AA’s Loyalty Point Pursuit game: Earn status w/out flying

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Let the game begin!  As of January 1st, 2022, American Airlines has moved to a new way for members to earn elite status.  The old EQMs and EQDs are gone.  Now, we can earn elite status simply by earning lots of Loyalty Points.  The exciting thing about this is that Loyalty Points can be earned not just by flying but also through credit card spend, shopping portal rewards, SimplyMiles rewards, and more.  Ready to play?

Why Pursue AA Loyalty Points?

Those who fly American Airlines a fair bit should be stoked by these changes.  For those willing to do a combination of flying and spend-related games, it should be easy to earn a higher level of status than ever before, or to get to top tier status more easily.  And once you have high level status, you’ll be eligible for more upgrades (even on Basic Economy tickets), free preferred seat selection, better point earnings on flights, etc.

Then there are people like me.  I don’t fly AA enough to care much about getting upgrades on AA.  I mean, I’d be thrilled to get upgraded if/when I fly AA, but I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to earn status for that potential benefit.  That said, there are some benefits that people like me who don’t normally fly AA might value:

  • OneWorld Elite Status: If you get AA’s Platinum Pro status or higher, you’ll qualify for OneWorld Emerald status.  This means that when flying a OneWorld carrier, you would get access to both first and business class lounges (except for AA’s own lounges if you earn OneWorld Emerald through AA), OneWorld first class check-in, priority boarding, extra free luggage.
  • Status Matches: When lucrative elite status matches are available, having high level AA elite status may be your key to getting a great match to an airline that you’ll fly more often.
  • Better Basic Economy on AA: Sometimes AA offers amazingly cheap Basic Economy prices.  With elite status, there’s less downside to booking these.  Yes, they’re still non-changeable and non-refundable, but those flights earn Loyalty Points and with elite status you can select your seat, check bags for free, and qualify for upgrades.
  • Elite Perks on Alaska and JetBlue: When flying JetBlue you can get priority check-in, security, and boarding; priority bag delivery; free checked bags; and a status mileage bonus.  When flying Alaska, you can get all of the above plus preferred seating, free same-day flight change, complementary Premium Class seats, complementary upgrades to first class (Platinum Pro and higher).

As attractive as the above benefits might be, my real motivation for wanting to earn AA elite status is that I want to play the game.  This is my warped idea of fun!  I’m betting that there will be many opportunities to stack shopping deals in order to earn AA miles and elite status extremely cheaply.  In fact, I already found some promising opportunities (as detailed in the examples later in this post).

The Game

The AA Loyalty Point Game can be played alone or with any number of friends.  Each player’s goal is to earn enough Loyalty Points to reach a meaningful level of elite status.  In 2022, we have 14 months to earn enough points (January 2022 through February 2023) but in future years we’ll have just 12 months (March through Feb).  This goal would be easy to achieve if cost was no object, but I’m adding a key restriction: the value of redeemable miles and Loyalty Points earned must outweigh fees and rewards not earned due to passing up more lucrative options.

How to Win

Before starting the game, decide which elite level you’re going for.  You win if you reach the targeted level before time is up (before March 1, 2023) and if you control costs appropriately.  Here are the target levels to choose from (personally I’m going for Platinum Pro):

  • Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points
    Primary benefits: OneWorld Ruby, free upgrades on short flights (<= 500 miles), 40% mileage bonus, complimentary Main Cabin Extra Seats at check-in, complimentary Preferred Seats, 1 free checked bag.
  • Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points
    Primary benefits: OneWorld Sapphire, free upgrades on short flights (<= 500 miles), 48-hour upgrade window, 60% mileage bonus, Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, 2 free checked bags
  • Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points
    Primary benefits: OneWorld Emerald, complimentary upgrades, 72-hour upgrade window, 80% mileage bonus, Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, 2 free checked bags, 1 Loyalty Choice Award (if you also complete 30+ AA flight segments).
  • Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points
    Primary benefits: OneWorld Emerald, complimentary upgrades on American and Alaska Airlines, 100-hour upgrade window, 120% mileage bonus, Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, 3 free checked bags, 2 Loyalty Choice Awards (if you also complete 30+ AA flight segments).

Accounting for Costs

Most opportunities to earn Loyalty Points without flying require making purchases.  So, there are two types of purchases to account for:

  • Purchases you would have made anyway: Account for rewards not earned.  When buying things you would have bought anyway, the key is to account for the fact that you could have earned cash back (or other rewards) instead.  For example, if you pay with an AA card that earns 1 mile per dollar instead of a card that earns 2% cash back, then your cost is 2 cents per mile.  Similarly, if you shop through the AA eShopping portal to earn 3 points per dollar instead of a cash back portal that offers 9% cash back, then your cost is 3 cents per mile.
  • Purchases you make only for the Loyalty Points:  Sometimes there are deals that are so good that it’s worth paying for something even if you don’t want it.  For example, it’s not unusual for people to sign up for something like LifeLock just for the rewards (and then to cancel their subscription soon afterwards).  In those cases, you can simply account for your costs directly.  If you pay $100 and get 5,000 miles then your cost is $100/5000 = $0.02 (2 cents per mile).

How much should you pay for Loyalty Points and redeemable miles?  In many cases, the number of Loyalty Points and redeemable miles you earn will be the same.  For example, if shopping through the AA eShopping Portal for an offer that advertises 1,500 points, you should get both 1,500 Loyalty Points and 1,500 redeemable miles.  However, when the same portal also offers a special promotion for bonus miles (e.g. 300 bonus miles with $100 spend across all portal purchases), those will most likely only be redeemable miles.

LoyaltyMiles: When you earn both Loyalty Points and redeemable miles at the same rate (which is the norm), let’s call those LoyaltyMiles (I made that up).

How much are LoyaltyMiles worth to you?  Before playing this game, it’s important to decide how much LoyaltyMiles are worth to you.  One rough way to do this is to add together the amount you would pay per mile to buy AA redeemable miles plus the amount you would pay for Loyalty Points (if you could buy them).  For example, maybe you know that you can always get significantly more than 1 cent per point value from your AA miles, so you would pay 1 cent per mile to buy redeemable miles.  Plus, lets say your target elite status is Executive Platinum (requiring 200K Loyalty Points) and you would be willing to buy that level of status for $1,000 (a made-up number).  In that case, you would be willing to pay $1,000 / 200K = half a cent per Loyalty Point.  Taken together, LoyaltyMiles then are worth 1.5 cents each to you.  In other words, you would be fine with paying 1.5 cents per LoyaltyMile earned.

In my case, since AA status isn’t very meaningful to me and since I already have over a million AA miles, I’ll pay no more than half a cent per Loyalty Point and half a cent per redeemable mile.  In other words, I don’t want to pay more than 1 cent per LoyaltyMile.  This means that, unless an AA credit card is offering a big promotion, I shouldn’t ever put spend on an AA card.  With my Bank of America Premium Rewards card I earn 2.62% cash back on all spend and so using an AA credit card that earns only 1 LoyaltyMile per dollar is like paying 2.62 cents per LoyaltyMile (because I could have earned 2.62% cash back instead of earning 1 LoyaltyMile).  That’s way above my budget of 1 cent per LoyaltyMile.

Tools for Earning Loyalty Points

As we reported separately, the following non-flight activities earn Loyalty Points:

One Mile at a Time reports that the following DO NOT earn Loyalty points:

  • Buying, gifting, or transferring miles
  • Government taxes, fees, and other charges associated with buying airline tickets
  • Conversion of another program currency to AAdvantage miles
  • AAdvantage credit card welcome bonuses don’t qualify, and neither do accelerators such as extra miles for category bonuses
  • Miles earned with Bask Bank

Getting Started

  1. Choose an elite level target (e.g. Exec Platinum for 200,000 points, Platinum Pro for 125,000 points, Platinum for 75,000 points, or Gold for 30,000 points)
  2. Decide how much you’re willing to “pay” (see Accounting for Costs, above) for LoyaltyMiles (Loyalty Points + Redeemable miles).  As a very rough rule of thumb I’d suggest the following:
    • 1 cent per LoyaltyMile: You’re just doing this for fun and don’t really care that much about earning elite status or AA miles
    • 1.5 cents per LoyaltyMile: You value AA miles more than 1 cent each and you do expect to get good value out of AA elite status.
    • 2 cents per LoyaltyMile: You value AA miles AND you very highly value AA elite status.  You plan to earn Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum status.  And, you expect to fly 30 or more AA segments per year so that you’ll also earn Choice Rewards Benefits (such as Systemwide Upgrades).
  3. Look for deals and stacking opportunities among the tools for earning loyalty points.  For example, in some cases merchants available through AAdvantage eShopping are also available through SimplyMiles, and in most cases those offers will stack together to earn many more LoyaltyMiles per purchase.

Examples

A couple of days ago I searched for examples of deal stacking opportunities that would let me buy LoyaltyMiles for less than 1 cent each.  Here are a couple of deals I found…

Byte (Earn miles and a profit — maybe)

Byte sells teeth straightening kits. You start by buying an Impression Kit and then can sign up for a much more expensive program for straitening your teeth.  Byte got my attention initially through SimplyMiles where I had an offer on my account for 4,650 miles on a purchase of $100 or more:

There was also an offer to get 2,500 miles through the eShopping portal.  This should stack with the SimplyMiles offer:

What really sealed the deal for me, though, was that I found the same merchant on Citi Merchant Offers for my Citi Double Cash card.  I don’t yet know if the SimplyMiles offer and the Citi Merchant Offer will stack together (both are card-linked offers where the payout is triggered by charges appearing on the card), but both are so good that the deal would be worth pursuing if either one pays out on a $100 purchase.

I enrolled my Double Cash card in the offer both within SimplyMiles and Citi Merchant Offers and then went to click through from the AA portal.  First, though, I checked CashBackMonitor to see if there was a better portal offer than AA’s 2,500 miles.  Sure enough, TopCashBack was offering $45 back:

Since the portal choice is between earning $45 or 2,500 miles, it would cost me $45/2500 = 1.8 cents per LoyaltyMile to use the AA portal.  That’s way above my 1 cent per point threshold so I went with TopCashBack.

After clicking through the portal to Byte, I was confronted with a problem.  I couldn’t immediately find a way to spend $100 (which is necessary for triggering the card-linked offers).  The impression kit was on sale for only $14.95 and that seemed like the only option for an initial purchase:

Since $14.95 wouldn’t be enough to trigger the card-linked offers from SimplyMiles or Citi, I added the Impression Kit to my cart and then removed the discount code at check out.  This increased the price to $95.  After Michigan sales tax was applied, the total price came to $100.70.  Perfect!  Do note, though, that the card linked offer terms state “Offer excludes taxes.”  That said, the card-linked programs can’t usually tell the difference between the primary purchase and the sales tax portion and so it is likely to work anyway.

If everything pays out, then I should earn the following on my $100.70 in spend:

  • $145 cash back ($100 from Citi Merchant Offers and $45 from TopCashBack)
  • $2.01 back from my Citi Double Cash card.
  • 4,650 AA miles from SimplyMiles
  • Overall, I’ll earn a small profit (about $46) and I’ll be 4,650 / 125K = 4% of the way to Platinum Pro status!

So far, TopCashBack has reported that the purchase has tracked, but it is too soon to hear from the card-linked programs.

TopCashBack shows the $45 pending

What if Citi Merchant Offers and AA SimplyMiles don’t stack?

  • I should earn $45 from TopCashBack regardless, so my net cost would be $55.70
  • If I earn 4,650 AA miles, but not the $100 from Citi, then that’s like buying miles for $55.70 / 4,650 = 1.2 cents each.  That’s more than I wanted to spend, but not horrible.
  • If I earn the $100 from Citi, but not the 4,650 AA miles, then I’ll have earned a small profit, but no AA miles.

As I write this, my Citi Double Cash card shows the $100.70 purchase pending.  Until it moves to an actual charge, the card-linked offers won’t be triggered.  Even then, I might not know immediately if they both worked.  I’ll update this post once I learn either way.

Example: Spot & Tango (buy miles very cheaply)

Spot & Tango is a meal delivery subscription service for dogs.  I saw this first on the AA eShopping portal where they were offering 2,500 miles for a purchase.  I then also found Spot & Tango on SimplyMiles where they offered 930 miles, and on Citi Merchant Offers where they offered $20 back.  Each of the latter two offers required a purchase of $25 or more.

After determining that the AA eShopping portal really was the best deal, I clicked through from there and ran into a problem: It was hard to find a subscription plan where the first purchase cost less than $55.  Finally, I stumbled upon the solution: I changed my fictional dog’s weight down to 10 pounds.  I played around with different options until I found an order that came to $24.25.  After Michigan sales tax, the total came to $25.71.

Another problem I faced is that this order required signing up for recurring dogfood deliveries that I didn’t want.  So, immediately after placing the order, I went into my account and changed the next delivery to be 3 months away.  That will give me plenty of time to cancel the subscription after the rebates post.  I also set a reminder to myself for a couple of weeks from now to cancel the subscription.

So far (updated 1/6/22), all of the “stacks” have posted!

  • The AA eShopping portal tracked the purchase and shows 2,500 miles pending (I have no idea why it thinks the eligible amount was only $15.16, but the portal didn’t have a minimum spend requirement so that should be OK).
  • SimplyMiles tracked the purchase and shows 930 miles pending.
  • Citibank Merchant Offers tracked the purchase and shows $20 pending.

Assuming each of the pending rewards go through and pay out, then I should earn the following from my $25.71 in spend:

  • $20 cash back from Citi Merchant Offers
  • 51 cents back from my Citi Double Cash card
  • 3,430 AA miles (2,500 miles from the AA eShopping Portal + 930 from SimplyMiles)
  • Overall, my cost will be $5.20 / 3430 = 0.15 cents per LoyaltyMile.  That’s excellent!

Update 1/10/22: All 3,430 AA miles have posted to my AA account.  All are shown as “base miles”. I take that as confirmation that they will count as Loyalty Points.

Fulton Fish Market

This is a deal that I decided not to pursue, but it might be of interest to those who want to sign up for fish delivery.  Through SimplyMiles, I found a two similar offers for Fulton Fish, each offering 1,500 miles on a purchase of $100 or more.  I was able to activate both offers, so would I get 3,000 miles on a $100 purchase if I met the terms of each?  I don’t know.  I also found $30 back on a purchase of $100 or more through Citi Merchant Offers.  So, if it is possible to make a $100 purchase, the following might be possible:

  • Get $30 back from Citi Merchant Offers (net cost: $100 – $30 = $70)
  • Earn either 1,500 or 3,000 miles from SimplyMiles
  • LoyaltyMile price either:
    • $70 / 1500 = 4.7 cents per LoyaltyMile
    • $70 / 3000 = 2.33 cents per LoyaltyMile

Even if it all works, 2.33 cents is more than I’m willing to pay per LoyaltyMile.  You can do a little better by starting with a portal, but I didn’t see any amazing portal rates so they wouldn’t make a huge difference.  Overall, this deal is only worthwhile if you want to order fish anyway.

Warning

Play this game only if you are comfortable with the risks…

Things can and will go wrong.  Some purchases may not track correctly.  Assumptions about what deals will stack may be wrong.  You might forget to use a credit card linked to SimplyMiles (for example) when making a purchase.  You may forget to cancel an ongoing subscription and therefore pay way more for your miles than intended.

What works? What doesn’t?

This section will be updated regularly based on my own experiment results and info from readers…

What works (confirmed)

  • Two similar SimplyMiles offers.  Sometimes you’ll see multiple offers on SimplyMiles for the same merchant but with slightly different terms.  If you can meet the terms of both offers with one purchase, you’ll get both bonuses.  People have reported success with this with Best Buy.

What works (pending)

The following appear to work based on pending payouts. I’ll update once they move from pending to actual payouts:

  • Stack SimplyMiles card linked offer with Citi Merchant Offers for same merchant.
  • Stack AA eShopping portal with SimplyMiles (and with Citi Merchant Offers).
  • Meet SimplyMiles spend requirement with sales tax even if terms say no to taxes.  Tested successfully with the following merchants: Spot & Tango

What doesn’t work

This section will be filled in once we have relevant datapoints.

Play Along

If you’re interested in playing the game described above, please do the following:

  • Subscribe to the comments of this post.  That way, you’ll receive an email when people report useful information.
  • Search for your own deals!
  • In the comments below, report any great deals you’ve found
  • In the comments below, report your success (or lack of success) in stacking deals.  In the future, I intend to add a section to this post with info about which deals stack and which do not, as well as when terms like “excludes taxes” are enforced and when they are not.

Who’s ready to play?

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Larry K

I had my first “this is causing me to spend money that I don’t want to spend and causing me annoyance that I don’t need” moment today. I ended up spending $67 on Hungry Root. The website is super annoying. You pay and then it gives you meals that it picks for you which you can swap out but only using “credits” in a convoluted swapping scheme. The crap is way overpriced and I have little doubt that it’s going to be a hassle to cancel and that they’ll inundate me with spam. Assuming everything tracks correctly it should be $30 from citi, 1850 AA miles which are loyalty points, and 750 Amex via Rakuten. I’m not sure that the $10 to $15 I’m out of pocket in value is worth the hassle. Maybe I’ll feel better when I’m eating my quinoa bean paste chorizo infused tofu tacos?

Elizabeth

Those tacos truly sound awful. I am curious how you made the Rakuten piece work. I was looking at one (forgot which) that had a good cash back from Rakuten but I don’t know how to do two portals in one transaction.

Larry K

I have a rakuten button on my browser and it seemed to track it ok but we’ll see. (That’s not really name of the tacos. I’m exaggerating. But really only a little.)

Tami

This isn’t a two portal stack, you can’t stack two referral portals. Larry did Rakuten + 2 card-linked programs.

Tami

Actually, I found the Hungryroot offer to be good value. I completely ignored their “recipes” and just got groceries I would have gotten anyhow (produce, meat). The prices are high, but when stacked with the 50% from Citi, they came out lower or equal to what I would have paid at my regular grocery store. So the out of pocket here is out of pocket I would have personally spent anyhow.

So far, I had the SimplyMiles track, the Citi offer is showing as “redeemed” (but not yet credited), and still waiting on Rakuten.

Cancelling seems pretty straightforward (online button under settings). As long as the Citi credit actually posts, this was a win for me.

Last edited 9 hours ago by Tami
Larry K

I couldn’t figure out how to substitute and gave up! Patience isn’t my strong suit I think.

Tim

I tried doing Spot & Tango, Naked Wines and Babylist but nothing is tracking on the AA portal. Could my ad blocker be preventing the activity from tracking properly?
I started on Jan 10th and have since received the wine and dog food

Last edited 11 hours ago by Tim
M.A.

Make sure you have cookies enabled, maybe.

Troy

Yes, I highly recommend using Chrome without any ad blocker on for doing all portal deals. I use FireFox with ad block for everything I don’t need tracked (deal research, regular browsing and newsreading, etc) then switch to Chrome just to buy things.

LUANNE

Spot& tango tracked and posted on aa portal,not tracking on simply miles.
Recieved the dog food today and I dropped it off at the animal shelter.

margaret

on the fulton fish, does the $40 shipping count as $40/$100 you need to spend?

Larry K

I should know the answer to this any time now. I am waiting to see if points post in exactly this situation.

Michelle H

A number of mine are tracking through the AA shopping portal. Blue Apron, Spot & Tango, Rastelli’s, Babylist (on that I just created the registry, didn’t do all 8 steps), Wine Insiders. Wine Insiders also immediately tracked through my AmEx platinum credits. So far nothing is tracking through Simply Miles or Citi Thank You offers, but I just placed the orders yesterday. Today I did the Winc deal – should be 1000 AA miles through Simply Miles, 1500 AA miles through the AA shopping portal and I used a $20 off $30 offer on my Citi Thank you CC. Also today I did Hungry Root 1850 Simply Miles with 25% off $59+ Citi Thank You offer and $7.50 off with Rakuten. Fingers crossed!

Elizabeth

Did you have to do a Blue Apron subscription? Or can you do one shipment and cancel?

Michelle H

The terms say it has to be active 45 days.

Troy

I’d suggest just skipping the following 6 weeks, keeping the subscription active, and then cancel after everything posts.

margaret

can someone confirm the sales tax works to get the byte miles since the cost is $95 but with tax is $100.94

Alex

Not going to speak for everyone, but I’m not sure anyone here, including Greg has had any luck with Byte. I myself was able to get the 2500 portal miles, but still no luck with the Citi Merchant Offer $100 or the 4650 Simply Miles

margaret

thanks!

mileshusband

Awaiting 1/8/22 Simply and Citi to post for $100 Byte.. Neither Simply nor Citi is responsive to messages. Are there any Byte data points other than AA e-shopping?

Alex

Citi told me to “take it up with the merchant”

Sean

Here’s one from Vinesse Wines that’s not a great value on its own but could be valuable for someone who hasn’t collected enough wine from the other offers:

  • 2000 miles AA shopping
  • 700 miles on $50 purchase through Simply Miles, or a $15 off $50 AMEX offer
Anita

I did the Vinesse offer back in 12/12/21 and still trying to get the Simply Miles. Customer service has not gotten back to me. Anyone else?

Last edited 12 hours ago by Anita
Troy

$15 back on $50+ CitiMO also available to stack with SM & AA.
Word of warning – I did this in December with the UA portal & Simplymiles — the Simplymiles tracked fine but nothing on the UA portal.

Elizabeth

Here is what has been posted for me:
Motley Fool (now I keep getting their emails that for the “really good stock picks I need to level up for $99.)
Baby List
Ulta (needed to buy something there anyway)
Sunbasket
Thrive Market (totally screwed this one up)
Spot and Tango

Pending:
Wall Street Journal
Just for Dogs
Green Chef

Really want a Master Card but got CSP in October and Delta in November. Any thoughts on this affecting my getting a new card? Currently have 11 cards and 800+ credit score.

Larry K

I can’t imagine it will have any impact on you getting a new card.

On BabyList, did you do the whole 8 steps?

Elizabeth

Yes.

Nun

deleted

Last edited 12 hours ago by Nun
JoshF

I didn’t. I simply created the registry and filled out just enough info to get me to the main portion of the site where it said I had completed 2 of 8 steps. I stopped there and my points are currently pending.

Tami

Any thoughts on this affecting my getting a new card?

Which card? Some lenders don’t care if you’ve applied for 10 cards in the past year, and some will deny you for 1/6.

Rjnutter

Hi all – really enjoying this thread. I’m targeting Exp Plat this year because I fly AA exclusively for work. I’m considering getting a Citi card to amplify efforts here…Any recommendations on the Citi card to get (AA cobranded vs other Citi cards). For context I already have the chase trifecta and Amex Plat & Gold so would generally only be putting ancillary 1x spend on a Citi card to accumulate loyalty points. Any input is appreciated.

Theo

Was considering the same. Not feeling like any have fantastic sign up bonuses right now I really wish the earn rate on airline cards was competitive with CSR or Premier. It’s pretty disappointing that they aren’t even the top earner at their respective brand. Always makes it a trade off when putting any spend on them.

Mike

If you are playing this game for loyalty points, it can make sense to get all of the AA cobranded cards. Even though the sign-up bonuses are average and category bonuses are weak, you still get the sign-up bonus and all minimum spend counts for Loyalty points. Lounge access with the citi executive card is also nice but a bit pricey. One strategy you could consider is to spend 40K$ on the executive card to get the extra 10,000 loyalty points and‘s 50K$ on the aviator Barclays card silver, to get the bonus 15K loyalty points. For 90,000 spend, you get 115,000 loyalty points and 90K redeemable miles. If you signed up for and did the minimum spend on 3 AA cobranded citi cards (Plat/exec/plat bus) you’d get an additional 165000 redeemable miles for the annual fee costs of 650$ And 11.5K spend (which would be part of the 40K$ needed to trigger the LP bonus). 60K more for Barclays red Aviator, which can be converted to silver for the added Loyalty points bonus (this requires some hoops to jump through).

The other citi cards like the Prestige may be helpful for double dipping with the offers available on the eShopping portal and simply miles as well, plus whatever signup bonuses.

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