American (finally) announces changes to their million miler program!

American has long offered one of the most generous programs when it comes to million miler status. Most airlines only give you miles towards million miler status for actually flying, though American has long counted all earned miles — be it through credit card spend, transferring miles from partners, purchasing miles, etc. — towards million miler status. That meant that for spending a million dollars on one of their co-branded credit cards you would earn lifetime Gold status with them.

As I mentioned back in April, rumors have long been swirling around that they would be adjusting the million miler program to no longer count all miles towards that status.

Well, that day has finally come, or at least the date has been set.

American just announced the changes to their million miler program, which kick in on December 1, 2011.

As of that date only base miles earned through flying American or one of their airline partners will count towards million miler status (yes, that excludes elite bonus miles). Furthermore, for a “limited time” you’ll earn one mile towards lifetime status per dollar spent on the Citi WorldElite Mastercard, assuming the account is opened by December 1, 2011.

So it’s kind of funny because on one hand they’re telling us they’re “serious” about million miler status now, but at the same time obviously still trying to generate extra credit card spend thanks to their million miler program. I wouldn’t be surprised if that “limited time” offer isn’t all that limited.

The new million miler benefits will be as follows:

AAdvantage Members will enjoy the following benefits when Million Miler status is reached:

  • At one million (1,000,000) Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Gold®status and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles**
  • At two million (2,000,000) Million Miler miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Platinum®status and four (4) one-way systemwide upgrades
  • At each additional Million Miler mark, AAdvantage members will receive four (4) additional one-way systemwide upgrades

The major downside is that they’re making it infinitely harder to reach million miler status, but not really improving the benefits, other than the bonus miles and systemwide upgrades. For million miler you still earn lifetime Gold status, and for two million miler you still earn lifetime Platinum status. I’m guessing that’s largely a function of the number of people that have qualified for lifetime status in the past, and that they don’t want them all to have Platinum status.

For comparison purposes, United offers their million milers lifetime Premier Executive status (middle tier), while Continental offers their million milers lifetime Silver status (low tier) for them and a companion. Though I guess we should wait and see how the new million miler program looks.

So obviously if you’re very close to lifetime status it might make sense to invest a bit in order to achieve the status by December 1, 2011.

I’m not sure what I should do. I’m far from million miler, so on one hand I feel like I should transfer points from Starwood to American to at least get a bit closer to million miler status, given that I’m flying American regularly now. At the same time I feel like million miler status is largely a “gimmick” for the frequent flyer, given that we don’t know how long any of these airlines will be around, and also that I plan on maintaining my Executive Platinum status, so I don’t see any additional benefits for having lifetime status. Sure, if I lose that status it might be worth something one day, but then again, Platinum status would have real value to me, while Gold not a whole lot. I’m not saying it’s not worth anything, because it is. But I’m not sure how much of an investment it’s really worth.

So are any of you taking action because of the changes? Maybe buying miles, transferring miles, etc.? I’m sure American is going to love the extra business this will drum up…

Comments

  1. If I were anywhere near 2 million, I’d try to do some things. But since I’m only at 1.2 million, I’ll take my lifetime Gold and be happy to have it. Platinum is noticeably better, but Gold certainly beats a stick in the eye. Contrary to conventional wisdom, IF you have some flexibility with your flight schedule, it is possible to have a decent success rate with upgrades as a Gold…or at least I have so far.

  2. Coins,

    It’s worth pointing out that the citi card you must have is their “executive” card that comes with a $450 annual fee, not waived for the first year. Doesn’t look like it’s a monster sign-up bonus one either.

  3. You are doing better than me @MarshallJackson. I just started and am sitting at 110K. UGH! My choice of AA was due largely to the more generous Million Miler status (I don’t do mileage runs or fly for work). Maybe time to reevaluate that decision?

  4. I’ll cross over to gold this month. My wife is really close so I might cash in a few SPG points to push her over the top. Is the 35K miles new in this program or has this always been an option instead of the 4 or 8 500 mile upgrade stickers? I think I’d much rather get the 35k miles.

  5. Well it is a little hard to read the tea leaves here to predict the outcome of the new UA/CO program. For one, here they are not readjusting your balance. In other words, if you have 900K lifetime miles currently, all CC spend, you will still have the same number after December you just won’t be earning any new miles unless you get on a plane (minus the one CC exception). With UA and CO it will have to be a little different as they have to adjust something or have a two tier system as the two legacy programs do not align (UA being BIS only their members would get screwed if they just combined the numbers).

  6. Lucky, I think you are right on the “limited time” on the WorldElite card. But, I expect this card will have a nice hefty 100K sign-up bonus at some point down the road (likely after Dec 1), which would have more value in the long run.

    I am a little surprised its only base miles, excluding elite bonus miles, but maybe the IT system can’t tell the difference. Probably tied to EQM directly.

    I suspect that this opens a door to bonus MillionMiler miles in some promotions down the line.

  7. Thanks Ben. MM (Lifetime Gold) Plan–have 903K AA today, earning 40K per Bank Direct monthly will make me MM 1 Nov…more than likely will Xnsfer some Sapphire Preferred points to AA early Oct to reach LG.

  8. I’m at 988k miles right now. Have to decide whether I’d prefer the 500 mile upgrades – even as an EXP, they are still useful for companions (if I hit 1M before Dec 1) or the 35k bonus miles (after Dec 1). I have enough flexibility in my flying between now and then to decide.

  9. I’m so far from MM it would take a lot to get there anytime soon…might crunch the numbers to see just for kicks.

    Given the devaluations happening at UA after the CO takeover, I’d be surprised if the new UA MM program didn’t reduce its benefits for 1MM, 2MM. Who knows though.

  10. @wes- You actually put above the FDIC insured limits at Bankdirect? Foolish. Also you can’t transfer

  11. Lucky
    If I were your age, I would transfer ALL my SPG to AA to get as high as possible and for the next year charge ALL I possibly can to get to 2 MM.
    It is a nice feeling being mid tier forever.

  12. John, thanks–my bad with Chase pts–may wait until early Nov–am too stingy with SPG pts (like for hotel stays). RE: BD–Wife and I have less than FDIC insured amts in BD, but both accounts tied to my AA#.

  13. United’s rumoured changes to the MM program have them copying CO’s program, which really is the pits. They may grandfather 1MM as 1Ps, but future 1MM may only earn Star Silver. More discussion is found on this Flyertalk thread.

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-mileage-plus-consolidated/1159932-will-co-ua-million-miler-programs-merge.html

    It would take 2MM to be Star Gold. Unlike AA, United does not count all miles towrds lifetime miles, so their flyers are at a major disadvantage. It would be nice for a loyalty program to actually increase benefits rather than continuously find ways to reduce them.

  14. Note: The 35,000 miles have been part of the ‘under the sheets’ program for a while. My friend Ashley received the 35,000 miles after passing 1,000,000 last year.

    Love,
    Katey

  15. Katey,

    So are you saying she called to trade her 8 upgrades in for 35k miles?

    If that is the case, which is better 35K or 4 swu’s?

    Jim

  16. @ Jim — I’d say 35,000 miles is hands down a better deal. You can buy eight “sticker” upgrades for $240, while I value 35,000 miles at close to $700.

  17. What’s the value of System Wide Upgrades? Would it be worth it to move overseas when I hit Gold in order to get the swu’s instead?

  18. I’m sitting at 1.5MM right now. I was hoping to cross the 2MM threshold in about 4 years and once again enjoy Platinum service. But since I fly only about 20-30k miles a year these days, it looks like the 2MM mark may be out of reach. I’m not happy about this program change.

  19. I’m sitting at 700k of lifetime miles and just got approved for a 75k bonus Citi AAdvantage Visa Business. It leaves me short 225k to get to Million Miles and gold status for life. I have the required 180k of Starpoints to get there but wanted to see whether you all think it is worth it. FYI – I will still have 200k of Starpoints after using 180k. I think having status for life is worth something and while AA has problems, I don’t think it is going to go away. Your thoughts?

  20. @ Jim — Assuming you can use them for international travel they’re worth quite a bit, given the lack of fare restrictions. I’d say they’re worth maybe 30,000 miles each, if they’re long expiring.

    @ ordfreqflyer — Do you ever fly American, or just accrue miles through other means with them? If the latter, I’d say transfer the SPG points so you have lifetime status with them. If you actually fly with them and have a higher status than Gold, I don’t see the rush, given that you’ll eventually get there anyway.

  21. 550K lifetime AA miles and UA is my preferred airline so not much hope for me any time soon and even further away under the new rules.

  22. I have 4.5 millon miles with AA. Not sure how this new miles program is going to affect me, my goal is to reach 5 millon in the next 5 years.

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