American’s Offer is Live to Let You Buy Status Instead of End of Year Flying

As I wrote that I expected yesterday, American is back with their offer to let you buy the difference in miles or segments you need for the elite status you’re after.

    american elite boost

US Airways will have something that should be identical coming within a few weeks.

You don’t have to take an end of year mileage run. You don’t have to spend time in planes, away from family at the holidays. And you don’t have to take seats and upgrades when planes are already full.

It’s not inexpensive. In fact it’s quite pricey. But for some, especially those who highly value their time, it could be just the trick. But you’ll need to play it strategically.

American Elite Boost Offer Details

You can renew existing Gold status for $649, or existing Platinum status for $1199.

Or you can pay for the final elite qualifying miles or segments (but not ‘points’) you need to earn status.

Last year you could buy 5000 or 10,000 miles towards status. This year they’re letting you buy more. And they haven’t increased pricing.

Here’s the price for buying miles or segments towards Gold:

The pricing for Platinum.

And the pricing to buy the miles or segments you need to get up to Executive Platinum.

Does This Make Any Sense?

First, the question is whether status or a higher level of status makes sense for you next year at all. That depends on how much value you’ll get out of the status — how much you’ll use it.

Remember that the 2015 American AAdvantage program will have 3 elite tiers. And they’ll offer more bonus miles to mid-tier elites than US Airways did (eg a mid-tier US Airways elite goes from a 50% to 100% mileage bonus).

For some, plans to fly enough next year could mean that the extra bonus miles earned pay a good chunk of the way towards the cost of status. And being better-positioned for upgrades, and standby during irregular operations, can be helpful too.

But if you’re not going to fly more next year than this year you should look really hard at the purchase or mileage run — if you aren’t flying enough for a status this year, are you flying enough next year to amortize the cost?

Is the Price Right?

At the low end you’re paying 8 cents a mile to buy 5000 miles towards Gold status. If you literally needed the full 5000 miles, $399 may be cheaper than taking a flight — at least if you value the time spent doing something other than flying for a day. Of course Gold will get you the least back.

On the other hand, 5000 miles towards Executive Platinum at $1199 is ~ 24 cents a mile. You might consider taking a flight instead, especially if you enjoy flying or want to have lunch in another city.

Interestingly the cost per mile goes down the more miles you need to buy.

  • It’s a better deal at fixed 5000 mile increments. They aren’t selling you a price per mile, they are selling chunks.
  • So if you needed 1000 a flight is probably cheaper since you have to buy a full 5000 mile package

Strategizing With US Airways and Figuring Out Whether You Really Need This

Start with how many miles you have now, and how many miles short you may be for elite status next year.

You can wait to buy this until you know how many miles you really need — you may not take a trip, something unexpected may come up.

How to Play it With the US Airways Merger

American and US Airways will merge frequent flyer account activity come (hopefully the early part of) the second quarter next year. If you have US Airways elite qualifying activity — I have 10,000 qualifying miles from spend on my US Airways credit card — that will get folded into your AAdvantage account. You may lose or drop down in status on March 1, but get your status back when accounts get merged.

As I revealed yesterday, you aren’t really buying elite qualifying miles — the number of qualifying miles in your account does not go up. Instead you are paying to eliminate the need for those qualifying miles.

  • That means if you have US Airways elite miles getting combined into an AAdvantage account, you’d lose benefit from doing this now. You want to wait until the accounts get merged to buy up.

  • It also means that you can’t buy, say, 15,000 qualifying miles on each side and expect those to get combined as 30,000 when the accounts are merged.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary, am I correct in thinking one could spend on a US Air credit card to get the 10K miles in early 2015 and then when the two programs are merged that this would carry over for elite status re-qualification? And then with a Citi Executive card it would seem you could pick up another 10K of EQM later giving you 20K towards status renewal. Are you considering doing this?
    Thanks.

  2. As a lifetime Plat (unless this gets changed at some point) I would like anyone here to tell me what great value I get as a Plat? EXP yes, but Plat? Its not like Delta where you get any operational upgrades. You get double miles when you fly and priority on wait list. Gold is worth even less. As far as I am concerned for AA only EXP matters, for Delta Diamond is good (I am a Diamond now) and Plat is probably OK, Gold isnt worth much either.

  3. @Carl what great benefit do you get from AA as a GOLD? I get very little from lifetime Plat. Years ago before they made the change I used the credit card to boost my miles up. It hasnt been anything of great value though

  4. I can see how this makes a lot of sense for American. Why have people flying taking up seats to get status when you can just have them buy up and you can sell the seat to someone else. And they are locking themselves in for another year to possibly do the same thing again next year. Genius. Yet United sees those same customers as over over-entitled and wants to chase them away?

  5. Is this a targeted offer? I did not receive any email regarding this offer, nor can I find it on American’s website? I’m a 3MM EXPLAT

  6. Gary, do you have a link for the US Airways credit card that gives you 10k EQM with spend? I don’t see that as a benefit on the current offers out there.

  7. Great Timing, Gary. Your email arrived right after my offer from AA. My Travel Hacking Hobby is getting old for my Hubby, so I had to cut back on paid travel this year – he wants me to cut back on ‘free’ travel, too. (See meltdown during AA A321T trip in August while I was enjoying great plane spotting with a Terrace Suite @ LAX Westin :-). Any hoo, I’m buying in to keep my Platinum for another year. And I used ‘his’ new Ink+ card towards the spend req 4 the 70K points. See You in Dec!

  8. I did the $399 offer (it’s what all that was offered) – I was shy 2300 points for Gold and was planning a mileage run (much much cheaper than a same-day r/t transcon).

  9. Thanks Gary. I’m still not sure whether or not to do a mileage run. I’m in the opposite situation that you are. I have 10k EQM in American and about 75k US. By the end of the year, without any mileage running, I should have about 82k or so. If this is going to combine to 92k and I can spend $1799 at some point for the SWUs, I’d probably do it. But if the buy up opportunity is going to end before the combination, I’d probably mileage run at the end of this year. Tough to decide what to do.

  10. @larryinnyc – it no longer shows up in the marketing materials, i assume it goes away after this year so they can’t promise it now. only the new premium version of the us airways card will get that starting next year..

  11. Hi All,

    Can you offer a suggestions as I have 1,919,769 in my million miles balance? I do have “lifetime” Gold and find as others, that it really isn’t worth much. So, I wouldn’t recommend spending to get Gold, but I might to get Lifetime Plat. And I realize that it isn’t a huge shake and could be changed, but I’d like to know if the offers will allow me to cross the 2mm threshold and if so, is it worth it?

    THANKS so much.

  12. @HaveTrunk I am lifetime PLAT. I dont see any great benefit with it. I dont think GOLD is worth anything either.

  13. Gary, do you think the merged accounts will convey status based on segments as well? I have 6 US segments flown this year and when combined with my AA segments, I’d qualify for Platinum on segments but not miles.

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