American Airlines Makes Elite Status Harder For These Credit Card Holders

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    Use it or lose it. That is apparently the reason American Airlines is making it more difficult now for some card holders to earn elite status as perks are removed.

    In what appears to be a growing trend among legacy carriers this month, American Airlines is moving the goal posts for how some travelers on the airline earn elite status in its AAdvantage loyalty program.

    Starting next year, members of AAdvantage program who have the airline’s co-branded Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard in their wallets will no longer be allowed to earn bonus Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) with spending placed through the card.

    To earn elite status on American, Delta or United, frequent flyers are required to fly a certain number of miles each year and spend a tiered amount of cash on the airline – called qualifying dollars. Top tier status at American, for example, requires a passenger to fly 100,000 miles each year and spend $12,000.

    Originally, the Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard was launched with a perk that gave AAdvantage members $3,000 in qualifying dollars after spending $25,000 annually on the card. Members who owned the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card, an upgrade from the Red card, could earn an additional $3,000 qualifying dollars after an additional $25,000 in annual spend.

    Next year, however, Red members will have the perk removed while Silver members will only be able to earn $3,000 qualifying dollars after spending $50,000. The only exception to this change is members who signed up for the Red card in the latter half of 2018. Those members will continue to get the perk through the 2019 calendar year.

    According to the popular View From the Wing blog, which originally posted the news, American and Barclays removed the perk because it wasn’t being used enough by travelers.

    Another factor that may have influenced the decision, though, may have been the loophole that the Red card created which allowed many passengers to sneak into the elite ranks of American’s loyalty program. When American initially moved to a revenue-based loyalty program in 2016, many found that it would be difficult to spend $12,000 annually on the carrier – irrespective of how much they flew. By putting excessive business or superfluous expenses on the card, however, that requirement could be eased. Now, American seems to be reserving elite status for only those who spend money directly on the carrier.

    American’s move follows news late in September that United Airlines is changing the number of qualifying dollars required for passengers to reach top-tier 1K status. In 2018, Skymiles members need to fly 100,000 miles and spend $10,000 to reach 1K. Next year, the qualifying dollar requirement moves up 20% to $12,000. American Airlines is widely expected to follow in that path, though no official move has been made.

    Together, American and United seem to be signalling that elite status is too widely held and that access into the club should be harder to get. Changing earning requirements and drawing down extra perks through co-branded credit cards will certainly help accomplish that goal – and more cuts from all three legacy carriers may still be in the works.

    Photo Credit: In this Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011, file photo, a passenger walks through an American Airlines baggage claim area at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
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