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American Airlines unveils overhauled elite perks, improves Platinum Pro status

Dec. 10, 2020
8 min read
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated to show the start date for Platinum Pros to begin receiving "Emerald" Oneworld benefits. 

The next time you hit top-tier status with American Airlines, you'll be rewarded with a slew of new benefits.

American's "elite choice rewards" were first teased when the carrier reduced elite-qualifying criteria for the 2021 program year. Rick Elieson, the president of AAdvantage, promised that top-tier Executive Platinum members could earn five systemwide upgrades, but stopped short of revealing additional tidbits about the new program.

Well, we now have the details — and it's an exciting development for AAdvantage members. As part of the news, American is also improving Platinum Pro status, so let's dive into the details.

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How American Airlines elite choice rewards work

When members earn Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum status in 2021 and beyond, they'll get a pick from a new catalog of reward options.

Previously, there was no choice — all Executive Platinum members earned four systemwide upgrades upon qualifying for status.

The new menu, however, is designed to give everyone a pick at what they value most.

Platinum Pros get a single pick from one of the seven options. Executive Platinums get two choices from one of nine options — plus they'll get a pick from the Platinum Pro list along the way to top-tier status.

Once you qualify for status, you'll unlock your pick(s). You can then choose a reward anytime from the date you qualify all the way through Dec. 30 of the following year. (Note that it's Dec. 30, and not the last day of the year, Dec. 31.)

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As you'll see below, it could make sense to wait to hold off on making your selection, depending on the expiration date of your chosen gift.

Once the new menus launch in 2021, you'll receive an email inviting you to make your selection. You'll also be able to choose and track your rewards from a new "Gifts and Rewards" section of your AAdvantage account.

Note that the existing Executive Platinum rewards for those who over-qualify for top-tier status will remain as a standalone program, an American spokesperson confirmed to TPG.

American Airlines elite choice rewards options

(Graphic courtesy of American Airlines)

Now, let's take a look at each of the rewards menus, and discuss each gift, starting with systemwide upgrades.

Systemwide upgrades

As in the past, systemwide upgrades (SWUs) can be used to move from coach to business class or from business class to Flagship First on any flight operated by American.

2021 will be the first year that a Platinum Pro member can earn a systemwide upgrade — a notable improvement to this status level. Plus, Executive Platinum members don't need to choose four upgrades — they can choose two and then use their second pick for another reward.

SWUs will expire one year from the date of selection. You don't necessarily need to upgrade during that year, as an expiring SWU can be applied to future travel so long as there's upgrade space when using the certificate.

As such, if you're planning to pick SWUs as your gift, be sure to hold off on redeeming your pick until you have a flight that's available for upgrade.

Related: How to use American systemwide upgrades

Use systemwide upgrades to score upgrades to AA's Flagship Business (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

AAdvantage bonus miles

Both Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members have a choice of receiving a lump sum of AAdvantage miles when qualifying for status.

The former can earn 20,000 miles, worth $280 according to the TPG valuations, while the latter can earn 25,000 miles, worth $350.

Note that if you're a co-branded credit cardholder you'll enjoy an additional 5,000 miles bonus (worth $70) on top of the lump-sum distribution.

One-time 15%-off award discount

This Platinum Pros-exclusive option unlocks 15% off a single AAdvantage award ticket.

The carrier confirmed to TPG that this discount applies to any type of award ticket, including revenue-based Web Specials, with no maximum on how much you can save.

Note that the discount will be applied post-travel as a rebate, for up to two passengers traveling round-trip.

As such, if you're planning to redeem an award that costs 133,000 miles or more, it definitely makes sense to choose the 15% discount, as opposed to the 20,000-mile lump-sum bonus.

Carbon emissions offset

One innovative reward option is carbon offsets. American is partnering with the non-profit Cool Effect to purchase offsets calculated based on your flight activity during the elite-qualifying year.

$200 donation to a partner charity

Flyers can also choose to gift a reward to one of ten non-profit organizations. American will send $200 to the partner non-profit of your choice, including programs like Feeding America and Stand Up To Cancer.

Admirals Club day-passes and membership

Platinum Pros can choose six single-day lounge passes (worth $354), while Executive Platinums can choose an individual Admirals Club membership (worth $550). Just note that the latter requires both picks from the top-tier catalog.

The passes and lounge membership expire at the end of the elite status membership year (Jan. 31, two years after qualifying for status),

The Admirals Club membership is tied to elite membership year (Jan. 31, two years after qualifying for status), so if you pick the lounge access gift, be sure to make your selection immediately upon earning status.

The day passes, on the other hand, are good for one year from the date selected.

Note that there are alternative ways to access the Admirals Club through co-branded credit cards. If you're itching for a key to the lounge, it could definitely make sense to open a credit card and select another, more exclusive pick from the rewards menu.

Related: American Airlines Admirals Club membership guide

$200 travel voucher

This one is pretty simple.

Both Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can select a $200 travel voucher to be used on any future American Airlines flight.

The lump-sum bonus miles are definitely worth more than the future travel voucher though. So, unless you rarely (or inefficiently) use your miles, it makes sense to stick with the 20,000 or 25,000 (or more) mile bonus.

Gift of Gold status

Executive Platinums can choose to gift entry-level Gold status to another flyer.

TPG values AAdvantage Gold status at $930 (in a pre-pandemic world), so if you have a friend or family member who flies AA periodically, but not enough to earn status on their own, then this gift could be worthwhile.

Note that the gifted status will expire at the same time as the member — on Jan. 31, two years after qualifying. As such, once you hit status, be sure to make your pick at who gets the gold.

Bonus Elite Qualifying Miles

Starting in 2021, top-tier elites will have the choice of getting a little bit closer to requalifying.

Specifically, Executive Platinum members can choose 10,000 bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) as one of their picks. Note that this is the only perk that can't be chosen twice.

In a "normal" year, this would give elites a 10% boost on the EQM track. I'd recommend waiting until the end of the year to see how close you get to requalifying through flying and co-branded card spend before using one of your picks on a 10,000-EQM boost.

Related: Everything you need to know about Elite Qualifying Miles

Bang & Olufsen products

While many frequent flyers will likely choose a combination of the above picks, perhaps your employer pays for business-class seats and you're flush with miles for personal travel.

If that's the case, you might consider redeeming for a Bang & Olufsen headset, earbuds or speaker. These products regularly score rave reviews from customers (and TPG staff), so it's certainly not a lousy pick.

Platinum Pros are now Oneworld Emeralds

In addition to offering Platinum Pros a pick from the new rewards menu, AA's second-to-highest elite tier is also getting a big boost in terms of the corresponding Oneworld status.

Specifically, June 30, 2021, Platinum Pros will be upgraded from mid-tier Oneworld Sapphire status to top-tier Emerald status.

Becoming Emerald means that Platinum Pros can enjoy a host of additional perks when flying with partner airlines, including first-class priority check-in, higher tier priority for waitlists and standby and fast track at security.

But perhaps the biggest, and most exciting, improvement is that Platinum Pros will be granted access to partner first-class lounges, even when flying in coach. This includes some award-winning spaces, like Cathay Pacific's The Pier and Qantas' First lounge in Singapore.

Bottom line

American Airlines is beginning the holiday season with great news for its top-tier elites.

Frequent flyers will have new rewards when hitting status goals, including the ability to earn five systemwide upgrades during a single year. Platinum Pros are also getting a noteworthy upgrade to Oneworld Emerald status.

As Platinum Pro inherits some once Executive Platinum-exclusive benefits, it's possible that American is working to further the gap between the two levels, perhaps by increasing the requirements to hit top-tier status down the road.

Anything is possible, but until then, Thursday's announcement represents great news overall to American Airlines' flyers.

Featured image by Photo by Zach Griff/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.

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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    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.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees