Guide to the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Geoff Williams
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Geoff Williams
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American Airlines is one of the e largest airlines in the world by fleet size, with 1,521 active planes at the end of 2023. With major U.S. hubs in Dallas, Charlotte and several other cities around the nation, American Airlines sends off nearly 6,700 flights each day to almost 350 destinations in more than 50 countries worldwide. As one of the nation’s legacy carriers, the airline has a long history and is a top choice for many travelers.

If you’re going to fly on American Airlines, you’ll want to make the most of it by enrolling in the company’s frequent flyer program, AAdvantage. As an AAdvantage member, you not only earn miles on American Airlines flights but also on those operated by any of the 13 Oneworld alliance carriers and a dozen non-alliance partners.

This American Airlines AAdvantage guide will cover everything you need to know about earning and redeeming AAdvantage miles.

What is the American Airlines AAdvantage program?

The American Airlines AAdvantage program is a frequent flyer loyalty program. The more money you spend with American Airlines and its partners, the more miles you earn and the more loyalty points you earn. Earning points helps you toward AAdvantage elite status.

Here are some reasons to love the American Airlines AAdvantage program:

  • Generous award chart with some  flights available for as few as 12,500 miles
  • No fuel surcharges on American Airlines award flights and somec Oneworld alliance carriers
  • An extensive list of American Airlines AAdvantage partners, including Oneworld members and non-alliance carriers
  • Multiple earning opportunities that don’t involve flying

However, no program is perfect. Here are some of the drawbacks of the AAdvantage program:

  • Earning miles is based more on how much you spend rather than how much you fly
  • Unless you hold an eligible cobranded AAdvantage credit card, miles expire if your account is inactive for 24 months
  • Stopovers are not permitted on award flights (though you can book one-way flights to create an open jaw-type situation)
  • There’s a fee of $5 per 1,000 miles to transfer  miles with family members or friends

Overall, the AAdvantage program offers a lot of bang for the buck, primarily because it offers reward flight options to nearly anywhere you’d want to fly. The introduction of Loyalty Points can make achieving elite status easierr to achieve. Any frequent flyer knows that earning status – the higher the tier, the better – makes traveling more comfortable and, in some cases, less expensive.

Is the American Airlines AAdvantage program free?

Yes, the American Airlines loyalty program is completely free. More than that, being a member could ultimately lead to earning enough miles to redeem for reward flights or other cost-saving redemptions.

Those who frequently fly with the airline will be rewarded with perks and additional reward miles for flights and other redemptions.

How do you earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles?

Every time you earn an eligible AA mile, you’ll also earn a Loyalty Point. While miles can be used for flights, upgrades, and other redemption options, Loyalty Points are solely used to earn status with the airline, and different status tiers come with different benefits which we’ll outline below.

There are three ways to earn miles.

  1. Travel on status-qualifying airlines: This includes flights on American Airlines, Oneworld members and partner carriers. For every $1 you spend on airfare booked directly with the airline, you’ll earn five miles (Basic Economy only earns two miles per $1); therefore, a $250 flight earns you 1,250 redeemable miles and 1,250 loyalty points as well. Furthermore, if you achieve an AAdvantage Elite status, you’ll get more miles than five for every $1 spent. (Tiers are discussed in further detail below.)
  2. Purchase things with your AAdvantage credit card: For almost every American Airlines credit card, one eligible mile earned equals one Loyalty Point. Note that bonuses and accelerators don’t earn Loyalty Points; therefore, earning three miles per $1 spent on gas, for instance, with a co-branded card will still only earn you one Loyalty Point per $1 spent. However, the AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard earns just one mile for every $2 spent on non-American Airlines purchases. Other rewards credit cards can earn up to two or more miles for every $1 you spend.
  3. Shopping programs: Members can also earn Loyalty Points by spending through programs such as eShopping, AAdvantage Dining and SimplyMiles.

As you accumulate more miles, you progress through four levels of elite status. You earn status based on the number of Loyalty Points you accrue during each 12-month period from March 1 to February 28 of each calendar year.

What are the AAdvantage status levels?

The different AAdvantage status levels include:

Base level status (qualify with 15,000 Loyalty Points)

  • Earn five miles per dollar on base flight miles earned when traveling on American Airlines or with an eligible partner. American Airlines defines an eligible partner as flights marketed by American Airlines, Oneworld Airlines, and GOL Airlines.
  • Group 5 boarding for the remainder of the status year.
  • Your choice of one reward of either priority privileges and Group 4 boarding for one trip or five preferred seat coupons. 

Gold status (qualify with 40,000 Loyalty Points)

  • A 40% status mileage bonus on base flight miles earned when traveling on American Airlines or with a partner. In other words, when you buy airfare and hold Gold status, you’ll earn seven miles per $1 spent, a 40% bonus.
  • Complimentary upgrades if space is available on North American flights. It’s automatic; if there’s an upgrade available, you’ll get it without asking.
  • Complimentary preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats for you and up to eight passengers traveling on your reservation.
  • Priority lane access through the airport at check-in, security and Group 4 boarding.
  • One free checked bag
  • Same-day standby priority
  • Access to Gold reservations agents
  • Confers Ruby status with Oneworld alliance partners
  • 24-hour upgrade window (if you want to make upgrades 24 hours before your flight, you can)
  • At 60,000 Loyalty Points, get Loyalty Rewards of Avis Preferred Plus status and a 20% Loyalty Point bonus when you spend with select partners within six months of unlocking this reward

Platinum status (qualify with 75,000 Loyalty Points)

Gold status benefits, plus:

  • A 60% bonus on base flight miles earned when traveling on American Airlines or with a partner airline. This means, having Platinum status, when you purchase a ticket, you’ll earn eight miles per $1, a 60% bonus.
  • Premium cabin upgrades on North American flights for you and one traveling companion, confirmed as early as 48 hours before traveling. Plus, complimentary upgrades on Alaska Airlines.
  • Two free checked bags plus priority handling
  • Group 3 priority boarding
  • Access to Platinum reservations agents
  • Confers Sapphire status with Oneworld alliance partners
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • Loyalty rewards at 100,000 Loyalty Points granting Avis President’s Club status and a 30% Loyalty Point bonus when you spend with select partners within six months of unlocking this reward

Platinum Pro (qualify with 125,000 Loyalty Points)

Gold and Platinum benefits, plus:

  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro members earn nine points per $1, an 80% bonus
  • Discounts on Admirals Club day passes, and with select partners including hotel and car rental award bookings 
  • Unlimited upgrades for North American flights with confirmation as early as 72 hours before traveling
  • Three free checked bags plus priority handling
  • Free same-day flight changes and standby priority
  • Access to Platinum Pro reservation agents
  • Confers Emerald status with Oneworld alliance partners
  • At 175,000 Loyalty Points choose one of the following Loyalty Rewards:
    • 5,000 Loyalty Points
    • 2 systemwide upgrades
    • 20,000 bonus miles (25,000 bonus miles – AAdvantage credit cardmember exclusive)
    • 6 Admirals Club® One-Day Passes
    • $200 Trip Credit ($250 Trip Credit – AAdvantage credit cardmember exclusive)
    • Carbon offset
    • $250 donation to select nonprofit organization
    • 2 Gifts of AAdvantage Gold® status
    • 35,000 AAdvantage® miles toward a Mastercard Priceless Experience (AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive)

Executive Platinum (qualify with 200,000 loyalty points)

Gold, Platinum and Platinum Pro benefits, plus:

  • A 120% bonus on base flight miles earned when traveling on American Airlines or with a partner airline. You’re now earning 11 miles per $1 (a 120% bonus).
  • Unlimited upgrades for North American flights with confirmation as early as 100 hours before traveling.
  • Complimentary food and drink when traveling in the main cabin
  • Access to Executive Platinum desk with no reservation service fee
  • At 250,000 Loyalty Points choose two of the following Loyalty Rewards:
    • 15,000 Loyalty Points
    • 2 systemwide upgrades
    • 20,000 bonus miles (30,000 bonus miles – AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive)
    • 6 Admirals Club® One-Day Passes
    • Admirals Club® membership
      (requires 2 choices)
    • $200 Trip Credit ($250 Trip Credit – AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive)
    • Carbon offset
    • $250 donation to select nonprofit organizations
    • 2 Gifts of AAdvantage Gold status
    • Bang & Olufsen product (requires 2 choices)
    • 1 Flagship® Lounge Single Visit Pass (2 Flagship® Lounge Single Visit Passes – AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive
    • 35,000 AAdvantage miles toward a Mastercard Priceless Experience (AAdvantage credit cardmember exclusive)
  • At 400,000 Loyalty Points choose two rewards from:
    • 1 systemwide upgrade
    • 25,000 bonus miles
    • Admirals Club® membership
      (requires 2 choices)
    • $200 Trip Credit ($250 Trip Credit – AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive)
    • Carbon offset
    • Gift of AAdvantage Platinum® status
    • Bang & Olufsen product
      (requires 2 choices)
    • 2 Flagship® Lounge Single Visit Passes
    • 1 Flagship® First Dining visit pass
    • 40,000 AAdvantage® miles toward a Mastercard Priceless® Experience* (AAdvantage® credit cardmember exclusive)

Once you hit a million miles traveled, you gain Million Miler status and Gold status for life. Those who make it to 2 million miles receive Platinum status for life. Additional bonus miles and upgrades come with these levels as well.

How much are AAdvantage miles worth?

Currently, the consensus among travel websites is that an AAdvantage® bonus mile is worth about 1.5 cents. However, the value of your miles will vary significantly depending on how you use them.

Award flights start at 7,500 in the U.S., although flights at that mileage typically are domestic short-haul flights. American Airlines has an award chart showing the least possible number of miles required to book a seat one-way between different regions of the world. In practice, you may be required to use significantly more miles than the listed price based on destination and demand.

AAdvantage also allows members to redeem miles for vacations through AA vacations or buy passes for lounge access through the Admirals Club. Miles can also be transferred to hotel and car rental programs for redemption or donated to charity. However, all these options usually result in lower value than redeeming miles for flights.

What are the benefits of the American Airlines AAdvantage program?

As you accumulate AAdvantage miles, redeeming them can mean free flights (or at least lower-cost flights) to more than 350 destinations in more than 60 countries around the world. You can redeem your miles to bring the price down of vacation packages, car rentals and hotel rooms. You can redeem them for online shopping purchases. You also redeem points to purchase or renew your membership in the Admirals Club lounge (there are 50 of them in airports around the country and more than 60 partner lounges around the world).

Where the American Airlines AAdvantage program really shines, however, is in the world of upgrades. All of the elite tiers offer an opportunity to be upgraded. If you’ve been racking up Loyalty Points with the American Airlines AAdvantage program, upgrades are complimentary in certain situations, and that’s a big selling point. You also may wind up with free checked bags and priority boarding.

Credit cards that earn AAdvantage bonus miles and Loyalty Points

Let’s take a closer look at some of the co-branded credit cards that can provide you with additional perks as an AAdvantage member. For instance, Citi offers several cards that can earn AAdvantage bonus miles and now Loyalty Points. Here’s how their benefits stack up.

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  • Two miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Two miles per $1 spent on dining and gas purchases
  • One mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn one Loyalty Point for every one eligible mile earned from purchases. NOTE: “Eligible miles” are base miles only and don’t include accelerators or bonuses
  • No cap on the miles you can earn
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your credit card membership year
  • One free checked bag for you and up to four traveling companions on domestic flights
  • Preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • Access to reduced mileage awards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: AnnualFees

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  • Two miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Two miles per $1 spent with telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations
  • One mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn one Loyalty Point for every one eligible mile earned from purchases. NOTE: “Eligible miles” are base miles only and don’t include accelerators or bonuses
  • No cap on the miles you can earn
  • Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening.
  • One free checked bag for you and up to four traveling companions on American Airlines itineraries
  • Preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • 25% discount on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases
  • Access to reduced mileage awards
  • American Airlines Companion Certificate after spending $30,000 in a year
  • 24/7 personal business assistant to help with travel arrangements
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: AnnualFees

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  • Two miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Two miles per $1 spent at grocery stores
  • One mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn one Loyalty Point for every one eligible mile earned from purchases. NOTE: “Eligible miles” are base miles only and don’t include accelerators or bonuses
  • No cap on the miles you can earn
  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first three months of opening your account
  • 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • Access to the Citi Concierge to help with your travel and planning needs
  • No annual fee

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  • Four miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases on an ongoing basis
  • One mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn one Loyalty Point for every one eligible mile earned from purchases. NOTE: “Eligible miles” are base miles only and don’t include accelerators or bonuses
  • No cap on the miles you can earn
  • Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • Complimentary membership to the Admirals Club which provides lounge access at locations around the world
  • Dedicated check-in areas, expedited screening where available and priority boarding
  • One free checked bag for you and up to eight traveling companions on domestic American Airlines itineraries
  • 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • Dedicate concierge service
  • Access to reduced mileage awards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: AnnualFees

If you plan to frequently fly with American Airlines, it’s probably worth having a co-branded credit card. Not only do they provide extra perks for AAdvantage members, but they also come with all the benefits standard on other cards such as $0 liability for unauthorized charges.However, if you want a bit more flexibility with how you travel, while still having the opportunity to earn airline miles, you might want to consider a credit card with a transferable rewards program or one that allows you to redeem your travel rewards for a wide variety of airlines. It’s worth noting, however, that none of the transferable credit card reward programs (American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Wells Fargo Rewards and Bilt Rewards) allow transfers to American Airlines.

Additional travel rewards credit card options

Co-branded credit cards offer perks and features that can benefit anyone who regularly flies that airline. If you find yourself shopping around for the cheapest price and best times rather than going for an American Airlines ticket no matter what, a general travel rewards credit card could be a better, more beneficial card for you.

With the cards below, you can earn miles for flights with American Airlines or any other airline, for that matter. Another major perk with a general travel rewards card is that you can “double dip” when it comes to your rewards. Buy your American Airlines flight with your card_name, for instance, to earn Ultimate Rewards on that purchase and then earn AAdvantage® bonus miles for your flight as well.

Here are a couple of options you might consider if you’re in the market for more flexibility with your flights.

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  • Earn 5X total points on all travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, including eligible delivery services and takeout; 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 3X points on select streaming services; 2X points on travel purchases; and 1X point on all other purchases
  • Option for 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs, including some Oneworld alliance airlines
  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Travel
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points (worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening an account.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: AnnualFees 

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  • Earn two miles on every $1 spent
  • Redeem rewards for hotel stays or flights with any brand, including American Airlines, or transfer miles to a number of loyalty programs
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: AnnualFees

For additional options, see our top picks for best travel rewards credit cards.

Is the American Airlines AAdvantage program worth it?

Yes, it absolutely is, if you fly American Airlines often, there’s no downside to joining the loyalty program. The program offers a chance to earn miles that you can use towards reducing the cost of future flights, or other American Airlines spending like seat upgrades or lounge access. If your loyalty lies with another airline it may not be as beneficial, but as it’s free to join, signing up can’t hurt.

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Geoff Williams
CardRatings Contributor

Geoff is a freelance journalist and has been since the 1990s. He specializes in personal finance and small business issues and has seen his work published with numerous news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, CNNMoney.com, Reuters, The Washington Post and Consumer Reports. He also...Read more

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