As we approach the end of the year a lot of people are starting to scramble to earn AAdvantage elite status. Many are trying to take a few last-minute trips in order to reach the next highest level. A few of us have probably flown many more miles than we expected, but are finding that our Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) isn’t high enough to qualify for the status we would have earned based on the old system. For example, you may have flown 50,000 miles, but only spent $4,000 EQD. In that case you’ll have to settle for AAdvantage Gold. It’s a tough spot, but I’m guessing many AAdvantage members have found themselves in that camp.
As you can see from the above picture American requires a certain amount of EQD to earn any elite status. In the above scenario you would have enough EQM to qualify for AAdvantage Gold, but not enough EQD. Without satisfying the EQD requirement you wouldn’t qualify for any elite status in 2017.
American will allow you to “buy up” to the next highest elite lever however. In the above scenario you should only have to pay about $300 to make up the EQD to qualify.
What Are Elite Qualifying Dollars or EQD
EQD is a new elite qualifying metric that American Airlines introduced in 2017. What’s more, it’s the cornerstone to how American measures AAdvantage Elite status. Mileage or segments flown now only represent a small percentage of the equation. EQD on the other hand is the foundation of AAdvantage elite status for 2017 and beyond.
Essentially, EQD is the amount of money you spent with American Airlines or other OneWorld partners. If you only buy American Airlines (AA) flights with AA flight numbers, you’ll earn EQD based on the total number of dollars you’ve spent on airfare in a given year. Of course, American doesn’t include most taxes and fees into this equation. So if you’ve spent exactly $3,000 on airfare, chances are you’ve only earned about $2,500 EQD or potentially less.
You can also earn AAdvantage EQD when flying with OneWorld partner airlines. Generally, you earn EQD based on the miles flown and class of service purchased. For example you’ll earn AAdvantage EQD at a rate of 20% per mile flown when flying in Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific. So a 15,500 flight from Chicago to Hong Kong in PE nets you about $3,000 of EQD regardless of how much you actually paid for your ticket.
How To Earn American Airlines AAdvantage EQD Quickly?
This brings me to the point of this post. If you’ve flown enough miles to qualify for elite status, but haven’t earned enough EQD there are a few tricks you can use to earn EQD at an accelerated rate. Sadly, buying cheap last-minute economy flights isn’t the answer.
AAdvantage Buy Up Offers
For starters, you will want to first check to see if you have an AAdvantage Elite Status buy up offer. Use this link and login to your AAdvantage account to see if you have a buy up offer. If you have enough EQM or EQS, but not enough EQD the offer should essentially be to spend the difference between your current EQD and the required EQD. When you’re short on EQM and EQD your offer should increase accordingly.
OneWorld Partner Flights In Premium Cabins
If you’re insulted by our American Airlines buy up offer you’ll want to start looking for flights that earn EQD at an accelerated rate. I’d begin this search by looking at Premium Cabin flights with various OneWorld carriers. As I mentioned above, a Cathay Pacific Premium Economy flight is a great place to start. I’d also search for flights from Europe back to various US cities in British Airways Premium Economy. BA PE flights again earn EQD based on the mileage flown.
As of the time of posting you can currently buy a round trip BA PE flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles for $815. For that you’ll earn around $2,000 EQD which I personally think is a great deal. Just make sure you’re buying BA flight numbers. If you buy the flights with AA flight numbers you’ll earn the EQD based on the price paid.
You’ll also earn a lot of EQD when purchasing Business Class fares on OneWorld partners, but your out of pocket cost might not be justifiable; especially this close to the year-end.
American Airlines Special Fares
Another option to consider is buying AA flights as special fares. You have to put in a little more work, but doing so again earns EQD based as a percentage of miles flown. For special fares to make sense you generally have to fly a fairly far distance as economy fares only earn 10% of the total mileage flown. However, this method makes good sense if you can find a 10,000 mile flight for a few hundred dollars.
This method also works for premium economy fares, but it’s often more difficult to find inexpensive premium cabin flights that make buying them as a special fare worthwhile. I’d much prefer buying a $1,000 flight of just a few hundred miles to earn ~$1,000 of EQD than pay $700 for a 5,000 mile journey to earn about the same EQD. Premium cabin special fares generally earn EQD at a rate of 20% of the mileage flown.
Purchasing special fares is a simple enough process, but it comes with its own issues. When purchasing a special fare you have to make absolutely certain that you’re not buying a regular fare. You can purchase Special Fares through AAvacations or credit card rewards portals. However you must check to make sure you’re buying a special fare and ideally confirm with AA immediately after purchase.
EQD is bad news for the traditional business traveler. My company mostly books discounted tickets which means I earn EQD at a rate of about 60% per mile flown. That means I only earn about $1,500 EQD per 25,000 miles flown. At that rate, I could fly 100,000 miles a year, yet only qualify for AAdvantage Platinum status ($6,000 EQD required). Since this is the case, I took it upon myself this year to earn EQD on my own.
When looking for a high EQD yield flight I try to earn EQD at a rate of 2 EQD per dollars spent. If I stick to that guideline I only need to spend $6,000 of my own dollars to earn the required 12,000 EQD to qualify for AAdvantage Executive Platinum. I chose that guideline because it roughly translates to the $0.05 CPM old school mileage runners stuck to. In that case, they’d spend about $5,000 to fly 100,000 miles. Under the new system, my goal is to spend about $6,000 a year to earn $12,000 EQD and 100,000 EQM. If I can score a 2.5 or even 3:1 EQD to dollars spent you better believe I’m booking that flight; no questions asked.
I hope this helps you get a better idea of what EQD is and how to earn a lot of EQD in a little amount of time. The year-end is rapidly approaching and this is the first year we have to worry about the EQD requirement. I can’t believe how many veteran Executive Platinum elites aren’t going to qualify again this year because of the EQD requirement.