Is AA 2016 Elite Status challenge worth it, for a non-frequent traveller?

money value photo


As part of my new year plan, I wanted to explore American Airlines Elite Status so I had planned few mileage runs end of 2015 to start accruing miles for Executive Platinum Status. Earlier in Jan, one of the travel guru’s(@garyleff) on twitter mentioned that AA is offering an elite status challenge for Gold & Platinum level so I decided to give a try.  One needs to call AA at 888-697-5636 to sign up. 90 days limit to complete the challenge. Status will be valid till Feb 2017.

  • 7000 qualifying miles for AAdvantage Gold status, $120 Fee.
  • 12,500 qualifying miles for AAdvantage Platinum status. $200 Fee.

Being an avid reader of @thepointsguy, here is a link to his valuation on American Airlines Elite Status worth. Our attempt here is take the same approach as TPG to come up with a value based on status challenge to see if its worth opting for it from an non-frequent flier’s perspective. TPG’s valuation is based on traditional mileage accrual.

We will focus on Platinum status here, I’m sure you can figure out similar math for Gold Status as well.

What would be the expenses involved for the Platinum Status challenge? ($700-$1000)

  • $200 Fee for signing up to the challenge
  • $500-$800 airfare,cab/airport parking,meal purchases during travel.
  • Assuming no hotel stays involved & max of two trips to achieve the needed miles.

What would we gain from the Platinum Status? (Recover $200 fee upon completion)

  • 12500 miles to accrued. With current value of 1.7cents(TPG), it comes to be $212.50.
  • Any additional mile that you fly after reaching the elite status would get you 100% bonus miles.
  • So if you fly another 12500 miles, you would earn 25000 mile which would value to be $425.
  • Only a small percentage of initial investment may be recouped.
  • Any further travel beyond the status will reap you better value.
  • Redeem miles or use 500 mile upgrades or checked bag perk & Main Cabin Extra auto upgrades.
  • You wouldn't have any 500 mile upgrades upon completion of the challenge.
  • One needs to travel another 10000 miles (12500 miles after Mar 1, 2016) to earn four 500 mile upgrades.
  • So with the second 12500 miles, you would have four 500 mile upgrades ($200).
  • If you had spend $800 for the second 12500 miles, you already made up $625.
  • Another key perk to make note of is the complimentary main cabin extra seat upgrade.
  • The value of Main Cabin Extra upgrade depends on the route your flying.
  • Its hard to associate a number to this perk. Even if I assume $50, so the two trips it would be $100.
  • Total value gained from your second trip so far is $725 with a expense of $800.
  • If you start identifying cost effective ways to achieve same miles with reduced cost then value gained > than the expense.
  • Google Flights , Expert Flyer, Google ITA are some of handy tools to get started.
  • Airfarewatchdog is also a good starting point.
  • Follow travel deals through flyertalk & twitter to be more creative in routing your flights.

Final Verdict?

Since I was anyway planning to mileage run to achieve Executive Platinum status, earning Platinum status way earlier than originally planned will boost up my redeemable mile balance by the time I finish with my 100K EQM’s. So $200 fee for the challenge isn’t a bad deal since I know I would be gaining more value from the miles.

For folks who don’t plan to travel much in 2016, $1000 may not add much value to their travel life but if your new-years resolution was to travel/wander/explore more then its worthwhile to experiment on the elite challenge.

More info on American Airlines Elite Status Perks can be found here.

Feature Image Photo by chaya760


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