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.
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.
- 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.