Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage

1
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

American Airlines offers an average of nearly 6,700 daily flights to 350 different destinations, making it one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s also the founding member of the oneworld alliance, which expands its footprint with other airlines and makes it possible to fly to more than 1,000 destinations and 150 countries around the world.

If you’re looking for an airline that can take you where you want to go, there’s a good chance American Airlines or one of its partners offers the itinerary you are looking for. In the meantime, you should also look into joining the American AAdvantage program—and perhaps applying for an American Airlines credit card—which can help you score frequent flyer benefits and rack up airline miles for every trip you take.

What is American Airlines AAdvantage?

American AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. Joining this free program gives you the ability to earn miles good for flights to nearly 1,100 destinations around the world, premium cabin upgrades, other types of travel (like vacations, car rentals and hotels) and merchandise.

You can join the American AAdvantage program for free just by providing information like your name, date of birth, address, email and phone number. From there, this program will give you a frequent flyer number that is made up of a combination of letters and numbers. You’ll use your frequent flyer number to log into your account, and you’ll also list this information when you book flights with American Airlines and its partners.

How to earn American Airlines miles

Earning miles with the American Airlines program isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Here are all the ways you can rack up miles with this frequent flyer program:

  • Fly with American or its partners: You can rack up miles when you fly with American or with partner airlines like British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Iberia.
  • Earn miles when you book other travel: Earn even more miles by booking other travel through American, such as hotels, car rentals, vacation packages and cruises.
  • Use the shopping portal: American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping lets you earn miles when you click through the portal and shop with participating retailers.
  • Join the dining club: American Airlines AAdvantage Dining lets you earn airline miles when you dine with participating restaurants in your area and pay with a linked credit or debit card.
  • Co-branded credit cards: If you sign up for a travel credit card from American Airlines, you can earn a generous welcome bonus, often worth 50,000 American AAdvantage miles or more, as well as miles for each dollar you spend on your card.

Best American Airlines credit cards

American Airlines credit cards make racking up airline miles a breeze regardless of how often you fly with the airline. The following airline cards offer generous bonuses, frequent flyer benefits and plenty of reasons to sign up.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Best for no annual fee

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and grocery store purchases, as well as 1X miles on everything else
  • Get 25 percent off in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • No annual fee

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card is an excellent option for earning American Airlines miles if you don’t want to pay an annual fee. You can earn an initial bonus of 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit for spending just $500 within three months, and you’ll also earn double miles at the grocery store and on purchases with the airline.

With that being said, you won’t get any major frequent flyer perks.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Best for everyday spending

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,500 within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas stations and 1X miles on other purchases
  • Frequent flyer perks include a first checked bag free, preferred boarding, 25 percent off in-flight food and beverage purchases and no foreign transaction fees
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first year

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is a great option for everyday spending since you can earn more miles on dining and filling up your tank. You’ll also get quite a few frequent flyer perks and a generous welcome bonus with this card, as well as a $125 American Airlines discount each year you renew your card and spend $20,000 within said calendar year.

For 2021, this card even gives you a waiver from meeting the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirement for elite status when you spend at least $30,000. A $99 annual fee applies, but it’s waived for the first 12 months.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Best for airport lounge access

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on other purchases
  • Receive free Admirals Club membership (valued at $650)
  • $450 annual fee

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is ideal for anyone who wants complimentary access to Admirals Club airport lounges. While this card does have a $450 annual fee, the fact a new Admirals Club membership starts at $650 makes this card an exceptional value. You’ll start off with a generous bonus of 50,000 miles when you meet the minimum spending requirement of $5,000 within three months of account opening, and you can also earn miles for each dollar you spend on your card.

Frequent flyer benefits like a credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, a free checked bag, priority boarding, priority check-in and a 25 percent discount on in-flight food and beverage services are also offered on a complimentary basis. You’ll also get a waiver of the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirement for elite status when you spend at least $30,000 on your card.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Best for business owners

  • Earn 65,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 within four months of account opening
  • Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, purchases made with cable and satellite providers, gas stations, car rentals and select telecommunications merchants, as well as 1X miles on other purchases
  • Benefits include a free checked bag, preferred boarding, 25 percent discount on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi and no foreign transaction fees
  • $99 annual fee, waived the first year

If you are a freelancer or you own your own business, you can also consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®. This American Airlines business credit card offers one of the most generous initial bonuses of all American Airline credit cards, yet you’ll also earn 2X miles in an array of popular categories.

Frequent flyer benefits like a free checked bag and preferred boarding also help this card stand out. Meanwhile, you can qualify for an airline companion certificate for domestic travel when you spend at least $30,000 on your card within a calendar year.

How much are American Airlines miles worth?

American AAdvantage miles may be worth more or less depending on how you redeem them. However, recent points and miles valuations show that miles in this program are worth an average value of 1.4 cents each, according to The Points Guy.

This makes the bonus offer on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® worth approximately $700 in free flights.

How to redeem American Airlines miles

There are plenty of ways to redeem American AAdvantage miles, and some don’t have anything to do with flying. For example, you can redeem your miles for rental cars, hotel stays and vacation packages. You can also redeem miles for an Admirals Club membership or a premium travel experience.

Other non-flight options include charitable donations and magazine subscriptions.

Best redemption options

Generally speaking, the best way to redeem American Airlines miles is for flights, although redemption values can vary. Also, note that even though the American AAdvantage program still has an award chart, redemption values can vary depending on demand, travel dates and other factors.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you can look for American Airlines’ web specials. These online frequent flyer deals let you book flights to select destinations for considerably fewer miles than normal, although they change all the time.

Also, be sure to look for great deals within the AA award chart, keeping in mind that most domestic flights of under 500 miles will only set you back 7,500 American AAdvantage miles one-way. Round-trip economy flights to Europe can also be a good deal at 45,000 miles if you can find MileSAAver off-peak award availability.

Redemption options to avoid

For the most part, you’ll want to take a close look at any redemptions you make that aren’t for airfare since you’ll usually get a lot less than 1.4 cents per mile. For example, hotel bookings made with American miles will usually net you less than 1 cent per mile in value. The same is true for car rentals and vacation packages.

Also, while redeeming airline miles for upgrades to a premium cabin is worth considering, you’ll usually have to supply a cash copay to do so. That can make upgrading with miles a worse value than it seems.

American Airlines partners

American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, which means you can earn or redeem miles with a number of popular airlines around the globe. As you take a closer look at the American Airlines AAdvantage program, consider the partners you could fly with depending on your chosen destination. Partners in the oneworld alliance include:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • S7 Airlines
  • Sri Lankan Airlines

Other partners:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • GOL Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Interjet
  • Seaborne Virgin Islands

American Airlines elite status and memberships

Like other frequent flyer programs, the American AAdvantage program offers several elite status tiers with increasing benefits for frequent flyers. You can reach each tier of status by meeting an Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) requirement and an Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) requirement.

The following table shows the requirements you’ll have to meet to earn elite status with American Airlines in 2021:

Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs)
Gold oneworld® Ruby $2,000 20,000 20
Platinum oneworld® Sapphire $4,500 40,000 45
Platinum Pro oneworld® Sapphire $7,000 60,000 70
Executive Platinum oneworld® Emerald $12,000 80,000 95

When you reach each level of elite status, you’ll qualify for a higher level of benefits and have the ability to earn more miles on American flights. The following chart shows what you can expect from each tier of American Airlines AAdvantage status in 2021:

Elite status Benefits
Gold oneworld Ruby
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 24-hour upgrade window
  • 40 percent elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra Seats at check-in
  • Complimentary Preferred Seats
  • 1 free checked bag
Platinum oneworld Sapphire
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • 60 percent elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags
Platinum Pro oneworld Sapphire
  • 1 elite choice reward
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades*
  • 72-hour upgrade window
  • 80 percent elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 2 free checked bags
Executive Platinum oneworld Emerald
  • 2 elite choice rewards
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
  • 100-hour upgrade window
  • 120 percent elite mileage bonus
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats
  • 3 free checked bags
  • Additional rewards starting at 120,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)

AAdvantage Gold

Gold status is the first tier of elite status with American Airlines AAdvantage, and it’s the easiest to earn. With this tier of elite status, you’ll earn benefits like a free checked bag, complimentary preferred seating, a 40 percent elite mileage bonus and a 24-hour upgrade window.

AAdvantage Platinum

Platinum status with the American AAdvantage program is the next threshold of status you can meet. You’ll get similar benefits to the Gold level, yet you’ll get two free checked bags, a 60 percent elite mileage bonus and upgrades within 48 hours instead of 24.

AAdvantage Platinum Pro

The Platinum Pro level of the American Airlines AAdvantage program keeps the same number of free checked bags and preferred seating as the Platinum level. However, you’ll begin earning an 80 percent elite mileage bonus, and you’ll enjoy a 72-hour upgrade window when you fly. You’ll also get complimentary auto-requested upgrades and an elite choice award.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum

Finally, those who fly with American Airlines the most can reach the Executive Platinum level. This tier of elite status gets you three free checked bags, preferred seating, a 120 percent elite mileage bonus and upgrades within 100 hours of departure. You’ll also get complimentary auto-requested upgrades and two elite choice awards.

American Airlines AAdvantage FAQs

How do I sign up for AAdvantage?

Head to the American Airlines website at AA.com and select the option to join the American AAdvantage program. From there, you can join for free when you share information such as your name, date of birth, address, email and phone number.

How do I earn elite status in AAdvantage?

To earn elite status with the American Airlines AAdvantage program, you have to meet a specific Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) requirement and an Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) requirement. The minimum tier of elite status (Gold) requires you to spend at least $2,000 within a year while flying 20 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) or 20,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs).

The bottom line

The American Airlines AAdvantage program is free to join regardless of how often you fly, and you get the chance to earn miles quickly with the help of one of their airline credit cards. And if you may not fly in the near future, you should know you can redeem your miles for other types of travel, such as hotels and rental cars. With these details in mind, you have nothing to lose by signing up.

The information about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUpSM Card and Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
Reviewed by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News