American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Program Review

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American Airlines Summary Table

  • Home Country U.S.
  • Major Hubs Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, Miami, Los Angeles (Soon: Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Washington National)
  • Airline Alliance Oneworld
  • Signature Lounge Admirals Club, Flagship Lounge

Branded and Partnered Credit Cards

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

American Airlines Overview

American Airlines (“AA”) is the world’s largest airline by revenue, fleet size, passenger numbers carried, and passenger kilometers flown, after merging with  US Airways on April 8, 2015.

American Locations Served

Headquartered at Dallas-Fort Worth in north Texas, American operates short-, medium-, and long-haul aircraft to almost 350 airports in 51 countries and territories (including its subsidiary American Eagle and former US Airways destinations).

It reaches the rest of the world through the usage of partnerships and codeshares.

American is a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, and has codeshares and mileage shares with its Oneworld partners.

On transatlantic flights, American has very close ties with British Airways and Iberia, as well as with Japan Airlines for flights to Asia. With all these partners, you can earn and redeem miles on a 1:1 basis.

Features of the Airline

American’s flagship aircraft is the Boeing 777-300ER in a 3 class configuration, with economy class separated into Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra, which provides customers with up to 5 inches of extra leg room as well as extra seat width.

To date, American is the only U.S. carrier operating this aircraft type, which also boasts an on-board self-service bar more commonly found among premier international carriers of Europe, Australasia, and the Middle East.

Premium Seating on Lufthansa
Premium seating example on Lufthansa. Note that they are NOT part of Oneworld, but rather Star Alliance.

AA Mileage Program

American’s mileage loyalty program is known as AAdvantage; it is one of the world’s original loyalty programs and remains the largest with over 67 million members.

AAdvantage has been acclaimed as one of the more customer-friendly airline mileage programs, with elite status acquired solely through mileage or segment accumulation rather than the elite status points many foreign carriers prefer.

Note that there is still merger activity happening, and the AAdvantage program is going through changes in 2016. These will affect how you earn elite status, as well as earning and redeeming miles.

Miles can be earned on American, Oneworld partners, and other select participating airlines, as well as over 1,000 other non-airline partners.

Accrued miles can then be used on any American flight, upgrade, or redemption travel on a partner airlines, as well as some vacations, car rentals, hotels, and other retail products.

Joining AAdvantage

Enrollment is easy and you do not have to fly American before applying. Simply fill out the form and you’re on your way!

You will gain the ability to earn miles and redeem awards, as well as work your way up toward elite status, which we will discuss in the next section.

How To Earn AA Miles

American Airlines offers you a great variety of ways to earn points. From flying on American or its partners to utilizing its other services, you will always be able to find ways to earn.

Earning AAvantage Status Miles: Old System

On AA/US Airways flights, you used to earn miles according to the exact distance flown, plus bonus miles depending on your status.

Currently, the AAdvantage program is rolling out a new system based on ticket price and distance flown. The following table represents the prior system’s elite status qualifications:

aadvantage elite status tiers
Old status system. Courtesy of AA.com

So, if you flew 25,000 miles in 1 year, you would earn the AAdvantage Gold/Oneworld Ruby status. To reach the other tiers (Platinum and Executive Platinum), you would need to fly a total of 50,000 and 100,000 respectively.

Alternatively, you could fly 30, 60, or 120 segments. This has not changed, and is helpful if you fly a bunch of short distances over the year and won’t make status in miles alone.

Earning AAvantage Status Elite Qualifying Miles: New System

Under the new system, you’ll earn EQM based off your fare class and the distance flown. Basically, the different fare classes have an EQM multiplier: discount economy is 1x, full-fare is 1.5x, business is 2x, and first earns 3x.

The easiest way to earn AAdvantage miles is to fly with American Airlines or on flights with AA flight numbers, even if the carrier is not American.

As you are booked on an AA flight number, you will accrue miles at the rate you would on any American Airlines flight. Note that the elite status qualification chart has not changed in actual numbers.

You also earn EQM for flying on partner airlines, but the amount differs per partner. For instance, British Airways only earns at 0.5 – 1.5 EQM per actual mile flown.

Hot Tip: Shop around, because sometimes the exact same flight can have a different price depending on the codeshare being used to book the ticket.

Earning Award and Bonus Miles Through Flying

This is the piece that will change in the second half of 2016. Currently, EQM and award miles still count as the same. Therefore, your bonus earnings are 25%-100% based on your elite status.

You also currently earn a 50% bonus on top of that when you purchase a business or first class fare.

After an undisclosed date mid-2016, this will change to a revenue-based system, meaning you will earn miles based on the price of the ticket you purchased.

Non-status AAdvantage members will start at 5x miles, Gold will earn 7x, Platinum 8x, and Executive Platinum will earn 11x miles! These replace the bonus, and flight miles will only count toward elite status.

Many partners also offer a bonus, but you will have to check their individual systems as the new earnings are not yet disclosed.

Earning Bonus Miles in Other Ways

Other partner bonus miles are a great way to earn extra miles for less frequent travelers.

Sign up for newsletters or follow the airline or mileage program via their Facebook or Twitter accounts to find out the latest promotions for earning bonus miles.

Make sure to use partner services for car rentals, hotel reservations, or vacation rentals, and add your AAdvantage number to all reservations*.

American’s preferred car rental agencies are Avis and Budget, but you can earn miles with other rental car agencies as well.

You can also earn miles through dining and shopping with the AA Dining Program and the eShopping Mall.

*Note: If you add your airline loyalty program to other services, you won’t also earn status points with these franchises (unless it’s a preferred car rental agency that has specifically partnered with the airline–this partnership acts as a sort of alliance between airline and rental agency).

AAdvantage Credit Cards

One of the best ways to earn AA miles is by using one of the AAdvantage credit cards.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

We have reviewed the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, which gets 2x miles for AA purchases and 1x miles for everything else.

citi-aadvantage-platinum-select-credit-card

With this card, you also get other benefits like 25% off in-flight food and beverage, a free checked bag for you and your companions, and more!

Sometimes, the cards will have special promotions, such as the 3x miles promotion they had back in 2015. This gave you 3x miles in grocery stores, gas stations, drugstores, restaurants, and commuter transportation!

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard is the business version of the above card. It comes with some additional perks, and you’ll get 2x miles for AA purchases, select telecommunications, gas stations, and car rentals.

CitiBusiness_AAdvantage_Platinum_Select_World_MasterCard

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard is the luxury card for American Airlines.

Citi_AAdvantage_Executive_World_Elite_MasterCard

With this card, you will earn 2x miles for AA purchases, but you get lots of benefits such as an Admirals Club membership and a Global Entry fee credit.

Citi / AAdvantage Gold MasterCard

The Citi / AAdvantage Gold MasterCard is the basic AAdvantage credit card. It earns 1x miles for all purchases.

citi_aadvantage_gold_mastercard

There are no additional benefits with this card.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards

SPG is a direct partner with American Airlines, so you can transfer Starpoints earned right into your AAdvantage account.

Loyalty Program Credit Card Review Application
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  Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN Apply Here >>
Man Earning Rewards
American Airlines offers lots of non-standard ways to earn miles, from renting cars to participating in online surveys.

How To Redeem AAdvantage Miles

Now comes the fun part! You’ve made sure to link up all your programs to earn extra miles, you only fly American and partners, you’ve sweat and toiled to save miles; it’s time to spend them!

Types of Awards Flights on American

American has a few different tiers of award seats you can book: if your plans are flexible, MileSAAver Awards start as low as 12,500 miles one-way plus applicable taxes and fees.

Double check for MileSAAver off-peak fares to Hawaii and international destinations, which can save you even more miles when you book award travel.

For those who have extra miles to burn and are less flexible with their travel plans, AAnytime Awards allow you to book any existing seat (up to the last seat on the plane for Level 2).

It’s important to know that many AAnytime economy awards cost more miles than business class MileSAAver awards for the same segment. Always double check to see if the higher class cabin has any MileSAAver space left!

Also note that the awards chart for American Airlines changed on March 22, 2016. Some legs have become more expensive (including many higher class routes), but others have become less expensive, like South America.

Using Miles for Your Upgrade

The other way to use your miles is to apply them toward upgrades. This is usually the best use of your miles considering pure bang for your buck, especially since many international segments will still cost you hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees.

With the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement, American is unique in that you can also request mileage upgrades on partner airlines British Airways and Iberia.

Flying on Oneworld Partners

Of course, you can also use your miles to book flights on other Oneworld partners. Again, this award chart was altered on March 22nd.

If you can’t find a Oneworld partner flight in the AA portal, that doesn’t mean you can’t book that flight. You may need to call the service desk to book the award instead, which could cost a small fee of $30-$45.

Other Ways To Redeem Your Miles

While we find that air travel gives the best value for points, you can always redeem your miles in other ways. First, there are vacation packages, as well as car and hotel rewards if you want to stick with travel-related redemptions.

You can purchase an Admirals Club membership with your miles as well, which is discounted for elite status members.

Miles can also be redeemed for magazines, newspapers, gift cards, and more. Again, these redemptions are typically not as valuable as the travel options.

Pack Your Bags and Travel
While miles are most valuable when used for air travel (mostly international), you can certainly redeem them for other things, such as an Admirals Club membership.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is American Airlines AAdvantage Program? Is it worth it? What are the benefits?
AAdvantage is the loyalty or frequent flyer program for American Airlines. It is a free program, and by signing up you can earn a range of benefits and gain the ability to earn free flights.

Benefits are earned based on elite status. The 3 tiers of elite status in the program are Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum.

Depending on your level, you will get access to free bags, priority check in and boarding, premium seats, security priority, access to upgrades, and more.

AAdvantage is currently changing its miles-earning system from one based on actual miles flown to one based on miles per dollar. You can find updates here.

Once you have earned enough miles, which can be done by flying through AA or by earning with their partners, you can redeem for travel through AA or any of their Oneworld Alliance or other airline partners.

In AAdvantage, who are the partners? Can I transfer miles to them?
Partners in AAdvantage are many. There are travel partners (airlines, hotels, etc.) and shopping partners. You can utilize miles to travel on all Oneworld and other partner airlines. However, you can’t directly transfer miles to these partners.

You can use miles to transfer to hotel partners for booking. You can use miles to shop at a variety of other partners.

What is the American Airlines AAdvantage login?
You can sign in to AAdvantage here.

Where can I sign up for AAdvantage?
Sign up to the AAdvantage program by filling out this online form.

What is my AAdvantage number?
You can find your AAdvantage number by signing in to your account, on your membership card, or though a variety of marketing emails they send to you.

If you can’t find it there, try using the “forgot my password” tool to reset your account so that you can get in. Alternatively, try calling the customer service desk to find your number.

When did the AAdvantage program start?
The program started on May 1, 1981, and is credited as the first major airline loyalty program.

Are US Airways and American Airlines the same company? Do they share loyalty programs?
Yes. The companies have merged, and at this point they share loyalty program accounts under the AAdvantage name.

When do miles post in AAdvantage?
It can take up to a week after your flight, but sometimes longer. If you are earning miles through partners, wait 6-10 weeks to ensure your miles are credited.

When do AAdvantage miles expire?
Miles will expire after 18 months of inactivity. Simply earn or redeem once every 18 months to keep your miles active.

When does AAdvantage status expire?
Currently, elite status expires in February of the second calendar year after you gain status. For instance, if you earn status in June 2016, your status is good through February 2018.

However, AAdvantage is being updated. Starting in 2017, status will now only be good through January of the following year.

Is there an American Airlines credit card?
Yes, there are many, and you can see the full range of cards offered here. We have reviews of the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard, Citi / AAdvantage Gold MasterCard, and Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard.

In AAdvantage, what is a segment?
A segment is each take-off and touch-down you have on your flight. So if you have a one-way flight out and then you stop in 1 other city before returning home, that is a total of 3 segments.

What is AAdvantage hold?
If you find a reservation you may want to book, you can hold the reservation for 24 hours instead of booking it to decide whether the fare is right for you.

The hold option is available at check out as an alternative to paying.