Earlier this year American Airlines made the latest copycat move in the world of frequent flyer program devaluations when they announced the addition of an Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirement beginning in 2017. EDQ requirements mean that you must spend a certain amount of money with the airline in addition to flying a certain number of miles or segments to qualify for elite status.
However, what made American’s announcement particularly onerous is that unlike United and Delta, American had no co-branded credit card which enables cardholders to have the EQD requirement waived. American has now partially rectified the situation with recent announced changes that are in store for the Barclaycard co-branded American credit cards.
Changes to Barclaycard Co-Branded Cards
American is unique among the major airlines in that is does not have an exclusive co-branded credit arrangement with any bank as United has with Chase or Delta has with American Express. Instead, American has co-branded relationships with both Citi and Barclaycard. Only the cards offered by Barclaycard will have EQD earning features. There are a total of five Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator cards – four personal and one business. All versions except the no annual fee personal card will have an EQD earning benefit added. The new benefits are as follows:
Aviator Red, Blue, and Business cards: Earn $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 in a calendar year.
Aviator Silver card: Earn $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 in a calendar year or earn $6,000 EQDs by spending $50,000 in a calendar year.
These EQD earning benefits do not combine across cards, so the maximum number of EQDs you can earn via credit card spend is either 3K or 6K depending on whether you have the Aviator Silver card.
How Does This Help Qualify for Elite Status?
American has four elite tiers with published elite status qualification criteria. The elite tiers and qualification requirements are displayed in the table below:
AAdvantage Elite Qualification Criteria
|Tier||Gold||Platinum||Platinum Pro||Executive Platinum|
As you can see, you can reach the EQD threshold for Gold and Platinum status through credit card spend alone. However, qualifying for Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum will require spending the remaining amount on tickets to earn the additional EQDs. While the inability to reach the higher levels of status through credit card spend is disappointing, there is a silver lining. The EQDs from credit card spend combine with those earned from purchasing tickets, so they won’t go to waste if you partially qualify via credit card spending and partially via flying.
This is what separates EQD earning from an EQD waiver – a waiver may only qualify up to a certain level of status, above which all the EQDs would have to be earned via purchasing tickets, so the EQD waiver does no good to help reach the higher level. This is the case with United’s frequent flyer program. United co-branded cards come with the ability to waive EQD requirements up the third elite tier, but top tier status requires earnings the required EQDs completely through flying.
American has also announced that at a yet to be determined date in 2017, the upgrade list will be ordered first by status then by rolling 12 month EQDs earned. This means that even if you have earned all the required EQDs for status by purchasing tickets, additional EQDs earned from credit card spend will help improve your upgrade priority.
This also raises another interesting dilemma for flyers: the EQD requirements for elite status are based on calendar year spend, but the upgrade priority ordering is based on trailing 12 month EQD earning. Therefore, you will want to carefully consider the timing of credit card spend on the Aviator cards. If you don’t need the additional EQDs to qualify for status, you may want to delay spending so that the boost to your upgrade priority will last further into the future, or you may want to accelerate spending if you have a trip in the near future on which you are seeking an upgrade.
How Do These EQD Earning Benefits Compare with United and Delta?
While the addition of valuable new credit card benefits is always appreciated, the EQD earning benefits on the Aviator cards are not as good as those on Delta’s co-branded cards, and depending on your needs and spending ability arguably not as good as those on United’s co-branded cards either.
Delta has several co-branded cards with American Express, all of which have the ability to earn an EQD waiver. If you spend $25K in a calendar you receive a complete EQD waiver which applies to all status levels including top tier Diamond status. In addition, spending combines across all cards so you don’t have to put all the spend on a single card to earn the waiver.
United has a similar setup to Delta on its Chase co-branded cards. If you spend $25K in a calendar you receive an EQD waiver and the spending combines across cards. The one major drawback is that there is no EQD waiver available for top tier 1K status, so the EQD requirement must be met entirely through ticket purchases.
Can I get the Barclaycard Aviator Cards?
The short answer is yes – but not yet. The arrangement that American has with credit card partners Barclaycard and Citi is very unique, and each card issuer has certain avenues via which they are permitted to market their cards. Barclaycard was the issuer of US Airways card prior to the merger with American and gave existing cardmembers an opportunity to convert to the new Aviator products, though was not yet able to accept new applicants. That is changing in 2017, as Barclaycard will have the exclusive right to promote credit cards in-flight and in airports (except Admiral’s Clubs). In addition, they will be available for on-line applications directly via Barclaycard, though American will not be doing any marketing via its own online channels. So if you are interested in applying for any of the various Aviator cards, just have a little patience – January is less than two months away.