American’s Offer is Live to Let You Buy Status Instead of Doing an End of Year Mileage Run

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

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 up 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 and Renewal Offer Details

If you have elite status valid through February 29, 2016 (not temporary status from a challenge) then you can ‘buy up’ to the next status beyond what you’ve achieved through flying if you’re close or you can ‘buy back’ Gold or Platinum status.

You’ll be asked to log in on the buy back page, and you’ll be presented with a boost offer, a renewal offer, or both depending on your status and how close you are to the next level.

This is an American Airlines purchase, so should be eligible for air or travel bonus categories with many credit cards (and for the Citi Prestige airline credit).

American has a Frequently asked questions about the offer.

They make you log in to see the offers, pricing isn’t published. However last year’s pricing to renew existing Gold status was $649 and to renew existing Platinum status $1199. Roger B. tells me that his Gold buy back offer was $649 so these prices may be the same this year.

Update: (11/18 9:34am Eastern) American confirms that pricing is the same as last year.

You can also pay for the final elite qualifying miles or segments (but not ‘points’) you need to earn status if you’re within 15,000 miles of the next level. If you’re within 10,000 miles it’s cheaper to do this than to buy back existing status. And it lets you buy up to a higher level than your current status.

It’s even possible to ‘buy up’ the last 15,000 qualifying miles towards Executive Platinum. In theory you could have flown 65,000 qualifying miles, spent $40,000 on each of the Citi Executive and Barclaycard Aviator silver cards for 10,000 qualifying miles each, and then pick up this buy up offer for Executive Platinum (and still earn 8 systemwide upgrades as well).

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

And last year’s pricing for Platinum.

And the pricing to buy the miles or segments you needed last year to get up to Executive Platinum.

As I say there are some indications that the pricing remains the same this year. Please let me know what prices you see when you log in.

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 there are very few changes to the AAdvantage elite program in 2016.

  • Sometime in the back half of the year mileage-earning via flights will move to revenue-based, and with that Golds and Executive Platinums will earn bigger bonuses compared to base members than they do today (40% vs 25% and 120% vs 100% respectively) while Platinums will earn a smaller bonus compared to base members (60% vs 100%).

  • Since elite qualifying miles will be earned more quickly on premium fares (up to 3 miles per mile flown for full fare premium cabin tickets), they’re only going to provide four 500 mile upgrades for every 12,500 qualifying miles flown rather than each 10,000 flown.

The biggest changes come to the 2017 elite program, to mileage-earning on partners (which is reduced for discount fares), and to the award chart.

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 presumably 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 was $1199 last year — ~ 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

If You’re Going to Do It… When?

Based on past experience with these offers 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.

If you are buying back status there is no reason to do it right away. You have until July to take advantage of this offer, and your current status extends through February. Even if you don’t expect more travel between now and the end of the year something could come up. I’d wait to buy until after the New Year when your qualifying activity is locked in.

If you are buying up to a higher level than you have now, and you’re certain you won’t achieve it on your own, my inclination would be to buy earlier rather than later to have more time to actually use the status. Regardless of when you buy the status will be valid through February 2017.

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. Data Points:

    I’ve already re-qualified for Gold and it says I’m not eligible.

    My wife is currently 83 miles short of Gold (but will get it by the end of the year) and was offered to renew her Gold status for $399.

    My infant daughter who has no miles and no status is not eligible.

  2. As a Lifetime Plat myself I cant see any reason to pay AA for Gold status. I see minimal benefit as a lifetime plat. Clearly the rev program next year will take away the top benefit 100% miles bonus. (You get a bonus but few miles for flying standard econ) I can only see benefit for soembody to go to EXP if the fee was low.

  3. As a data point, I am also currently Gold, requalified as Gold, and am not eligible to boost myself for the bit I need to get to Plat.

  4. Is it clear that if you’ve flown a lifetime of 1 million miles on American and therefore get gold level every year, that it’s staying the same? Or is that going away?
    Does anyone know?

  5. Unless I’m mistaken, partner EQM earning goes down (50% of flown miles on most economy fares on AS) on January 1, 2016, not in 2017. This kills me who earns a good chunk of my EXP status flying AS across the country.

  6. Gary, can you clarify the following:

    “Sometime in the back half of the year mileage-earning via flights will move to revenue-based, and with that Golds and Executive Platinums will earn bigger bonuses compared to base members than they do today (40% vs 25% and 120% vs 100% respectively) while Platinums will earn a smaller bonus compared to base members (60% vs 100%).”

    Is the status bonus in addition to the revenue model for earning miles? For example as an EXP, will it be ( Ticket Price * 11) + 120% = Total RDM?

  7. @Karl T — 7 points for Golds instead of 5 is a 40% Gold bonus. 8 points for Platinums instead of 5 which is base earning is a 60% bonus. There is no status bonus on top of the 7, 8, and 11 points.

  8. I’m about to reach Platinum status already within a few days based on existing travel plans. But, the current offer from American to me only refers to Platinum status, which I will achieve anyways. After I achieve Platinum, does anyone know whether the offer from American will change to reflect that, thus allowing me to buy up for executive platinum, assuming I reached 85 segments before the end of the year? For those getting Exec Plat offers, is the minimum number of segments still 85 to buy up? Is the price still the same as last year? Any insight on this would be great.

  9. @Gary – hoping you can give some advice. I”m at EP with 75K miles for the year. I’m not sure what I will do next year, perhaps around 75K. I fly out of MIA to most large cities int he U.S. and to London about twice a year. I like getting the first class upgrades domestically. I liked the double mileage bonus but wasn’t as concerned with it because I would get it even if I was platinum.

    I’m trying to figure out whether it’s worth trying to get EP for 2016. Especially now that the way you accumulate miles is changing. I would have to do a major mileage run. I don’t want to spend more than $1K to do it either.

    In your opinion – can a mileage run be done between now and the end of year for $1K or less out of Miami?

  10. I have a feeling there will be quite a few people in my position that have a few segments or miles to go for status. Maybe a bit more than a few miles. I do agree that it will be hard to do it from a timing and cost perspective.

    I’m trying to get my head around what changes for me with AA. It used to be very simple, I flew 75K miles this year and I’m EP so I have 150K miles earned between but in seat and 100% bonus. This all changes because there is no more 1 for 1 bonus.

    I always book the least expense fare on AA. so I wonder how much this really affects me. I know you have no idea but if you were to guess, if someone fly’s about 75K miles a year domestically on the cheapest tickets, how many miles would that equate to under the new program? And do the base miles remain the same? In other words, if you fly 75K miles for the year, do you receive the 75 miles and then just the bonus miles change based on revenue?

  11. As a Gold member, I only flew ~5K miles worth this year with AA, but was still offered the opportunity to buy my membership again. It’ll cost $650 though.

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