As the pandemic rages on in parts of the world, frequent flyers are finding it hard to requalify for elite status through traditional ways, so, airlines are offering promotions to retain elite flyers.
Comparatively, American’s elite-retention efforts have been underwhelming so far, but that changed in late June. American launched two new shortcuts to help existing elites retain their AAdvantage elite status through Jan. 31, 2023, and both options are quite achievable. Travelers even have the opportunity to extend existing AAdvantage elite status without taking a single flight.
How to extend your AAdvantage elite status
American Airlines AAdvantage members that held elite status as of Jan. 1, 2021, can now retain that elite status through Jan. 31, 2023. To do so, elites need to complete one of two challenges: spend $15,000 on an AAdvantage credit card or earn 2,000 EQD through flying.
Spend $15,000 on an AAdvantage credit card
The first way to extend your elite status doesn’t require taking a single flight. You just need to charge $15,000 in eligible purchases to an eligible AAdvantage credit card between July 15 and Nov. 15, 2021. All Citi/AAdvantage credit cards and Aviator-branded cards issued by Barclaycard are eligible — in addition to all AAdvantage credit cards issued outside the U.S.
Just make sure that you spend at least $15,000 in combined purchases. Although bonus miles will help you toward your next award flight, spending in bonus categories won’t help you reach the spending threshold twice as fast.
Eligible purchases exclude balance transfers, cash advances, returned items, interest and account fees and cash-like transactions. Make sure to check the full terms for excluded purchases.
Earn 2,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars this fall
The other way to retain your AAdvantage elite status is through flying. Just earn 2,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars on qualifying flights between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, to extend the elite status that you held at the beginning of 2021 through Jan. 31, 2023.
This EQD requirement is the same for all tiers of AAdvantage elite status. That means both Gold and Executive Platinum elite members will need to earn the same 2,000 EQD requirement to extend their elite status.
The good news is that you aren’t limited to earning EQD on American Airlines. EQD can be earned on flights marketed by American Airlines or flights marketed and operated by American Airlines, Oneworld airline partners and JetBlue. Practically speaking, if a cash flight earns EQDs, those EQDs will count toward this promotion.
Also, you don’t need to book new flights to take advantage of this promotion. Flights already purchased for travel between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, qualify for this offer.
The downside: Flights flown before Sept. 1, 2021, don’t qualify. However, American Airlines has eliminated change fees on most fares (excluding basic economy fares). If you have flexible travel plans, you can change existing flights to later dates so that they qualify for this promotion.
Shortcuts to earn AAdvantage elite status in 2021
This elite status retention offer is great for those who held AAdvantage elite status as of Jan. 1, 2021. However, for non-elite members and those seeking a higher elite tier, American Airlines is also offering shortcuts and additional ways to earn AAdvantage elite status in 2021.
Reduced AAdvantage elite status requirements for 2021
American Airlines reduced the requirements for earning AAdvantage elite status in 2021 by 20% to 33% compared with the pre-COVID requirements. To earn AAdvantage elite status in 2021, here are the thresholds that you’ll need to reach:
Elite Status Level
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)
Elite Qualifying Segment (EQSs)
American Airlines EQD spending waiver
American Airlines will waive the EQD requirement for Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro elite status for AAdvantage members who spend $30,000 on a qualifying AAdvantage credit card in 2021.
Earn AAdvantage elite status credits on JetBlue
American Airlines elite status promotions
In early June 2021, American Airlines launched three promotions for elites to earn 2021 elite status faster: an EQM accelerator, bonus EQD and an opportunity to buy EQM.
AAdvantage members with elite status as of May 25 can register to earn bonus EQM on up to 10 American Airlines flights through Aug. 31. The bonus EQM depends on your elite status tier:
250 bonus EQM per flight for Gold and non-elite members.
500 bonus EQM per flight for Platinum elites.
750 bonus EQM per flight for Platinum Pro elites.
1,000 bonus EQM per flight for Executive Platinum elites.
Elites also can register to receive bonus EQDs:
500 bonus EQD for Gold elites.
1,000 bonus EQD for Platinum elites.
1,500 bonus EQD for Platinum Pro elites.
3,000 bonus EQD for Executive Platinum elites.
Finally, elite members can buy bonus EQMs for $495. The amount of EQM that you’ll receive from this purchase is based on your elite status as of May 25, 2021.
2,500 bonus EQM for Gold elites.
5,000 bonus EQM for Platinum elites.
7,500 bonus EQM for Platinum Pro elites.
10,000 bonus EQM for Executive Platinum elites.
Why you might want to earn elite status anyway
The new elite status retention opportunities are very helpful for travelers still grounded by the pandemic. However, if you’re able to travel, you may want to remain loyal to American Airlines — even after retaining your elite status through one of these offers.
First, only travelers who meet the 2021 AAdvantage elite status requirements will receive elite choice rewards. These are the new perks — like systemwide upgrades, bonus miles or an Admirals Club membership — that elite members get upon earning Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status. To enjoy these benefits in 2022, you’ll need to achieve the reduced AAdvantage elite status requirements in 2021. Elite retention activities won’t qualify.
Also, EQD earnings are a key factor for upgrade priority on American Airlines. If your EQD earnings are low, you will be prioritized below other elites on your same flight. So, even if you retain your elite status through one of these offers, you may want to continue to fly American Airlines to boost your EQD earnings.
If you’re an American Airlines elite member
After underwhelming elite status retention offers so far, American Airlines just pleasantly surprised loyal travelers by providing two ways to retain elite status. To retain the elite status you held at the beginning of 2021 through Jan. 31, 2023, just do one of the following:
Spend $15,000 on an eligible AAdvantage credit card between July 15 and Nov. 15, 2021.
Earn 2,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for: