American Launches Paid Elite Level Offers for 2019 Status

American Airlines has launched its‘elite buy up’ offers. Each year American offers to sell customers status renewal or a higher elite tier for the coming year. The prices are usually outrageous.

These offers launch in November, which for most people is too early to consider, since there’s the chance that last minute travel could mean a higher elite level without spending money. And there’s no rush. Historically they’ve allowed buy ups through the middle of the next year, although this year’s terms and conditions do not specify an end date (presumably publishing that you have more than half a year to make your decisions depresses immediate purchase).

These offers are targeted based on:

  • Current elite status (although members in the midst of a status challenge have to first retain that status before becoming eligible for paid renewal or upgrade)

  • 2018 elite qualifying activity (being close to a status level)

American says the price they’re offering you may change. Once you do purchase the terms say a higher status goes into effect within 5 days, while if you’re just renewing the status goes into effect immediately as your current status expires (“or if the purchase is completed after that date, within 5 business days of the purchase being completed”).

However when purchasing you may be shown an effective date of the very next day:

Offer terms say “[a]ll current AAdvantage members are eligible to participate in this offer based upon their AAdvantage elite status level valid through January 31, 2019 and/or 2018 elite qualifying activity.” I am a current AAdvantage Executive Platinum member who has not yet requalified for 2019 and when I log in I am told I am not eligible.

I expect Gold to mostly run roughly $400 – $800; Platinum perhaps $800 – $1900; Platinum Pro $1500 – $2000; and Executive Platinum around $1800 – $2600 based on flight activity year-to-date. Those are guesses and I’m interested to learn what buy up offers you’re receiving and no doubt there will be outliers that are much higher.

The cost to buy back or buy up status has been steadily increasing, while the value of status has been decreasing. Upgrades are much harder than they used to be with airlines better monetizing their premium cabin seats. And with American prioritizing upgrades based on last 12 months of ticket spend, those who aren’t achieving status ‘the regular way’ are likely to have spent less on tickets and be lower on the upgrade totem poll even after spending thousands of dollars for status.

I genuinely don’t see the value of buying back Gold at all. Just get an AAdvantage co-brand credit card, and use the cash savings from the buy up offer to pay for Main Cabin Extra seats in advance instead of waiting until check-in. Higher status seems questionable given the high pricing, though of course it depends on how you value the benefits and how much you will use them next year. If you’re going to be flying more in the future than you did in the year you’re failing to requalify naturally it could be something to consider.

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. Wow, it is amazing that my Lifetime Gold status is valued at $699 by AA. I find it just a little better than useless.

  2. @Mark — If safety is your biggest concern, you might want to refocus your thinking. It reminds me of a family member who wouldn’t let me book them on a 737 after that lady flying WN got sucked out the window. It’s the equivalent of refusing to cross a street because you could get hit by a car.

  3. If you fly AA, it’s nice to have gold status. But it’s worth maybe $150 for somebody who flies AA domestically once a month. I like it mostly for the ease of getting decent seat assignments and the possibility of getting MCE. It is a shame that the airlines are now selling elite status for much more than its worth. I wish the airlines would give you this basic status with just a credit card, like the hotels do.

  4. “I genuinely don’t see the value of buying back Gold at all”

    Concur. As someone who’s floated down from EXP to gold as of late I can say gold is basically worthless.

    You board with everyone who has a credit card or paid for better boarding and behind all higher elites and business/first, meaning you still wait in a long line from the desk to the plane. Honestly better just to wait until everyone has boarded, then walk on.

    Upgrades to AA’s mediocre “first” happen basically never given your ultra-low priority and the fact you’re earning probably 1-2 upgrade certificates a year.

    The rest of the perks can be bought for a few shekels and a credit card.

  5. Thank god I don’t care about upgrading
    I buy what I want if it’s long haul and don’t play the status game of hoping
    And almost always avoid American United & Delta and favor almost any other carrier
    Their greed in the programs and at time of redemption drove me away to cash back cards and their competitors

  6. I’m AA Gold this year but likely won’t re qualify since I’ve moved most of my flying over to United. My offer was for $749 but I did find it interesting that is shows
    “When you purchase, the dollars you spend will count towards your 2018 EQDs and your 12-month Rolling EQD balance, helping improve your upgrade priority.” So at least that is helpful. I’m not sure what my price point would be for this since I have the AA Executive card which already gives my the same boarding spot. The real deal killer is the change in MCE seat pricing at booking for Gold. I might be tempted to buy up to Platinum for this much but not to stay Gold. It also doesn’t show that you get any 500 mile stickers for this as well. To keep Gold is worth like $200 to me, maybe. The main benefit is seat selection and MCE at 24 hours.

  7. EXP the past few years, took all my business elsewhere this year. Didn’t even use my 4 SWPs this year. Won’t even hit gold this year.

    Not even a call from AA wondering where I went.

    Offered $699 for Gold and $1299 for Plat.

    Good riddance.

  8. Gold is valuable in that you can standby for free. I use this often when traveling for work to get home earlier when possible.

    My offer to retain Gold was $799. I’d rather do a MR to Europe for a quick weekend trip for about the same price to retain Gold, vs just handing them $799 for it.

  9. I bought gold last year. They immediately gutted the benefits and would not discuss any compensation. Fool me once . . .

  10. One has to bear in mind that even Lifetime Gold and LIfetime Platinum were effectively devalued with the insertion of Platinum Pro in between Plat and EXP.

    I don’t see AA ever granting a “lifetime” version of EXP, and doubtful they will for Plat Pro (despite some reasonable ideas from this, from this blog & elsewhere).

    Raising the price of something whilst simultaneously devaluing it does indeed seem odd. .

  11. Gold is valuable if you travel with family at all, since basic members can only reserve middle seats for free. However, I won’t be paying to renew gold, nor will I expect to qualify on flying. I’ll probably redeem Business Extra points if I find a need to fly my family on AA.

  12. Paid $800 last year to buy up to Platnium after missing the 50K miles needed by 300 miles! Has not been worth it.

  13. My buy-up to “Platinum Pro” is $1900. My YTD is 10K EQD and 145K EQM (i.e. I already qualified for Platinum Pro). Insane.

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