American Airlines AAdvantage: Your Complete Guide [2020]

This guide to American Airlines AAdvantage will help you navigate the structure of one of the most rewarding airline loyalty programs around.
Last updated Oct 1, 2020 | By Ben Walker
Man walking down airplane aisle

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Airline travel rewards programs provide loyal customers with plenty of opportunities to earn rewards and benefits as they fly. Benefits may include bonus points or miles, plus elite status tiers that can enhance your travel experience.

Many travelers opt for one of the best travel credit cards or one of the best airline credit cards to further boost their travel rewards. If you compare credit cards between different airlines, it’s easy to see the value in the cards provided by American Airlines. These co-branded cards come with huge earning potential that can help you fly for free using AAdvantage miles.

In this American Airlines AAdvantage guide, we’ll discuss what the AAdvantage program is, the different elite status tiers, how to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles, and the best credit cards for American Airlines travelers. This will help you learn how to navigate the AAdvantage program and push your travels to the next level.

Here’s how the AAdvantage program works.

Jump To

What is the AAdvantage program?

AAdvantage is the airline loyalty, or frequent-flyer, program for American Airlines. The program was started in 1981 and is considered the first airline loyalty program ever created, though the first American Airlines flight was flown nearly 100 years ago in 1926.

Today, the American Airlines AAdvantage program is free to join and rewards its members as they take American Airlines or partner flights. You earn American Airlines miles within the AAdvantage program, which can be redeemed for award flights, seat upgrades, hotel stays, and much more.

If you fly often enough with American Airlines or its partners, you can achieve certain elite status tiers and the benefits that come with them. These benefits can completely upgrade your American Airlines flying experience, but they aren’t easily attainable by the infrequent traveler.

In general, the more you fly with American Airlines, the better rewards and benefits you can receive through the AAdvantage program.

What are the AAdvantage elite status tiers?

AAdvantage members can achieve elite status by meeting certain qualifications during a calendar year. Once you achieve a status, you’ll immediately receive all the associated benefits, which may include free checked bags. Earning elite status is one of the best ways to avoid American Airlines baggage fees.

Tier name Elite status qualifications Benefits
AAdvantage Gold
  • 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)
  • 30 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs)
  • $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)
  • One free checked bag
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra Seats at check-in
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 24-hour upgrade window
  • 40% elite mileage bonus
AAdvantage Platinum
  • 50,000 EQMs
  • 60 EQSs
  • $6,000 EQDs
  • Two free checked bags
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • 48-hour upgrade window
  • 60% elite mileage bonus
AAdvantage Platinum Pro
  • 75,000 EQMs
  • 90 EQSs
  • $9,000 EQDs
  • Two free checked bags
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
  • 72-hour upgrade window
  • 80% elite mileage bonus
AAdvantage Executive Platinum
  • 100,000 EQMs
  • 120 EQSs
  • $15,000 EQDs
  • Three free checked bags
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades
  • 100-hour upgrade window
  • Four one-way systemwide upgrades
  • 120% elite mileage bonus
  • Expanded award seat availability on American Airlines flights
  • Additional rewards starting at 150,000 EQMs

Note: EQMs are Elite Qualifying Miles, EQSs are Elite Qualifying Segments, and EQDs are Elite Qualifying Dollars. You can qualify for elite status during a calendar year based on EQMs + EQDs or EQSs + EQDs.

AAdvantage Gold

AAdvantage Gold is the lowest status within the AAdvantage tiers, though it still has many valuable benefits. To achieve this tier, you’ll have to fly at least 30 qualifying segments (EQSs) or earn enough EQMs from the flights you fly. In addition, you’ll also have to satisfy the condition of $3,000 worth of EQDs, which are calculated based on what you pay for your flights.

AAdvantage Gold benefits include:

  • One free checked bag: Receive one checked bag for free with AAdvantage Gold.
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats at check-in: Access Main Cabin Extra seating, if available, for you and up to eight passengers traveling in the same reservation. This includes early boarding, extra legroom, a free carry-on, complimentary snacks and drinks, and free in-flight entertainment.
  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades on flights 500 miles or less: Gold members receive complimentary upgrades to the next class of service on flights 500 miles or less.
  • 24-hour upgrade window: Any requested upgrades will be confirmed 24 hours prior to departure.
  • 40% elite mileage bonus: Receive a 40% bonus to the standard rate on miles earned for purchased flights. This equates to seven miles per dollar spent.
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding: Gold members can use business lanes to check in or first-class check-in if there are no business lanes. Also, select airports have exclusive security screening lanes for Gold members. For boarding, Gold members board in Group 4.
  • Complimentary same-day standby: If you’d like to fly standby for a different flight on the same day of travel between select locations, there’s no charge.
  • Discounted Admirals Club membership: Receive a special discount on an Admirals Club membership for you or your household.
  • Exclusive service desk: Access the personalized AAdvantage Gold service desk for assistance with reservations, upgrades, award claims, account inquiries, and customer service.
  • Exclusive partner offers and special discounts: Access elite status offers and discounts from AAdvantage participant companies. This may include discounts on hotel stays and car rentals.

AAdvantage Platinum

The next level in the AAdvantage elite statuses, AAdvantage Platinum has better benefits than Gold, but higher requirements as well. You’ll need to fly at least 60 qualifying segments (EQSs) or earn 50,000 EQMs, plus spend $6,000 worth of EQDs to qualify for Platinum status.

AAdvantage Platinum benefits include all Gold benefits, with a few differences:

  • Two free checked bags: Receive two free checked bags instead of one.
  • Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats: In addition to Main Cabin Extra seating, Platinum members can also receive Preferred seat upgrades for free.
  • 48-hour upgrade window: The upgrade confirmation window is doubled to 48 hours for Platinum members.
  • 60% elite mileage bonus: Receive eight miles per dollar spent when you purchase flights.
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding: Platinum members can always use first-class lanes for check-in and will board the plane in Group 3.
  • Priority bag delivery: Checked bags are tagged as priority and are delivered quicker to the baggage claim area on American flights.

AAdvantage Platinum Pro

To earn AAdvantage Platinum Pro status and its coveted benefits, you’ll have to triple the amount of effort needed for Gold status. Platinum Pro requires 90 qualifying segments (EQSs) or 75,000 EQMs and $9,000 worth of EQDs.

AAdvantage Platinum Pro benefits include all Platinum benefits, with a few differences:

  • Complimentary auto-requested upgrades: Platinum Pro members aren’t limited to complimentary upgrades on only flights of 500 miles or less. Instead, you receive unlimited, complimentary upgrades for any eligible flight.
  • 72-hour upgrade window: The upgrade confirmation window is increased to 72 hours for Platinum Pro members.
  • 80% elite mileage bonus: Receive nine miles per dollar spent when you purchase flights.
  • Complimentary same-day flight change: Same-day flight changes are free as a Platinum Pro member.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum

The AAdvantage Executive Platinum status is the highest tier you can reach in the AAdvantage program. To attain this level, be prepared to get in some serious flying and spending. Executive Platinum requires 120 qualifying segments (EQSs) or 100,000 EQMs, plus $15,000 worth of EQDs.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum benefits include all Platinum Pro benefits, with a few extra perks:

  • Three free checked bags: Receive a total of three free checked bags.
  • Complimentary upgrades on award tickets: Award bookings will also include complimentary upgrades for Executive Platinum members.
  • 100-hour upgrade window: The upgrade confirmation window is increased to 100 hours.
  • Four one-way systemwide upgrades: Receive four systemwide upgrades each time you qualify or re-qualify for Executive Platinum status. These upgrades can be given to whomever you choose and used on any eligible American Airlines one-way flight.
  • 120% elite mileage bonus: Receive 11 miles per dollar spent on flights you purchase.
  • Expanded award seat availability on American Airlines flights: Executive Platinum members and one companion can access additional award seating on American Airlines flights.
  • Additional rewards starting at 150,000 EQMs: Choose from special rewards when you reach 150,000 EQMs, 200,000 EQMs, and 250,000 EQMs. This may include systemwide upgrades, bonus miles, or gifting an elite status to someone.
  • Complimentary snack and beverage in the main cabin: Receive a complimentary alcoholic beverage and one snack when traveling in the main cabin on American Airlines flights.
  • Waived ticketing service charge: Eligible tickets have their ticketing service charges waived.
  • Waived AAdvantage award change fee: Eligible award change or reinstatement fees are waived for Executive Platinum members.
  • Guaranteed availability in the main cabin: Executive Platinum members and one companion can book full-fare tickets in the main cabin on sold-out American Airlines flights and have availability.
  • Waitlist priority for purchased first or business class: Executive Members are placed on the top of the waitlist if they’re unable to confirm a first- or business-class seat on American Airlines flights.

How to earn AAdvantage miles

The best ways to earn AAdvantage miles are by flying, using certain credit cards, and taking advantage of deals from American Airlines partners.

Flights

The more you fly, the more miles you’ll earn. As you purchase and take American Airlines flights, you’ll earn miles for each flight. Just be aware that award flights don’t typically earn any miles. Also, keep in mind that flights with partner airlines can also earn you miles. So don’t think you’re limited to flying on only American Airlines flights to earn AAdvantage miles.

Airline partners include the entire oneworld alliance and other select airlines.

Oneworld alliance airlines:

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

Other partner airlines:

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

Credit cards

Credit cards are an easy way to earn miles all the time, no matter whether you’re traveling. With certain credit cards, you’ll earn extra points when you purchase American Airlines flights, whereas other cards may offer bonus points on everyday purchases.

In addition, many co-branded American Airlines credit cards offer big sign-up bonuses for new cardmembers. This can really boost your earning potential and net you thousands of miles without even taking a flight.

AAdvantage partners

American Airlines partners with loads of other companies to provide its customers with plenty of opportunities to continue earning American Airlines miles. The number of miles you can earn with each partner will vary, but this could be a great way to earn miles on things you were already planning on doing.

AAdvantage partners include:

Hotels:

  • World of Hyatt
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • IHG Rewards
  • Rocketmiles
  • PointsHound
  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

Car rental agencies:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Payless
  • Thrifty

Cruise companies:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Costa Cruises
  • Cunard Line
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Holland America Line
  • MSC Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Virgin Voyages

Other

  • LifeLock
  • Miles From Home
  • Reliant Energy
  • SimplyMiles

You can also earn miles directly through AAdvantage online booking and shopping portals, like American Airlines Vacations, American Airlines Hotels, AAdvantage eShopping, and AAdvantage Dining

The best credit cards for earning AAdvantage miles

To help you earn the most AAdvantage miles, you’ll likely need a good credit card to back you up. Here are some of the best credit cards for earning AAdvantage miles:

Sign-up bonus Rewards rate Annual fee
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases $99 (waived first year)
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 2X miles on American Airlines purchases and 1X miles for every $1 spent on other purchases $450
CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first 4 months Earn 2X miles per dollar on all eligible American Airlines purchases and on purchases in select business categories (telecommunications, cable, satellite, car rental, gas), and 1X miles on other purchases $99 (waived first year)
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card Earn 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (and a $50 statement credit) after making $500 in purchases in the first 3 months 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at grocery stores and on American Airlines purchases, plus 1X on everything else $0
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases $95

The majority of these cards are co-branded American Airlines cards, which means they solely earn AAdvantage miles when you use them on purchases. However, there is one Chase credit card included that isn’t co-branded with American Airlines. It doesn’t necessarily earn AAdvantage miles, but its rewards can still be used to book American Airlines flights.

Here are the highlights of each card:

  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Earn a generous 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months. The first checked bag is free for you and up to four travel companions on domestic American Airlines flights. You also receive preferred boarding and 25% off in-flight food and beverages when purchased with this card.

    Free checked bags & more

    Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

    Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

    Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

    Benefits

    • 50,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
    • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
    • First checked bag free
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Earn a generous 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Also, receive a complimentary Admirals Club membership and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement. At the airport, receive priority boarding, priority check-in, priority airport screening, and a free checked bag. In-flight food and beverages cost 25% less when you use this card.

    Admirals Club Membership and More

    Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

    Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

    Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

    Benefits

    • 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus mile sign-up offer
    • 2X miles on American Airlines purchases
    • First checked bag free
    • Admirals Club membership and priority check-in

  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: Earn a generous 65000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 4 months. Cardholders receive a free checked bag, preferred boarding on American Airlines flights, and 25% savings on in-flight Wi-Fi, food, and beverage purchases when you use this card. You can also earn an American Airlines Companion Certificate after $30,000 in purchases each account year.

    Double miles on American Airlines purchases

    CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

    CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

    CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

    Benefits

    • 65,000 bonus mile intro offer
    • 2X miles for American Airlines purchases and across several popular categories
    • Free first checked bag
    • Preferred boarding

  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: Earn a generous 10,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months. Also, save 25% on in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights with this card. This card has a $0 annual fee.

    Earn American Airlines miles

    American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

    American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

    American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

    Benefits

    • Earn up to 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent
    • No mileage caps
    • 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases
    • No annual fee

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Earn a generous 80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed in the Chase travel portal for flights, including with American Airlines. Also, cardmembers receive complimentary travel insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty benefits.

    #1 Travel Rewards Card

    Benefits

    • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
    • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
    • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Premium travel protection benefits

How to redeem your AAdvantage miles

The AAdvantage program provides a variety of redemption options for your miles. Often, though, the best redemption for your miles will be on award bookings with American Airlines or American Airlines partner airlines. These redemptions typically provide the most value for your miles.

However, you can also choose these redemption options:

  • Hotel stays: Use your miles to book hotel stays.
  • Car rentals: Use your miles to book car rentals.
  • Vacations: Use your miles to book vacations, which may include flights, hotel stays, and/or car rentals.
  • Admirals Club: Use your miles to buy or renew an Admirals Club membership.
  • Five Star Service: Use your miles to access luxury experiences while you travel with helicopter services like PS, BLADE, and more.
  • Products: Use your miles to buy products, like newspaper subscriptions.
  • Charities: Donate your miles to charities like Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Red Cross, Feeding America, and more.

Here are the steps to take if you want to redeem your miles:

  1. Visit aa.com and log in with your username and password or AAdvantage number and find the “Redeem miles” option under the “AAdvantage” dropdown menu.
  2. Choose from the many redemption options.
  3. If you want to redeem your miles for an award flight, you can do it straight from the American Airlines homepage. Be sure to select the “Redeem miles” option when creating your booking.

FAQs about the AAdvantage program

How much are AAdvantage program miles worth?

AAdvantage program miles are typically worth about 1.4 cents per mile. So if you have 10,000 AAdvantage miles, they’d be worth $140. This valuation can change depending on the cash price of what you’re redeeming your miles for. Often, award flights will offer the most value for your miles.

How much does it cost to join the AAdvantage program?

The AAdvantage program is free to join, so it’s easy to get started and begin earning miles immediately when you book American Airlines flights.

What can AAdvantage miles be used for?

AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for a variety of things. Here’s a full list of AAdvantage miles redemption options:

  • Award flights
  • Seat upgrades
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rentals
  • Vacations
  • Admirals Club membership
  • Luxury experiences
  • Newspaper subscriptions
  • Charitable donations

How many AAdvantage miles do you need for a free flight?

You need at least 7,500 AAdvantage miles for a free award flight on American Airlines. This would be for a flight within the U.S. (not including Alaska and Hawaii) that’s less than 500 miles. For a complete listing of award flight redemptions and the miles you need, check out the different American Airlines award charts.

Is it worth it to buy miles on American?

It’s typically not worth it to buy miles on American Airlines because the value isn’t good enough for what you’re paying. However, with certain promotions and bonuses, it could be worth it, especially if you really need some miles for a specific redemption. Be sure to calculate how many miles you can get for your money when deciding whether it’s worth it.

The bottom line on the AAdvantage program

For frequent travelers, it can make a lot of sense to stick with one airline loyalty program and reap the sweet rewards and benefits that come with it. Spreading out your business between different airlines would make it really tough to earn any elite status, which is why it’s better to focus on one at a time.

With AAdvantage, the benefits may be well worth the effort you put in to achieve them. Free checked bags, priority boarding, complimentary upgrades, and so much more can really change the way you experience your travels. Remember, there are different ways to earn AAdvantage miles, but using credit cards is a tried-and-true method of increasing your overall earning potential.

Free checked bags & more

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Benefits

  • 50,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
  • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free