As many longtime Hack the System readers know, this blog used to be primarily about travel hacks — and how you could use hidden loopholes to see the world for almost-free.
Although we don’t talk about travel every week anymore, I wanted to share a new, powerful hack with you that I’m using to to earn me big rewards as I travel to London for a speaking engagement at the Royal Society of Medicine.
It’s called the Platinum Challenge, and it’s only available on American Airlines.
What is the Platinum Challenge?
The Platinum Challenge is a “pay-to-play” competition that can earn you platinum status on American Airlines in a fraction of the time.
Why attain platinum status, you ask? Well, besides the obvious ego boost that being platinum anything creates, the status also comes with a host of benefits — such as:
- Preferred seating
- Access to lounges when you’re abroad
- Fast clearance through priority check-in
- Tons of other cool insider “perks” (see the full list here)
Sounds like something you’d want, right?
Most of us would!
Normally, in order to “unlock” these benefits, you have to fly 50,000 miles first. But what if you wanted to get access to all these bonuses earlier?
Here’s how the challenge works — and how you can “hack” it to get results even faster.
How the Platinum Challenge works
Step 1: Pay the entry fee
As I said before — there is an entry fee — so before you can start the challenge, you have to pay $249.
This will pay off in the long run, as you’re skipping the line much faster to attain platinum status, and saving money in the process.
Step 2: Earn 10,000 “elite” qualifying points in 3 months
This is where the real “hack” begins. Essentially, instead of having to fly the entire 50,000 miles, American Airlines will give you platinum status simply for earning 10,000 “elite” qualifying points.
Obvious questions: Which types of points are “elite” qualifying, and does 1 mile = 1 point?
I’m glad you asked.
Essentially, the point value of your flight varies depending on what class you’re flying in. The more expensive your ticket is, the more points that flight is worth per mile.
Here’s the table from American Airlines that describes the conversion.
The mileage-to-points conversion table
As you can see, the top 3 categories of flights earn up to 1.5x points per mile (awesome!), while the deeply discounted flights only earn .5 points for every mile flown. (More details here.)
You can now use this table to calculate how many points you’ll earn, based on where you’re flying and what class you’re traveling in.
Here’s a quick example with completely made up numbers:
Let’s say you’re flying 3,000 miles from Boston to Los Angeles. Depending on what type of ticket you bought, the amount of points you earn on the same flight would be different.
- If you fly First Class, Business Class or Full Fare you’ll earn 4,500 points (3,000 miles x 1.5)
- If you fly Discount Economy you’ll earn 3,000 points (3,000 miles x 1.0)
- If you fly Deep Discount Economy, you’ll earn 1,500 points (3,000 miles x 0.5)
The goal is to accrue 10,000 points in 3 months — then the platinum status is all yours for a full year (sometimes longer) without having to fly 50,000 miles.
Here’s how I’m using this system on my trip to London
First, I had to sign up for the program — it can only be done by phone.
The number to call is +1 800-882-8880.
I called in about a week before the actual flight date of my flight from Boston to London.
(I actually tried to enroll in the challenge a month prior, but the rep said I needed to call back closer to the flight date.)
Challenges can only be started on the 1st and 16th of the month and my flight was on the 18th of June — so my challenge was set on the 16th.
I was told that in order to win the challenge, I had to accumulate 10,000 points.
But there was a small problem — I’d already paid for my flight from Boston to London before enrolling in the challenge.
Would those miles count?
I asked if we could recalculate the upcoming flights that I already paid for. The rep said yes.
She looked it up and found my flight itineraries in their system. It turns out that my flights from Boston to London, Istanbul to London, then London to Boston only equates to 9,660 points.
So I still need to book another flight when I gets back since I fall just short of the 10,000 point mark.
The good news is, I’ll be going to Vegas when I return — so it looks like that’s already taken care of.
If everything goes as planned, I’ll be upgraded to Platinum Status until 2016 using this hack.
What do you think? Would you take the Platinum Challenge? Have you taken it before?
Let me know in the comments!