Another year on the Executive Platinum Hamster Wheel…

Earlier I wrote about the concept of mileages and how they usually don’t make sense. Well, I’m writing this post while on a mileage run (well, segment run, more accurately), so I guess I do as I say, not as I do. 😉

The American AAdvantage program has made me act irrationally, which is exactly what a good loyalty program should do.

2022 was a slow year of travel for me

Let me start by explaining that 2022 was a particularly slow year for travel for me, especially for travel in the US:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve generally traveled less than pre-pandemic, although that’s a trend I’m starting to reverse starting in 2023
  • I traveled less in the second half of 2022, given that our son was born in the summer, so I traveled very limited for several months
  • As for my travel on American, we didn’t stay in Miami for much of 2022 (which is a major hub for American), so my travel was split between many more airlines

While I’ve had Executive Platinum status for about a decade now, 2022 was the first year where I didn’t even come close to re-qualifying naturally.

I didn’t fly much with American in 2022

Why I decided to qualify for Executive Platinum status

2022 was the year American introduced its new loyalty points system for qualifying for elite status. Status is no longer based on the traditional calendar year, but is based on travel from the beginning of March to the end of February of the following year. In other words, today is the last day of the status eligibility year 2022.

Executive Platinum elite requirements for program year 2022 are as follows:

  • You must earn 200,000 loyalty points to earn Executive Platinum status
  • If you want to be able to earn Loyalty Choice Rewards (such as system-wide upgrades or bonus miles), you must also fly 30 segments on American

Based on my flight alone, I probably would have finished the elite year with around 100,000 loyalty points, only about halfway to qualifying for Executive Platinum. Logically, I probably should have just gone for Platinum Pro (which requires 125,000 loyalty points, and also gives you oneworld Emerald status). But since 2022 was a bad travel year for me, I decided to do what I can to maintain Executive Platinum status for one more year, and reevaluate when things normalize a bit.

Fortunately, American allows you to earn loyalty points with credit card spending. The catch is that co-branded AAdvantage cards mostly only earn one mile per dollar spent in most categories, so there are better credit cards for everyday use.

Perhaps against my better judgment (as someone who usually goes to great lengths to maximize rewards), I’ve moved a significant amount of spending over the past few months to AAdvantage credit cards, to make sure I’d have 200,000 loyalty points by the end of February 2023 .

How did I rationalize it? Well, I saw it not only in terms of the value of the miles I would earn for spending and the ability to retain Executive Platinum status, but also in terms of Loyalty Choice Rewards, which would include five system-wide upgrades or 85,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. When I considered that the expenses would allow me to earn them, I realized that there was not much of an opportunity cost to this.

So I traded in some credit card spending and other activity to earn miles and I got to 200,000 loyalty points.

My loyalty points total with AAdvantage

But of course there is a catch. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to finish the program year when it comes to segments. As it turned out, I would have finished with 28 segments, which is two segments short of the 30 needed to select Loyalty Choice Rewards.

Gosh, American is really good at generating incremental business, because you can guess what I’m doing today — flying two segments.

My segment total with AAdvantage

I have been outwitted by Americans

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. While I don’t love the loyalty points system for my own travel, I think it’s a brilliant program that does a great job of encouraging profitable behavior. At least this year American definitely “beat” me. I spent way more on US credit cards than I would have otherwise, and I even took a few extra flights.

And I have to be completely honest – I’m actually not sure it makes much sense to go for Executive Platinum anymore:

  • I appreciate having oneworld Emerald status, but Platinum Pro gives me that too
  • The biggest added benefit of Executive Platinum over Platinum Pro is higher upgrade priority, although I have no luck with upgrades on American and often only pay for first class when it’s reasonable.
  • In the past, system-wide upgrades were a big incentive to go for Executive Platinum status, but with how little confirmed upgrade space there is in advance, it’s not a risk I’m willing to take when I could just confirm an award ticket on another airline

Here’s to hoping I act more rationally in the upcoming program year…

I love having oneworld Emerald status

The bottom line

I ended up re-qualifying for Executive Platinum and completing the 30 segments required for Loyalty Choice Rewards at the eleventh hour. 2022 was a quiet year for me when it comes to traveling on American and I just couldn’t break the Executive Platinum habit yet.

Hopefully my “natural” journey over the next year will largely allow me to requalify as I hope to act more rationally this year.

As the AAdvantage program year comes to a close, how did you do with the new loyalty points system?

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