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American hyped holiday cheer and gifts, but delivered me disappointment

Dec. 02, 2020
5 min read
American hyped holiday cheer and gifts, but delivered me disappointment
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The top story on TPG yesterday was, overwhelmingly, the announcement that American AAdvantage would leave a surprise gift in member accounts on Wednesday morning.

It was the frequent flyer equivalent of waiting for Christmas.

I was so intrigued, I left the American Airlines homepage up on my desktop so I'd see it first thing this morning, and bounded down the stairs too immediately check my account and my immediate family's accounts -- not unlike peeking into stockings that were hung by the chimney with care.

But with that level of build-up, imagine my disappointment when I opened my wife's account and found this:

Only 100 AAdvantage miles? That's it -- really? Are there more miles at the very bottom of the stocking?

Well, there's also the chance to earn double miles for two months in early 2021 ... when the majority of people who have chosen not to fly will continue to stay grounded. Surely, this nugget of coal was an outlier, since my wife doesn't have status with American and hasn't flown with the airline in almost a year.

But when I started asking around the virtual TPG office, it was clear other travelers received much of the same. And some of the offers were arguably worse:

And it's not just TPG staff members who may have been given rocks.

And my "gift" may be the most confusing of all: I've been given an indeterminate amount of 500-mile upgrades:

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I suppose I have to wait and see how many 500-mile upgrades hit my account -- like having to wait until Dec. 26 to open a gift. For context, I have Executive Platinum status and, for the majority of my domestic flights in 2019 and before the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, I flew American between my home in Atlanta (ATL) and New York City's LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

We're all on the naughty list

After conversing with several other frequent flyers and scrolling through social media to see post after post from AAdvantage members "thanking" American Airlines for their gifts, I had to sit back and chuckle. This is, perhaps, the best example of a well-intentioned and potentially fantastic promotion that should have aborted its takeoff roll:

  • I have almost no use for 500-mile upgrade certificates, as I receive complimentary upgrades as an Executive Platinum member and I rarely (perhaps never) have the opportunity to upgrade a friend or family member. In fact, most Executive Platinum members have gobs of these in their accounts that go unused for years.
  • If your American miles are set to expire (even though United, Delta and Southwest miles never expire), those 100 bonus miles will keep your miles active. But beyond that, it's an entirely useless "gift" TPG values at $1.40.
  • Avis single-car class upgrades? Nearly worthless.
  • A tiny enticement to fly in January and February at what could be peak pandemic times? Why would I fly to get more useless 500-mile upgrades and just 2,000 miles I value around $30?

I realize American can't give everyone 100,000 miles or unlimited free upgrade certificates, but surely we can do better than these little lumps of coal.

Or, simply don't hype up that surprises are coming only to deposit arguably hollow gifts. AAdvantage exists to encourage and entice people to fly. The program itself is valued at more than the airline. American needs passengers in seats more than ever, and that's not just due to the pandemic: The airline flew its Boeing 737 MAX this morning for the first time and wants travelers to feel safe on the just-recertified aircraft.

The decision to hype up 100 miles or an equivalent "gift" to members? I guess we're all on the naughty list this year.

Bottom line

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

My after-gift-delivery quarterbacking says the gifts today should have been more generous and should have been designed to really get people excited about boarding an American flight in the near future.

Why not give truly valuable gifts that expire at the end of the first quarter of 2021? Confirmable upgrades to members with no status, five-star service through the airport in the first quarter, free drinks passes, lounge access with near-in expiration dates, 12,500 miles that expire in the first quarter, tempting status challenge offers — anything, really, besides 100 to 250 miles or a one-class car rental upgrade certificate.

Like tens of thousands of other AAdvantage members yesterday, I appreciate what the program tried to do, and it got travelers talking about American. But, perhaps Oscar Wilde said it best: "It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done."

Featured image by MediaNews Group via Getty Images

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TPG featured card

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
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
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

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    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

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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