While I’m traveling at least as much this year as in the past few years, I’ve done more award flying this year than ever before. I’ve done everything I can to sample new airlines and products for the purposes of sharing my experiences with you guys, and while I’ve already flown about 200,000 “butt in seat” miles this year, a vast majority of that has been on award tickets, which don’t accrue miles.

As I shared in my mid-year status check, I’m about on track for requalifying for Executive Platinum status with American and a bit behind on requalifying for MVP Gold status with Alaska. Thanks to the flexibility in my schedule and ability to work from anywhere I’m really not ever worried about requalifying, especially since fares tend to be best after the end of the peak summer travel season.

But as I try to set my goals for the rest of the year, I’m faced with a bit of indecisiveness.

Go for 150,000 miles with American?

American published some really lucrative Elite Rewards options this year, which basically reward you for surpassing the traditional elite tier thresholds. As a reminder, the Elite Rewards look as follows:


So I’ll requalify for Executive Platinum either way, which requires 100,000 miles. In the course of doing that I’ll pass the 40,000 and 75,000 mile thresholds, for which I’ll receive 10,000 bonus miles and 20,000 bonus miles, respectively.

But if I choose to go for 125,000 miles I’ll be earning an additional 30,000 bonus miles, and if I choose to go for 150,000 miles I’ll be earning an additional 40,000 bonus miles. That basically means for flying 50,000 miles beyond the Executive Platinum threshold I’ll earn 70,000 bonus miles. Given that I ordinarily already earn a 100% bonus due to my status, I’d basically be earning 340% of base miles for my marginal flying between 100,000 miles and 150,000 miles. When you’re earning 340% of base miles it’s really tough not to fly… right?

Go for MVP Gold 75K?

While I’m way behind on requalifying for MVP Gold this year, it’s a status level I have to requalify for if I plan on staying in Seattle. Being MVP Gold gets you upgrades (including for a companion), a 100% mileage bonus, very liberal same day changes, and most importantly you can cancel tickets for free and deposit the value of a ticket in your travel bank. That’s hugely valuable living up here, especially since Alaska flies just about everywhere from Seattle (well, domestically at least).

Qualifying for MVP Gold takes either 40,000 miles on Alaska or 50,000 miles on Alaska and partner airlines. MVP Gold 75K takes either 75,000 miles on Alaska or 90,000 miles on Alaska and partner airlines.


So what are the marginal benefits of flying an additional 40,000 miles on Alaska and their partners? In addition to higher upgrade priority, you get the following as an MVP Gold 75K:


The only benefit there that I really value is the 50,000 bonus miles. And when you do the math here, you’re already earning 100% bonus miles for travel as an MVP Gold, so for the marginal 40,000 flown miles you’re actually earning 130,000 miles, so you’d be earning 325% base miles for the marginal flying. Again, that’s tough to say no to, along with the added benefit of the higher upgrade priority that comes with MVP Gold 75K.

The flying would be similar…

On the surface it seems easier to do more flying on American since they fly internationally, meaning you can reach status with fewer trips. But the thing about Alaska is that they partner with American, so I could actually book a mileage run on American to China, use American systemwide upgrades to upgrade to business class, and then credit the miles to Alaska. So the flying actually wouldn’t be all that different, since I’d likely do international mileage runs regardless of which program I decided to go “above and beyond” with.

I’m trying to convince myself to go for both thresholds since they seem worthwhile, but that’s a lot of non-award flying.

Anyone in a similar position? Would be curious to hear what you guys would do!

  1. July 26th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Usairelite said,

    I would go for AA elite rewards for the 6 extra systemwide upgrades which, at least to me, are work A LOT.

  2. July 26th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Usairelite said,


  3. July 26th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    scott said,

    so basically you wrote this to brag about your level…..lol….for someone who flies this much and dont get me wrong I am already ex plat. you only write this to show off what your status is.

  4. July 26th, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    CnaesLawMarty said,

    How could you even consider choosing the redeemable miles?! The extra SWUs are way more valuable IMO…I consider them to be worth, at a minimum, 25,000 miles and $350, which is the cost to pay for an upgrade…can’t imagine you couldn’t put those to good use :)

  5. July 26th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Gene said,

    I would absolutely go for AS MVPG75. Higher status on AS is worth more than the extra AA miles. Plus, AS miles are more valuable than AA miles (at least IMHO). Besides, you can always get more miles by churning credit cards, but you can’t get a status match to MVPG75. One final consideration is that flights booked in business or first will earn extra EQMs on AS, but not on AA.

  6. July 26th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    D said,

    What are the chances of being upgraded on a Alaska partner with MVP gold?I always make MVP but considering going for Gold and wondering if it’s worth it for me.

  7. July 26th, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Gene said,

    @D — Approximately 0% for free upgrades. On DL, you would rank below all DL elites for upgrades, and on AA there are no free upgrades below EXP.

  8. July 26th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Santastico said,

    Just wanted to understand how you plan to achieve the 150,000 miles threshold in the next 5 months. When you shared your mid-year status you had 48,198 miles. To get to 150,000 miles you need to fly an extra 101,802 and I believe those are BIS miles, correct? Even if you use systemwide upgrades to bump you to business class you still only get 100% of the miles you fly so unless you book your international flights on business or first paid fares it will be really hard to fly more than 100,000 miles in 5 months unless you concentrate all your flight on AA and do not redeem any award travel during this time. Again, just curious to see your strategy.

  9. July 26th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    lucky said,

    @ scott — To brag about my level? I’m asking about what I should go for that I *don’t* have!

  10. July 26th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Matt said,

    @D – http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/alaska-airlines-mileage-plan/1425053-where-were-you-upgrade-list-your-delta-flight-2013-edition.html discusses DL upgrades for AS elites.
    As an MVP, I’ve personally gotten upgrades on all my DL CRJ flights (6-8 maybe?) and 0 or 1 on all larger planes.

  11. July 26th, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Gene said,

    @Ben — Why not add DL Platinum to the mix? You could earn 60,000 MQMs by spending $120,000 on AMEX cards (maybe more with signup bonuses). The rest could be earned by flying in paid business (eg, $945 SEA-ATL-SJU yields 11,187 MQM).

  12. July 26th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    lucky said,

    @ CnaesLawMarty — Yes, I value systemwide upgrades hugely, but how many more above the eight I already get do I really want? To be honest I’ve become far too spoiled and would rather only travel on American internationally if I could get the new product, and that only flies to London and Sao Paulo, and there are only so many times I’d like to go there in one year. ;)

    Not sure what I’d do with 14 systemwides, though I agree if someone has a use they’re a better option.

  13. July 26th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Santastico — I’m at about 60K miles right now, so you’re correct that I would need another 90K miles. Yes, it’s a lot, but fares in the fall and winter are usually quite reasonable, and when you figure you can earn 15K+ miles with international trips, it’s not too tough, in my opinion.

  14. July 26th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    eponymous coward said,

    Hmm, which of these options gets you more A380 showers? ;)

  15. July 26th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Gene said,

    @Matt — Wow. You must fly on Saturdays or Tuesdays!

  16. July 26th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Gene — Okay, I know I’m nuts, but I’ve actually been crazy enough to think about doing a Delta match. They have premium transcon service out of Seattle, and as far as I can tell, upgrades are almost guaranteed as a Platinum on the route.

    But then I put more thought into it and just can’t pull the trigger. It’s not like you get any benefits on international flights and it’s not like their miles are that valuable, so what’s the marginal benefit of having Delta status, really? It would be nothing more than mileage running, and I don’t see the point in mileage running on Delta.

    But it is tempting given their excellent product out of Seattle…

  17. July 26th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Gene said,

    @Ben — For bragging rights, of course. ;-)

  18. July 26th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Gene — You still flying Delta?

  19. July 26th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    David said,

    Please, do some of us a huge favor and leave Seattle when your lease is up.

  20. July 26th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Matt said,

    Ones I specifically recall
    * Tuesday night
    * Thursday afternoon
    * Friday morning
    * Monday morning

    DL CR9s have 12 F out of 76 seats total while CR7s have 9/65. That combined with elites generally wanting to avoid CRJs means good odds?

  21. July 26th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Gene said,

    @Ben — Yes, but mostly on domestic awards nowadays. I am able to take advantage of the free domestic stopover rule frequently since I live in two places. I fly from home #1 to home #2 (a DL hub) on a Friday, work from home #2 for a week, then take a weekend trip somewhere, and finally return to home #1 the following Sunday. That makes 40k for a coach award (or 80k for F) much easier to swallow!

    I maintain DM status primarily via AMEX spending and flying on paid AS F using the old BA BOGO$99 certs. Those BOGOs can yield 22,000+ MQMs per person and three weekend getaways on a routing such as FLL-SEA-HNL-OAK-SEA-FLL.

  22. July 26th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    eponymous coward said,

    @David: snark much? Wow.

  23. July 26th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Diana W said,

    I’m nowhere near your position, and I don’t know how you frequent flyers do it! I’ve flown a little over 25k miles this year and have two more trips coming up, and I’m exhausted. I blame the toddler and being pregnant =) And how come Alaska didn’t choose a different metal name for their top tier?

  24. July 26th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Steve @ Canadian Travel Hacking said,

    That is incredible (high status in both programs). The 50K bonus for achieving MVP 75K is nice but I like AA better for being a platinum FF.

  25. July 26th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Carl said,

    I don’t see the value in MVP 75K. There are no upgrades on most transcon routes (and AS first isn’t very good.) MVP Gold is usually good enough to get upgrades on the west coast flights.

    It is also hard to mile run on AS from SEA since there are few connecting routes or long itineraries.

  26. July 26th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Carl — Agreed, it’s not about the status benefits but rather the 50K bonus redeemable miles. And since you can always mileage run on American and use systemwides to upgrades, that makes it a bit more compelling to me…

  27. July 26th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Voice of reason said,

    I’d stop taking frivolous trips for bonus miles at a cost of dumping literal tons of carbon into the environment.

  28. July 26th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    BFrankley said,

    I say go for the AS 75k. And then nominate ME to MVP Gold. (Just trying to help)

  29. July 26th, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Quark said,

    Hey, Voice of Stupidity, pi$$ off. The planes are going anyway with or without Lucky.

    If you’re clueless enough to buy into the “climate chane” scam, you’re too clueless to be on this site.

  30. July 26th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Linda said,

    “Climate chanGe” is not a scam, whether or not it will cause harm is to be debated. I would rather be stupid and try to protect the environment than ignore the possibility of harm.

  31. July 26th, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Josh G said,

    Seriously what has gotten into this thread? He asked a simple questions to weigh the pros and cons and now this turning into him wanting to “show off” his status?

    As for the question I’d go for AS 75K.

  32. July 26th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Jorge said,

    Ben, you always quote flying to China. Do you need Visa to travel to China, or do you process a new Visa every year?

    I had one for 1 year multiple entries but that was a whopping $230.00 with processing service.


  33. July 26th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Jana said,

    @Josh G – Amen!

    There are those of us who like to read this blog and the pursuit of elite status!

    Lucky, go for the 75K!

  34. July 26th, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Brian said,

    God, that’s 3 minutes ill never get back

  35. July 26th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Jorge — Yes, you do need a visa, though you can get a multi-entry one for one year. Don’t remember paying quite that much, though I did go to the consulate in person.

  36. July 27th, 2013 at 12:58 am

    beachfan said,

    If asking what I would do, the answer is I would just take out another citibank aadvantage card now that you don’t need to wait 18 months for some of the cards.

  37. July 27th, 2013 at 3:48 am

    Kris said,

    @voice of reason
    His being on a flight or not is negligible, on a long haul flight, about 1 gallon of fuel is used to fly him 700 miles, so depending on time of year, it’s probably creates less pollution for him to fly than to stay at his apartment with heat/ac.

  38. July 28th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I think I should start flying Delta (aka the dumbest post I'll ever right, er, write) - One Mile at a Time - One Mile at a Time said,

    [...] sense. Now, the reason I’m a complete idiot for even discussing this is because I’m already struggling to fly enough on American and Alaska, so the last thing I need to do is add another [...]

  39. August 7th, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    West coast mileage runners: need your advice - One Mile at a Time - One Mile at a Time said,

    [...] since moving here I haven’t done a single “pure” mileage run. As I’ve written about quite a bit lately, I’m behind on requalifying for elite status this  year, so I’m working on booking [...]

  40. August 22nd, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    How many times can you fly back and forth to Brazil without going crazy? Enough to earn MVP Gold 75K with Alaska, I hope! - One Mile at a Time - One Mile at a Time said,

    […] written about my #firstworldproblem struggle this year trying to decide whether to go for American’s […]

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