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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.