Just Crossed the 2 Million Mile Threshold with American

I don’t mean this to ‘brag’ but just to share my genuine joy and excitement with all of my regular readers.

American has been unique among airline programs in offering lifetime status for earning miles from any source,. So whereas United and Delta have offered lifetime status for millions of flight miles, American has offered lifetime status for millions of miles including those earned from credit cards, transfers in from other programs, really just any partners they have.

I even earned American miles on my British Airways first class flight from London to Toronto (shh…), those are most of the qualifying miles in my statement snapshot below, and then I sent a note to AAdvantage because I was disappointed in the flight service received during the British Airways strike, and they deposited a bunch of miles as an apology. Those miles counted towards my lifetime status.
I’m not a regular American Airlines flyer. I’ve probably flown less than 20,000 actual paid butt-in-seat miles on American in the past 20 years.

I am not a regular American flyer, so why do I care about American status? Certainly having status will make it more likely that I fly American in the future. And who knows how circumstances change, locking in lifetime status is a benefit and I wanted it now in case the rules changed. I have many, many years to enjoy it (as long as American doesn’t renege on the offer, and as long as they stay around!).

I’ve earned almost all of my miles from partners, I’ve always found American to be one of the easiest programs in which to earn miles without flying. I’ve even earned close to 10% of my lifetime miles from my checking account.

Status takes a little while to roll over after reaching a million mile threshold. But like at the Gold levvel I’ll receive a new membership card, presumably luggage tags, and a gift of upgrades.

At 1 million miles you achieve lifetime gold status, and (for North American members) 8 500-mile upgrade certificates or (for international members) 4 confirmed at booking international upgrade cetificates.

At 2 million miles you achieve lifetime platinum status, and 4 confirmed at booking international upgrade cetificates.

I was very tempted for a long time to just get my quest over with, to transfer in a bunch of Starwood points. I resisted that temptation, I didn’t actually need the status earlier rather than later, and since I made it without doing so I’m glad I resisted the urge. But I would have been beating myself up monstrously if I had passed up on the chance and hadn’t made the transfer and then American changed the rules for lifetime status qualification.

The thinking over at the Traveling Better forums is that American will – at some point – change the way they calculate lifetime status. It could be that they stop counting miles from all sources towards that status. Whether that means coutning all miles earned to date from any source and only flight miles going forward, or counting only flight miles when calculating million miler status in the future, no one knows. Or it could even mean just increasing the number of miles required from any source for lifetime status. But the bottom-line is a sense that American feels there are now too many people earning lifetime status, that it’s too easy to do. And it probably is.

How soon will something happen? Nobody knows, changes have been speculated on for a long time, years even. I asked Randy Petersen about this over dinner in April, since I was pretty darn close to the 2 million mile threshold and thus it was on my mind. He felt confident that they wouldn’t make the change in 2010, that it just wasn’t high enough up in the priorities to make the IT investments necessary for the change. He told me not to make a points transfer, that I would be fine, and indeed he was right (though I didn’t think I’d make it within just a couple of months of that conversation).

I have to think that Randy is right, that the change won’t happen in the next few months, but I also have to agree with JonNYC‘s advice at Traveling Better — that I wouldn’t transfer tons of points over to American with the goal of getting closer to lifetime status (rather than crossing a status threshold now) on the belief that it will just make it quicker to get there in the future. Someone who does that could wind up with a bunch of American miles (rather than another currency which they might otherwise prefer) and find that those miles didn’t actually help them towards lifetime status.

At the same time, if a promo like the current bonus for transferring in hotel points helps you cross a million miler threshold now, it might be a good idea to go for it! (And remember that the ability to transfer from Marriott to American ends on June 30.)

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. Congratulations Gary!

    At 1.2 Mil, I am far far away from that goal, and would probably never get there before they change their rules.

  2. Congratulations Gary. I won’t likely make 2 million before they change the requirements, but I am happy to have crossed the 1 million threshold last month. Some status is better than none.

  3. Congrats, Gary.

    I’m sure the day is inevitable when the rules will change. I just hope that day doesn’t come for another 24 years (go ahead and laugh, it’s OK).

    I’ve been an AAdvantage member since 2002, had the Citi card since 2008, and have only 247,416 lifetime miles. I fly American almost exclusively. So I average just under 31,000 miles per year, about 2/3 of that BIS. I simply don’t travel as much as I would like or spend enough mile-earning dollars as I would like.

    So, averaging about 31,000 per year, it’ll take me 32 years to get to the 1MM mark, minus the 8 I’ve already put in.

    What’s an infrequent flier and spender to do?

  4. I’m not sure it was a wise move to move *wood points (very valuable) to AA. What was the rush? IIRC, you were pretty close.

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