American Airlines AAdvantage Complete Guide

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American Airlines AAdvantage Overview

American Airlines AAdvantage is the loyalty program for American Airlines. Given American’s extensive reach within the United Sates and abroad, they are the loyalty program of choice for many. Like other major US airlines, elite earnings are now mostly based on how much you spend, but American offers plenty of opportunities for award enthusiasts to earn miles without flying — from credit cards to shopping offers and more.

This guide covers the ways to earn and spend American Airlines AAdvantage miles as well as the key details of elite status in terms of how to earn it and what benefits to expect.

American Airlines AAdvantage Pros and Cons

Pros

  • American’s top-tier elites can enjoy 4 systemwide upgrades via elite choice benefits, which can be quite valuable
  • American has a unique relationship with Hyatt that allows for members of each program to earn while patronizing the other. American AAdvantage members can earn 1 mile per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels and resorts
  • There are a number of supplementary ways to earn miles, from credit cards with two different issuers to bank account bonuses, online shopping, SimplyMiles card-linked offers, and more.
  • Web specials awards can sometimes offer excellent values for award tickets.

Cons

  • No elite qualifying miles, segments, or dollars for basic economy flights
  • Highly-variable pricing for AA flights. While the partner award chart still exists, there are no longer published prices for American Airlines-operated flights
  • Fewer foreign airline partnerships than competitor United means slightly less reach in terms of award destinations (though note that you can still get to many, many destinations worldwide)

Earn Miles

Flights

Base members earn 5 miles per dollar on American Airlines marketed flights.  Elite members earn more, depending upon their status level, as follows:

  • No status – 5 miles
  • Gold – 7 miles
  • Platinum – 8 miles
  • Platinum Pro – 9 miles
  • Executive Platinum – 11 miles

Exceptions:

  • The following types of tickets earn no miles:
    • All tickets issued as AAdvantage® awards
    • Charter flight tickets
    • Companion tickets
    • Infant tickets
    • Items occupying a purchased seat
    • Other free ticket promotions including free or reduced rate tickets
    • Tickets purchased through a travel agency where the airline is not disclosed prior to purchase, such as Priceline or Hotwire
    • Tickets issued subject to special provisions
    • Travel agency/industry reduced rate tickets
  • Special fares like bulk fares, cruise fares, consolidator fares, and vacation packages earn Elite Qualifying Miles based on distance flown and Elite Qualifying Dollars as a percentage of the distance flown (ranging from 5-40% depending on fare class). See this page for more details.
  • Flights on partner airlines earn Elite Qualifying Miles based on distance flown and Elite Qualifying Dollars as a percentage of distance flown. See this page for rates on individual partners.

American Airlines credit cards

Miles can be earned from credit card welcome bonuses and from credit card spend.  In general, while we recommend earning lots of miles through new-card welcome bonuses, earning from spend is not usually a good idea.  There are many other cards on the market that offer much better rewards for everyday spend. However, Citi in particular is known to periodically send targeted spending offers (by email or postal mail) and is also known to sometimes offer excellent retention offers, so there are times when everyday spend might make sense given such an offer.

Transfer from other points programs

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott points can be transferred to American Airlines at a rate of 3 Marriott points to 1 American mile.  Additionally, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points at a time, you get 5,000 extra American miles.  So, the best you can do is transfer 60,000 Marriott points to 25,000 American miles.

For more, see: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide.

Non-flight options for earning points

Bank accounts

Bask Bank offers American Airlines AAdvantage miles instead of cash interest on savings. They award 1 mile per dollar saved annually. This is how Bask explains it:

The Bask Savings Account awards one AAdvantage® mile for each dollar saved annually. Miles are accrued daily and awarded monthly based on your average monthly balance. For example, if the account’s average monthly balance for January is $60K, you will earn 5,096 AAdvantage® miles for that month ($60K ÷ 365 × 31). If that same balance is maintained in February, you will earn 4,603 AAdvantage® miles. After one year of maintaining an average balance of $60,000, the customer will have earned 60,000 AAdvantage® miles.

Depending on how you value the miles, that may not be a bad deal. For tax purposes, Bask values the miles at 0.42c per mile, meaning that every 1,000 miles earned counts as $4.20 in interest income. Read more and open an account at Bask Bank.

Note that Citi has also periodically offered up to 60,000 American Airlines miles for opening a checking account, though these offers are sometimes targeted.

Hyatt

American Airlines AAdvantage members can earn 1 AAdvantage mile per $1 spent on qualifying Hyatt stays and experiences in addition to earning World of Hyatt points for the stay. See more detail here.

Online Shopping

When shopping online, you can often earn additional miles, beyond those earned with your credit card, by starting your shopping with an online shopping portal.  AAdvantage eShopping is a portal that allows you to earn American Airlines miles.

In-Store Shopping

SimplyMiles is a unique card-linked program offered to all US members with a valid Mastercard (note that it does not need to be an American Airlines Mastercard). These mostly in-store offers often provide a fixed number of miles for meeting a specified spend threshold and can sometimes represent a significant return. For stacking opportunities, see: (Updated) Card-Linked Programs & The Networks They Run On (AKA Which Programs Stack).

Dining

AAdvantage Dining offers bonus miles for dining locally when you pay for your meal with a card linked to the program. Note that you may even be able to stack these bonus miles with rewards earned in another card-linked program. See: (Updated) Card-Linked Programs & The Networks They Run On (AKA Which Programs Stack).

Other earning options

American lists other options for earning miles through partnerships here.

Spend miles

Booking flights with American miles is easy.  On AA.com, simply check the box to “Redeem miles” when searching for flights.  American defaults to showing results for a week at a time, but you can then click “View Calendar” to see results for a month at a time.

Award Booking Tips

Here are a few miscellaneous tips:

  • No round-trip advantage.  While Delta often charges fewer miles for round-trip awards, we don’t see the same pattern with American.
  • Scroll down or sort.  American won’t always show the best priced award at the top, especially when partner flights are involved.
  • Even Web Specials can be cancelled for free. Note that while Web Specials can not be changed, they can be cancelled and redeposited for no fee.

Best Uses of Miles

In our experience, most domestic U.S. economy award flights offer only about 1 cent per mile in value (see this post for details).  It is possible to do significantly better, though.  American has some solid sweet spots, including:

  • The US to Europe in business class for 57.5K each way
  • The US to Asia in business class (60K each way to Japan or Korea or 80K to most of the rest of Asia)
  • The US to Japan or Korea in first class for 80K each way
  • The US to the Indian Subcontinent in business class for 70K each way

We sometimes see “web specials” with exceptional deals on American Airlines flights. See this as an outlier example.

The highest value for American Airlines miles in terms of dollars and cents will be found using miles for premium cabin award travel on partner airlines.

Award Partners

Flights on partner airlines can be booked with American Airlines AAdvantage miles as long as the partner has saver-level award space available for the given flight. See the American Airlines partner award chart here. Note that not all partner airlines can be booked online; you will need to book via a call center for award flights on some partner airlines. Note also that in some cases, foreign AAdvantage call centers may be better equipped to assist. For example, the Australian call centers have often been able to book Etihad award flights that US agents were unable to see as available.

Here are American’s partner airlines:

Award Change & Cancellation Fees

American Airlines no longer charges award change or cancellation fees. Keep in mind that if your new award is more expensive, you will pay any difference in terms of miles or taxes, but there is no fee for making the change itself.

Note that Web Specials can be cancelled and redeposited but can not be changed.

American Airlines Elite Status

Most airlines offer extra benefits to their most valuable customers. This is usually handled through elite status. If you fly enough with an airline, you can become “elite”. Of course, not all elites are equal. Most airlines have multiple elite tiers to differentiate their valuable customers from their really valuable customers. And, of course, airlines offer the best perks to their highest tier elites.

American does the same. They offer published elite tiers ranging from Gold status to Executive Platinum status (and they also offer an invitation-only Concierge Key status). Gold status perks are only slightly better than those you get from holding a American Airlines branded credit card. Executive Platinum perks, though, can be very nice.

American’s Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can choose systemwide upgrade certificates as a choice benefit. These can be used to upgrade from economy to lie-flat business seats on international flights.

American elite status requirements

Definitions:
  • EQMs: Elite Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown. It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights. EQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • EQSs: Elite Qualifying Segments are the number of segments flown. Unless you fly a very large number of short flights, you are unlikely to earn elite status through EQSs.
  • EQDs: Elite Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your base-fare spend (e.g. doesn’t include taxes) on American-marketed flights.
Explanation:

In general, to reach each elite tier, American AAdvantage members must earn the stated number of EQMs or EQSs and spend the targeted amount of EQDs. In other words, its not enough to just fly far or often, you also need to spend a lot of money with American.

Elite Benefits

American’s full chart of elite benefits can be found here. Key benefits of each tier include:

Gold
  • Complimentary upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 40% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra Seats at check-in
  • Complimentary Preferred Seats
  • 1 free checked bag
Platinum
  • Complimentary upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • 60% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags
Platinum Pro
  • 1 elite choice reward (can choose among things like: 1 systemwide upgrade, 20K miles, 6 Admirals Club day passes, $200 American Airlines flight discount, and more options)
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • 72-hour upgrade window
  • 80% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags
Executive Platinum
  • 2 elite choice rewards (can choose among things like: 2 systemwide upgrade, 25K miles, Admirals Club individual membership (requires 2 choices), $200 American Airlines flight discount, and more options), 10K EQMs, gift Gold status, and more options)
  • Complimentary upgrades on American and Alaska Airlines
  • 100-hour upgrade window
  • 120% elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 3 free checked bags
  • Additional rewards starting at 120,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)

Elite earning on flights

On American marketed flights, elite earnings are straightforward and based on ticketed fare class:

  • Special fares like bulk fares, cruise fares, consolidator fares, and vacation packages earn Elite Qualifying Miles based on distance flown and Elite Qualifying Dollars as a percentage of the distance flown (ranging from 5-40% depending on fare class). See this page for more details.
  • Flights on partner airlines earn Elite Qualifying Miles based on distance flown and Elite Qualifying Dollars as a percentage of distance flown. See this page for rates on individual partners.

Elite Choice Rewards

American Platinum Pro elites get to choose 1 Elite Choice Reward each year they qualify and American Executive Platinum elites get to choose 2 Elite Choice Rewards (in addition to the one from earning Platinum Pro status).

To view your Choice Benefits options, click here to jump directly to the Choice Benefits page. In general, the best-value option is the systemwide upgrades. Platinum Pro members can choose 1. Executive Platinum members get 2 choice benefits and a pair of systemwide upgrades counts as one choice. This means that an Executive Platinum member can use 2 Elite Choice Rewards to choose a total of 4 systemwide upgrades if they wish.

A systemwide upgrade can be used for a confirmed upgrade to the next class of service anywhere American flies, pending availability. They are good for one-way travel for up to 3 segments and are valid for 1 year from the date of selection. Note that systemwide upgrades can be used for travel beyond the expiration date as long as the upgrade is confirmed before the upgrade expires.

Credit cards

Both Citi and Barcalys offer both business and consumer American Airlines credit cards. The following are current bonus offers, card benefits, and earning structures.

Consumer

Card Offer and Details
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card
10K miles + $50
Earn 10K AA miles + $50 statement credit after $500 spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Not bad for grocery spend if you highly value AA miles


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Grocery
Brand

Earning rate: 2X grocery ⚬ 2X AA ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases

Card Offer and Details
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for a great signup bonus. Plus it offers the usual collection of perks for flying AA (free checked bag, priority boarding, etc.)


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Dine
Gas
Brand

Earning rate: 2X restaurants ⚬ 2X gas ⚬ 2X AA

Big spend bonus: $125 AA Flight Discount with $20K membership year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ First checked bag free ⚬ Priority Boarding ⚬ Reduced mileage awards ⚬ Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases

Card Offer and Details
Citi AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard®
60K miles
60K miles after $6K spend in first 3 months

$450 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for those who need Admirals Club access (included for both the primary member and authorized users). Heavy spenders who are short of the miles necessary for status can earn 10K elite qualifying miles with $40K spend. Plus, it offers the usual collection of perks for flying AA (free checked bag, priority boarding, etc.).


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Brand

Earning rate: 2X AA

Big spend bonus: 10K Elite Qualifying Miles towards elite status when you spend $40K in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ First Checked Bag Free ⚬ Admirals Club® access for both primary and authorized users ⚬ 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines and US Airways flights ⚬ Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Card Offer and Details
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X AA ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Earn $99 + tax domestic companion certificate with $20K membership year spend.

Noteworthy perks: First checked bag free ⚬ Preferred boarding for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions traveling on the same reservation ⚬ Reduced mileage awards ⚬ 25% off in-flight purchases ⚬ $25 wifi credit per membership year ⚬ Flight cents: round up purchases to earn more miles

Card Offer and Details
AAdvantage® AviatorTM Silver World Elite MasterCard®

FM Mini Review: $25 per day of in-flight food & beverage credits is pretty interesting. If you fly AA enough to make good use of this, this card is well worthwhile.


Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X AA ⚬ 2X hotel and car rentals ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Earn $99 + tax domestic certificate for up to 2 companions with $20K membership year spend ($30K spend required until May 2019) ⚬ Earn 3000 EQDs towards elite status with $50K calendar year spend.

Noteworthy perks: $25 per day in-flight food & beverage credit ⚬ First checked bag free ⚬ Priority Boarding ⚬ Reduced mileage awards ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ 25% off in-flight purchases ⚬ $50 wifi credit per membership year ⚬ Round up purchases to earn more miles

Business

Card Offer and Details
CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
65K miles
65K after $4K spend in first 4 months

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $99

Recent better offer: 75K after $5K in the first 5 months (Expired 1/16/20)

FM Mini Review: This card usually has a great signup bonus, but if you're looking for a card to keep long term, you'll find better options.


Card Type: Mastercard World

Base
Travel
Gas
Phone
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X AA ⚬ 2X certain telecommunications merchants ⚬ 2X car rental merchants ⚬ 2X gas

Big spend bonus: Earn $99 plus taxes domestic companion certificate after $30K spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ First checked bag free ⚬ Priority Boarding ⚬ Reduced mileage awards ⚬ Save 25% on inflight purchases

Card Offer and Details
AAdvantage® AviatorTM Business MasterCard®
Up to 80K miles
Up to 80K miles: 50k miles after $1K in purchases within 90 days and 30K miles after $6K in purchases within the first 12 months.

$95 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: Up to 75K miles: 65k miles after $1K in purchases within 90 days and 10K miles when a purchase is made on an employee card that is added to the account at the time of application or within 30 days of the account open date


Card Type: Mastercard

Base
Travel
Phone
Office

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X AA, office supply, telecommunications services, and at car rental agencies ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: $99 companion certificate with $30K account year spend; $3K elite qualifying dollars (EQDs) with $25K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ First checked bag free ⚬ Preferred boarding ⚬ 5% bonus on miles earned the previous year after AF is paid ⚬ Reduced mileage awards ⚬ 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases

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