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AAdvantage Million Miler Status With American? Not So Fast!

AAdvantage Million Miler Status With American? Not So Fast!

In a widely anticipated move, American will change the terms governing qualification for the AAdvantage Million Miler program.

Currently, any and all AAdvantage miles, earned from any and all sources, count toward the program’s million-mile thresholds.

Beginning on December 1, 2011, only "base miles earned by flying on American Airlines, American Eagle, or the AmericanConnection carrier, or any eligible AAdvantage program participating airline," plus miles earned for charges to the Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard credit card, will count toward Million Miler status.

And from January 1, 2013, the credit card miles will no longer count, leaving just flight miles on American and AAdvantage partner airlines as qualifiers for Million Miler status.

Million Miler benefits are as follows:

  • At one million qualifying miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Gold status and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles.
  • At two million miles, they will receive lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status and four one-way system-wide upgrades.
  • For each additional million miles, they receive four additional one-way system-wide upgrades.

Reversion to the Mean

In fairness to American, the new policy is in line with the standard used by most other airlines for awarding million-miler status, although some carriers (Continental, Delta) also include limited numbers of elite-qualifying miles from credit card use and class-of-service bonuses, and United limits qualifying miles to its own flights. In fact, it seems that American reviewed the competitive landscape and simply triangulated a middling position—neither the most nor the least generous.

But the change will leave many AAdvantage members feeling short-changed, myself included.

A Mid-Game Rule Change

I’ve been slowly working toward my first million AAdvantage miles for a couple of decades. I’ve charged tens of thousands of dollars on my AAdvantage MasterCard (which is embossed with "Member since ’98"). I’ve flown American when there were more convenient (and cheaper) flights available on other airlines. I actively participated in the dining-for-miles program. I booked hotel stays and car rentals with AAdvantage partners. Many of the miles earned for those and other transactions were earned specifically to boost my account balance to the million-mile mark.

In other words, I’ve configured my travel and purchase behavior to align with American’s rule for earning a specific award, expecting that rule to remain in place until I’d reached the goal.

With a scant three months’ notice, American will change that rule, in the process obviating significant effort and expenditure on my part and effectively devaluing the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve already earned.

For Some, a Silver Lining

No doubt there are others in my situation, who feel similarly disenfranchised.

But there’s at least one other school of thought as well.

As expressed in an email received today, Neil reacted positively to the change: "It will diminish the ability to gain elite status for non-flyers. I think this may result in greater benefits for elite flyers."


Timing Is Everything

The change itself may have been inevitable. But the timing was not.

Given the number of miles and AAdvantage members negatively affected by this move, American at the very least should have given more advance notice.

Significantly more.

Reader Reality Check

How close to AAdvantage Million Miler status are you?

What are your plans to reach the goal, if you’re close enough to do so?

How will this policy change affect your relationship with American?

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  • Pamela

    I don’t think your efforts were wasted.
    According the the email, it says: Your beginning Million Miler balance on December 1, 2011, will include every AAdvantage mile you ever earned in the AAdvantage program. This Program to Date balance is currently reflected in your AAdvantage account on”

    Then in the FAQ on the AA site, it says
    “In order to maximize your activity so far, your beginning Million Miler balance on December 1, 2011, will include all of your program-to-date miles – in other words, every AAdvantage mile you ever earned in the program.”

    I have 989,157 Program to Date miles. I think I can make it with a flight in Oct and early holiday purchases, and bills. Right?

  • Tim Winship

    Pamela – With your mileage balance, you should be able to reach MM status before the new policy takes effect. If not, it might be worth getting the AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard ($450 annual fee) to allow you to continue earning MM-qualifying miles through 2012.

    As for my current miles, of course they will continue to count toward MM status. But with the new policy, I will probably never reach 1 million qualifying miles. So the miles won’t serve the purpose they were intended for, and will therefore lose considerable value in my eyes.

  • Marianne

    I achieved 2 million+ miles the hard way – I actually flew them, 90% on domestic travel. I never used AAdvanatage Dining or AAdvantage credit cards. Yes, I got bonus miles while that was the policy. IMHO, those who used Dining or credit cards achieved an unfair advantage over those of us who actually slogged through all those miles – I joined AAdvantage when it first started. I think the new policy is much fairer to those who actually FLY. Will I ever achieve 3 million miles now that I’m retired and they have the new policy? Nope, but I still think this is fairer.

  • Ahsan

    I was coming close to 3 million miles and hope to do that before it changes,I was hoping that at 3 million I will be be Life time Exec Platinum guess not,never checked it

  • Chris

    I achieved million mile/gold status last year, and am pretty sure I’ll never have enough actual travel miles to get to two million, since it took me from 1993 to get there. However, as long as I continue to accrue miles to use for international flights, I find Gold status for life acceptable.

  • cathy

    Like you Tim, we also use AA as often as possible to hit that MM status foregoing cheaper, and often more convenient flights on other carriers, use Citibank cards religiously and had hoped to get there by mid 2012. Since I already hit the 2M level, we will shift our purchasing to the new CB card for my spouse, eliminating my card in the process, and hope to get him there before the end of 2012. Yes, we fly minimum 50,000 each a year (more for my husband) but those bonus miles and CC miles add up so they will be missed. In short, they have removed our incentive to use their credit card after 2012. Shame on them for not recognizing the value to the folks who support them the most. Sadly, I’ll still fly them because in short- we actually like AA for their routes and employees. Guess we’re hooked.

  • don

    I earned lifetime elite status with AA back in 2002 and grateful for the opportunity! Personally I welcome the new changes. I’m sure I would feel different if I was in the process of reaching that goal……..
    When the Million Mile program was originally introduced there weren’t such incentives such as 100,000 mile sign ups for a Citibank AA credit card
    Nor was there a way to earn 20,000 miles a month from ones bank account all/many of which exist now. American had to make corrections to the program over time or the program would have become bloated with faux elites. I’m surprised they didn’t address it some time ago.
    Having said that American made two very serious mistakes with the upcoming changes.
    1)United’s long time and current Lifetime program is mid tier at 1 million miles. Americans is at 2 million now for the same mid tier making a new comer or other program member likely to choose United Star Alliance a bigger airline with far more choices. Being able to earn qualifying miles on One World Partners doesn’t soften the blow either. It’s still one million miles extra of butt in seat flying!
    2) American will no longer be recognizing customers who achieve each new million threshold by lifetime status except by flying on any One World partner. They should have still offered some bonus miles or system wide upgrade every million mark regardless of how the miles earned. Why? To keep customers more interested in flying AA and staying loyal to the program by achieving the thresholds for every million mark over their competition. In amending the program rightfully so they also slightly damaged potential future loyalty to a larger degree of those that may be considering coming on board to AA or simply continuing

  • Charles

    The new $450 Master Card has a nice benefit, but with a sneaky gotcha. After $40,000 in purchases you get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles, the holy grail of miles, miles that propel you upward toward elite status.

    The gotcha: It is $40,000 per calendar year, and they launched this card in August. Maybe I could hit $40,000 in purchases in 12 months, but I sure won’t hit it August-December. So the message is, don’t sign up for this card until late December so all your miles will fall into one calendar year.

    The card also gets you into the Admiral’s Club, no word yet on whether or not those of us who have already paid $450 for membership will get a break on this $450 credit card.

  • used2lovAA

    I was very disappointed to read about their changes. I have 810,000 life miles and post a little over 10K a month, most from CC use. I did hope to get 1MM by end of 2012, but I feel I will never hit it now. Did all flights on AA, used their CCs, HH, Avis, etc. Am very disappointed in the short timeline given for the transformation.

    Don: funny how you knew of the two most generous offerings (100K fob CB & 20K for banks) even though they were only in effect for a very short period of time, yet I am sure you did not use them.

  • udflyer79

    Does anyone know if I receive a transfer of miles will those count towards lifetime miles?

  • Pamela

    used2lovAA: Don’t wait until the end of Dec to get the new CC. It must be open by December 1, 2011.

  • leo

    I’m just short of 1.8 mm and don’t fly as much as I used to. Guess it will take much longer to get to 2 mm than planned.

    Don – Tell me more about United. So you get the Platinum level at 1 mm?

  • Colin Macnab

    Note that the AA issue is not Gold or elite status. I have been a 1 million miler since mid last deade, but now there is a new ranking system as they have issued too many gold cards. They have ruby/emereld/saphire colors on the gold card and as I stopped traveling much last year, I have been reduced to ruby which gets you almost nothing of the old perks. I feel like I wasted 2 decades of travel devoted to AA to get mil miler status that is now all but worthless and degrading weekly (in LHR last week they said that Gold-Ruby would not eevn get me a free checked second bag). No lounge access, no early boarding, no, no, no. What a total downgrade slap. Looking forward to my 2m on UAL where they seem to value my past loyalty considerably better. Also while whining, constraints on use of awards and changing them on AA makes them very hard to use compared to UAL and bvery expensive ($150 per change, which is basically anything). Now if I were an airline, I would be following this site carefully and following up with proven valuable ex flyers to reconvert them, but I expect nothing of that kind form them anymore.

  • Stephen R

    A great way to get AA miles is with the Starwood Amex card. Transfer 20,000 miles to AA and Starwood adds and additional 5,000 miles. The card has a fee but its waived for the first year. Just transferred my Starwood points and got the 2 million miles on AA and now have lifetime Platinum. Got to love it:-)

  • SJC

    I made it to two million mile mark and plat for life a few years ago. Never would have made it under these new guidelines. It IS a major benefit. I paid for a lifetime Admirals Club membership years ago. I travel much less now, and my family laughs at me for feeling compelled to visit Admirals Club every time I am near one “to lower my cost-per-visit”.
    Even Platinum flying out of DFW does little to make you feel very special. AA’s dominance at DFW makes everyone here an AA flyer. Still it is nice to get the few perq’s (most that used to be a normal part of your ticket price) that are offered.
    I really dislike the $150 charge-to-change an award ticket. There is very little “free” about the awards you work to hard to earn.
    I just used mileage on BA to book trip to France. After fuel surcharges and booking fees, my two “free” tickets cost nearly $1200. Not sure what Sapphire status in the shared program will get me on that trip.

  • Stuartt Corder

    One thing that people seem to be missing is that on most other airlines the 1 million flight-mile lifetime status is for mid-tier status, not low-tier gold-equivalent. This is a major draw back. Read the policies on United and Delta. 1 million lifetime flight miles gives you Platinum equivalent.

  • Sal Dolce

    On AA, once you earn 1MM gold status, do you still have to earn 50K each year to earn Platinum Status? Currently, it is 25K for gold and 50K for platimm.

  • napo

    I am a person that work in a social service agency and don’t make that much $$ to travel so I relay on my AACC to get to the MM, I had only 595000 so I guess it will never happen to me so sad a I love AA and the flexibility of its credit cards

  • Tracy

    I am one of apparently few AA members that wasn’t aware of the ploicy change until after it went into effect. I’m at 900K miles and my travel has reduced to only 10-15K miles a year. Is there any way around this? Any loop hole, exception?