How to Earn AAdvantage Elite Status with Credit Cards
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You don’t necessarily have to be a round-the-clock traveler to become an elite status member with American Airlines. If you don’t fly often enough to earn AAdvantage® Elite Status through air travel alone, you can supplement your miles earnings with Elite Qualifying Miles, and to a lesser extent Elite Qualifying Dollars, earned through a select AAdvantage card.
Unlike some airline frequent flyer programs, American Airlines’ AAdvantage program doesn’t allow you to earn elite status exclusively through card spending. No matter how much you charge to your card, you’ll still need to purchase a fair amount of airfare through American Airlines or through one of the Oneworld member airlines.
So, to become an elite status member, you’ll need to earn both Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS), which represent how far you’ve flown and how many separate flights you’ve boarded, AND Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD), which represents how much money you’ve spent on airfare. Although you can earn both Elite Qualifying Miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars through select cards, you won’t be able to earn enough of them to earn elite status.
Here’s how many Elite Qualifying Dollars, Elite Qualifying Miles, or Elite Qualifying Segments American Airlines expects you to earn in order to enhance your flight with elite status:
- Gold Oneworld Ruby: $3,000 in EQDs + 25,000 EQMs or 30 segments
- Platinum Oneworld Sapphire: $6,000 in EQDs + 50,000 EQMs or 60 segments
- Platinum Pro Oneworld Sapphire: $9,000 in EQDs + 75,000 EQMs or 90 segments
- Executive Platinum Oneworld Emerald: $15,000 in EQDs + 100,000 EQMs or 120 segments
And here’s how to use a credit card to fast track your way to status.
Elite Qualifying Miles via card spend
There are two credit cards that can help you earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs): the (which charges a annual fee) and the (which charges a annual fee). If you currently own a or an , you may already be familiar with this.
- Earn 10,000 EQMs after you spend $40,000 in purchases in a calendar year.
- The card’s annual fee includes full Admirals Club membership (a $650 value).
- You’ll also get other travel benefits, such as one free checked bag per ticket for you and up to eight companions, priority boarding when you fly American, priority check-in and priority airport screening, when available, and discounts on inflight food and beverage purchases.
- Earn 5,000 more EQMs for every $20,000 you spend in a calendar year (up to 10,000 EQMs a year after you’ve spent $40,000).
- Every year that you charge at least $20,000, you’ll receive an annual companion certificate that can be used to purchase up to two seats for a base fare of $99 per ticket.
- You’ll also get other travel benefits, such as one free checked bag per ticket for you and up to eight companions, preferred boarding when you fly American and statement credits for free inflight WiFi and snacks.
- Plus, earn
If you decide to hold both cards, you can earn up to 20,000 EQMs a year just by meeting their spending requirements: For example, you can earn up to 10,000 EQMs via the and up to 10,000 EQMs via the .
You’ll have to spend a hefty $80,000 a year on your credit cards to earn the full 20,000 EQMs, but if you’re a heavy spender with an ample budget, it’s possible to max out your earnings.
Note: If you want an , you’ll need to first apply for and open an (which charges a annual fee). Once you’ve had your for 90 days, you can request an upgrade to the .
Elite Qualifying Dollars via card spend
You can also earn Elite Qualifying Dollars through credit card spending. However, you won’t have many options. American Airlines will only let you earn Elite Qualifying Dollars if you have a .
Neither the nor the allow you to earn Elite Qualifying Dollars.
Here’s how to earn EQDs with the .
- Earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 on purchases in a calendar year
- The EQDs you’ll earn will be on top of the EQMs that you’ll also earn from spending on your card.
How far can you go?
Putting all the thresholds together, here is what you need to spend on your AAdvantage credit cards in order to earn as many EQMs and EQDs as possible:
(Note: These are total amounts you can earn through credit card spending. So for example, if you charge $40,000 on the , you’ll get two 5,000 EQM bonuses that equal a total of 10,000 EQMs).
- Charge $20,000 to the and you’ll collect 5,000 EQMs.
- Spend $40,000 on the and you’ll collect 10,000 EQMs.
- Charge $40,000 to the and you’ll collect 10,000 EQMs.
- Charge $50,000 to the and you’ll collect 10,000 EQMs and $3,000 in EQDs.
- Spend $60,000 total (dividing your spending between the and the ) and earn 15,000 EQMs. For example, you’ll collect 5,000 EQMs after charging $20,000 to the and 10,000 EQMs after charging $40,000 to the .
- Spend $80,000 and you’ll earn 20,000 EQMs. For example, you’ll earn 10,000 EQMs from the if you charge $40,000. You’ll earn another 10,000 EQMs from the if you also charge $40,000 to your Citi card.
- Charge a total of $90,000 and earn 20,000 EQMs and $3,000 in EQDs. For example, you’ll earn 10,000 EQMs and $3,000 in EQDs after you charge $50,000 to the . You can also earn an additional 10,000 EQMs by charging $40,000 to the .
Even if you max out your spending, though, and successfully earn 20,000 EQMs and $3,000 EQDs, you still won’t have enough qualifying miles in your account to reach elite status. To become an AAdvantage Elite Status member, you’ll need to purchase airfare through American or through airline partners in the Oneworld Alliance.
Here’s how much you’ll need to fly in order to reach each AAdvantage elite tier:
- Executive Platinum: You’ll need to earn 80,000 flown EQMs and $12,000 flown EQDs.
- Platinum Pro: You’ll need to earn 55,000 flown EQMs and $6,000 flown EQDs.
- Platinum: You’ll need to earn 30,000 flown EQMs and $3,000 flown EQDs.
- Gold: You’ll need to earn 5,000 flown EQMs and $0 flown EQDs.
Of course, it’s unlikely you’re going to charge $90,000 worth of purchases to your credit cards in order to earn the maximum number of EQMs and EQDs. However, that’s a good illustration of how far you can take it.
More likely you’re going to fall into one of two camps. You’re either short on EQMs, in which case both the and the will get you up to 10,000 EQMs per card (or 20,000 EQMs total if you use both cards).
Or you’ll be short on EQDs. In that case, the will get you up to $3,000 in EQDs.
Either way, you can use any of the spending combinations above to bridge your elite qualifying gap.