Reader success story: How shopping online helped this traveler earn airline elite status
Earning airline elite status has historically required flying long distances and spending thousands of dollars. However, airlines have been rethinking their qualification requirements over the last few years and making them more about spending than actual travel.
American Airlines made the most drastic changes, eliminating elite qualifying miles, dollars and segments altogether in favor of a new metric, Loyalty Points. In addition to flying, you can earn Loyalty Points by spending on an American cobranded credit card or spending with other partners.
I want to share a story from TPG reader Eric Rubio, who was able to earn AAdvantage Gold status solely through the AAdvantage eShopping online shopping portal — and might even move up to Platinum status soon. What's even more exciting is that this is Eric's first time qualifying for airline status.
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I certainly love to travel as much as any TPG Reader, and I genuinely enjoy the experience of flying. But between the miles or segments plus minimum spend requirement for even the first level of status with any of the major carriers was beyond what my handful of personal trips each year plus the occasional business trip would total -- my personal records are just 12 segments or 17,000 miles flown in one year, and both were among a mix of carriers. So I resigned myself to holding the mid-level co-brand card for both United and American Airlines and paying extra for the occasional extra legroom seat when it was a longer flight or I needed space to do work in flight.
Related: Is airline elite status still worth it?
Even when American Airlines unveiled its new Loyalty Points program last fall, I found it interesting to read about at TPG and elsewhere but didn't at first think it would make a difference in my ability to attain status. Putting even Gold-level $30,000 on a co-brand credit card wouldn't fit my personal finances -- and would I get back enough value from the Gold benefits during my occasional American flights for it to be worth it anyway? I decided no.
But then something came up at work: I work for a nonprofit with 30 employees and we had secured grant funding to replace all of our employees' computers. It fell to me to order those computers. Enter the AAdvantage eShopping portal, offering on an average day two miles (and two Loyalty Points!) per dollar spent before taxes and shipping fees, and sometimes as many as six per dollar! It took less than one additional minute to click through the shopping portal to Lenovo or HP when it was time to place each set of computer orders. At the time I'm submitting this Reader Success Story, I'm halfway through getting my coworkers their new computers -- and the eShopping earnings that just posted put me over the 30,000 threshold for AAdvantage Gold, and I found myself with airline status for the first time ever -- all without ever setting foot on a plane! And I have the other half of my coworkers' computers to go, so I think Platinum status is well within reach!
Related: Here’s why American’s new Loyalty Points are a game changer for me
I've earned plenty of redeemable miles doing all of that computer shopping, of course - flights for Thanksgiving are already booked! But the first time I'll be able to enjoy status benefits is actually by virtue of the oneworld Ruby status that comes with AAdvantage Gold; I'm flying British Airways later this spring and will enjoy selecting seats seven days, rather than 24 hours, before departure. I'll also be able to downgrade my AAdvantage Platinum Select card and save the $99 annual fee that's coming due this spring, since its baggage and preferred boarding benefits are covered by Gold status.
But here's my real plan: my favorite and preferred airline is actually United. So in 2023, while in the midst of enjoying AAdvantage Platinum, I'll try a status match to United Gold. Then I can fly the friendly skies in (some) style until January of 2025!
Related: Current airline elite status match and challenge options you should know about
There are pros and cons to the new Loyalty Points system. On one hand, earning status might become more costly for those who previously earned their status through flying. On the other hand, there are many more ways to earn elite qualifying credit now, including spending on a cobranded credit card, spending through other eligible partners like car rental companies and hotels, and shopping with specific dining and retail sites.
It's awesome to hear that Eric was able to take advantage of the shopping portal to earn AAdvantage status without ever stepping foot on a plane. Even if you don't have many personal purchases to make, you can use the portal to make purchases for others — or in Eric's case, your company.
Depending on the retailer you're ordering from, you might be able to stretch your earnings by stacking the shopping portal with the SimplyMiles program. The SimplyMiles program is similar to Amex Offers in that it lets you add merchant-specific offers to a credit or debit card and earn AAdvantage miles when you use that card to make a purchase with the merchant.
Related: Here are 14 ways to earn American Airlines Loyalty Points
Just note that making all of your purchases through American's shopping portal might come with an opportunity cost, as a different portal might be offering a better payout. Also, we wouldn't necessarily recommend chasing American status just to have it. After all, what good is status if you don’t actually plan to fly with the airline? That said, if you do end up pursuing status this way, note that you will still have to fly 30 segments per year to be able to select Loyalty Choice Rewards at the Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum levels.
We love this story and want to hear more like it! Please email your own award travel success stories to email@example.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes.