American AAdvantage Status Challenges & Matches

With the merger and integration between American and US Airways underway, I know a lot of people are trying to figure out the best way to maximize status with the new airline. Both American and US Airways offer “shortcuts” to achieving status in their respective frequent flyer programs, so I thought it might make sense to compare the various options.

US AIRWAYS DIVIDEND MILES PREFERRED STATUS OPTIONS

US Airways Buy Up To Preferred Program

Historically US Airways has been one of the few programs to outright sell you top tier status. It used to be that you could buy their Chairman’s Preferred status for $3,999, while if you credited even a single mile to their program you can buy it for $2,999. The more miles you’ve credited to US Airways, the lower the cost of buying up is.

However, US Airways radically altered that program as of March 1, 2014:

  • You’ll only be able to buy up to a tier that you are within 25,000 miles or 30 flight segments of reaching
  • The fees for buying up to status have increased, nearly doubling in some cases

Here’s the new Buy Up To Preferred chart:

US-Airways-Buy-Up

So not only have the prices gone up, but it’s no longer possible to go from no status to top tier status without stepping foot on a plane.

US Airways Trial Preferred Status Challenge

In addition to the Buy Up To Preferred program, US Airways also offers a Trial Preferred Status Challenge. Through this program US Airways gives you the status upfront, with the following charges:

  • Dividend Miles Silver Preferred status costs $200
  • Dividend Miles Gold Preferred status costs $400
  • Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred status costs $600

US Airways Trial Preferred

Your US Airways status beyond the 90 day trial period is determined by how much flying you do in that 90 day period:

  • If you fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments you get Dividend Miles Silver Preferred
  • If you fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments you get Dividend Miles Gold Preferred
  • If you fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments you get Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred
  • If you fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments you get Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred

So you could pay $200 for a Silver Preferred Status Challenge, fly 30,000 miles within 90 days, and end up with Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred status. This is likely a better strategy than paying for a higher level of status from the outset.

AMERICAN AADVANTAGE STATUS CHALLENGES

In general an American AAdvantage status challenge isn’t quite as lucrative as either the Buy Up to Preferred or Trial Preferred offerings from US Airways, though may still make sense in certain situations.

Which status can be achieved through an American status challenge?

You can achieve American AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status through a status challenge.

There’s no published status challenge for Executive Platinum, though if you have equivalent status with Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus, AAdvantage customer service will sometimes offer them on a case-by-case basis.

Who is eligible for an American status challenge?

If you currently have status with American you can’t use it as a way to requalify for status, though you can use it as a way to bump up from Gold to Platinum status.

How many miles have to be flown to achieve an American status challenge?

Completion of the challenge is based on Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs) and not Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). You need to earn a set number of EQPs within 90 days of starting the challenge to earn the status (you can start your challenge on the 1st or 16th of any month):

  • AAdvantage Gold challenge: 5,000 EQPs
  • AAdvantage Platinum challenge: 10,000 EQPs

Here’s American’s Elite Qualifying Points chart:

American-EQP-Chart

As you can see, while you earn one Elite Qualifying Mile per flown revenue mile, you earn anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 Elite Qualifying Points per revenue mile flown.

This means that to complete a Platinum Challenge, for example, you could need to fly anywhere from 6,667 miles (in paid first class, business class, or full fare economy) to 20,000 miles (in the cheapest discount economy fare classes).

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that only miles flown on certain airlines count towards an AAdvantage status challenge:

American AirlinesIberiaQantas
British AirwaysJapan AirlinesUS Airways

How do I enroll and what are the fees for an American status challenge?

You can enroll for an AAdvantage status challenge by calling AAdvantage customer service at (800) 882-8880.

The fees for enrolling are as follows:

  • AAdvantage Gold challenge: $120
  • AAdvantage Platinum challenge: $240

It’s worth noting that you don’t get the status upfront, unlike with US Airways. You only receive the status you’re “challenging” for upon completion of the challenge.

However, it’s worth noting that you can pay to upgrade from a Gold Challenge to a Platinum Challenge, and you can also downgrade from a Platinum Challenge to a Gold Challenge, though you won’t be refunded the difference in fees.

How long is status earned through a challenge valid for?

If you begin your status challenge before June 16 and end up completing it, status is valid through February of the following year.

If you begin your status challenge on or after June 16 and end up completing it, status is valid for the remainder of the year, the entire following year, and until February the year after.

So generally you’re best off completing a challenge in the second half of the year in order to maximize status.

Does doing a challenge provide a shortcut to Executive Platinum status?

Say you do a Platinum Challenge and earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points. This doesn’t mean your mileage balance will be updated to 50,000 EQPs since you earn Platinum status.

While your status earning is accelerated, the actual Elite Qualifying Miles and Points balances aren’t.

This means you’d still have to earn the full 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or Elite Qualifying Points in order to earn Executive Platinum status.

What are the major differences between AAdvantage Platinum over AAdvantage Gold status?

So is it worth going for a Platinum Challenge over a Gold Challenge? Here are a few of the major differences:

  • AAdvantage Platinum gets a 100% mileage bonus, while AAdvantage Gold gets 25% mileage bonus
  • AAdvantage Platinum gets lounge access when traveling internationally, while AAdvantage Gold doesn’t
  • AAdvantage Platinum members receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating at the time of booking, while AAdvantage Gold can access Main Cabin Extra seating 24 hours prior to departure
  • AAdvantage Platinums have higher priority (for standby, upgrades, etc.) than AAdvantage Golds

Check out the AAdvantage program page for full details on the difference between status levels.

American-Main-Cabin-Extra
American 777-300ER Main Cabin Extra

Bottom line

Status challenges can be a great way to get to status fast if you’re just starting out.

Now that the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs are merging, you have three options for getting a “shortcut” to elite status. Hopefully this post helps you decide which works best for you!

Comments

  1. Typically I don’t earn status on airlines because my company flies me with whoever has the cheapest price or I use miles. But last year I got AA Gold due to a serious of fortunate events. It just expired and they offered me an extra year for $600. I thought about it since I have a couple of economy long hauls to schedule this year still, but now that Golds don’t get preferred seating until 24 hours prior to boarding, I am thinking definitely not. The US challenge sounds like a better way to go. Thanks for the info.

  2. I am flying rt from JFK to SCL on LAN. I booked the flight via LAN.com but the flights are AA codeshares. Would they count for the challenge? Thanks

  3. Hey Lucky,

    I am currently a PM on Delta, but out of Boston. Thinking of my options now that Delta has gone more wonky. I have 2 trips to London, one in April and one in June. I usually fly business when I go over. Do you think this would be the right chance to switch to AA?

    Sam

  4. @ Sam — Yes, definitely. If you’re flying business you’d be earning a lot of “points,” so would be a good chance to make a switch.

  5. Lucky, you mention the following with regards to an AA challenge: “If you currently have status with American you can’t use it as a way to requalify for status, and you also can’t use it to bump up from AAdvantage Gold to AAdvantage Platinum status.”

    In 2012, while having Gold status, my wife and I were allowed to do a Platinum challenge without any issues, so I am not sure how correct the last part of the quoted sentence is.

  6. I did a challenge last year and loooove being Platinum on AA. Even as a lowly Plat, I’ve scored some nice upgrades (including on transcons). Can’t imagine going back to Delta now.

  7. Lucky — I have gold by virtue of having earned 1 million miles back when it was easier. Can I do a platinum AA challenge even though I am gold?

  8. Great post, Lucky! One data point – I did the AA Platinum challenge last year and they gave me Gold status for the duration of the challenge. The rep made the exception because I had a paid first class trip coming up on BA. So, it might help if people mention about upcoming booked travel.
    Also, both programs’ fees can be reimbursed with the Amex airline incidental reimbursement. Nice way to use that $200…

  9. @charlie – Am a newbie to your site…thanks for that last comment:
    “Also, both programs’ fees can be reimbursed with the Amex airline incidental reimbursement. Nice way to use that $200…”

    I have a business trip booked from JFK to LHR on BA but am collecting AA miles for it (business class flight). So if I’m reading this correctly, does this mean that this one trip can put me in AA Plat if I sign up for the challenge? and if I use my Amex Plat to sign up, essentially, it’ll cost me $40 total after the Amex reimbursement? Just need a confirmation to see if I should sign up. Thanks in advance!

  10. @dan – Thanks for that, Dan!
    I actually had a similar route – but in reverse. Unfortunately, you will not (nor did I) make Plat on just that. You will clear the Gold easily (a bit over 5,000), but you will need another trip to make Plat. Yes, if you have selected AA as your airline for your Amex Plat, the $200 will cover your challenge.

  11. @charlie – thanks for the response! Maybe my calculation is off…wouldn’t the round trip wouldn’t put me at a little over 10k in EQP (approx 3450 miles each way x 2 x 1.5)? I may have presumed incorrectly that people would automatically assume roundtrip, so apologies if I wasn’t clear…

  12. $2,499 / $989 > 2.5, so rather than “nearly doubled” I’d think it’d be “nearly tripled”!

  13. @ Ben — Let’s hope there is a new way come april 1 — match from chairman to exec plat and v.v. What do you think the chances are?

  14. @ gene — I’m not convinced. I think it’s more likely to maybe be the third quarter or so before that happens. Would love to be wrong, though.

  15. in re the US trial preferred:

    Their website states: “Only elite qualifying flights earned on flights operated by US Airways and US Airways Express can be applied toward the Trial Preferred program.”

    Anyone know if this has changed? Specifically wondering if AA flights and/or codeshare flights would now count?

    Gracias and Happy Friday …

  16. I was on the phone to AA a couple of weeks ago asking about status challenges, they were aware that I am Gold but the agent was ready to let me go ahead and pay $200 for the PLT challenge. I’m planing to call back in a couple of weeks and start it right before upcoming travel. So was that her mistake? You said in your post you can’t go for a challenge if you already have status but it sounded on the phone like she was fine for me to do it. If a particular agent lets you then are you good to go? Asking because I’ve booked travel on the assumption that I was going to be able to make it to PLT by the end of May!

  17. Just signed up for the AA Plat challenge..and using my Amex Plat card airline credit, the challenge is now practically free.

    A couple of points to note:
    – I was only charged $200 instead of the $240 that’s mentioned here. Not sure why that is, but I’ll take it!
    – The AAdvantage rep told me that challenges now can start at any date, not just the 1st or the 16th of each month.

    Thanks for the help @charlie!

  18. @ Lucky – You didn´t answer if the challenge provides a shortcut to executive platinum status. May be a dumb question, but the bonus miles from status are only good for redemption, but are not EQPs? If I am platinum on AA, would I have to fly 50k EQPs (and get more 50k EQPs from the 100% bonus for being platinum) or 100k EQPs to achieve executive platinum status?

  19. @ Carlos — I specifically answered that question above. 😉

    “Does doing a challenge provide a shortcut to Executive Platinum status?

    Say you do a Platinum Challenge and earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points. This doesn’t mean your mileage balance will be updated to 50,000 EQPs since you earn Platinum status.

    While your status earning is accelerated, the actual Elite Qualifying Miles and Points balances aren’t.

    This means you’d still have to earn the full 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or Elite Qualifying Points in order to earn Executive Platinum status.”

  20. @ Lucky – So sorry, it was dumb. But just to make sure my english isn’ t that bad (i’m still not sure if i got it), being a platinum, do i need to fly 50k or 100k to achieve executive platinum? 🙂

  21. Hi Lucky, any thoughts on #20?
    Also, very unrelated, but I, as a Hilton Gold member, I book a twin room at Conrad Bali (cheapest available), is there a solid chance I could get a King room when I check in?

    Thanks 🙂

  22. @ Pete B — Sorry, I was wrong in the post and updated it now. You’re correct, you should be able to bump from Gold to Platinum with a challenge.

    Also, definitely a good chance of bumping from a twin to king room, though I’d suggest putting in that request as early as possible.

  23. @ Lucky – Thanks for the reply. I don’t know why, but I always assumed that the bonus miles gained from status would count towards the qualifying requirements. I thought that after you got the status, it would be easier to keep it. But after your reply, I did some research and realised how it works. Does this system apply to all major frequent flyer programs or just the Americans one? Is there a program in which the miles from status aren’t just bonus, but count as “flown”miles (like the bonus from airfare class)?
    Re-reading your “I give up on elite status” and now understanding what it takes to achieve both executive platinum and mvp gold 75k, I can’t really understand how you can fly 175k on paid airfare plus all the flights you take with miles. It actually makes the “Is it crazy to live in hotels full time” seems reasonable.

  24. @ Carlos — Nope, can’t think of any programs where bonus miles count towards elite status as well. Yep, it’s a lot of flying. 😀

  25. @Lucky @GringoLoco Now is tougher for me to decide if I take the bet to make the trial for US Airways (crediting flying AA b/c in my routes I don’t have the option to fly US Airways) or request a Challenge with AA. I prefer the US Airways route because they let you reach Chairman’s.. But that would be only HOPING that they match anytime later to AA’s ExecPlat (the US Airways routes are basically useless for me). I’m currenty UA 1K but I’m not sure that the “sometimes offer them on a case-by-case basis” you mention is enough.. So that would be another bet!.

  26. Hi Lucky, I have 3 round trip flights from DCA to the West Coast in a matter of 5 weeks. I think I should be able to get to 10,000 EQP. My first trip will likely be 5,000 EQP. Does it make sense for me to do a Gold challenge, get gold status, then upgrade to the platinum challenge so that I can travel the remaining two trips with at least Gold status?

  27. @ Larry — If that’s how they work then yes that would make sense. I could be mistaken, but I believe you can only pay to upgrade a challenge if it’s not yet completed. I would suggest clarifying that with American, because if that were possible it’s definitely a good idea.

  28. I have a flight coming up which is a total of 36, 800 air miles in coach :-(, If I do the Platinum Challenge, that should qualify me in 1 trip correct?

  29. Hi Lucky, I’m a United 1K member and have been invited to take the Exec Pltnm challenge (25K miles in 3 months). Q: If I go for this and realize I won’t hit the 25K, will AA allow me to do the paid Pltm challenge before the Exec Pltm challenge expires?

  30. @ Mark — Hmm, that I’m not positive of. You can always backdate to beginning of the “period,” but not sure you could backdate a couple of months. I wouldn’t count on it.

  31. Lucky, apologies if this is duplicate (just tried to submit but don’t think it went through) – I’m a UAL 1K member and was invited to do the AA Exec Platinum challenge. Q: If I submit for this challenge & realize I won’t hit the 25K miles within the 3 months, can I apply for the paid Platinum challenge before the Exec Platinum challenge expires?

  32. Thanks Lucky. I guess my Q is whether I can ‘default’ to the Platinum challenge while in the middle of the Exec Platinum challenge.

  33. Thanks again, Lucky. They didn’t seem to know either, so I emailed another dept. Will post once I get clarity on this.

  34. @ Lucky – any idea when will US Airway Challenge switch from giving status through 2/28/2015 to 2/29/2016 — also mid-June?

  35. Help? I’m doing a Platinum Challenge for 3rd qtr 2014. I know the fee is $240 but folks kept referring to AmEx refund or something. Can someone enlighten me on which card? How this works? What is it called? Etc? Thanks!!

  36. I have an upcoming flight on British Airways Boston to London Heathrow in world traveler plus which works out to deliver me about 300 points shy of the goal for the platinum status challenge. This trip is in September. I plan to take a short haul trip to accomplish the challenge and should do so by the end of September 2014. Thus, my understanding is I would enjoy platinum status until February of 2016?

    My question is this: if I manage to fly the necessary hundred thousand miles to make it to Executive Platinum; during the time the platinum status awarded from the challenge was still valid, when would that new EXP status end?

    for instance let’s say that I was able to make the 100,000 miles by June or July 2015, would I only have executive status until February of 2016 to coincide with the end of that status year, or would I say then get the status until February of 2017?

  37. @ Nikki — Correct, if you completed the Platinum challenge in September 2014 it would be valid through February 2016. If you achieve Executive Platinum anytime in 2015 it would be valid through February 2017.

  38. Hi Lucky – Does your AAdvantage account need to be linked to a US postal address to start a Platinum challenge? I’d like to use my UK address (where I live) but could use my wife’s mother’s US address if needed (saw some small print on a different AAdvantage offer that mandated a US address, hence my asking). Thank you!

  39. @ Andy-T — I don’t believe there’s any residency requirement for an American challenge, so either address should be fine.

  40. Great article and comments. Seeking advice. I have no status on USAirways or AA. But I have 2 trips coming up in November:

    1. RT Boston to Barcelona (via LHR)

    2. RT Boston to LHR

    Both business class on British Airways. Suggestions about whether to do an AA challenge or USAirways challenge?

  41. @ Rico — The US Airways challenge is only valid for travel on American or US Airways, so you’d want to go with the American challenge.

  42. @ Lucky

    Thanks for your prompt reply. Easy enough (even if the terms are not as favorable as USAirways).

  43. @Lucky Hi Lucky! I sent an email with my United 1K statement requesting for an Exec Plat trial/challenge and they offered me the Gold or Platinum paid challenges, no upfront status, so I’m really not interested, doesn’t seem that they are much interested in making me jump the boat. Do you think if I call I can get better luck?.

  44. @ BBK — They seem to offer them in waves, though maybe they’re not offering them right now. Calling might yield a different result, though I wouldn’t count on it.

  45. @Lucky Thank for you response.. I tried calling, twice.. Sadly the answer is no 🙁 Not even offering to review my statements neither accepting my proposal to send them.. Just the gold an plat challenges.

  46. Hey now Lucky!
    I need some guidance.

    I have AA flights by the end of 2014 that will put me into AA`Gold level and then 2 flights on AA in Jan and Apr 2015.

    Should I stick with getting AA gold or should I take the US Air challenge and try for Dividend Miles Platinum status or better that would then transfer into AA Plat or Exec Plat in 2015 (2Q? “Late” 2015?)
    My two concerns are

    1) Would I need to decide which program (AA or US) to credit these flight to and, hence, go all in for AA Gold or US challenge? (no double dipping?)

    2) If I do the US challenge (and receive US status for 90 days) would that apply to my AA flights or will these programs be mutually exclusive until at least 2Q 2015? In other words, will my US air status be wasted until the programs merge?

  47. Thanks for the link Ben, that clears things up.

    My follow up would be: If I already have AA Gold status, take the US challenge then fly on AA, would I receive any AA Gold benefits or is this canceled out once I choose to have the flight credited to my US account to meet the challenge?

    Thank you for the help

  48. Would it work if I booked with my AA number, secured a Main Cabin Extra bump (MRing at 6ft 4″ is extra fun) bc of AA Gold status, then changed to credit the flight to my Div Miles account at check-in or at the gate after getting my boarding pass?

    Thanks for answering my (admittedly) narrow line of questions

  49. Hi Lucky,

    I’ll soon fly QR DOH-JFK, which I booked through QR but is an AA codeshare flight. Will this count towards the challenge?

  50. Just to clarify, by that I mean the flight itself is a codeshare flight with AA(i.e. it has a AA flight number and can be booked on aa.com). I booked through QR though and the flight number displayed on the etkt begins with QR. Does this count?

  51. Darn…I have to go SEA-JAX on the 15th. I wonder if I call in and start in the 16th if my return trip will count

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