I don’t fly as frequently or as loyaly as I once did, and as a result, my elite status with Alaska Airlines will end this December. Having enjoyed the perks of Gold Elite status since 2018, it will be a rude awakening the next time I book a flight and am not automatically enjoying a nicer cabin, a first class upgrade, free drinks and same-day flight changes at no charge. But alas, it was good while it lasted.
But is there a way to retain it? Someone nudged me to review American Airline’s new Loyalty Points program, the first of its kind that allows customers to earn elite status with their credit card spend in addition to actual miles flown. Further, American is a partner airline of Alaska so theoretically, I could retain my elevated status with Alaska simply by spending enough on a credit card each year.
The American Airlines credit card from Citi offers one loyalty point per dollar spent. In addition, if I were to fly anywhere on American during the year, each mile flown would also count as a loyalty point too. So if I flew 5,000 miles and spend $25,000 in a year, I would earn 30,000 Loyalty Points; good enough for the lowest tier of status with American, what they call Gold.
As you can see, spending $200,000 annually on the card would earn you the 200,000 Loyalty Points required to earn the top status; all without getting on a plane. But in order to determine the spend threshold of Alaska’s Gold Elite status through the American Airlines program, I had to look at their benefits summary page. I quickly recognized the Alaska Gold Elite perks under the American Platinum Pro account.
Therefore, in order to maintain my Alaska Gold Elite benefits in 2023 without flying, I would need to spend $125,000 per year. Even if this fit the spend budget, the earn on the credit card itself is not as valuable as the perks earned by cards such as the American Express Platinum Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card and choosing to allocate most of your spend to the American Airlines card in exchange for Gold Elite benefits is a tough sell.
If you have a large amount of reimbursable spend, or travel frequently on American Airlines, then the new Loyalty Points program could be right for you. In general, as a (still for the moment) frequent flier, I worry about how my status would be diluted when big-spenders could jeopardize my spot on an upgrade list, but overall I like the move by American Airlines to align with the hotel industry; effectively allowing customers to purchase their way to elite status supplemental to their travel activity.