Hate Mininum Spend for Elite Status? American Introducing Innovative Way to Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars With Credit Card Spend

Starting in 2017, you’ll have to meet minimum spending requirements in addition to miles (or segments) flown for American Airlines elite status.

This more or less copies United which copied Delta, both of whom already have such a requirement in place. They even copied the minimum 12 cents per mile dollar threshold.

This is lower than average revenue per mile at the airline, so the median customer won’t see a change. But lower-spending customers will have a hard time earning status. In fact, the customer spending $5000 a year and flying 100,000 miles to become an Executive Platinum now will get busted down to Gold.

At American — unlike at Delta and United — the requirement applies to all members worldwide and not just to US-based members.

Like Delta, American will award elite qualifying dollars for partner flights. If the flight has an American Airlines code, it earns based on the cost of the ticket. If it has a partner flight code (and the partner earns qualifying miles, not all do) then elite qualifying dollars will be awarded based on distance and fare class.

There’s an exception and that’s that customers spending enough money on their co-brand credit cards get exempted from this rule at Delta and United.

  • Spend $25,000 in a year on a Delta co-brand credit card and you’re exempt entirely.

  • Spend $25,000 in a year on a United co-brand credit card and you’re exempt if you’re earning up to Platinum status, but 1K (100,000 miles) requires meeting the minimum spend.

American announced this morning that they, too, will offer the ability to spend on a credit card rather than on tickets to meet Elite Qualifying Dollar requirements for elite status. But they’re doing it in a different way than Delta or United.

  • Spend $25,000 on a Barclaycard-issued American AAdvantage credit card and earn 3000 elite qualifying dollars.

  • Spend $50,000 on a Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver credit card and earn an additional 3000 elite qualifying dollars.

AAdvantage Aviator Red, Aviator Blue and Aviator Business MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 on qualifying net purchases during the calendar year.

AAdvantage Aviator Silver MasterCard accounts can earn up to $6,000 EQDs by spending $50,000 on qualifying net purchases each calendar year. They’ll earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 on qualifying purchases and another $3,000 EQDs after $50,000 on qualifying purchases.

You cannot combine spend on more than one credit card to reach these spend thresholds (in contrast to Delta and United). It has to be $25,000 (or $50,000) on a single card. And you can not earn 3000 elite qualifying dollars (or 6000) from multiple cards.

Regardless of how many AAdvantage® Aviator™ MasterCard® accounts you have, you can earn a maximum of $3,000 EQDs each calendar year (unless you have the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver MasterCard®). If you have the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver MasterCard® (regardless of whether you have multiple AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver or other Aviator™ MasterCard® accounts), you can earn a maximum of 6,000 EQDs each calendar year.

Citibank AAdvantage cards do not help you earn elite qualifying dollars — not even the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card that costs $450 a year and comes with Admirals Club membership.

Non-US members at Delta and United don’t have a minimum spend requirement. American customers do. And American customers outside the US don’t have a credit card spend option to help towards this, though at least as with Delta they can earn qualifying dollars on oneworld partner flights (based on distance and fare class).

You cannot apply for Barclaycard co-brands today. Barclaycard used to issue US Airways cards, and those became American cards with the merger. But Citibank has had the exclusive right to issue new AAdvantage cards.

With American’s new credit card deal both Citi and Barclaycard will issue cards in 2017. Baclaycard will be able to take applications in-airport (but not within 1000 100 feet of an Admirals Club, where Citibank has exclusivity) and inflight. American won’t promote the Barclaycard products through their own digital channels, but applications will be available online directly through Barclaycard.

There are several things interesting about this.

  1. It’s not a complete waiver. At Delta if you spend $25,000 on a co-brand card it doesn’t matter how much you spend on tickets. If you spent less than $1 on tickets you could still earn status based on your paid flying. Here you earn enough Elite Qualifying Dollars to make Gold ($25,000) or Platinum ($50,000 on the right cards) only.

  2. These are earned Elite Qualifying Dollars. They combine with the qualifying dollars you earn from flying anyway. So you can earn qualifying dollars both with credit card spend and with ticket spend, and make Platinum 75,000 or Executive Platinum levels. United, in contrast, only offers their credit card spend waiver up to the 75,000 mile elite status level — you have to spend on tickets if you want to make their 100,000 mile 1K level.

  3. These are valuable even to customers meeting minimum spend already. Even if you’re going to earn elite status with sufficient ticket spend, you may want to earn elite qualifying dollars with credit card spend also. That’s because an extra $3000 or $6000 in elite qualifying dollars can still be helpful, since sometime in 2017 American is going to order their upgrade list based on elite status and then prior 12 month elite qualifying dollars earned.

  4. Timing when you meet spend matters. When you hit the spend levels of your credit card matters (when the qualifying dollars post). You’ll have to consider whether you want to earn it quickly and at the beginning of the year, spread out 3000 EQDs on the Silver card early and 3000 later, etc. My approach will be to hold off crossing the spend threshold until the new upgrade priority algorithm goes into effect ‘later’ in 2017 in order to maximize the amount of time that it will help me on upgrade lists.

Customers earning Executive Platinum on under $6000 in tickets aren’t going to like this approach compared to Delta’s, but it does allow customers to demonstrate value to American in multiple ways. Someone spending on a co-brand card actually does have value to the program, sometimes as much or more value than someone spending a lot on tickets.

Travel can be expensive for American to provide to customers, while miles sold through partners are a high margin product. An approach where part of the elite requirement is met on a credit card and part through flying seems to make good sense.

Updated 2:55pm Eastern to correct distance from Admirals Clubs that Barclaycard products can be made available in airports from 1000 feet to 100 feet.

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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  1. Any idea how they define 1,000 feet of an AC? Is it linear feet in the airport from the entrance, a 1,000 ft line from any part of the AC, etc? 1000 ft sounds crazy high.

    In PHL for example, a 1000 ft border around the Admirals Clubs footprint restricts Barclaycard to selling in the far ‘ass-end’ of A-west. Nothing in A-East, B/C, or F. Even the most restrictive (1,000 ft walking distance from the entrance) still limits it to the far ends of A-West, B, and C.

  2. I also thought United waived the minimum spend requirements for those who did not live in the United States. Can’t remember what Delta does. Is that still true as well.

  3. When are the new cards expected to come out? I’m interested in the Barclay version of the card but at this point in waiting on seeing what the new one will be.

  4. Does this effect LifeTime status already acquired? I’ve been Gold since the 90s because of Million Mile status on an older program with American. I don’t see any reference to those with “LifeTime” status in the announcement. Any thoughts?

  5. Will Barclay’s offer the Silver Aviator card for new accounts?…or will it only be available by upgrading an existing Aviator card as it is today? Thanks

  6. Sorry but they are idiots. I maintain DL Diamond and AA Platinum every year. But the more complicated they make this shit (MQM, EQM, MQD, WTF?) the less desire I have to play their games.

  7. Something interesting in the T&Cs:

    “How is the 500-mile EQM minimum benefit applied?

    If your flight is less than 500 miles we’ll raise the base EQM amount to 500 prior to applying any multipliers, according to the booking code purchased. After applying the multiplier, the number of EQMs awarded could be less than 500. For example, if your flight is 300 miles in length, we will raise the base EQM amount to 500. If the multiplier to be applied is 0.50, you will earn 250 EQMs for the flight.”

    Multipliers of <1 are only on partner flights like AS right? No AA flight gives less than 1:1 EQM to flight miles?

  8. If they are indeed retaining EQMs for the Barclay card, it instantly leaps in front of the Citi Exec card for me. I typically put my $40K on the Citi card first then switch to the Barclay card as you don’t have to spend the full $40K to get the EQMs. Can spend $20K and still get 5K EQMs. Will to be interesting going forward with all of these weird qualifiers.

    I heard that AA will be allowing SWUs to be used on award tix later next year as well, any truth to that?

  9. Nothing really game changing here IMHO. I think AA fell flat on this one. Why would I spend $25,000 on a card to get $3K EQD and forego better earning opportunities through other credit cards?

    This actually puts AA in last when it comes to credit card benefits as they are unable to offer a product line with comprehensive benefits as now we have one card for lounge benefits, a different card for EQD boost, a different card for different benefits. Fragmented.

    99% of us do not really have the luxury of putting north of six figure spend on credit cards and it is not as simple as “Great ok I can shift 10% of my spend on that credit card to achieve $25,000 to yield $3,000 EQD, so marginal impact to my earning strategy” as your post seems to imply about your personal situation. I guess the point I was trying to make, if you were only able to put $50,000 on credit card spend annually, would you dedicate $25,000 to this Barclay card to earn $3,000 EQDs?

    You might not agree, but in my opinion AA has the worst credit card product line(s) compared to what United/Chase and Delta/AMEX offers and I think this is only going to hurt AA in the long run as having a solid credit card partner strongly complements the overall product the airline offers to its customers and with very little incentive to actually put any spend on the card (other than certain minimums depending on individual scenarios) this will impact AA’s revenue stream from issuers buying miles (i.e. The faster Citi/Barclay runs out of their AAdvantage stash the sooner they will buy more).

  10. Goodbye US Airways EXPs. Send a $12,000 check to Amercian Airlines and pray they’ll give you EXP status on the first flight. Boy this is hilarious. All bloggers except Gary and Ben will be out of business—-a dram come true!

    Oh yeah — Platinum Pro, the joke of all FF Mile programs.

    I told ya, Obama’s war on flyers during his final months comes true. Disrupt the EXPs so that Silicon Valley skinny finger button pushers and content counterfeiters can rule “za” world.

    Okay kids….making sure the eggs in my Cathay Pacific seat are juuuust right. **kiss!**

  11. Gary I saw you answered my question regarding the EQM’s but that was not listed anywhere in the release. Is this certain ?

    I have two Advantage cards and the Aviator card which should get me 30K EQM and the minimum spend requirements.

  12. Every week AA makes another announcement that assures me I made the right choice by leaving them behind. Pay for the seat you want in the US, collect the most flexible points, and use the points for premium overseas travel. Take the flight with the best combination of price, schedule and service and ENJOY travel again.

  13. Unless someone lives or works in Dallas, I can’t imagine why anyone would make EXP status an objective. They’ve cut the benefits dramatically, cut mileage earning and cut award availability – while simultaneously adding qualification requirements. For Gods sake have some dignity and stop spending money with them.

  14. …and that means I’m out next year. As a Canadian, who chose AA/OW exclusively this past year (hitting EXP in less than 4 months of travel), I just don’t see how I can hit 12K spend in 2017.

    I did all sorts of slightly out-of-the-way routings last year to fly to places like Singapore and Australia just to make sure I stuck with AA/OW.

    It sucks… I didn’t hate flying AA like I hated flying AC.

    Free agent time.

  15. Gary:
    Can you tell us which American Airlines partner airlines earn AAdvantage qualifying miles. Thanks.
    Steve T

  16. Will AA tell us what or EQD spend is this year? I have no interest in putting $25,000 much less $50,000 on any Barclay AA card. There are better cards to use and better airlines to fly.

  17. Is there any benefit, at all, to having multiple Silvers? I happen to have two of them and have been trying to figure out if I should bag one of them or keep them both.

  18. I am from Canada and like Matteo says, any AA customer who is not a U.S. resident will have to fork out lots of $$$…. on top of currency exchange…

    A DisAAvantage Member!

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