American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Membership Cards Explained

American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Membership Cards Explained

I’ll never forget the first time I received my first AAdvantage elite status membership card. At that point I didn’t even know that American sent out membership cards. This was several years ago and chasing elite status wasn’t even on my mind. I earned Gold status because I somehow happened to fly 25,000 miles on American in a single year. It just sort of happened without me thinking about it.

Over the next several years I’ve made it a point to earn AAdvantage elite status. However, each time I receive these cards it’s the same story. I open the envelope, look at the card for a few minutes, think about how much fun I had earning the status, and finally, put it in a box for storage.

Then, several days ago my American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum membership card arrived in the mail. If I’m honest, it was one of the most exciting pieces of mail I received this year. When the excitement wore off I sat back and took a minute to think. I found myself wondering if I could actually use the card for anything? After all the hard work fun I had earning Executive Platinum status I couldn’t accept just putting the card away never to be seen again. That’s when I decided to carry the card for a few weeks. During that time I wanted to see how I could use the card and if it was actually worth keeping in my travel bag.

Receiving Your AAdvantage Elite Status Membership Card

Some airlines mail membership cards to all members regardless of status. American Airlines on the other hand only mails membership card to AAdvantage members with elite status. American mails out cards each year to AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, and Concierge Key members. Typically the cards arrive about two weeks after earning elite status or, in the case of Concierge Key, being invited to the program.

Elite status membership cards are typically mailed out right as you earn each status, however there are notable exceptions. This year, I went from AAdvantage Gold to AAdvantage Platinum Pro in just 2 days. As a result, American did not end up mailing me an AAdvantage Platinum membership card. Likewise, toward the end of the year, American will often refrain from sending a membership card until the end of the year. I’m guessing they do this to help reduce the cost of mailing out membership cards each year.

Do I Need My Physical AAdvantage Elite Status Membership Card?

Once you receive your membership card you may think to yourself, do I need this thing? The truth is, that you don’t. American Airlines tracks your elite status based on your AAdvantage number. Anytime you’re working with the airline they’ll be able to see your elite status on the system when you give them your AAdvantage number.

Additionally, if you have the American Airlines mobile app, you can store a mobile version of your membership card on your phone. If you are ever required to present you AAdvantage membership card you can do so by simply showing the mobile version.

However, if you’re like me and don’t own a cell phone (kidding) or simply want to carry the plastic version of the card, there are still a few uses for it.

Checking In At The Airport With Your AAdvantage Membership Card

When you arrive at the airport and still need to check in to your flight or make adjustments to your reservation you can absolutely use your AAdvantage membership card. The card still sort of works like this clip from Up In The Air.

However today, the kiosks aren’t manned by an airline agent.

American Airlines Self Service Kiosk
American Airlines Self Service Kiosk

When you arrive at the American Airlines self-service kiosk you can insert your AAdvantage membership card into the machine to pull up your reservation. After swiping my card I had to answer a few questions to prove my identity, but it did work.

While swiping my card at the kiosk worked, I don’t plan on doing this ever again. Instead I’ll continue checking into flights on the American mobile app. Using the mobile app I receive an electronic boarding pass which means I never have to stop at a kiosk or desk at the airport. So, while you can use your membership card at these self-service kiosks, I don’t recommend it.

Adding Your Name To The Standby List

I’ve mentioned this a few times, but when traveling domestically, I rarely end up on the flight I actually book. I usually try to book the cheapest flight of the day and try my luck by standing by earlier flights at the airport. While American added the functionality to make a same-day standby request in the mobile app, I haven’t had much luck with it yet. Instead, I always find it easier to simply go to the gate agent of the flight you hope to standby.

When arriving at the gate, the gate agent will always require some form of identification. In the past I usually would just present my state ID. However, I recently discovered that they will accept your AAdvantage membership card. In fact, I found presenting my AAdvantage Executive Platinum card often makes the process more enjoyable.

Let me preface this aside by saying I really dislike people who think their elite status makes them important. I cringe every time I hear someone exclaim their elite status to a gate agent when demanding a request.

On a recent flight from Chicago to St. Louis I wanted to standby on the earlier flight. When I arrived at the gate of the earlier flight and requested to standby the gate agent began the exchange by rolling her eyes. The standby list was very long and they only had two open seats. By presenting my Executive Platinum card the tone of the exchange quickly changed and she added me to the list. I ended up on the ealier flight.

She would have discovered my status once she found my in the system, but presenting the card immediately she took my request a little more seriously and processed my standby request sooner than she would have otherwise.

Gaining Access To Admirals Clubs And International Airline Lounges

One of my favorite benefits of AAdvantage Platinum and higher elite status is the reciprocal OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald status. Specifically, OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald status gives you access to international business class and first class lounges, respectively. Your access to these lounges is based on your elite status. Typically, the OneWorld carrier can verify your OneWorld elite status on your boarding pass if you enter your AAdvantage number. However, there are instances when you’ll want to avoid using your AAdvantage number on your reservation. In times like these you’ll be able to access the lounge by presenting your AAdvantage membership card.

On a recent Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Chicago I booked an economy class fare. Economy fares earn 0 miles on American Airlines so I didn’t want credit the mileage to American. Instead, I credited the flight to British Airways to earn 50% mileage. Since my boarding pass had my BA membership number with no elite status, the lounge agents wouldn’t let me into the airline lounge. At that point I presented my American Airlines Executive Platinum membership card and was able to access the lounge. For this reason, I plan keeping my AAdvantage membership card in my bag from now on when traveling internationally.

Ordering A Premium Beverage Or Snack In The Main Cabin

One of the only downsides to standing by on flights is that you’ll often give up a first class seat for a much worse seat in the main cabin. Luckily, for Executive Platinum elite members, American allows one premium beverage and a snack for EP elites when seated in the main cabin.

There is a chance the flight attendant already knows you have Executive Platinum status when they get to your seat. However, I find that they often don’t have time to figure that out ahead of time and it’s just easiest to flash your membership card when ordering. By flashing your card you guarantee that they won’t try to charge you for the premium beverage or snack. You also then avoid the awkward conversation that usually ensues if they do try to charge you.

To receive a free drink or snack in the main cabin you don’t have to carry your plastic membership card. Instead you could show the flight attendant your mobile membership card. If you don’t have either of those documents you could also show them your boarding pass which lists your elite status.

Final Thoughts

As we move to a more digital world I suspect that these card will disappear in the future. However, for now, there are still a few different ways that you can still use the plastic version of the AAdvantage membership card.

Post Comment