Claiming My First Elite Reward From American Airlines AAdvantage This Year

Elite Rewards is one of those programs that AAdvantage offers each year that I’ve never actually been in a position to take advantage of. You see, American has a system that not only tracks how many miles and segments you’ve flown, but a system of points based on the fare class of the tickets booked. This system benefits those who consistently buy higher priced tickets, such as full-fare coach, business class or first. Since I don’t buy those tickets, the points are pretty meaningless to me. In the past, Elite Rewards has always been based on how many points you earn, and you need to earn a lot.

That’s why I was certain American Airlines had misspoken when they announced the 2013 Elite Rewards was based on miles, not points, and was going to allow all existing elites to participate in all the tiers. I was wrong. That meant an existing Executive Platinum member who reached 100,00 miles again this year could earn a 30,000 mile bonus, with even bigger bonuses for 125,000 and 150,000 mile tiers. Fast forward to mid-year and I’d already reached the first tier (40,000 miles). And yet, I hadn’t gotten any notification to claim my first reward. So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Others I know had already gotten their reward e-mail. Where was mine?

It started to occur to me that I might have ignored my own advice, which was register for every promo you come across since it’s generally free and you might not remember to register later. Oops. A short 10 days after I registered I received an e-mail to claim my first reward.

Elite Reward

The list of reward choices is sufficiently varied to appeal to different folks, but there are definitely better choices to be found here.

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10% discount on AA.com: This isn’t a bad choice if you have an overseas trip scheduled or buy premium travel. A 10% discount on those types of tickets can be a big number. Considering that the average domestic coach ticket is less than $500, and that’s a much smaller discount.

(3) 500-mile upgrades: The value for this reward really depends on what status level you currently hold (or anticipate holding) with American. EXPs get upgraded for free on domestic flights, so the only thing you need 500-mile upgrades for are companions. Gold and Platinum members only get 4 500-mile upgrades for every 10,000 miles of flying on AA, so these are much more valuable at lower elite levels. Also, if you were an EXP who knew you would be dropping down in status, the 500-mile upgrades don’t expire (though they may go away as part of a merger with US Airways and a change in complimentary upgrade philosophy). American sells these online for $30 a piece, so that makes these worth $90.

(2) Admirals Club One Day Passes: These passes generally cost $50 to buy directly from American, and usually only cover one person’s entry (no additional guest privileges). This one is pretty easy to quantify the value for, since AA sells them. $100 in value here, but I’m an Admirals Club member so not the right choice for me.

10,000 Bonus Miles: In this example, I assume American is valuing the miles at roughly a penny a piece, for a value of $100, since some of the other prizes are in that price range. I value AAdvantage miles at about 2 cents a piece, so I’d say these are worth more than most of the other prizes, though YMMV.

(1) Free BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery: This is if you like having your bags picked up at your house and delivered to your destination (hotel, house, etc) so you don’t have to worry about them during travel. I’m not knocking this type of service specifically. I see folks who get a ton of value out of it. But, you can usually find pretty good rates dealing directly with these vendors, so I don’t see a ton of value here, definitely less than $100.

Given all that, my choice was easy. I went with the 10,000 bonus miles. It gives me flexibility to book an award in the future when I want it, and at a value of 2 cents I see the most value in this choice.

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What about you? What did you redeem for, or what do you plan to redeem for when you hit this tier? Do you agree with my choice?

 

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6 Comments

  1. At this level I picked the AC day passes. My domestic flying is odd enough that I can’t justify getting a AC membership at this time. I’ll be EXP later this year so the 500 mi upgrades didn’t make sense for me. I’d rather have the AC access than the 10k miles. Now for the next level it’s obvious for me – the 1 SWU !

    1. catmndu, the SWU is quite valuable. Your case certainly makes sense for the AC passes though I think it won’t make sense for most. Glad to see others getting value out of elite rewards!

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