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The latest program to announce a complete revamp is American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. We were expecting a devaluation, because when an airline announces “enhancements” they usually aren’t in our favor, but this time AA is only changing elite qualification requirements and a new way to earn elite status through credit card spending. 

There Are No Award Chart Changes at This Time

Since we’ve all been expecting it, let’s get this out of the way. At this time American is not introducing any award chart changes. AA has been slowly moving toward dynamic pricing anyway, and if you’ve recently ran a bunch of award searches on American, you’ll see exactly what I mean. 

But for now, the award chart for AA operated flights and partner airlines is safe.

American Airlines Is Introducing Loyalty Points

In an effort to simplify earning elite status, American is getting rid of Elite Qualifying Miles, Elite Qualifying Dollars, and Elite Qualifying segments. Instead, AA’s frequent flyers will be rewarded with Loyalty Points. In a world where selling points and miles to banks and other partners is extremely profitable, having one single metric to reward loyalty makes sense. 

Under the new program, you’ll be able to collect Loyalty Points not only by flying American Airlines and partners, but also by spending on AA co-branded credit cards and using its dining and shopping portals. 

This is how you’ll be able to earn Loyalty Points starting in 2022:

  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every eligible AAdvantage mile earned. Eligible miles include all base miles, as well as elite bonus and cabin bonus miles earned by flying
  • Travel on qualifying airlines
  • Use an AAdvantage co-branded credit card for purchases 

You’ll be able to earn Loyalty Points by flying American Airlines or a partner airline. If flying American Airlines:

  • You earn 5x base miles per dollar 
  • Elite status bonuses will count as Loyalty Points. The bonuses range from 40-120%; for example, as an Executive Platinum member you’ll earn 11x miles per dollar spent
  • AA basic economy tickets are eligible to earn Loyalty Points

That looks simple enough at first glance but there are a few caveats:

  • Credit cards welcome bonuses don’t earn Loyalty Points
  • Only base miles earned through credit card spend earn Loyalty Points, not the category bonuses or multipliers. For example, if you earn 3X per dollar spent on American Airlines with a co-branded credit card, only 1X will be a Loyalty Point
  • Ancillary incidentals, such as seat fees and upgrade offers don’t earn Loyalty Points
  • Purchased, transferred and gifted miles don’t earn Loyalty Points
  • Government taxes, fees, and other charges associated with buying a ticket do not count toward earning AAdvantage miles and do not count toward earning Loyalty Points

And here’s another interesting twist – Loyalty Points will now determine upgrade priority. So anyone who puts a lot of spending on American Airlines credit cards or earns a lot of miles through the shopping portal will be positioned higher on the upgrade list. 

New Elite Requirements

elite requirements

These are the new elite status requirements for American Airlines AAdvantage:

  • AAdvantage Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points

As you move up the status ladder, you’ll earn more Loyalty Points per dollar spent on airfare.

The Loyalty Points requirements may appear high, but elite bonuses on American and partner flights will also count as Loyalty Points.

Qualifying based on flights alone will become more expensive under the new program, but presumably someone who’s loyal to an airline is also using the airline credit card and using the dining and shopping bonuses to earn extra miles. We are big fans of shopping portals and this is where strategically using the shopping portals can accelerate your way to AA elite status. 

New Elite Status Calendar

The elite tier qualification period is now going to be determined by Loyalty points earned from March through the following February instead of a calendar year. Considering that credit card spending and shopping portals payouts can now help you qualify for a higher status, that’s a positive change. You can now count on your holiday spending to nudge you toward higher airline status.   

American Airlines has extended all member tiers that were set to expire at the end of January through March, giving members 14 months instead of 12 to qualify for the status in 2023. 

Choice Rewards

Loyalty Choice Rewards is the new name for the Elite Choice Rewards. These benefits are extended to the top tier fliers and include systemwide upgrades and AAdvantage bonus miles. To qualify for the Loyalty Choice Rewards, you need to fly at least 30 segments on American Airlines and qualifying partner airlines, so credit card spending alone won’t be enough. Award tickets on American Airlines flights should count toward the 30 segments needed to qualify. 

Is Earning American Elite Status With Credit Card Spending Worth It?

Under the new program rules there’s an opportunity to earn elite status with credit card spending alone, so no flying required. Theoretically, you could earn Gold status by spending $30,000 or Executive Platinum status by spending $200,000 on a credit card. However, the question everyone considering this should be asking, is the opportunity cost too high? 

Assuming you do spend $30,000 miles on an AA co-branded credit card in a non-bonused category, you’ll earn 30,000 AA miles. 

Or, if you have one of the following cards, you could earn 2X transferable points that are generally much more valuable than airline miles: 

  • The Capital One Venture Credit Card earns 2X Venture miles per dollar 
  • The Citi Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back per dollar (1% upfront when you buy, and another 1% when you pay of the purchase)
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2X Membership Rewards points on up to $50,000 every calendar year, then 1X after that.

Keep in mind that you’ll only get the most valuable benefits of status, the Loyalty Choice Rewards, if you also fly at least 30 segments per year on AA or partners. 

We value transferable points, such as Ultimate Rewards points, Membership Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points and Capital One miles higher than airline miles. You’ll always be better off having a good stash of flexible points instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. Even if your goal is to book American Airlines flights, all of these flexible points have transfer partners that allow you to redeem points for AA flights. 

That said, if you do fly 30 segments per year on American Airlines anyway, you value American Airlines status and you are close to earning status for next year, then it might make sense to dust off your AA credit cards. The question here is how much do you value status perks to justify forgoing earning flexible currency which potentially can give you better flying experience than AA’s elite status. 

However, if you aren’t close to reaching elite status then you’ll get more bang for your buck using a card that earns flexible points.  

Final Thoughts    

American Airlines is the first airline to completely overhaul its frequent flier program and to base elite status on one single metric, the Loyalty Points. Loyalty Points can be earned through flying, credit card spending and earning miles with other AAdvantage partners. This is an innovative way to reward overall loyalty and to encourage the members to spend more on the co-branded credit cards. 

For now there are no award charts or partner awards changes.

Travel well,