American Airlines Makes It Tougher To Earn Elite Status With Credit Card Spend

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For quite some time the airlines have been finding ways to leverage their co-branded credit cards to bring in more business. They offer a host of benefits to encourage customers to carry those credit cards. From free checked bags to early boarding, there are plenty of options on the table.

One of the areas airlines have expanded into as it relates to credit card benefits is elite status. Whether it’s miles that help you earn elite status or “dollars” that do the same, airlines have offered a shortcut to status using their credit card. Specifically, American Airlines allows customers to earn both elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) and elite- qualifying dollars (EQDs) if you spend on one of their credit cards. They introduced the EQD earning just about 2 years ago, in a bit of a game of catch-up.  Both EQMs and EQDs are required to earn elite status.

According to View From The Wing, American Airlines has announced they’re cutting the amount of elite-qualifying dollars that customers can earn by spending on the AAdvantage Aviator credit card.  This starts at the beginning of 2019:

Beginning January 1, 2019, current AAdvantage Aviator Silver cardmembers will be eligible to earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 on purchases per calendar year, and AAdvantage Aviator Red and Blue cardmembers will not be eligible to earn Elite Qualifying Dollars.

Why Now?

This strikes me as a bit of a puzzling time to make the change.  It’s only been two years since they announced this benefit.  Gary notes that American Airlines suggests this benefit may be going under-utilized.  That doesn’t strike me as a reason to get rid of it.  For the customers who need to earn a few EQDs to reach a higher level of status, this benefit would create incredible stickiness for that customer.

There are only two reasons I can think of for this change:

  1. American Airlines is trying to thin their elite ranks.  Reducing the amount of EQDs customers can earn from credit card spend should trim the elite ranks slightly.
  2. Barclay doesn’t want to pay the price American Airlines is charging them to buy EQDs on behalf of the customers.  Nothing in life is free.


What Next?

Gary suggests there’s more to come as it relates to program changes at American.  That wouldn’t be a big shock to me.  United Airlines recently raised the amount of elite-qualifying dollars necessary to earn their top-tier Premier 1K status.  You can hear me discuss those changes on my podcast with two of the experts on the United program, here and here.  Delta has had a higher qualifying dollar threshold already.  It would shock me not even a little if American raised their elite-qualifying dollar requirements for 2019.

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