I’m About To Earn Million Miler With American…

Back in the day, American had by far the most lucrative million miler program of any airline. After a million miles you’d earn Gold status for life, and after two million miles you’d earn Platinum status for life.

In and of itself that doesn’t sound all that generous, though the cool thing was that American calculated million miler status based on how many redeemable miles you earned, rather than how many miles you flew.

In other words, if you earned two million miles through credit cards, you’d be AAdvantage Platinum for life. And even if you were just a frequent flyer, you’d rack up miles towards million miler status a lot faster, given that you earn a 100% mileage bonus as a Platinum or Executive Platinum member, in addition to all the promotions American offered.

However, American changed their million miler program in 2011, and aligned it more with what other programs were offering. As of 2011, only base miles earned by flying counted towards million miler status with American. In other words, earning million miler status now requires flying a million miles.

American-787

Go figure I started flying American around that time, because based on my pattern for earning miles, I would have had lifetime Platinum status in no time under the old system.

Well, it looks like I’ll finally be earning million miler status on American next week. I’m presently at 991,342 miles towards million miler status.

American-Airlines-Million-Miler

I should hit million miler next week, about 495 miles before landing on an Orlando to Los Angeles flight (glam flight on which to reach the milestone, eh?).

So, what does American million miler status earn you?

American-Million-Miler

On the plus side, I earn the bonus miles before American’s award chart devaluation next month, so I guess that’s cool.

In reflecting on the perks of American million miler, I’ve realized that American’s million miler status isn’t really competitive with what’s offered by Delta and United:

Delta million miler

Delta awards million miler status based on Medallion Qualifying Miles earned, rather than base miles. That means it’s easier to earn, since Medallion Qualifying Miles earned through credit card spend, as well as bonus miles for flying paid first & business class, would qualify towards that status.

You earn Silver status at 1MM, Gold status at 2MM, and Platinum status at 4MM. That means you can actually earn something above mid-tier lifetime status, since Platinum on Delta normally requires 75,000 MQMs.

Delta-Million-Miler

United million miler

United awards million miler status based on base miles as well, so qualification is similarly difficult to American’s. However, the rewards are much better.

United offers Gold status at 1MM, Platinum status at 2MM, 1K status at 3MM, and Global Services status at 4MM. Furthermore, a companion gets the same status you have now, meaning if you’re a 1K who is also a million miler, you can share your 1K status with a friend (even though you just have lifetime Gold status).

Those are awesome perks, and makes United million miler status the most lucrative million miler program out there, in my opinion.

United-Million-Miler

Bottom line

I’m excited to finally earn American million miler status, though of course under the old program I’d already be a four million miler.

I totally get why American changed the rules for the million miler program in 2011, given that the old system was far too generous. But at the same time for those earning million miler status “the hard way,” it’s also not especially rewarding compared to the competition.

I also get why American doesn’t offer more — I bet they have a much higher percentage of million milers than Delta and United due to the old qualification criteria. At the same time, it also doesn’t present much of an incentive to earn the status anymore.

Ultimately I’ve never viewed lifetime status with a program as a goal, given how volatile these programs are. It’s a nice reward if you’d earn it anyway, but hardly worth going out of your way for.

For example, I’m three years from earning Starwood lifetime Platinum status, though I’m guessing that will probably not happen due to the merger between Marriott and Starwood. At least I’ve earned lifetime Gold status with Starwood already.

Has anyone else earned American million miler status since the program rules changed in 2011?

Comments

  1. I earned it about a month ago. I now fly for work almost every week now and wish I was still under the old system. I didn’t complain about earning 35k bonus miles, but I really doubt I’ll get much benefit out of lifetime gold status.

  2. Appreciate this post- yes I earned MM gold after “earning” 900,000 miles. About 450,000 were base miles. I’m surprised that neither in 2011 nor 2015 AA didn’t: strip the earned from the base miles flown and keep the latter as qualifying MM miles; and then increase to lifetime platinum for 1 million base flown. Is it too late to do this? Maybe they don’t have the data to accurately do the separation.

  3. United’s is the most difficult by far; I believe – they only count the base miles flown on United metal. Flying LH, etc., earns you nothing towards million mile status. I think that’s why their million mile benefit is the most generous.

  4. I have been a million miler for several years. The only real perk I see is when I fly standby I seem to go right to near the top of the list. I’m just coming up on 1.5 million EQMs, but I don’t travel like I used to so I doubt I will ever get the Lifetime Platinum card…

  5. Global Services for life is a pretty insane perk. If you had to put a dollar value on getting that as say, a 30-year-old living in a United Hub, what would you say?

  6. @Daniel

    Correct although they did do a true up for pmUA members when they merged with CO to align the tracking of the two systems but then they continued to accumulate using the tougher UA rates going forward.

    AA can’t be as generous as they have way too many people under the old system that have a huge head start.

  7. I believe the real reason AA changed to actual miles was because of all the customers who were gaining million miles based upon credit card charges and not actually flying. I remember in 1990 AA started putting on the AAdvantage Gold card (before platinum and exp) the words ” 2 Million Miles” I was in Chicago and the gate agents needed to see my Card and were astounded to see that written on the card and it was passed around they had never seen one that day.. as the years wore on I hit the 7 million and then the change in 2011 as you stated… so since then I should hit 8 million miler this year as I have only 23,331 actual miles to go… Rumor has it there are several prior to the program change with over 30 million miles with AA.

  8. I earned 1MM before the change. If you’re 1MM and EXP that’s great. If not, there is actually a big downside to being AA-1MM. Nearly all of the fast-track options to get to EXP are restricted to AAdvantage members without status. So once you’re 1MM you have to earn your way to EXP the long, hard way.

  9. I’m a little over 25% of the way to a million with AA. I never used to fly on just one airline which I regret now that I’ve achieved EXP. Gold status is ok if you have a year where you don’t fly as much or switch to a different program for a year for any reason.

    Did you spend a good chunk of your AA miles on redemption flights with the devalue coming up? I’m sitting on a half million miles even after spending 270K for flights to and from Africa in business. Have several nice paid trips but can’t take off too much time for work. Catch 22 with earning and churning.

  10. I am at 0.2 million miles. I am a million miler too. Lol

    You guys that fly so much seem to have a pretty positive attitude about it.

  11. lucky, i’m really quite surprised you guys haven’t posted anything about how AA is basically giving away status these days. first there was the targeted offer of instant platinum and 20 stickers through april (and continuing through 2017 with only 10k eqms) and more recently targeting of hilton elites (gold and higher) with AA gold through april (and continuing through 2017 with only 7k eqms).

    it’s a rather big slap in the face to those of us who have flown to acquire status although hey, i get that terms and goalposts change in this game. but it’s really made me question my allegiance to american moving forward as there are bound to be so many new golds and plats this year and upgrades are already scarce.

    apologies if you guys did post about this and i missed it. been a busy few weeks. congrats on million miler!

  12. wow licky i am amazed how you didnt have it by now. I am 3 years younger than you and joined FT pretty much the same time you did. With the cc churning I got to 1.8MM without stepping a foot on AA plane, and crossed 2MM last year. You must have not liked MS and churning 🙂

  13. how do (or did) these lifetime statuses work in regards to reaching the next, on-going higher tier/levels? … since none of these programs offer the highest level, lets take AA for example… after you reach lifetime Plat, do you start each year w/50k EQMs already in your acct (thus needing to fly just an additional 50k) or are you still required to fly the full 100k miles to qualify for Exec Plat (the next tier) every year if you wish to do so?

    obv requalification is changing again or atleast getting a bit more tricky in the 2nd half of this year. but assume this hypothetical situation has the status quo rules in place & intact.

  14. No you start at zero each year and have to do the entire EXP qualification. When you retire or stop flying you keep the Platinum status for LIFE.

  15. When a travel blogger refers to some benefit offered by a loyalty program as “lucrative”, it is almost certain that it is a bone-headed benefit that’s getting the program taken to the cleaners, and would be pulled as soon as they realized it.

    The way AA used to count the miles toward the million miler status — i.e., including redeemable miles regardless of their source — made little sense. Continental did the same thing until they merged with United, which has always required BIS miles toward achieving the million miler status. Some us from the UA side did actually see our MM-qualifying miles boosted greatly when CO’s and UA’s accounting methods were reconciled before moving forward with UA’s method — as a result, I too will become a 1MM this year!

    In sum, the AA million miler program was the “most lucrative”, not because it offered any special perks when one reached that milestone (au contraire), but in the same way that Hyatt GP’s now defunct Diamond Challenge, in which they gave away the farm to those who met the challenge, was, well, “the most lucrative”… 😉

  16. I was fortunate to have benefited from the CO/UA merger as I had a host of miles on star alliance partner. When they reconciled — it pushed me well past the 1M status and now moving albeit slowly on to 2M.
    It is a bitter pill to only count United metal and/or united issued tickets as there are several star alliance flights I take out of SFO (swiss and turkish) which don’t add in.

    Being able to grant my companion the same status has been great— we both get to choose PremEcon seats and get lounge access for international. Both benefits we find very valuable with being “gold for life”

  17. I’ve never been able to figure out the upgrade algorithm. The million miler status doesn’t seem to matter. It seems to be based mainly on Fare Code and status. I guess it makes sense. If you are a platinum traveling on a “Y” ticket you are higher on the upgrade list than a million miler on a lower fare ticket or even a “Y” ticket…

  18. I am a 4 million miler rapidly approaching 5 million. Do you get anything special when you reach 5 million, other than the 4 SWUs.

  19. Congrats, and enjoy the 35,000 miles.

    As you say, going for lifetime status doesn’t mean much these days. It doesn’t bother me that airlines/hotels give it away. If it encourages more business it makes sense to me. Unfortunately, in 2016, status does not have that much value anymore. Sure it gives the odd upgrade, or bonus redeemable point which is nice. Just like your Starwood status. I wouldn’t hold your breath on the value of what that will be worth in the future.

    I guess just enjoy what you have today and as I always tell people only go out of your way for loyalty when the value proposition is there. And you are lucky as a travel writer/blogger that you are homeless and have the ability to travel wherever whenever which allows you to get much better value then a typical person who works in a specific location and only gets 4 or 5 weeks of holiday a year to enjoy the perks.

  20. @Ben – I got the million mile status in 2013. Currently at 1.6MM. Given current changes doubt I’ll ever make it to 2 MM miles

  21. @Ivan Y – that’s an amazing comment you posted,
    sounds almost too good to sound true !! care to share your secret ??

  22. Wow…I’m surprised to learn that someone so pro-American (besides me) hasn’t earned Million Miler yet! I got mine around the end of 2011 or maybe the start of 2012 and probably on a MCI-ORD or ORD-SFO flight. How’s that for glam? MCO-LAX is a step above that I think!

    Anymore I honestly don’t see the value in having lifetime Gold except for a free domestic checked bag and priority boarding. This is especially true when many of the co-branded credit cards offer the same benefits for each year one is a member.

    Welcome to the “club”!

  23. Just curious how you are just passing 1 million now, when you’ve earned more than 4 million in the program to date. Those extra three million miles must have all been earned since the changes in 2011, but not from flying (or you’d already have earned MM status). Dividend Miles transfer?

  24. Yawn! I have had gold 1mm status for 5 years or so…completely worthless. Never an upgrade for gold. Sadly I will hit platinum lifetime this year…the same year I am leaving AA for Delta or Alaska. Love the blog…anxious for it every day

  25. Got it 2 years ago while I was still an executive on the road. At that time I was executive platinum and was so for 5 years. Now that I have retired I am treated like any gold. So, not really worth going after it.

  26. I was a “Million Miler Silver for Life” on USAirways and my status was transfered to American with the merger. My Membership start date was also transferred to American Advantage Program- Dec 1984 from USAirways.

    Currently I have about 1.7 million miles (actual miles flown-USAirways was alway actual miles flown). I usually fly about 3 trips per month domestically for the past 30+ years point to point, no connections (I have always lived near Piedmont-USAirways largest hub and now American’s second biggest).

    The point I want to make is how hard it is (unless you fly internationally or don’t live on a hub, have multiple connections every week or just like flying around in circles) to reach 1 Million or 2 Million miles status. My goal is to reach 2M Platinum Lifetime Status, but I need another 300K before I retire in the next 3-4 years. I don’t know if I will be able to reach 2M in the next 3-4- years flying my normal 60K -80K miles per year.

  27. I’m a 3 million miler on AA (achieved through the AA/US Air merger – 2.9 million plus on AA alone – I avoided US Air like the plague except for the shuttle) and a 1 million miler (achieved through the UA/CO merger). The real perk as lifetime gold or platinum or whatever is getting on the plane early and skipping lines at security, when not traveling business. Transferring status on UA to one’s partner is still a huge benefit in my book. Personally, gaining 1 million and 2 million on AA were rewarded wonderfully. Quite frankly, getting 4 System wide upgrades for the 3 million milestone seemed beyond insulting for all the loyalty and hundreds of flights to get there. I’m retired now, so AA won’t see 4 million from me.

    Congrats Lucky!

  28. I made 1 million under old plan in Oct 2011. I have 1.8 million Lifetime miles now, but only 1.3 million under new rules.

    Anyway I like the lifetime gold as I can get upgrades sometimes with coupons..made it a year ago home from Honolulu overnight to Dallas.

    But having Lifetime Gold gets me to the First Class check-in line and that is a huge benefit. Also I have had agents checking me in waive the 2nd bag fee when the y saw I was Lifetime Gold.

  29. How did you earn 4M miles, flying only 1M? Credit card bonus churn? 3M of non-flying.

    I earned 1M a couple of years ago – but only an extra 1.5M earned PTD So I earned it by mostly flying with a few CC bonuses. Surprised I am this far, since I did not fly AA for over a 20 year period, being focused on flying CO – and now LT UA 1K.

  30. I joined AAdvantage in 1985 and flew a variety of airlines. TWA merged into AA helped my lifetime balance and then the USAirways merger brought me over one million.

    I have also earned over one million flown miles on BA but they don’t offer a similar reward since I wasn’t buying expensive tickets.

    I currently collect Star ALLIANCE miles on LH because the silver card is not only good for two years but you get free access to all LH/Swiss/Austrian lounges for free (and maybe UA too?).

    I am now looking at three trips to Central Asia and one trip to Istanbul in the next three months. Wish me luck!

  31. I am under 2 million miles by 70k miles. All of it by flying ( for work). I wonder if I should blow some $$ and get 2 million miler status….

  32. Anyone know what the “one-time customized experience” could be upon earning 7M miles with Delta?

    Unless it’s extraordinary, it seems like Global Services for life with United at 4M would be a better option..

  33. Too many interesting comments on this post and zero answer Lucky?

    I wonder what’s everyone’s job that let you travel so much.

    I’m a software engineer, based on the East coast, for a West coast company. I travel once a month, but I love travelling in general, and did about 1 trip to south america per month during 2014. I’ll be AA Plat due to the challenge in the next 2 weeks, and I’m already Plat in DL aiming for DM.

    Total million miler balance: almost 200k in 2 years since I’ve moved to US (in Argentina there’s no easy way to fly… it’s fucking expensive. The average salary is 500-600 bucks a month)

    Again, please do reply the questions here and also I wanna know anyone’s job! (especially those that have been flying consistently for the last 30 years)

  34. American Airlines is by far THEE best Frequent Flyer program. I have extensively traveled the past 20 years for my sales position. I am now Platinum for life. There are many perks: I never pay for luggage and those booked in my record locator don’t either. I may fly stand by same day of travel with no extra fees. I earn bonus miles on every flight. I may reserve bulk head/emergency exits seats on AA.com with no fee. I can check in at First Class counter no matter what class of service my ticket is. I can use priority TSA lines at all airports. There is a special Platinum 800 #. AA agents both domestically and internationally have bent over backwards for me at airports. Escorting me to my gate. Waiving Admiral Club entrances fee, etc…I could go on and on!!! It is truly awesome…

  35. I couldn’t care less about American miles because of the high surcharge they have on BA flights which makes miles pretty much useless.

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