American has 4 tiers to its AAdvantage frequent flyer program: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum. The Gold tier is its entry-level tier and the easiest to attain.
In this piece, we take a look at how to earn AAdvantage Gold status and what benefits you’ll receive. We also evaluate the cost and worth of each of those benefits and see how you may be able to attain similar benefits elsewhere. We want you to maximize every penny, and looking at all the different ways to squeeze value out of your perks will make you an informed frequent flyer.
How To Earn AAdvantage Gold Status
To earn Gold status, you must earn 30,000 Loyalty Points. Major perks include complimentary upgrades, free checked baggage, and complimentary standby.
You don’t need to fly to earn Gold status — simply spending on a co-branded credit card or making purchases at qualifying restaurants or shops can make you eligible.
Hot Tip: The right airline credit card can fast-track you to elite status. Read more about it in our guide to the best credit cards for airline elite status.
The Benefits of AAdvantage Gold Status
1. Complimentary Upgrades on All Flights ($500 Value)
As an AAdvantage Gold frequent flyer, you’ll receive upgrades on all flights within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The difference in price between first class and main cabin seats is often several hundreds of dollars, but these complimentary upgrades will be at the last minute. Our estimated benefit value is conservative due to the possibility of poor seat selection or not having your upgrade clear at all. This estimate assumes you’re able to use half of your potential upgrades over the course of a year.
Because Gold members are prioritized below all other elites, you’ll be the last to receive these upgrades, if available. But, there’s an important caveat to this which we think can provide you a lot more value than you may already be receiving: the schedule and routing of your flight are absolutely essential.
If you’re always flying on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons, your upgrade percentage will be next to nothing. However, if you choose to fly on Wednesdays or Saturdays, your upgrade percentage will be much higher.
As a savvy frequent flyer, you should select your flights based on:
- Time of Day: The middle of the day is much easier for upgrades
- Day of Week: Avoid Mondays and Fridays, when most business travelers fly
- Aircraft: You’re much less likely to receive an upgrade to first class on an A319 (with only 8 seats in the cabin) than you are on a 787 with 20+ seats available (granted, most wide-body aircraft don’t fly these shorter routes)
- Cities: JFK is a much easier upgrade than LaGuardia, for example, since American doesn’t really use JFK as a connecting hub
Bottom Line: If you’re strategic about your upgrades and how you fly, you’ll extract more value from your status.
2. Complimentary Same-Day Standby ($100 Value)
As a Gold member, you can’t confirm onto another flight for free — but you can standby for free. Standby includes flights both earlier and later than your original flight; if you want to standby on a later flight, notify American in advance so your reservation doesn’t cancel. All passengers can standby for an earlier flight for free — the real value is in standing by for a later flight for free, which you can do as a Gold member.
Because going on standby can get you home sooner (or allow you to leave later if a meeting runs long), this is an especially valuable perk. However, Gold members are still listed at the bottom of the pack for any complimentary standby. Here’s how it will display on the PALL (airport priority list):
- RV1 (ConciergeKey)
- RV2 (Executive Platinum)
- RV3 (Platinum Pro)
- RV4 (Platinum)
- RV5 (Gold)
If you are trying to standby for a prime-time flight like New York (LGA) to Dallas (DFW), you may not get on (since you’ll have 4 other elite groups ahead of you). But even a Gold member will come before any employee non-revenue passenger standing by for the flight.
Bottom Line: Standing by for a later or earlier flight comes at no fee to AAdvantage Gold elites.
3. 40% Mileage Bonus (~$300 Value)
Non-status flyers earn 5 miles per dollar, but Gold flyers earn 7 miles per dollar.
We value this benefit somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 per year (depending on the flight(s) you choose to redeem). Of course, if you choose to use these extra miles on a short-haul inexpensive flight, you might value the 40% mileage bonus lower.
4. Complimentary Preferred Seats and Access to Main Cabin Extra Seats ($250 Value)
Gold members have access to Preferred seats on a complimentary basis at the time of booking. These are the aisle and window seats in the middle to back quarter of the cabin — ordinary non-elites would have to pay to choose them.
As a Gold member, you don’t get any discount on Main Cabin Extra seats, but you do have free seat selection within 24 hours of the flight. During this time, watch closely for last-minute upgrades of higher elites that may free up prime Main Cabin Extra seats.
You should also monitor for other elites doing same-day changes onto other flights or those shifting flights due to irregular operations so that you can snag these seats last minute. Gold members can select Preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra seats for themselves and 8 companions.
Hot Tip: Always monitor last-minute upgrades that may free up prime seats you can move to within 24 hours of departure!
5. Admirals Club Discount ($25 Value)
AAdvantage Gold members receive a discount on Admirals Club membership. Instead of paying the $650 fee for a new member, Gold members pay $625.
If you decide to renew your membership, you’ll pay $575 instead of $600. This is a minor discount that doesn’t have a huge value, since you can get your Admirals Club membership in many forms (including via the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®).
6. Priority Check-in, Priority Security, and Priority Boarding (~$75 Value)
Gold flyers are entitled to use the priority check-in line at airports worldwide. Depending on the airport you’re in, this benefit could be valuable or useless (we’re looking at you, JFK).
Priority security isn’t super valuable either, since most Gold flyers probably have TSA PreCheck or another expedited security channel. For boarding, Gold flyers will be in Group 4 — before general boarding, but behind all other elites:
- Pre-boarding — ConciergeKey
- Group 1 — First Class and Executive Platinum
- Group 2 — Platinum Pro
- Group 3 — Platinum
- Group 4 — Gold
Depending on the route, you may be looking at quite a few people boarding ahead of you (or with you). Flights like New York (LGA) to Dallas (DFW) or Chicago (ORD) to Washington, D.C. (DCA or IAD) can have huge boarding groups with many elite passengers.
7. Priority Phone Reservations (~$25 Value)
As a Gold member, you’ll have access to American’s Gold reservations agents, which gives you a slight priority when calling in compared to other flyers. Since you’re still bottom of the elite totem pole and wait times can exceed several minutes (or hours during a storm), the value of this benefit is debatable.
It’s worth noting that Gold flyers won’t necessarily get any special treatment outside of maybe a shorter wait time to reach an agent. Fee waivers, exceptions, and other perks aren’t normally granted (even if you have Gold status).
If you have to call in a few times during a major storm or irregular operation, we value that time at around $25, since you may be able to rebook before another passenger.
8. Checked Bag Fee Waiver ($150 Value)
As a Gold frequent flyer, you’re entitled to a free checked bag on all flights, no matter the destination. This is different from the benefit on the co-branded AA credit cards that only entitles you to checked bags for flights within the U.S. and select “local” international destinations.
If you’re flying 25,000 miles a year and avoid bag fees upwards of $30 per person, you’ve got at least $150 in savings a year here — especially if you travel with a companion or 2 (where you can definitely reap these benefits).
This benefit is good for up to 8 companions on the same reservation, so if you’re traveling with a group of people, you can impress everyone with your free checked bag skills.
Hot Tip: If your companions aren’t booked on the same reservation, you may be able to still check their bags for free. While technically frowned upon, most agents will have no problem providing the companions with complimentary checked bags if you’re on the same flight, so you’ll still be able to maximize value from your Gold perk.
9. Oneworld Ruby Benefits ($100 Value)
AAdvantage Gold members are given Oneworld Ruby status, the lowest of the 3 Oneworld tiers.
Oneworld Ruby members get these benefits:
- Access to business class and priority check-in
- Access to Preferred or reserve seating options, where available on partner carriers
- Priority on waitlists and standby, where offered (depending on the airline)
Let’s take a quick look at each of these for clarity:
- Access to Priority Check-in: Generally easy to use, since the signage is usually good in airports around the world. Occasionally, staff manning the check-in areas of first class counters will steer you away, so be sure you’re using the priority/business counter when there is one.
- Preferred Seating: Depends on the airline; many airlines don’t offer special Ruby seating options. Those that do may only include the ability to select a seat. So don’t expect the best seats in the house — it’s just potential access with nothing guaranteed.
- Priority on Waitlists: Can also depend on the airline, since many will prioritize their own elites ahead of Oneworld elites. In theory, you would carry the same status as the lowest level in the other airline’s frequent flyer program when being placed on any waitlists.
Overall, you’re looking at approximately $1,575 of value over the course of 1 year — and that’s if you take advantage of every benefit and maximize the system.
To be fair, it’s worth noting what overall values might look like if you don’t maximize your perks as much:
- Don’t pay attention to elite benefits: ~$500
- Pay attention to benefits, but usually just book for convenience: ~$700
- Pay attention to most policies and procedures to maximize upgrades: $1,100+
In the end, the value of elite status is entirely up to you as the traveler. You can operate a few different ways:
- Mostly ignore your benefits
- Understand your benefits, but still not work actively to maximize them
- Understand your benefits fully and work to maximize every single perk to the fullest potential
While Gold is the lowest AAdvantage tier, there’s certainly value to be found in the various benefits. Hopefully, by reading this guide, you now feel empowered to get more value out of this entry-level status!