American Airlines Loyalty Points Aren’t as Easy to Earn as You Might Think

The new Loyalty Points program boasts simplicity, but it's not as simple as it may seem.
Mar 10, 2022

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In October 2021, American Airlines announced a new "reimagined" program for earning AAdvantage elite status. Starting Jan. 1, 2022, American Airlines AAdvantage members now earn AAdvantage elite status based on "Loyalty Points" — rather than needing to meet Elite Qualifying Dollar, Elite Qualifying Mile and Elite Qualifying Segment thresholds.

The promise of the Loyalty Points program is simplicity. When announcing the program, American Airlines trumpeted: "The message is simple: Earn AAdvantage miles, earn status."

However, in practice, the new American Airlines Loyalty Points program is anything but simple. The new program is filled with carve-outs, exclusions and even some exceptions to exclusions.

So, let's dive into American Airlines Loyalty Points, including the complicated picture of how you can and can't earn them.

How many Loyalty Points do you need for status?

In the new American Airlines elite status system, the only metric you need to track is Loyalty Points. American Airlines offers two types of rewards for earning Loyalty Points: AAdvantage elite status and Loyalty Choice Rewards (formerly known as Elite Choice Rewards).

In the AAdvantage elite status program, you need to earn:

  • 30,000 Loyalty Points for AAdvantage Gold.

  • 75,000 Loyalty Points for AAdvantage Platinum.

  • 125,000 Loyalty Points for AAdvantage Platinum Pro.

  • 200,000 Loyalty Points for AAdvantage Executive Platinum.

To earn Loyalty Choice Rewards in 2022, you'll need to fly at least 30 qualifying segments and achieve the following Loyalty Point thresholds:

  • 125,000 Loyalty Points for one Level 1 reward.

  • 200,000 Loyalty Points for two Level 2 rewards.

  • 350,000 Loyalty Points for two Level 3 rewards.

  • 550,000 Loyalty Points for two Level 4 rewards.

  • 750,000 Loyalty Points for two Level 5 rewards.

How earning Loyalty Points works

Say you earn AAdvantage miles through the following activities in 2022:

  • 70,000 AAdvantage miles from a credit card sign-up bonus.

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles through savings with Bask Bank.

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles for converting 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

  • 25,000 AAdvantage miles for booking an AAVacations package.

  • 5,000 AAdvantage miles for donating $500 to Stand Up to Cancer.

That's a total of 200,000 miles.

Top-tier AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status only requires 200,000 Loyalty Points. So, based on the above earnings, you should start enjoying all of the perks of top-tier status, right?

Unfortunately, no.

Despite earning 200,000 AAdvantage miles, you would have earned just 1,000 Loyalty Points from all of this mileage-generating activity. These 1,000 Loyalty Points were earned due to the base miles collected for booking an AAVacations package.

Sadly, the rest of your miles-earning activities are wholly disqualified from earning Loyalty Points. In most cases, you’ll only get Loyalty Points for base miles earned, with some exceptions.

Nerdy tip: What are base miles? Base miles are earned from a subset of miles-earning activities, including qualifying flights and purchases from eligible partners. The rates of base miles earned varies by activity.

This terminology highlights just how inaccurate it is for American Airlines to be advertising the program as "simply" earning 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 AAdvantage mile earned. And it emphasizes the importance of knowing which AAdvantage miles qualify as Loyalty Points.

Activities that earn Loyalty Points

If earning Loyalty Points isn't as easy as earning American miles, it helps to know which activities qualify for Loyalty Points and which don't.

Flying American Airlines and its airline partners

Virtually all AAdvantage miles earned from flying on American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, GOL Airlines and Oneworld airline partners count as Loyalty Points. This includes all base miles and, when applicable, status bonuses and cabin bonuses.

The only exception is found in a subset of four non-alliance partners. You'll continue to earn AAdvantage miles — but not Loyalty Points — when you book flights marketed by China Southern Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways and Hawaiian Airlines.

Spending on American Airline Credit Cards

One of the biggest positive changes of the new loyalty program is the ability to earn American Airlines Loyalty Points by spending on AAdvantage-branded credit cards.

Almost all U.S.-issued credit cards earn 1 Loyalty Point per $1 spent. The only exception is the no-annual-fee AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard, which earns a base of 0.5 Loyalty Points per dollar on purchases.

While bonus categories and welcome offers are generally ineligible for earning Loyalty Points, there's an exception to this general rule. A few AAdvantage credit cards offer bonus Loyalty Points for hitting certain spending thresholds:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 10,000 additional Loyalty Points after spending $40,000 in eligible purchases from Jan. 1, 2022, to Feb. 28, 2023.

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®: Earn up to 15,000 additional Loyalty Points  by meeting the specific spending requirements from Jan. 1, 2022, to Feb. 28, 2023. Get 5,000 Loyalty Points if you spend $20,000 on purchases, another 5,000 Loyalty Points when you spend $40,000 on purchases, and a further 5,000 Loyalty Points if you exceed $50,000 on purchases.

Spending on certain AAdvantage partners

In addition to flying and spending, you can also earn Loyalty Points from a selection of other American Airlines AAdvantage partners.

American Airlines lists the following as qualifying partners:

  • Platforms: American Airlines Vacations, AAdvantage eShopping, AAdvantage Dining and SimplyMiles.

  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott International, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Vacations, RocketMiles and stays booked at bookaahotels.com.

  • Rental cars: Avis, Budget, Payless, Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, National, Sixt and anything booked at aa.com/car.

  • Cruises: Cruise vacations booked via bookaacruises.com.

  • Retail: Shell, WeWork, Vinesse, FTD, Vivid Seats, NRG Energy, Reliant Energy, Xoom and Miles for Opinion.

However, you'll find that you only earn Loyalty Points from the base miles earned with these partners, which vary.

Let's take American Airlines Vacations for example. You can book AAVacations flight and hotel packages that earn up to 25,000 AAdvantage miles. However, the base rate for these bookings is just 1,000 miles. The remaining 24,000 bonus AAdvantage miles that you earn won't count as Loyalty Points.

AAdvantage miles earned through any partners not listed are ineligible for earning Loyalty Points.

Activities that DON'T earn Loyalty Points

Here's where American Airlines' theoretically simple program goes way off the rails. Buried in the Frequently Asked Questions section of American Airlines' website about its new program, you'll find a list of AAdvantage miles earning activities that are ineligible as Loyalty Points. Let's dig into each of these exclusions.

Earning bonus miles from special promotions

This is one exclusion that's going to surprise a lot of aspiring AAdvantage elites. Effectively anything that can be considered a bonus will be excluded from earning Loyalty Points.

We confirmed with an American Airlines representative that the following activities count as "bonus miles earned from special promotions" and thus are ineligible for earning Loyalty Points:

  • AAVacations offers, such as "Earn up to 25,000 miles at select resorts and destinations." All AAVacations packages will simply earn 1,000 Loyalty Points, no matter the number of AAdvantage miles earned from booking the package.

  • AAdvantage eShopping offers, such as earning 1,000 bonus miles when you spend $300.

  • AAdvantage Dining offers, such as earning 1,000 bonus miles by spending $25 in your first 30 days.

  • Rental car offers, like "Earn up to 5,000 bonus miles and save up to 35% when you rent with Avis and Budget for 3 or more days." Instead, you'll only earn Loyalty Points at the base earning rate. In the case of Avis, that's just 500 miles for general AAdvantage members.

  • Hyatt offers, such as earning 1,000 bonus miles per night with Hyatt.

Put simply, if an offer has the word "bonus" in it, you shouldn't count on earning additional Loyalty Points beyond the pre-set base miles earned through that offer.

Buying, gifting or transferring miles

AAdvantage members can buy miles for themselves, gift miles to other members or transfer miles from their account to another member's account. For each of these options, American charges high fees, which make them rarely worth doing.

However, it could be more tempting to do so if you were able to generate elite status. Alas, American Airlines excludes all mileage purchases and transfers from earning Loyalty Points.

Flight ticket taxes, fees and other charges

Say you spent $400 on a JetBlue flight. The airline lists that AAdvantage members earn 5 miles per dollar spent on flights, which would mean 2,000 points for this trip.

However, you won't actually earn 2,000 AAdvantage miles or Loyalty Points from this purchase, as you need to deduct any government taxes, airport fees and add-ons — such as preferred seating, checked bags, etc. — before calculating your Loyalty Point earnings.

Converting another program currency to AAdvantage miles

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to American Airlines AAdvantage miles at a 3:1 transfer ratio. Unfortunately, you can't generate any Loyalty Points through transfers like these either.

AAdvantage credit card spending 'accelerators' or 'multipliers'

This is another disappointing exclusion by American Airlines: Not all AAdvantage miles earned through credit cards will earn Loyalty Points.

Some AAdvantage cards earn bonus miles in certain categories. For example, the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and grocery store expenses, including grocery delivery services.

Disappointingly, purchases in bonus categories will still earn bonus AAdvantage miles, but they won’t earn additional Loyalty Points.

The takeaway: Even on American-branded credit cards, you only earn Loyalty Points on the card's base earning rate — 0.5 or 1 Loyalty Point per $1 spent.

AAdvantage credit card welcome bonuses, spend bonuses, etc.

One of the easiest ways to earn AAdvantage miles is by signing up for an AAdvantage credit card. While that remains the case, you won't earn any Loyalty Points on sign-up bonuses, retention offers or other credit card spending bonuses.

Other activities not listed

In addition to this long list of exclusions, American Airlines has an unpublished list of even more activities that won't earn Loyalty Points. These include — but aren't limited to — earning AAdvantage miles through:

  • Bask Bank savings accounts.

  • Donating to Stand Up to Cancer.

American Airlines Loyalty Points aren't actually that simple

American Airlines is touting its new program as being as simple as earning elite status Loyalty Points while you earn AAdvantage miles. While that's generally how the program works, the significant number of exclusions keeps the new program from being as simple as it sounds.

Generally speaking, all AAdvantage miles earned from flying will count as Loyalty Points. When it comes to card spending, count on earning just 1 Loyalty Point per $1 spent — unless you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® or the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® and can earn a Loyalty Point bonus.

You can also earn Loyalty Points through other AAdvantage partners. However, don't count on earning Loyalty Points from any promotions that have the word "bonus" in their name.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines.


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