American Airlines AAdvantage® program review: Elite perks for frequent flyers

Couple at airport discussing the American Airlines AAdvantage program card.Image: Couple at airport discussing the American Airlines AAdvantage program card.

In a Nutshell

The American Airlines AAdvantage® program makes it easy for both avid travelers and the occasional jetsetter to score cheap flights while enjoying great in-flight benefits. But it may take a lot of time and money to rack up miles.
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The American Airlines AAdvantage® program comes with member incentives that are hard to resist. AAdvantage® operates on a tiered rewards system that allows travelers to earn miles with American Airlines, its affiliated carriers and other partners.

As a bonus, if you’re an AAdvantage® member and have a partner Citi® / AAdvantage® card — such as Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® — you (and a few of your travel companions) can enjoy even more benefits, including one free checked bag and boarding privileges.

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As with any airlines rewards program, AAdvantage® has its virtues and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the details of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program to see if it’s right for you.

What we like Heads up
  • American Airlines affiliates allow you to earn bonus miles through hotels, car rentals and vacation packages
  • Use earned miles toward flights through multiple airlines
  • High minimum number of Elite Qualifying Miles required to reach elite status

  1. The rundown: Everything we like about the American Airlines AAdvantage® program
  2. Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the American Airlines AAdvantage® program
  3. Do the math: How to get the most out of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program
  4. Bottom line: Is the American Airlines AAdvantage® program right for you?

The rundown: Everything we like about the American Airlines AAdvantage® program

Not just for flights on American Airlines

AAdvantage® allows members to redeem miles and use them toward flights through American Airlines and its oneworld® partner airlines. These include international carriers and other airline partners, including Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Qantas and Qatar Airways.

American Airlines even makes it easy to estimate the number of miles you need for domestic and international flights with its flight award chart.

Big mile earnings with partner Citi® cards

As a cardholder of Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you will receive 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

And with its more premier counterpart, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® , you can get 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

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Elite status perks

The program offers four elite status membership levels: AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Executive Platinum and AAdvantage Platinum Pro.

Members who qualify for elite status have a lot to be excited about because the AAdvantage® elite program is chock full of benefits.

  • Executive Platinum members receive four one-way upgrades a year, 120% mileage bonus, three free checked bags and more.
  • Platinum Pro members receive an 80% elite mileage bonus, two free checked bags and more.
  • Platinum members get a 60% elite mileage bonus, two free checked bags and more.
  • Gold subscribers earn a 40% elite mileage bonus, one free checked bag and more.

All tiers are also eligible for preferred seats, which are located in the more desirable sections of the plane.

So how do you qualify for elite status? More on that in a second.

Is the elite airline status worth it?

For those who travel enough with one airline, elite status can really pay off. Although it may not be worth the cost of having to fly or spend more just to get it, elite status opens a world of perks that can add value and comfort to your travel experience.

Heads up: What you should know about the American Airlines AAdvantage® program

Each elite membership level has a different set of benefits, and to qualify for elite status, you have to collect a specified minimum of Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) plus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) on eligible-fare flights.

Acronyms aside, the most straightforward way to reach elite status is to fly a lot. For AAdvantage members, that means flying a lot on American Airlines, American Eagle®, oneworld® member airlines, or any flights with an American Airlines code-share agreement.

How much is a lot of flying? Members need to fly a minimum of 20,000 EQMs during the 2021 calendar year to qualify for Gold, 40,000 for Platinum, 60,000 for Platinum Pro and 80,000 for Executive Platinum.

If you’re less interested in the elite perks from AAdvantage® and more interested in the miles you can earn and redeem for flights, then you might be excited to know that AAdvantage® offers members a chance to earn miles on daily purchases with a Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card.

Members receive one mile per $1 spent on most everyday purchases made with a Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card. And they earn two miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines purchases, plus the same 2x rate when using the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® for purchases at gas stations and restaurants.

Earning AAdvantage® miles through spending isn’t for everyone, however, since the earning rates on everyday purchases means you might have to spend significant money and time to get to the number of miles you need.

Do the math: How to get the most out of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program

Although many everyday purchases equate to just one mile per $1 spent using a Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card, the AAdvantage® program itself offers other opportunities to score miles that you’ll want to take advantage of.

As an AAdvantage® member, you can …

  • Earn bonus miles when you stay in an American Airlines affiliated hotel and provide your AAdvantage® number at check-in
  • Earn bonus miles on each vacation package you book through AAVacations (with some destinations offering as much as 25,000 bonus miles per booking during special offers)
  • Rent a car through an affiliated car rental service and earn at least 500 bonus miles (and even more if you rent the car using a Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card)
  • Earn bonus miles when you spend at American Airlines–affiliated restaurants through the AAdvantage® Dining℠ program
  • Shop online with AAdvantage® eShopping℠ mall to earn multiple miles per $1 spent on purchases at many major national stores and services

American Airlines also gives you the option to purchase miles directly.

Miles aren’t just for flights, either. You can also redeem them for upgrades on American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia flights, and use them to get discounted rates on car rentals, hotels and vacation packages.

For those who like to feel classy before a flight, you can also use your miles to buy or renew your American Airlines Admirals Club® membership.


Bottom line: Is the American Airlines AAdvantage® program right for you?

Everyone — from the avid traveler to the occasional vagabond — wants flexibility when booking flights. That’s why we love the AAdvantage® program.

Miles can be redeemed toward flights with dozens of partner airlines, and you can earn even more miles when you pair your program membership with a Citi® / AAdvantage® credit card.

But while AAdvantage® perks certainly make the flying experience more enjoyable, the credit card rewards rates mean it could be a long road until you’ve accrued enough miles to cash in for a flight. That’s something you’ll want to consider before applying.


About the author: Julie Morse is a freelance content strategist, journalist and researcher. She believes that financial literacy is the key to successful money management, and has written articles on inve… Read more.