American Will Allow You To Buy Your Way To Elite Status Again This Year

American Airlines is back in the market this year with a program that allows you to spend some cash to retain status.  And, though the pricing is similar to last year, there are more paths this year to retain your status level.  Let’s take a look at the levels:

If you are trying to retain Gold status, American Airlines will charge you a variable price based on how many EQMs you have, to a point:

elite status

For example, if you plan to have between 20,000 and 24,999 EQMs at the end of the year, you can “boost” or purchase the remaining EQMs you need for $399.  You’re not technically purchasing miles that will end up in your account, you’re completing your achievement of the status.

New this year is the ability to buy Gold status outright if you have any level of elite status for $649.  This means if you were a Gold member who had a low travel year and only had 5,000 EQMs you could spend $649 and retain Gold status.

Looking to retain Platinum status?  Here’s how the numbers look:

elite status

 

As with Gold status, American will let you buy Platinum status for $1,199 as long as you have some level of elite status with the airline now, regardless of how many EQMs you plan to have at the end of the year.

Finally, the numbers for Executive Platinum status:

elite status

 

Alas, there’s no way to buy Executive Platinum status if you have less than 85,000 EQMs.  I personally view that as a good thing in that I don’t want their top-level getting too crowded thus diluting the benefits for those who maintain that level (me!).

One of the reasons programs like  this are important is because American Airlines no longer employs a strategy of “soft landings”.  Previously, if you were an Executive Platinum member who only flew 10,000 EQMs the following year, you would only drop to Platinum.  Soft landing.  If you had no flying activity the following year, you would drop to Gold.  Now, you earn your status level every year based on your flying activity without forgiveness.

Don’t forget to take into account the changes coming next year as American and US Airways merge, which I wrote about recently.

While each person will have their own unique value proposition, let’s take a brief look at the tiers to see how they size up.

You can outright buy Gold status for $649 if you have some elite status now.  Gold members get a 25% bonus on flights flown and access to limited upgrades using American’s 500-mile upgrade system.  They also get priority boarding and some free checked bags.  While it’s possible to get $649 worth of value, it’s probably a bit of a stretch.  Some of the credit cards American Airlines issues come with some of these benefits and are a lot cheaper than $649.

But, someone who’s close to re-qualifying for Gold and can pay $399 for a mileage run might see a ton of value.  It’s possible that’s cheaper than an outright flight, though you likely could find a mileage run for less than that.  However, paying the fee would save you the time and hassle of taking that flight.

Platinum status gets a bit more pricey.  At the most expensive tier, you’re paying $1,199 to retain/attain Platinum status.  Platinum members are getting a 100% bonus on miles flown versus 25% at the Gold level.  They also get a slightly bigger checked baggage allowance and access to some international lounges.  Those things could be worth an extra $550 buy-up.  If you planned on flying at least 50,000 miles with American next year and earned 75% more bonus miles (37,500 miles), those miles are likely worth about $700 using a value of just shy of 2 cents.  For a Platinum very close to 50,000 EQMs, the $699 is definitely a lot steeper than a mileage run.

Executive Platinum remains the priciest and most exclusive.  No buyback option, and if you’re very close (less than 5,000 EQMs) from qualifying for EXP, it’ll cost you $1,199 to retain the status level. You get the same mileage bonus as Platinum members but you get unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades and systemwide upgrades that are very valuable for international travel.  While it’s easy to get $1,199 worth of value out of those extra benefits, it’s still going to be a lot cheaper to do a mileage run.  At the highest tier, you’ll pay $2,499 to bump up from 85,000 EQMs.  Yikes!

You can see all the information on American’s website here.

You’ve got until March 1st of next year to consider these options and you need to take into account that any flying you do in 2014 on US Airways that you credited towards the Dividend Miles program will help you achieve elite status on American, though the date of that is currently forecast for sometime in quarter 2 of next year.

Lots to think about, and I’m glad American has something back in the market for this again in 2015.  Flying habits change, life can get in the way with both good and bad surprises and it’s hard to lose status after having it, especially given full planes and increased pricing for things like checked bags.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this announcement.

Will you be taking advantage of this offer?

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