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When it comes to air travel and loyalty programs, being a free agent means that you aren’t a prisoner of a single frequent-flyer scheme. However, sticking with one airline has its perks, such as potential upgrades, free checked bags and all kinds of preferential treatment at the airport.
If you fly American Airlines and are looking to pursue elite status, you might want to know what those perks are and how to get them.
The American Airlines AAdvantage program has four status tiers:
AAdvantage Platinum Pro.
Each tier has added perks, but it all starts with AAdvantage Gold. Here’s how to get AAdvantage Gold status and the kind of benefits you can expect from being an entry-level elite member of the AAdvantage program.
AAdvantage Gold benefits
AAdvantage Gold is the first status tier above the general loyalty program and includes the following perks:
Bonus earnings on rewards: AAdvantage Gold members earn 7x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines flights.
Complimentary preferred seats: Whether you want some extra legroom or simply prefer to avoid the middle seats, AAdvantage Gold members have access to a free seat selection that includes preferred seats.
Oneworld status: As an AAdvantage Gold member, you receive Oneworld Ruby status, which gets you access to business-class priority check-in lanes, preferred seating and priority on wait lists and standby lists.
Priority boarding: Board an American Airlines aircraft in Group 4.
Priority lanes: Access to priority check-in and security lanes at the airport.
Same-day standby priority: If you’d like to switch a flight, AAdvantage Gold members (and up to eight travel companions) have standby access to another flight 24 hours before departure time at no cost.
Unlimited complimentary upgrades: Get upgraded to the next cabin of service on American-operated U.S. domestic routes (including Hawaii), as well as on flights from the U.S. to: Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America. One companion is eligible for an upgrade as well. Upgrades clear up to 24 hours to departure for AAdvantage Gold elites. Complimentary upgrades are now also available to AAdvantage Gold flyers on award tickets.
Upgrades on Alaska Airlines flights: It’s also possible to be upgraded to first class on flights operated by Alaska Airlines as early as 24 hours before departure.
Waived baggage fees: Check the first bag for free on American Airlines flights.
» Learn more: The guide to the American Airlines AAdvantage program
How to get AAdvantage Gold
For better or for worse, American Airlines AAdvantage has simplified its status qualification requirements and now has only one qualification method — Loyalty Points. The more points you earn, the higher tier you reach. AAdvantage Gold status is the first elite level of the program.
Earn enough Loyalty Points
The new way to reach elite status in the AAdvantage program is by earning Loyalty Points.
You have to earn at least 40,000 Loyalty Points to qualify for AAdvantage Gold. The 12-month earning period starts on March 1 and ends on Feb. 28 (or Feb. 29 if it’s a leap year) of the following calendar year.
You’ll earn Loyalty Points with the following activities:
In other words, flying isn’t the only way to reach status in the AAdvantage program. You can earn Loyalty Points by making online purchases through the AAdvantage eShopping portal or SimplyMiles, participating in AAdvantage Dining, booking partner hotels or renting a car with eligible car rental companies.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
How much is AAdvantage Gold status worth?
In NerdWallet’s annual analysis of the best airline elite status programs, we sought to determine how much value the major U.S. airline loyalty programs deliver to flyers. Here's how AAdvantage did.
Value of benefits
Cost to earn
Elite earning rate
AAdvantage Platinum Pro
AAdvantage Executive Platinum
» Learn more: Guide to American Airlines elite status
Keep in mind that these values won’t be the same for everyone. If you don’t check bags or have to compete with top-tier elites for upgrades on busy routes, you might not squeeze much juice from the AAdvantage Gold status. However, if you’re able to use all the benefits each time you fly, then the status should create more value for you.
» Learn more: How upgrades work on American Airlines
What else do you need to know?
No status matches available
If you’ve been thinking of qualifying for the AAdvantage elite status the quick and painless way, we’ve got some bad news for you. American Airlines doesn’t offer any status-matching opportunities, meaning you have to qualify the hard way.
However, occasionally, you’ll be able to complete a status challenge and qualify for elite status with American Airlines.
Achieve Million Miler status
If you’re all in on American Airlines and reach a special milestone of flying a million miles with the airline or its partners, you’ll retain the AAdvantage Gold status tier for life. You’ll also receive 35,000 AAdvantage miles as a bonus for becoming a million miler.
How long does AAdvantage Gold status last?
Once you qualify for this elite level, you’ll be an AAdvantage Gold until March 31 of the following qualification year.
For example, if you earn the necessary 40,000 Loyalty Points and reach AAdvantage Gold on Sept. 13, 2023, you’ll continue holding the same status level until March 31, 2024, unless you qualify for a higher tier during that time.
AAdvantage Gold recapped
There’s only one way to qualify for status with American Airlines — you must earn at least 40,000 Loyalty Points.
As an AAdvantage Gold member, you can take advantage of several entry-level benefits when flying American and other Oneworld partners, including free checked bags, bonus earnings on redeemable miles, access to preferred seats, and unlimited complimentary upgrades on select routes.
(Top photo courtesy of American Airlines)
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card