on American, its Oneworld partners and JetBlue
  • Using an AAdvantage credit card
    • All Citi/AAdvantage, all AAdvantage Aviator and all AAdvantage credit cards issued outside the U.S. are eligible.
  • Shopping online through the eShopping portal
  • Dining out through the AAdvantage dining program
  • And all other activities with partners, such as SimplyMiles

Caveats to earning Loyalty Points

There are a few important caveats to how you earn Loyalty Points.

The biggest is that you only earn Loyalty Points on the base AAdvantage miles that you accumulate. For instance, with AAdvantage credit cards, you won’t earn Loyalty Points for sign-up bonuses, limited-time spending offers or multipliers on certain categories, like grocery stores or dining. With most AAdvantage cobranded cards, you’ll earn just one mile (and one Loyalty Point) from each dollar you spend.

Note that purchases made with your cobranded credit card will count based on the date the activity posts to your AAdvantage account, not necessarily the date of purchase. All other flight and partner transactions will count based on the activity date of the flight or other transaction.

Other exclusions to earning Loyalty Points include bonus miles earned from special promotions, as well as miles that were purchased, gifted or transferred between accounts or from partners.

When it comes to flying, American’s basic economy tickets will contribute to earning Loyalty Points — a break from the policy that was implemented earlier this year that stripped all elite earning from these deep-discount fares.

If you’re already an AAdvantage elite, you’ll accrue miles from flights at an accelerated rate compared to the 5x miles per dollar that a general member earns, per the chart below. These multipliers will count towards earning Loyalty Points.

Status Award miles/USD
General member 5
Gold 7
Platinum 8
Platinum Pro 9
Executive Platinum 11

Finally, if you book a ticket with an American Airlines partner (other than JetBlue), you earn AAdvantage miles based on the cabin purchased and the distance flown. All of these redeemable miles that you earn will contribute to your Loyalty Points in a 1:1 ratio.

Examples of earning Loyalty Points

That’s a lot of new information, so let’s see how it plays out in a few example scenarios.

Say you took a one-way basic economy flight from New York to Los Angeles that cost $300. As a Platinum Pro member, you’d earn 2,700 (300 dollars multiplied by 9 miles per dollar) AAdvantage miles for the ticket (excluding taxes and fees for simplicity). In addition to earning the 2,700 redeemable award miles, you’d also earn 2,700 Loyalty Points.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you splurged for a discounted British Airways business-class fare from New York to London for $2,000, you’d earn 4,314 redeemable miles (3,451 base miles with a 25% cabin bonus), which translates to 4,314 Loyalty Points. If you’re a top-tier Executive Platinum member, you’d also receive a 120% elite bonus on the base miles, bringing your total redeemable miles to 8,455 (3,451 base miles multiplied by the 1.20 elite bonus  + 4,314) and your Loyalty Points to 8,455.

Finally, say you open a new AAdvantage credit card with a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus, and also spend $5,000 on the card, half of which was spent on groceries that earn 2x miles per dollar spent. When the statement closes and miles post to your AAdvantage account, you’ll earn:

  • 5,000 Loyalty Points
  • 50,000 miles from the sign-up bonus
  • 5,000 base miles from spending
  • 2,500 bonus miles for the grocery spend

As you can see, despite the bonus miles you may have earned, you’ll receive only 5,000 Loyalty Points – from the 1:1 earning ratio from your base credit card spend.

2022 elite status requirements

As you accumulate Loyalty Points, you’ll get closer to achieving elite status. Beginning in 2022, you’ll need to earn the following number of Loyalty Points in a year to qualify for status.

Status Loyalty Points
Gold 30,000
Platinum 75,000
Platinum Pro 125,000
Executive Platinum 200,000

 

Loyalty Points are all about your spend

In recent years, we’ve seen American’s “Big 3” competitors, Delta and United, shift to a revenue-based model for earning status.

With Loyalty Points, American is doing something very similar. The number of Loyalty Points you earn will be tied to your spending, not necessarily to the distance you flew or how many segments you took.

This might kill the last-minute mileage run that you might’ve considered to get you to the next status level. Now that spending more on airfare or on an AAdvantage credit will get earn you more Loyalty Points, you might instead splurge on a first-class fare or make a bucket-list purchase to boost your status.

Additionally, if you’re planning to qualify the “old way” (from flying), it’s going to be much harder. Earning top-tier Executive Platinum status from scratch will require nearly $27,000 in spending on American flights — a nearly $12,000 jump compared to the prior scheme. That’ll definitely sting for many travelers. (For those doing the math at home, it might seem like the travel spend for top-tier status would come to $40,000 based on a 5x multiplier — but that doesn’t take into account earning higher multipliers as you qualify for each successive level of status.)

The good news is that if you’re a big spender, hitting the revamped elite tiers shouldn’t be a challenge, since credit card spend will contribute to your elite progress.

If you’re not, well, good luck — you’ll need deep pockets or a big expense account to hit top-tier status.

Elite choice rewards get a rebrand

Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members enjoy a host of top-tier benefits. They include items like confirmed upgrades as early as 100 hours before departure, higher checked bag allowances and Flagship Lounge access on qualifying flights.

In addition to these benefits, these members also receive additional rewards upon achieving status, which previously included systemwide upgrade certificates, Admirals Club passes and more.

Last year, American rebranded these perks as “Elite Choice Rewards,” and this year, they’re getting renamed again as “Loyalty Choice Rewards.”

Many of the long-standing rewards will still be available after the rebrand, including upgrades, lounge access and bonus miles. We don’t yet have the full details of the rewards catalog (more info is “coming soon”), but we do know that how you earn these rewards is changing.

Status rewards have additional requirements

Previously, once you qualified for status, you automatically received elite perks. Going forward, you’ll need to fly at least 30 segments on American and qualifying partners to unlock these Loyalty Choice Rewards.

This is likely to be the change that top-tier elites will dislike the most. Historically, there hasn’t been a minimum-segment requirement to earn AAdvantage status, and putting the threshold at 30 might be high for some flyers who prefer fewer long-haul trips to more frequent domestic hops.

If it’s any consolation, award tickets marketed by American will count toward reaching the minimum segment requirement, though you won’t earn any miles or Loyalty Points from those transactions. (Note that only AAdvantage award segments for travel on American will count towards this requirement. This does not include partners like Alaska, JetBlue, British Airways, etc.)

After you earn 125,000 Loyalty Points and fly 30 segments, you can continue earning additional Loyalty Choice Rewards based on your qualifying activity as follows:

Reward level Loyalty Points required
Level 1 (Platinum Pro status) 125,000
Level 2 (Executive Platinum status) 200,000
Level 3 (Executive Platinum status) 350,000
Level 4 (Executive Platinum status) 550,000
Level 5 (Executive Platinum status) 750,000

No changes to elite benefits

While unveiling these changes, Heather Samp, managing director of member engagement, told TPG that though American is changing how you earn status, there are currently no plans to pare back benefits, change how you earn award miles or remove award charts.

Removing award charts has been speculated for some time, especially after TPG’s mid-June interview with outgoing AAdvantage president Rick Elieson, but they are seemingly safe for now.

To dispel the rumors, Samp continued, “This is our program for next year. We still have the same MileSAAver, AAnytime, Web Special fares, those are all still out there … This is the change for the 2022 program,” referring to the elite status adjustments.

Additionally, American’s Million Miler program isn’t changing as part of this update — you’ll continue to earn lifetime status based on miles earned from flying with American and its partners.

Upgrade priority is changing

The way that American ranks upgrade requests is getting overhauled with the introduction of Loyalty Points, too.

Previously, the airline used a 12-month rolling elite-qualifying dollar (EQD) balance as the tie-break between two elites who are at the same status level and are using the same type of upgrade certificate (whether it was a systemwide upgrade, mileage upgrade or 500-mile upgrade).

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Beginning in March 2022, the tie-break will be a 12-month rolling Loyalty Point balance.

If you earned EQDs in 2021, your 12-month rolling Loyalty Points balance will be composed of a combination of your 12-month rolling EQD value as of March 1, 2022, supplemented with Loyalty Points as you earn them. As of March 1, 2023, the rolling 12-month Loyalty Points value used for upgrade priority will be solely composed of Loyalty Points.

The details of the calculation are as follows. The rolling EQDs that you have as of Feb. 28, 2022, will be converted into Loyalty Points (for upgrade priority only) based on your status held as of Jan. 1, 2022. The multipliers used are the same base (5x) and your applicable elite bonuses (7x, 8x, 9x and 11x). For example, a Gold member earns 7 miles per dollar spent when flying, so those EQDs will be multiplied by 7 as if they had been earning Loyalty Points.

Separately, American promises “more details to share” around how you can earn 500-mile upgrades under the new program. There are no changes to this benefit through Feb. 28, 2022.

2-month status extension for all

To coincide with the launch of the revamped AAdvantage program, American is giving all current elites a two-month status extension.

All current elite membership will now lapse on March 31, 2022, and this change should already be reflected in your account. If you’ve already requalified for status this year, your membership will now expire on March 31, 2023.

A new membership year

Another noteworthy change with the revamped program is that American is changing the status-qualifying year.

Previously, the elite-qualifying metrics reset on Jan. 1, and you’d have between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 to qualify for the following year’s status.

Going forward, the elite qualification period will last from March 1 through Feb. 28 of the following year (or Feb. 29 during a leap year). If you achieve elite status during the qualification period, your status will be valid through the following March 31.

For example, say you earn 200,000 Loyalty Points anytime between March 1, 2023, and Feb. 29, 2024, your Executive Platinum status will be valid through March 31, 2025.

Limited-time double-dipping opportunity

Along with the aforementioned status extension, all qualifying activity completed in January and February 2022 will count toward both earning status for the 2022 membership year and for the 2023 membership year.

That means you have two more months to achieve status for 2022 under the outgoing elite-qualifying miles, segments and dollars scheme, and whatever you earn in the first two months of the year will be added to your Loyalty Points balance when the revamped program launches on March 1.

This is a one-time double-dipping opportunity that American is offering to compensate for the shift in the program year.

Note that the offer also applies to Elite Choice Rewards. Even if you’ve already requalified for top-tier status, any additional flying you do in the first two months can help unlock additional rewards when you hit 120,000, 160,000 and 200,000 elite-qualifying miles.

Bottom line

American Airlines is out with an entirely new way of earning elite status.

On the whole, these changes bring the AAdvantage further in line with its “Big 3” competitors who are increasingly rewarding elites based on their spending.

American’s version has a few additional considerations, such as the ability to earn status qualification progress from cobranded credit card spend and other non-flying activities.

Of course, the outcome of these changes will largely depend on your flying and spending patterns. But one thing is for certain: there’s a new way of doing business with American Airlines.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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