American Airlines announces changes to lifetime AAdvantage status

For many months now the rumor mill was been swirling with thoughts on changes to the lifetime elite status program offered by American Airlines‘ AAdvantage program. Today those rumors – most of which were accurate – are laid to rest as the company has announced the details of their new lifetime qualification requirements and benefit levels. The new rules go into effect on December 1, 2011.

First up, the qualification requirements:

Base miles earned by flying on American Airlines, American Eagle® or the AmericanConnection® carrier or any eligible AAdvantage program participating airline will count towards Million Miler status. Also, as a limited time offer, one mile for every dollar spent on eligible purchases using the new Citi ExecutiveSM / AAdvantage® World Elite MasterCard® credit card that post to billing statements through December 2012 will count toward Million Miler status*. The Citi ExecutiveSM / AAdvantage® World Elite MasterCard® credit card account must be open and in good standing by December 1, 2011.

Second, the benefits for reaching those levels:

  • At 1,000,000 Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Gold® status and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (which, as you know, can be exchanged for eight 500-mile upgrades if that’s what you prefer)
  • At 2,000,000 Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Platinum® status and four one-way systemwide upgrades
  • At each additional Million Miler mile mark, AAdvantage members will receive four additional one-way systemwide upgrades

Finally, any points accrued to your lifetime balance prior to the rules change will still be there.

As noted above, these changes do not come as much of a surprise to anyone paying attention to the program recently. And the changes bring the program much more in line with their competition. That’s not necessarily a good thing for consumers, particularly as previously American offered the easiest qualification to lifetime status of any program out there. Still, it is not hard to understand their desire to move in this direction based on the costs of servicing the ever growing elite population. AAdvantage President Maya Leibman commented to that point rather explicitly in a round table discussion in April.

The qualification options are still reasonable, however, including base miles flown on all AAdvantage airline partners, not just oneworld partners. It does not, however, include any class of service bonus points that might be accrued for flying in premium cabins or on full-fare tickets.

There is also a one year window for earning points on the credit card, assuming you have the right card and the account was open prior to the rules changing on December 1, 2011. The AA American Express cards are excluded from this earning.

Overall, the program is still reasonably competitive. Not nearly as lucrative as it used to be, but also not horrible. And there has been a decent amount of notice provided prior to the downgrade.

Not a great day for folks trying to be lifetime elite on AA without flying, to be sure, but I can think of many ways it could have been worse.

Update (5:33pm EDT 24 Aug 11):

I just realized that only the $450 annual fee credit card gets the spend to still count. Comparable to Continental and their top-end card, though still likely too pricey to justify. I guess it is a bit worse than I previously thought.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. “The AA American Express cards are excluded from this earning.”

    The ONLY card that is included is the new $450-annual fee Executive MasterCard.

  2. I think I’m safe. At ~870k today, half way to spending on my Citi Amex for 75k more, getting a total of 18k in sept, oct and nov from BankDirect. And can top it off with SPG points (though I loath that transfer). I will probably never get lifetime platinum though 🙁

  3. Interesting stuff. Glad to see you are spending more time writing than stroking that giant size ego of yours. Great job.

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