Middle Age Miles

Locked by AA – My Data Point with Details & Thoughts

american airlines aa aadvantage termination lockdown terminated locked

Introduction

I’ve been thinking about this article and how to frame it for some time. It’s been one of the most controversial and anger-filled topics that I’ve seen on points-and-miles blogs and forums in my years of following closely. Ultimately, I wanted to provide my data point with details, in hopes that it’s of some help – or at least of some interest – to Middle Age Miles readers.

Background

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware that the American Airlines AAdvantage program has locked a number of members’ accounts, and in some cases terminated accounts entirely. This seemingly began in early-to-mid December. The terminations and lockdowns are apparently based on alleged violations of AAdvantage program rules by the members.

“Terminated” means exactly what it sounds like – the member’s AAdvantage account is closed, all AA miles are lost, all award tickets are canceled (whether on AA or another airline).

“Locked” is somewhat different. For a “locked” member, redemptions of AA miles are not possible through any channel (AA flights; partner flights; hotel bookings using AA miles; etc.). A “locked” member may be able to go through the process of making an award redemption, but the ticket will not issue. It may show “ticket pending” for a while and then vanish, or just remain as “pending” through take-off time with the passenger unable to fly on it. Aside from making award redemptions, a “locked” member’s account seems to function. For example, elite status benefits still seem to work, and the account continues to “earn” miles (although earning may all be for naught if the account is later terminated).

AAdvantage accounts have been terminated and locked without any notice from AA to the member, and without any advance warning. People who are terminated may have received an email message from AA Corporate Security informing them of the termination. Many people whose accounts are locked-but-not-terminated have not received any communication at all from AA, even though their accounts may have been locked for roughly a month.

There has been an astounding amount of commentary, vitriol, and gnashing of teeth over this issue on blogs and forums. Because AA has not told people why their accounts have been locked, speculation runs rampant. People have attempted to compile and analyze data from those impacted, with modest success at best.

That said, there seems to be a high probability that the terminations and lockdowns are associated with the account holder receiving multiple sign-up bonuses on AA co-branded cards from Citi. Behaviors that directly violate AAdvantage loyalty program terms, such as selling miles and creating false accounts, may also be involved in some cases. The main triggering cause seems to be members’ use of physical mailers or e-mailers from Citi to obtain multiple sign-up bonuses.

An Apology

We want to issue a sincere and heartfelt apology to any Middle Age Miles readers who find themselves terminated or locked by AA as a result of our articles. We wrote about success using mailers to get Citi AA Platinum personal cards in two articles:

We are very sorry if you followed in our footsteps to apply for a Citi AA co-branded card with a mailer and now find your AAdvantage account terminated or locked as a result.

We do our dead-level best to not suggest that anyone do anything that violates program terms. We sincerely believed – and still do – that we did not violate any AA or Citi terms. Still, our strategy has led to negative consequences, and I remain at risk of losing all of the AA miles in my account, as well as a couple of award tickets previously booked for several months out. For others who are also in the position as a result of our articles, we apologize.

My Data Point – What Cards Did I Get, and When?

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

I’ll list all of the Citi co-branded cards that I’ve gotten within the past 10 years. Cards where my application was done with a mailer code are bolded, as those are probably the ones most relevant to the termination/lockdown analysis. On each card, I received a sign-up bonus in the range of 50-75,000 AA miles after meeting the minimum spend

  • August 2016 – Citi AA Platinum (personal)
    • I believe that I used a public link, perhaps a referral link
    • After the annual fee posted, I converted the card to Citi AT&T Access More in September 2017, which remains open
  • January 2017 – Barclays AA Aviator Red (personal)
    • Used a public link, perhaps a referral
    • Converted the card to Aviator Silver in June 2017
    • Still hold this card and have put >$140k spend on it in the past 3 years total, including >$42k in 2019
  • January 2017 – Citi AA Business
    • Again, used a public link, perhaps a referral
    • After the annual fee posted, I closed this card in February 2018
  • January 2018 – Citi AA Platinum (personal)
    • Applied using a physical mailer with a 9-digit code, addressed to one of the Middle Age Miles kids at our address
    • Mailer and offer terms contained no restrictions on transfer
    • The mailer did not contain any time restrictions on getting the sign-up bonus – in particular, it did not contain the restriction that appeared in Citi’s public offers that the applicant would be ineligible for a sign-up bonus if they had opened or closed a Citi AA co-branded personal card in the past 24 months
    • I was able to edit the application to apply under my own name, social security number, and other details
    • The application was approved by Citi
    • After the annual fee posted, I converted this card to a Citi ThankYou Rewards+ card in February 2019
  • January 2018 – Barclays AA Aviator Business
    • Used a public link, perhaps a referral
    • Still hold this card and put >$25k spend on it in 2019
  • March 2018 – Citi AA Platinum (personal)
    • Same as the Jan 2018 Citi AA Platinum card – used mailer addressed to a MAM kid; no transfer restrictions; no 24-month language; applied under my own name and SSN; application approved by Citi
    • After the annual fee posted, I converted this card to a Citi AT&T Access card in May 2019, which I later converted to a Citi Double Cash card in September 2019
  • October 2018 – Citi AA Platinum (personal)
    • Same details on card acquisition as Jan 2018 & Mar 2018 AA Platinum cards
    • After the annual fee posted, I converted this card to a Citi ThankYou Rewards+ card in November 2019
  • March 2019 – Citi AA Platinum (personal)
    • Same details on card acquisition as Jan/Mar/Oct 2018 AA Platinum cards
    • Still hold this card; likely to convert it to another Citi card in April 2020 after the annual fee posts

To summarize:

  • 4 Citi AA Platinum cards acquired using mailers over a span of 15 months
  • For each of these 4 cards, I applied using a physical mailer with a 9-digit code, addressed to one of the Middle Age Miles kids at our address
    • The MAM kid who was the addressee on the mailers is an actual human being with a legitimate AAdvantage account, who has flown AA many times
  • Each mailer and its corresponding offer terms contained no language restricting transfer of the offer
    • Note that Citi also sent mailers to our house containing 12-digit codes, which could not be used by anyone other than the person to whom it was addressed
  • Each time, I applied under my own name, my own SSN, and my own other account details
  • Each time, Citi approved my application
    • Citi clearly knew that I had other Citi AA Platinum cards when it approved the last 3 cards. All of the cards were (and still are) associated with the same online account. I even spoke with a Citi agent about the card approved in Oct 2018 to verify my identity and discuss my overall credit limit with Citi (although he did not specifically mention the 2 open Citi AA Platinum cards).

How Did I Find Out My AAdvantage Account Is Locked?

Well, for starters, I did *not* receive any notification from AA that my account had been locked. I have still not received any communication from AA reaching out to me to tell me that my account is locked, what that means, why it is locked, a timeline for resolution, a procedure for how and by what criteria it will be resolved, or what may be the ultimate result.

Instead, the process has gone like this:

  • Sometime in early-to-mid December (perhaps on December 12, 2019; see the entry below dated 1/15/20) – AA locked my AAdvantage account.
  • December 18, 2019 – I made an award reservation for Middle Age Miles daughter KB, for a flight that would occur on January 1, 2020.
  • December 19, 2019 – Philly and I were scheduled to fly from Seattle to DFW. Our flight had a couple of lengthy delays and was ultimately canceled. I made 2 calls that day to the AA Executive Platinum line. Each time, my call was re-routed to AA Customer Service, and upon hearing what I needed, the agent transferred me to the Exec Plat reservations line. No one mentioned any problems with my account. Philly and I were accommodated on an early-morning flight the next day, and we even had Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) that cleared.
    • I thought it was odd that my calls weren’t going to the Exec Plat reservations desk like I expected, but I didn’t spend any more time thinking about it at the time.
  • December 28, 2019 – By this time, I had read a fair bit about AAdvantage account terminations. I could still log in to my account, and I had continued to earn miles, including on my December 20 flight. I checked the Jan 1 ticket for KB, and it said “Ticket Pending.” Despite receiving no communication from AA, I had a strong sense at that time that there was an issue with my AAdvantage account.
  • December 28-29, 2019 (Sat/Sun) – I tried to place calls to the Exec Plat line to check on KB’s ticket. Each time, my call was routed to AA Customer Service, and I got an automated message that their office was closed until Mon 12/30. I wasn’t be able to get anything done on her ticket over the weekend.
  • December 30, 2019 – I called the Exec Plat line again and reached AA Customer Service. I explained the situation and asked what needed to be done to get the “pending” ticket pushed through, since my daughter’s flight was in 2 days. The agent’s answers were vague (and I talked with a supervisor as well):
    • There was a “glitch” with my account
    • There was nothing I could do to get KB’s ticket issued – I would need to find some other way to fly her halfway across the country, on 2 days’ notice
      • I told the agent that I was happy to answer any questions, talk with anyone, and generally do anything I needed to do to get the “glitch” cleared up, whatever was causing it
    • I should have received an email from AA Corporate Security (I hadn’t) and if not, I would receive one soon (I still haven’t to this day)
    • Be sure to check my junk mail folder (I did; still no email from AA Corp Sec)
    • They could not transfer me to AA Corporate Security, and they could not provide any way that I could reach out to contact AA Corporate Security myself

NOTE: I later learned, from a post by JonNYC on Flyertalk (a noted and generally reliable source for AA “insider” information), that the way AA Customer Service handled my call was consistent with directions that they had been given. Here’s the relevant section of JonNYC’s 12/27/19 post on Flyertalk:

  • Still on December 30, 2019 – We canceled KB’s “pending” ticket. The AA miles for this ticket had actually never been deducted from my AAdvantage account, so no re-deposit was needed. We re-booked KB using AA miles from Philly’s account on a Web Special deal, for 6,000 miles less than her original ticket. (Ha!) The ticket issuance process was normal – it issued with no problems within an hour or less.
  • January 15, 2020 (today) – I called AA for an issue on Philly’s account, unrelated to my lockdown. Again, my call was routed to AA Customer Service. The agent required me to verify my account by confirming my address, email, and most recent flight or other points-earning activity. The agent confirmed that my account remains on lockdown – and he actually used the word “lockdown” this time. He said that AA Corporate Security sent me an email on December 12. I re-checked all of my emails, and I did not receive anything from AA on that date. The agent said that he will have the email “re-sent” to me (that was several hours ago; I still haven’t received anything). I told the agent that I was happy to talk with anyone and I’m anxious to get the issue resolved, whatever it is, so my account can be unlocked.

What Happens From Here?

We honestly have no idea. As best we can tell, AA Corporate Security is working through the locked accounts, presumably giving them some sort of review. However, AA doesn’t seem to be communicating with anyone.

On one hand, things seem very discouraging. We have not heard any reports of anyone whose account has been locked being reinstated, or even of anyone being able to speak meaningfully with AA to review their account and answer questions. The only results so far have been either termination or indefinite lockdown.

On the other hand, common sense tells us that AA is likely to apply some reason to this process. Simply terminating the accounts of numerous AAdvantage account holders, many of whom (like me) fly a lot and spend a lot with AA, doesn’t make any business sense. On this point, we are encouraged by another comment by JonNYC on FlyerTalk:

If you can’t read the screenshot, the key point is as follows: A previous commenter had suggested in his Point #3 that “AA is wholly uninterested in the circumstances and individual particulars of the [locked] accounts.” To that comment, JonNYC responded: “But obviously #3 [that is, the comment that we quoted above] is ridiculous.” This makes complete sense to us.

Still, though, we have no communication at all from AA – no timeline; no idea what process or standards AA will apply; no ability to provide facts, data, explanation or argument. AA is acting as judge and jury here, using its own secret rules.

Our best guess is that AA applied some AI analysis to its database of member accounts (or maybe just ran a simple script), which resulted in a group of accounts being identified for termination or lockdown. Presumably, the group was sorted into 2 initial batches, those who would be immediately terminated and those who would be locked down. From here, our best guess is that JonNYC is correct – that is, that AA will consider the circumstances and individual particulars of the accounts in making decisions on how to proceed with each impacted member.

Fingers crossed that we’re right about the process, and that I am just temporarily in the penalty box, not ejected from the game.

Fortunately, the only award tickets currently booked using AA miles from my account are for flights that don’t occur until late summer. The reservations were made and ticketed before my account was locked down. They still show as “ticketed.” Presumably (hopefully?), this process will sort itself out with enough time for us to make reasonable alternative flight arrangements. For many other people, though, they have award flights coming up much sooner and may be at risk of being stuck without a return ticket, mid-trip.

What Factors May Help Me in an AA Review?

There would seem to be several factors that may help me in an AA review, as I’ve been a loyal and valuable AA customer, and setting aside the “mailer” issue I don’t have any questionable activity on my account:

  • I am an Executive Platinum member, for the 3rd straight year now
  • I have spent >$10,000 with American during 2019, roughly the same amount in 2017 and 2018, and also thousands of dollars per year for many years before that (remember that using Amex/Chase/Citi points counts as a paid fare and as actual spend with AA)
  • I put >$70,000 in spend on AA co-branded credit cards in 2019
  • I only used mailers addressed to a member of my household with the same last name, who is a legitimate AAdvantage account holder
  • My use of mailers was modest and mostly spaced out – only 4 within 15 months
  • All new card accounts, of course, were made using my own name, SSN and other details, and all were approved by Citi

In addition, I didn’t do any of these things that seem “worse” and/or would be clear violations of AAdvantage program terms:

  • I didn’t buy or sell any AA miles, and I never offered to buy or sell miles
  • Neither I nor anyone else in our household created any false AAdvantage accounts; for instance, in the name of a pet, houseplant, or imaginary friend
  • I only made award reservations for myself and immediate family members
  • I never bought or sold any mailers, nor did anyone else in our household
  • I never used any mailer that had been purchased
  • I never used any e-mailer (generally, and perhaps always, e-mailers contained terms that prohibited transfer of the offer)

If JonNYC is correct that AA is considering the circumstances and individual particulars of the accounts, I think my record should hold up fine and my account would be reinstated. But at this point, given AA’s lack of transparency, who knows?

Closing Thoughts

I’m not here to ask for sympathy. The objective is to provide a clear, detailed data point, along with some thoughts on what has happened and how it might play out.

That said, I strongly believe that AA is acting unreasonably and unfairly, given its lack of communication, lack of transparency, lack of process, and indefinite lockdowns – not to mention that each card application was vetted and approved by AA’s partner, Citi. In addition, locked down members cannot travel on AA with any peace of mind. I won’t further belabor the point.

And even if you believe that I violated AAdvantage program terms, a full shutdown of my account seems punitive and extremely unfair. I have earned hundreds of thousands of miles through flying and a variety of other methods that have nothing to do with Citi AA Platinum cards from mailers.

Although I’m an attorney, I have not yet undertaken the effort to assess the legal landscape in the event that my account is terminated. We’ll save that for later day, one which hopefully never comes.

Thinking about alternatives – As a hub captive in DFW, it’s nearly impossible to cut bait on AA. Especially for Philly’s work trips, she needs to get to her destination as quickly, easily and comfortably as possible, and that almost always means flying AA (even with its flaws). I have considered at least crediting flights to a partner carrier, which would probably be British Airways. But by doing so, I’d lose my Executive Platinum benefits (which still seem to be working) and probably not be able to re-qualify for Exec Plat if my account was reinstated later this year. For now, perhaps naively, I’m going to continue to credit to AA and hope that I’ve guessed correctly.

What are your thoughts on the AA termination/lockdown situation? Have you been impacted? Am I being overly naive about potentially being reinstated? I welcome your thoughts and analysis in the Comments!


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167 thoughts on “Locked by AA – My Data Point with Details & Thoughts

  1. Grant

    Yikes, this is a tough situation to be in, especially for someone who flies AA a lot and is Executive Platinum. What if AA said they would remove all the AA miles you received as a sign up bonus for using mailers that did not belong to you? Do you think that would be fair? Would you still have a positive AA balance?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks, Grant. Yes, I would still have a positive AA balance under that scenario. Will respond to your other questions via DM. ~Craig

  2. SgFm

    Seriously nightmarish!! I hope you get this resolved ASAP!

    How do I check my account to see if it’s locked if I don’t have any immediate plans to travel using AA miles? I’ve had award tickets go into pending sometimes upwards of 24-48 hours depending on the airline and itinerary, so I’m not sure that would be a reliable way to tell. And you can only cancel within 24 hours of making a booking, without penalty of course.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi SgFm – Thanks for the support. As for your question, to my knowledge there are 2 ways to “back into” finding out if you’re locked – (1) Call the AA reservations line from the phone number associated with your AAdvantage account. If you’re re-directed to AA customer service and they ask you to verify your account by providing/confirming some info, you’re probably locked. (2) You can make an award reservation and see if it actually tickets or just remains pending. As you note, that can be problematic because the reservation might stay in “pending” status for 24 hours in the normal course. I’ve also seen people suggest making a hotel reservation through the AA portal (usemiles.com) at the cheapest hotel you can find and seeing if the reservation actually confirms or not. This method would probably put you out a few miles as it would probably require a pre-paid booking.

      In any event, I wouldn’t just call up AA and ask!

      Hope that helps! Fingers crossed that your account is ok. ~Craig

      1. bluecat

        As I understand the rumors, the application of the lock or ban was/is not a singular occurrence: they were coming “in waves”.

        If one had an AA reservation a few months out, do you think AA would *eventually* notify you that you have been frozen out? I mean, they would want to re-sell your seat at some point, right?

        So should we check now and then again at “departure date minus 2 weeks”? Continually check weekly? Are there any DPs that would indicate that—eventually—AA will let you know you are in the clink?

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi bluecat – Many thanks for the comment and good questions. I honestly don’t know what AA is going to do in terms of notifying people. Your supposition that they’d want to sell the seat if they’re going to cancel your reservation makes perfect sense. But that said, I’ve seen some data points to suggest that AA hasn’t done that – people learned very late that they wouldn’t be able to fly. I do have to say, it’s a bit hard to discern hard facts from the forum comments. In the meantime, I’d be checking my reservation regularly for sure. ~Craig

  3. ABC

    Any idea how many accounts are locked? I would guess 5 figures. Must take AA a tremendous amount of manpower to check each account.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi ABC – Good question. I don’t really have any idea, but I’d say low-ish 5 figures is a reasonable estimate. And I absolutely agree, it’s a big, big task to review the accounts. ~Craig

  4. Chris

    As someone who has had their AA account terminated, Thank You for writing what I believe to be the best write-up on this subject to-date. Many bloggers in this space appear to be skirting around this issue and it’s encouraging to finally see someone give us the facts and implications in well-written manner. I second your opinion that AA is behaving unfairly and unreasonably. I hope that AA will instigate an appeals process soon.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Chris – Thanks for the comment. I’m very sorry to hear that your AA account was terminated. And I certainly agree with your hope that there will be some way to appeal the decision. It’s frustrating that AA is acting as judge, jury, and in your case, executioner, without any transparency or process.

      And many thanks for your very kind words. That was a hard article to write. I’m glad you found it helpful, and I hope that others do as well. Best of luck! ~Craig

  5. Americans Anon.

    I think it’s pretty naive to assume AAs acting in good faith here. It’s a brilliant business stroke on their part. Nix accounts that they can allege have gamed their system and eliminate the least lucrative customers while getting a lot of miles off their books.

    Most customers will do nothing about this. If it was me, I would be going after them in court. I’ve successfully sued other airlines in similar situations (not widespread like this though). That would change the calculus for AA here. I’d give this a 90% chance of prevailing in a judgement. I’d also bet youd get a settlement offer with an NDA before ever showing up to court.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Americans Anon. – Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I have to say, regardless of how much I may disagree with AA’s actions in general (understanding that there are probably some egregious cases out there were termination may be warranted), I do kind of respect AA’s “shock and awe” strategy of terminating some accounts out of nowhere and putting the fear of God into people. It’s clear that this has worked.

      Being a former litigator, not much gets me fired up more than a good court fight. If I end up being terminated, I’ll dig into it further and give it some very serious thought.

      I appreciate your thoughts, and I also appreciate that you’ve taken the good fight to airlines before when it was warranted. ~Craig

      1. IkeEsq

        Thank you for writing a piece that actually covers a lot of the real issues with the way AA is mishandling this entire operation. Sorry to hear about your own locked status, I know how frustrating it is, especially as no one has been ‘un-locked’ to date.

        I do have to disagree with your assessment of their shock-and-awe strategy, however. The actual cost to AA of a mile is pretty insignificant and given the apparent time and resources going into this (which has been going on since at least October 2019), I find it difficult to believe that they are actually coming out ahead financially in this investigation and the subsequent closures. While that is fine if you are intending to make a point, AA is not really making any discernible point here.

        They provide no communications when locking someone, no explanation for closure of an account, and no response to inquiries or ability to appeal their decision. Their ‘justification’ for closing accounts is boilerplate and hard to justify as people (like yourself) who have not violated any Citi or AA rules are locked and shutdown. People with NO AAdvantage credit cards are shutdown because (it is guessed) they are in the same household as someone who got Citi AAdvantage cards. Reward tickets are cancelled, even for accounts that were not shutdown, based on a ridiculous interpretation of their Conditions of Carriage.

        If you are a member of the AA program, what is the lesson here? Don’t get one of the credit cards that they are pushing on their website, ads, flights, and emails? Don’t expect your reward reservations to be honored because they may cancel it a few hours before you can check in or cancel your return leg and leave you stranded? Without some kind of a statement from AA as to what they are doing and what conduct they suddenly believe after a decade is ‘exploitative,’ they are only showing themselves to be a company that cannot be counted on to honor their commitments. Travel is stressful enough without having to deal with this level of anxiety.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Many thanks for the thoughtful comment, IkeEsq – always good to hear from a fellow lawyer. And I appreciate the compliment.

          Your message really got me thinking about the PR angle here. There actually hasn’t been a lot of press on this, and it seems like AA earned the early upper hand with a simple theme that they’re weeding out the people gaming the system. That’s quite the false narrative, but it sounds really good and simple. As a lawyer, I’m sure you truly appreciate that. Is there any way to re-frame the narrative here – AA taking an incredibly customer-hostile approach? Approaching it as a big corporate bully? Stranding Americans in foreign lands with no ticket home? My wheels are turning on this.

          Thanks again for taking the time to write. ~Craig

          1. UnAAmerican

            I hope some stranded family calls the news media. So many of us are or were laying low hoping our number isn’t up.

        2. HS

          Not an attorney — don’t even play one on TV — but IkeEsq has well-captured exactly what bothers me about what has happened here. I have not been locked down. I *think* I have not been locked down because (a) there is no evidence I have been locked down; and (b) because I never used a mailer. (I never used a mailer because I was too lazy and was saving them up for a time when I was not making spend on other cards.)

          But, man, yeah: Travel is stressful enough without having to wonder all the time about what the limits are. I used to hold two Red Aviators at once. Was that a problem? Will it be a problem? I doubt it, but then I never would have imagined that American Airlines would deny people flights on their award miles when some award miles were gained from cards profligately offered and vetted by Citi.

          I don’t want to exaggerate. For some of the reasons mentioned by Craig, I’m stuck with American (hub captive in particular), at least for a while. But I have no further intentions of signing up for any AA related cards, and while some would say that that is exactly what AA wants, it also means I won’t be spending as much on their cards; and as miles disappear as a key tool in my AA armamentarium, I won’t have as much incentive to book paid flights with them, either.

          Craig, I really appreciate the clarity with which you have written and posted about this. I think that if more people know what is really happening here, there is at least a chance that AA will re-think their scorched earth strategy of non-information. In Calvinism, the not-knowing about the predestined fate of one’s immortal soul did create a personality type that worked incredibly hard and productively to distract themselves from the unknown and convince themselves that they must be among the elect: hence, the Protestant ethic (I’m bowdlerizing Max Weber here). But a lot of folks switched religions, too.

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi HS – I’ve been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this situation, and of course you didn’t disappoint. I’m confident that no one else has tied the AA shutdowns to Calvinism or invoked Max Weber. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ~Craig

        3. Terence

          Concur! I used this exact strategy very successfully in the past with PayPal. They gave me the silent treatment, then never ending runaround treatment.

          To make things easy on you, recommend taking AA to small claims court (for the value of your miles, up to the court limit). After filing with small claims court: serve AA legal office with certified mail, the state corporate registered agent (google it), and your local AA airport management. You can go to court and represent yourself for free, while AA has to hire lawyers (expensive). You get their attention fast and they’ll reach out to you to settle quickly, probably 100% in your favor.

          If they elect to not do it, then just tell you story to the Judge. You have nothing to lose…only gain. Practice what you want to say to the judge, have your timeline of events ready.

          Back to PayPal: they called me 3 days before court and started asking me questions, I asked why they called me instead of meeting me in court, and they said “we want to see what we can do to settle with you”. I told them to give all my money back…and they did.

          Small claims court can be fun when dealing with the big guys! It’s the great equalizer between the little guy and big corporations.

      1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

        Hi SK7 – Many thanks for the comment and pointing out this language. I’ve seen the language, and I’m aware that the Ginsberg case exists. But I haven’t ever read Ginsberg or studied it to fully understand its holding or context, or how far its holding may or may not extend. There are certainly legal doctrines that would ordinarily be helpful to the program member in a situation like this; however, I’m not sure the extent to which they may be pre-empted by the Ginsberg case or specialized Federal law. Like I said, I just haven’t taken time to delve into the issue, and I also haven’t seen any reasoned legal analysis of it to date.

        Stay tuned. I’d say there’s a good chance that some litigation comes out of this situation, in one form or another! ~Craig

  6. FindAWay

    Thank you for sharing the details if your activities and AA interactions. I think such documentation and sharing is very useful to those impacted and can help everyone learn and adapt moving forward.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi FindAWay – You’re most welcome, and I hope it’s helpful. All of us want to stay on the right side of the line, so any sharing we can do to achieve that goal is certainly good. Thanks for reading and commenting! ~Craig

  7. David

    Craig, in your view is there any activity that we could’ve engaged in that you feel would open us up to countersuits by AA should we choose to sue in small claims court? Anything that crosses the threshold from “abuse” of the AA TOC to “fraud” in a legal sense? As someone who is shut down and lost over a million miles, taking this to the courts will absolutely be my next step, but I want to make sure I fully understand the downside risks of doing so.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey David – Very tough to say. You’d have to go over each individual’s facts in complete detail. Plus, I haven’t done any sort of dive into the law on this, other than knowing that there are some very specific laws that come into play and they’d need to be researched. I hate to give a weasel-like lawyer response to your good question, other than to say that your concern is a good & genuine one, and the individual facts will matter a lot. I’m really sorry about your shutdown and I’m sick about the losing-a-million-miles part. ~Craig

      1. Hoang

        Craig,

        Thanks for your post. You are an attorney and I bet there are several attorneys reading your post or someone in this hobby are attorney. Why can you or other set up a conference to come up an ideas to help out others. There are a lot people out there do not affect yet but not sure about the future when AA will stop this.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi Hoang – Thanks for the comment, and good thought. I’m not sure about a conference, but I plan to continue to post here on Middle Age Miles as the situation develops.

          In response to the question in your other comment – I’m not sure if there are people who did not use mailers who have been locked or terminated. I’ve seen a few data points where it looked like a spouse or significant other of a person with a number of sign-up bonuses was terminated along with their spouse/SO, but those seem to have been limited. ~Craig

    2. Jesse

      A couple points come to mine that you could maybe use.
      – they have canceled tickets mid trip, stranding America’s in foreign countries.
      – they allow you to continue to earn miles on cash/revenue trips knowing full well you can’t redeem them
      – citi continues to send promo offers and incentives for using the AA branded cards i have, also potentially knowing full well i can’t use the miles.

      So my biggest issue is AA and citi continue to encourage earning miles and are more than happy to award miles to you – knowing full well you can’t use them. That to me seems like fraud or a scam.

  8. Paul

    Thanks for writing this, Craig. I am also locked and have been following things closely. This is by far the best and most thorough article I have seen on the topic.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Paul – Thanks for the note. I’m really sorry to hear that you’re also locked.

      I do, though, appreciate the kind words, and I’m glad you found the article to be helpful. Hopefully we’ll get through this! ~Craig

  9. Michael

    Hi, great post. I hope your account is fully reinstated quickly. Our backgrounds are similar, though I was unsure of my account status. I dialed the reservation line linked to my AA EP registered phone number and it went through to the reservation line recognizing my name not to customer service, so I am hoping that means I am not locked. I appreciate the range of topics you cover, the magnitude of detail you consider for your blog posts and your writing style. Keep up the great work. Yours is one of the few blogs that I am comfortable recommending to others and serves as a role model for current and future bloggers. Michael

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Michael – Many thanks for the comment and awesome compliments. I truly appreciate it. Also, thank you for recommending Middle Age Miles to your friends who share our interests.

      On your call to AA, that sounds like a good sign, especially if your call was actually connected to a reservation agent. I didn’t quite drill down all the way in the article, which was already very long, but on my call today, the first connection said I had reached the EXP reservation line, but it re-directed me to AA Customer Service before I actually reached an agent. I was hopeful for a few seconds there. Anyway, again, hopefully you’re in the clear, but given your comment, I did want to add that nuanced detail for you. ~Craig

  10. JohnZ

    Thanks for the article. Locked as well. 505k miles plus a 140k round trip booked in March… When I call I go to CS, when I try to book via useaamiles: Points cannot be processed.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi JohnZ – Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to hear that you’re also locked. You’re like me, lots of miles at risk plus an important ticket. Your ticket comes up much sooner than mine, though. I’d be very anxious in your situation – not sure if it’s realistic at all to think that AA will get your situation resolved one way or the other before March. If it’s a trip you are committed to taking, I’d seriously consider making alternative flight arrangements – or at least checking them closely so you can get something else in place in time, in case AA doesn’t let you fly. Your situation and others with close-in award tickets that have actually ticketed really illustrates the unfairness of how AA is handling things. Good luck with everything! ~Craig

      1. JohnZ

        Lets wish us good luck Craig. Thanks I’m aware of these facts. It is not easy to replace two business flights to Delhi and back. Of course, tens of thousands of my miles were legitimate spent i.e. for equipment for work. Thank you for your blog.

  11. Jamie

    Craig, there is a lot of speculation as to why some AA accounts are nuked before others. At first, it appeared that primarily accounts with imminent award flights were being prioritized. However, there are also reports of people being nuked without any award reservations on the books.

    Could it be that the anniversary date of one’s citi card is taken into consideration? After all, once someone’s AA account is terminated, any Citi card benefits (free bag, boarding group) will also be null since the benefits are tied to one’s AA account. No AA account, no free bag or prioritized boarding group despite having an open Citi card.

    I can see someone who paid an annual fee for the card (there HAVE to be some people who pay the fee?) would be quite upset to find that they paid the annual Citi fee but can’t access the associated benefits. As such, perhaps Citi provided AA with renewal dates and AA will choose someone whose renewal date is coming up to investigate first over someone whose renewal date maybe months away.

    Perhaps Citi card renewal date plus an upcoming AA award flight will send someone to the top of the list to be axed?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Jamie – Thanks for the comment, detailed thoughts and additional information. This is certainly a possibility; no one outside of AA really knows for sure. I’m hesitant to even speculate about it.

      Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles and taking the time to comment! I hope you continue to enjoy the site. ~Craig

  12. Richard B

    I’m part of the private sub form on Reddit regarding the AA shutdown. I can confirm AA does NOT care about your status, or how much you’ve spent with them. You’re toast and your termination is coming. I’ve closely been following all the data reports that come in, and there are numerous Executive Platinum people that have been nuked. The mods have been collecting data points via shutdown surveys. They’ve confirmed status/spending does NOT matter.

    I’ve been locked since 12/12 as well. No upcoming travel, and no status with AA. I’m waiting for the termination e-mail to come any day now….

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Richard B – Thanks for the comment and information. I suppose that I and others must hope that these past data points are not pre-determinative of all future results.

      I don’t mean to fight with you, and I certainly appreciate your comment. Yet I think it’s worth considering a counter-point: It seems like if AA was going to terminate everyone who is currently locked, it could and would have done so from the start. It already identified the accounts sufficiently to lock them; why continue to keep them active at all if it’s pre-determined that they will all be terminated?

      I suppose that time will tell …

      Thanks again for taking the time to post here. ~Craig

      1. brad99h

        {It seems like if AA was going to terminate everyone who is currently locked, it could and would have done so from the start.]

        Its been over 40 days since this started we have not heard of a single locked account go unlocked, why would you think yours would?!

        There are 5 stages of grief you are still stuck on step 1, while most of us are on 5.

        1-Denial
        2-Anger
        3-Bargaining
        4-Depression
        5-Acceptance

  13. Aaron

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for the article. It’s probably the best blog post I’ve read yet on this particular topic. I also appreciate the honesty/integrity to own up to having advertised the mailer method on the blog in the past, unlike some other bloggers I could name who’ve talked about this. I agree with you that using them was not wrong and that Citi really owns most (all?) of the blame here.

    Best of luck to you in the future with your account but I must tell you the data points are not pretty and I would be expecting a shutdown at some point. Multiple EPs have been shutdown already some with similar profiles to you.

    I do have a question though as I’d be curious what your initial take would be on my personal situation. I have a similar velocity/mailer profile to yourself and my account was outright terminated recently. I did use some mailers (3 or 4) that were not sent to my household but like you I read the terms thoroughly and do not believe I broke them.

    Regardless I have a relatively unique wrinkle to my situation. I was shutdown while overseas in Europe. They really put me in a bind by cancelling my flight home while in a foreign country on extremely short notice. I’m personally baffled and angry at this treatment as it feels wildly vindictive and uncalled for from my perspective. I was fortunate to find an acceptable (and points based) way home, but this could have very easily caused an unwelcome delay and/or thousands of dollars.

    However my question for you here is this. Since I was shutdown with a Europe -> US flight ticket cancelled within 7 days of departure, I believe I have a case to claim a violation of EU 261. My only concern really is potential legal reprisal from AA, however I believe I am being paranoid on that front. Do you, as a lawyer, have any sort of opinion on this? I do understand that it would be strictly that, opinion.

    Thanks and sympathies for your situation!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Aaron – Thanks for the comment and your kind words. Totally understand that the DPs to date aren’t good.

      Wow, yours is a rough shutdown story. I can’t believe they effectively stranded you. Great job finding your way home under difficult circumstances!

      I’m no expert on EU 261, and I want to be clear that I’m not giving legal advice here. As I read that law, I do see some reasons that AA would certainly raise in defense against a EU 261 claim. For example, on its face the law seems to cover “cancellations” in terms of “cancelled flights” and not “individual cancelled tickets.” That said, I don’t have any idea how the law has been interpreted. There’s another prong for compensation for “denied boarding” that might potentially apply, but I’m not sure about that one either. More to your question, legal reprisal from AA beyond vigorously defending your EU 261 claim and refusing to pay seems unlikely – but there is greater than zero risk.

      I know I didn’t fully answer your question, but I hope these thoughts help. And again, please accept all my sympathies for your shutdown and the very difficult situation that AA put you in. ~Craig

  14. iahphx

    Thanks for the interesting post. Do you have any idea how much money AA actually lost for each “mailer” application Citi approved? Like most who follow the “points game,” I’ve been very surprised by AA’s actions here. Sure, I understand AA’s desire to crack down on folks who were getting a credit card every few weeks and selling the miles, but I’m amazed that they’re also terminating the accounts of loyal AA customers who simply responded to a few promotional mailers that were flooding into their homes. I doubt there’s a single “sophisticated” miles and points customer who’s only applied for credit cards that they were specifically targeted for. Whenever I’m interested in getting a new credit card, I always look for the best sign-up offer. I don’t generally research where that offer came from or who was specifically targeted. If I’m approved, I assume I was eligible for the offer. Through frequent flyer forums and blog posts, we all know of instances where credit card companies were happy to give you multiple bonuses for the same credit card. I can’t remember the specifics, but I know I used to cancel credit cards when the annual fee hit and then get a bonus on a new application. And I even remember when banks would let you have more than one of the same credit cards at the same time: like BoA and the Alaska card. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I could get my Alaska frequent flyer account closed by having more than one Alaska credit card. If anyone was ever to “complain” about this, I would have thought it would be the bank. If a bank wanted to keep giving me bonuses, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I never thought it was my responsibility to say “guys, maybe you should only let me have that bonus one time.” It is obviously very easy for a bank to limit the number of credit cards you can have. If AA has a problem with what transpired, they should look primarily to Citi for reimbursement — not Citi’s customers who filled out credit card applications honestly.

      1. iahphx

        I vaguely remember that fiasco — and how the “tricks” stopped working after it became a blogger “contest” to get as many points as possible . I didn’t realize that Alaska actually shut down any accounts over it. I personally would never have applied for 4 identical credit cards on the same day, but I do remember reading that you could get a second Alaska credit card approved by telling a BoA agent that you simply wanted a second card for personal reasons (like charging different expenses to different cards). I recall using that advice to get a second Alaska card when I still had another one. That doesn’t seem too different from what Craig did to get locked out of his AA card.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi iahphx – Many thanks for the comment and thoughts. We’re happy to welcome a FlyerTalk legend to Middle Age Miles! And I enthusiastically agree with all your thoughts here.

      I don’t have any sense for the AA financials with respect to the applications – but thinking about it, doesn’t AA sell the miles to Citi, presumably at a rate that is profitable to AA? If I’m right that this is how it works, isn’t it Citi that potentially “lost” on mailer applications and not AA? Seems like AA would be laughing all the way to the bank. I suppose that AA could be “hit” on the redemption end, if miles were redeemed for particularly high-value tickets that AA might have sold otherwise. But that doesn’t hold up too well, either – AA doesn’t offer saver award availability when it thinks it can sell the ticket; and for higher-priced awards, AA is collecting a high number of miles that should represent at least a fair trade for what they received when they sold the miles to Citi.

      [If I’m not understanding how the AA-Citi relationship works, then disregard these thoughts. But I think I’m on-track!]

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment. ~Craig

      1. iahphx

        There is some theory that AA was paying some of the “acquisition cost” of AAdvantage members who signed up for the mailer offer. I obviously have no idea of what that contribution was. Logic would say it would have to be so since otherwise AA should be thrilled that Citi was handing out credit cards like candy and buying all these miles from AA! The whole matter just reeks of absurdity. Citi was basically carpet bombing the country with these mailers; millions of them went out to seemingly every AAdvantage member who didn’t have a Citi credit card. And they did this repeatedly. Now AA — but not Citi — is “outraged” that some customers in the homes where these mailers arrived used them to buy the product that was being advertised? If they didn’t want other family members to use the mailers, it would have been easy to program the application process to prohibit this behavior. Meanwhile, everyone in the “frequent flyer world” knew that the mailers were transferable, and that you could get multiple credit cards. Heck, “multiple cards” is an established feature of the AAdvantage program: AA even has two banks that issue them and there’s never been a problem with a member getting them from both banks! Meanwhile, as Citi was (modestly) tweaking the transferability of the mailer promotion, the doctorofcredit was reporting on it. Does no one at Citi or AA read the frequent flyer blogs, much less look at their own application data? Did they really just let this mass promotion run on autopilot for years and then — suddenly — decide they didn’t like the results and were going to punitively do something about it? It just seems bizarre.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi iahphx – Awesome comment. Thanks for the well-articulated thoughts. Amen, amen, amen. ~Craig

  15. mjonis

    Excellent article, thank you!

    Unfortunately JonNyc has not been very accurate on *this* particular item. He’s actually been wrong far more often than right on *this* topic. Even his recent Twitter post about clarifying if more shutdowns were forthcoming or more information. He said more information. Wrong. More shutdowns have come. Then he later posted on Flyertalk that lockdowns/shutdowns were going to be ongoing.

    As for his assertion that AA cares –wrong. So far there has not been a single DP of anyone getting anything other than a shutdown or lock. Some folks have even preemptively reached out to Corp Sec (ie: fess up and apologize/whatever). All that has done is expedite their shutdown.

    This obviously is a rather drastic departure from AA’s previous behavior where they would lock the account and then email the person pre-emptively to inquire about certain things. Then, depending on the answers, the account disposition would happen later.

    While I wish that AA would communicate and communicate pre-emptively, I doubt they ever will on this issue.

    Unless some regulatory body or legal angle happens, I think they’ll just continue to do this without any communication (other than the termination email).

    What’s interesting though is that in the termination emails they reference that the award ticket cancellations are due to using miles obtained via exploitative means. However, I’m sure there’s some folks who got on the “train” late and used “legit” miles to earn award tickets. I think those folks probably have a good legal ground to argue, since AA specifically laid out a reason to cancel the ticket when the facts may not have been the case.

    Sorry for your lockdown, I hope it’s actually resolved other than a termination, but so far AA shows no signs of caring, changing policies, etc.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi mjonis – Many thanks for the thoughtful comment as well as the compliment. You make good, well-articulated, and interesting points. Lots of food for thought here. ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thank you, SgFm!!! I had seen the article, but it was very interesting to read again now that a few more weeks’ activity has occurred. ~Craig

  16. Mom of 3

    Hi Craig, I am so glad you are writing about this. I have used a total of 4 mailers sent to my house for family members, and my AA account is locked and expecting shutdown.
    I wonder if my family members are in jeopardy of having their AA accounts locked or canceled? I have used my miles in the past to purchase tickets for them, but they also have their own AA accounts. No future flights are booked- thank goodness!
    Another question: Will I have any problem (until shutdown) using my BA Avios for my AA flights? Usually I then change my frequent flyer number to AA to take advantage of free luggage and seat selection since I am AA Gold.
    While I am still able to log in to my AA account, I am considering doing a status match/challenge to United or maybe Delta. Being in the DFW area, my airline options are few. (We do have the Southwest Companion pass.)

    1. af

      I’m trying to understand how 4 mailers can trigger this disaster…granted many people had this combined with miles from shopping portals and flights, it is difficult to grasp the “strategy” of AA. Unless it is a pure greed where they are trying to purge miles therefore generate larger profit.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Mom of 3 – Thanks a bunch for the comment. Your situation is quite similar to mine – 4 mailers sent to your house to legitimate human family members; DFW resident.

      I don’t think you’ll have any problem using BA Avios for AA flights while locked, or even if your AAdvantage account is shut down. It seems like using the BA Executive Club as an alternative loyalty program is a reasonable choice for us DFW hub captives. Flying on AA may still make me queasy if I’m shutdown, but as a practical matter it’s still the most convenient option for us for most of our travels. You’re in a much better position than we are, given your Southwest Companion Pass.

      It’s kind of hard to say given AA’s lack of transparency, but it seems like there are a few DPs suggesting that family members are also at risk.

      Glad you don’t have any future award flights booked! Best of luck with your own lockdown. Maybe there will be some glimmer of hope at some point, or maybe we’ll just have to take the fight to the courts. ~Craig

  17. Bear

    Craig, my account is also locked. My wife and I have flights scheduled in February, March, and April, with the April flights being the most expensive and important ones of course. Waiting to hear whether I can even take my February flights. Like you, I have not received ANY communication from AA. Very frustrating.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Bear – Good to hear from you but very sorry about your AA account. Dang, you are in a tough spot with the upcoming flights! Ridiculously frustrating. Of course I wish you the best of luck as things continue to unfold. ~Craig

      1. Pan

        I am A little confused, is your wife’s account locked ?
        You said you were calling about her account and got transferred to customer service?
        However, she is still about to book award?

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi Pan – Thanks for the question. My wife’s account is not locked and she can still book awards.

          In the call you’re asking about – I called AA from my phone, to deal with an unrelated issue on her account. AA deducted 1 too many SWUs from her account, and we wanted to get it re-deposited. I usually make those types of calls on her behalf, as I have more time to deal with things like that. Hope that clears up any confusion.

          Thanks for reading Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  18. Chuck Lesker

    Really nasty situation. I am locked. Apparently, if I try to communicate with CorpSec, I will just get shut down faster.

    I did churn cards, a lot more than Craig did, but completely within the rules. I was approved by Citi, met minimum spend, and paid the annual fee (sometimes). Apparently it was OK for me to get the cards and for Citi and AA to profit from that, but it is not OK for me to spend the miles.

    Churning was possible for at least 12-13 years. AA just found out? Tell me another one.

    In the former Soviet Union, you could be convicted without being told the charges (so that you could not possibly defend yourself). This is apparently just like that, because of a Supreme Court decision that supposedly gives AA full discretion over the FF program.

    The worst thing is the waiting. Apparently they are stretching it out to keep it under the radar (no major media except Bloomberg has picked up the story). But yes, as far as we can tell, all the locks will result in shutdowns, logic be damned.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Chuck – Thanks for the comment. It was fun to read, in a gallows humor sort of way. Very painful for sure.

      Your “former Soviet Union” comment made me think of the old comedian Yakov Smirnoff and his “In Soviet Russia …” one-liners. But yes, this feels very much like a Soviet “trial.” ~Craig

  19. UnAAmerican

    Good article.

    My locked account was just terminated. I’ve been getting AA citi cards at a moderate but regular pace for a while. I got no email or any other notice from AA. No notice that flights were cancelled. I learned it from Award Wallet. (Member Account Terminated) I was hopeful as time went by, but no love from AA. U should all hope that someone, anywhere, gets a locked account unlocked. If that doesn’t happen, you’re all toast.

    My taxes, airline fees and airport departure taxes have not been refunded to my credit cards. There is an option for filing for a refund and I will try. I have miles earned from credit card spending that have no account to land into. Will Citi make us an offer to switch to different credit cards? Terminate our AA earning credit cards or let us keep earning useless miles? They keep sending useless offers. Shareholders might be in for a surprise. They’ll get Onions at Citi and roses at AA.

    Donate your miles to charity– quickly before they read this and close the loophole. Middleaged Miles, you’re a lawyer. Is donating miles a tax write off?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi UnAAmerican – Dang, that’s harsh. I’m really sorry about this.

      You ask great questions about Citi and how they’ll handle the cards. I’ll be very interested to see how this plays out. You should definitely be able to get refunds for taxes and fees paid on award tickets, if the amount at issue is worth your time and trouble to track it down.

      I hear you on donating miles to charity. Unfortunately, as I understand it (purely from quick Google research and certainly not any true legal or tax analysis), donations of airline miles to charity are *not* tax-deductible, unless perhaps if you purchased the miles directly.

      I see a few statements online that the IRS recognizes the donation of airline miles as a gift *from the airline* to the charitable organization. That makes a donation even more painful, if *AA* is getting a tax write-off as a result of our donations. Geez.

      Again, I’m really sorry. Thanks for the comment and DP. I’m feeling pretty sick about all this. ~Craig

    2. IkeEs

      AA specifically states on their donation page that miles donations are not tax deductible. Also note that the miles don’t go to an actual charity, they are used by American Airlines for categories of charities at their discretion.

  20. chris

    I hope you will be okay coming out of this.

    I don’t think AA “cares” as it have sympathy for you or others, but I do think AA cares about retaining a profitable customer. They are running a business, cutting a big spender like you out is not smart business.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Chris – Thanks for the comment and good wishes. You’re right, and I think being a profitable customer for AA is my best and probably only hope here. It would be nice, though, to have an “escape” data point or two to fuel hope, as things seem pretty grim based on the AA account actions so far. ~Craig

  21. Hawaii

    Thank you for your candid post. Well…this is a great reminder that companies can act however they want because it isn’t regulated. I am locked. I thought I was playing by the rules but apparently not. I tried to do as much research about citi’s application rules and the mailers terms and conditions. I always stayed below citi’s maximum velocity. I never bought or sold mailers. I signed my dad up for an AA account 4-5 years ago at our address. A year or two later, mailers started coming. We didn’t do anything with them initially. I read the terms and finally decided to apply for a card using the mailer sent to him. They were sending about two mailers per month to our address. I read that the general thought was that the mailers would continue coming if the AAdvantage account owner was NOT the person applying for the card with that promo code. Of course I wondered how this could have been profitable for AA but quickly dismissed this because my goal is to not be a profitable customer anyway. It is my hobby to figure out different loyalty programs and maximize my value. My 7 figure balance is likely gone and I won’t look to dispute it. You win some you lose some. I will be following this to see if anyone takes action though. It makes no sense that citi isn’t held somewhat culpable or that there wasn’t collusion. This isn’t a loophole that existed for a few months. I have only known about it for a few years but people have said that it might have been around for a decade. I would love to see the internal emails about this. I am sure that they have known about it for a long time but for whatever reason chose to ignore it. Why? More credit card sign ups for their investors? Who knows. I do know that I will likely be shut down. I have some paid flights and lots of credit card spend over the years but probably not even close to the bonuses i have earned. Even if they unlocked my account, I will not ever buy another ticket from AA (if I can help it) and certainly will never try to earn AA points. I have no confidence that my future bookings would be honored. I will certainly warn everyone with whom I discuss miles and points. I have been in the miles/points game for 10 years and have never seen anything this widespread. Good luck to everyone involved. Everyone else….be careful with AA.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Hawaii – Great comment. I’m sorry that you’re locked, and having a 7-figure balance especially stings. I don’t see anything wrong with your activity as you’ve described it. Beyond that, I don’t have a thing to add to your excellent thoughts except to send you good luck and our best hopes for reinstatement. ~Craig

      1. HawaiiDreaming

        P2 was shutdown after writing this. P2 hadn’t redeemed many points in the last few years and had a large balance. I am sure mine is coming soon. Like everyone else that was affected, I thought that at some point citi would stop approving us for credit cards or at least stop paying bonuses. In the immortal words of tom petty, “Time to move on…Time to get going…what lies ahead I have no way of knowing.”

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hey Hawaii – Crap. Thanks for the update. It sounds like a number of locked accounts have been terminated in the past couple of days.

          Seems like you have a very sanguine attitude about the whole thing. I admire that. I haven’t been able to sleep for the past few days after reading the many comments with shutdown and lockdown DPs. This has everything bad about big company behavior that gets me worked up – actions that I perceive as abysmally unfair, lack of communication and notice, lack of a fair process, just to name a few. ~Craig

          1. HawaiiDreaming

            Yes. I got a little worked up about it back in mid December because I had a few flights and wasn’t sure if they would be canceled. I was very happy that we were able to fly while being locked. And yes, I hate this from a big company point of view. I can understand how people would say this is abuse but we followed AA’s and citii’s rules. If citi allows you to sign up for cards every couple of months(and have no explicit rules against it), then I don’t have a problem with it. It is similar to extreme couponing to me. I flew delta last week to Hawaii and forgot how much I actually enjoyed flying them compared to american. I am not hub captive but AA does have the most flights from my home airport. Luckily, we live within an hour and a half of a much larger city with many more flight options. It might be time to focus on getting under 5/24. Thanks for your compassion and good luck. You are a much better customer to AA than I was so hopefully you will survive. Even if you do, I would imagine they have damaged your view of them. Another interesting thing to think about—are some customers that have the same amount of SUBs as people that have been terminated going to survive solely because they have spent more money with AA over a period of time. If so, I find it hard to classify the SUBs as abuse. It surely isn’t fraud. Everyone was approved under their name.SSN, and AAdvantage number. It is more like they are just weeding out bad customers. They made a business decision. The numbers must have been so large that they were not going to communicate with everyone even though everyone’s situation is likely different. This is the part that is troubling to me. I also think they should have looked at the people that were otherwise good customers first to unlock them as soon as possible. Seems like a disaster all around.

          2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hey Hawaii – Appreciate the follow-up thoughts and your support. I know that it doesn’t help you or some other readers, but in my personal situation I do think my best hope for survival is my “good paying customer” profile.

            I’m glad you enjoyed Delta and that it’s a reasonable alternative for you. I wish we had more viable alternatives in DFW (of course Southwest works great for many people but it doesn’t fit our overall travel needs very well). ~Craig

  22. Pingback: AA Shutdowns Accounts, Seychelles Travel Guide, Aging Tsunami, Hipmunk Shuts Down, Another Blog Sells Out - TravelBloggerBuzz

  23. UnAAmerican

    I thought of another few questions. If we keep a Barclays or CIti AA card open, and fly paid flights without a FF account, would we get the perks such as priority boarding, free checked bag and in flight food discount? Or are those tied into having a FF account? It seems like cardholders would still get the benefits tied to the cards, and those would fall under bank regulations.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Yes, great question and I’ve wondered this myself. Usually the card benefits are tied to your AAdvantage number, so I’m not sure how they’d be administered if one were forbidden from having an AAdvantage account. But, as you say, banking regulations about card benefits enter the equation here. I’m not sure how this gets resolved.

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot in connection with my Barclays AA Aviator Silver card. It has a lot of AA-related benefits that are somewhat useless as an Exec Plat but would be incredibly useful to someone with no status.

  24. MIchael R Karpiel

    I’m not a lawyer so this is purely speculation on my part but just my 2 cents on this issue.

    As far as I know our AAdvantage accounts (my wife and I) are not impacted since we haven’t applied for any AA cards in almost a year (Have Citi and Barclay each). Last card was applied for online during a booking in April 2019 to get a statement credit from Citi. We do have some ticketed award trips coming up end of March into April but they were ticketed many months ago and in fact I made a change to the itinerary back on Dec 18 and the tickets were re-issued.

    While AA my have a legal standing due to the T&C on AAdvantage accounts there is probably a legal liability by Citi as a financial institution since you cannot use the card benefits and the points are worthless. There are a lot more rules to protect customers from banks then airlines.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Michael – Many thanks for the comment and thoughts. I’m still in the early stages of putting together thoughts from a legal perspective. But this is definitely an angle that makes sense to me in my initial thoughts. There are almost certainly people who are way ahead of me in formulating a legal strategy. ~Craig

  25. Ryan del Mundo

    Man I wish I’d kept up on this shutdown stuff right before Christmas. Instead I tried to change my award ticket for 12/29. I called Plat Reservations a few times and got transfered to a “closed for the weekend” number. I just figured they were actually closed.

    In the end I found a 38k super saver ticket, canceled my existing point reservation, showed up at the airport and was told I couldn’t fly as the new ticket was still pending and on hold for fraud. So that’s how I found out. Would have been interesting if I would have been allowed to fly on the ticket I canceled.

    Kudos to AA for treating people like scum of the earth. I’m of the camp we did nothing wrong, but even to those that believe we did something wrong, AA’s treatment of loyal customers (I did earn Plat!) is horrific. Karma will come back to hit them I’m sure.

    I only had a few mailers (2-4, hard to know since I missed a few spends on some cards and don’t know if those were mailers or not). I was not a heavy hitter. So I’d expect to get some sort of slap on the wrist and eventually get turned back on, but who knows!

    The endgame of this for sure will be a Class-Action lawsuit. BA got hit with one over fuel surcharges or something didn’t they? I’m sure AA knows that they can probably settle a Class-Action for pennies on the dollar. That’s surely a lot cheaper for them than honoring all the shutdowns. I wish it would be a real case so we could learn the real story. So guess I can wait for my pennies from the Class-Action.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Ryan del Mundo – Thanks for the comment. Man, yours is a painful story. It definitely would have been interesting to see if you could have traveled on your original ticket.

      I hope you’re reinstated. As I continue to learn, the DPs so far don’t provide much basis for optimism. Maybe AA will decide not to axe a loyal Platinum customer with modest SUB activity like you – similar to what I’m hoping in my own situation. Right now, I just cringe every time I open my AAdvantage account online. ~Craig

    2. Jenny

      You’re right. It’d be cheaper for AA to settle a class-action lawsuit.

      It’d also have to pay Citi, as Citi paid for your bonus & the miles resulting from monthly spending.

  26. HS

    Just picking up on some of the more recent comments (and Craig’s replies) in this thread, but especially the part of @HawaiiDreaming’s last post:

    “It is more like they are just weeding out bad customers. They made a business decision. The numbers must have been so large that they were not going to communicate with everyone even though everyone’s situation is likely different. This is the part that is troubling to me. I also think they should have looked at the people that were otherwise good customers first to unlock them as soon as possible. Seems like a disaster all around.”

    I think that this is what all the folks defending American, tut-tutting about bad behavior, and slapping themselves on the back don’t get: This is more like a business decision to get rid of bad customers.

    I’m a bad customer. I know that. I discipline my spending behavior to take advantage of all manner of loyalty programs. I didn’t get “caught” here; but many, many people who did get “caught” were working within the written rules. If this shutdown/confiscation thing works here — in this sloppy, scorched-earth fashion, relying on non-communication and blanket, uncontested authority — it isn’t going to stop.

    And I always thought that the way you got rid of customers that you don’t want is to raise prices. Selling them stuff at low prices, then taking it back unilaterally, seems lawless and un-American. Worrisome that this could be the new American.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks, HS. Good thoughts here. It certainly feels like your conclusion is right here, that AA is trying to cull what it deems to be “bad customers.” Their approach is ridiculously heavy-handed, and it’s both over- and under-inclusive. Clearly they’ve “caught” a number of people who were working within the written rules. But some folks at AA clearly decided it was a good idea, and they presumably did so with an eye toward the potential legal and PR consequences. It doesn’t seem like they’ve faced much if anything in the way of PR consequences. The legal (and perhaps regulatory) side will take some time to play out. ~Craig

  27. Pingback: AA lock out details, an indirect transfer partner, easier Star Gold and more

  28. brian

    Eventually Citibank is going to have to come clean. This didn’t happen without their authorization and approval. No one seems to be thing they are a part of this.

    Apparently everything is now secret on reddit. Where is the unclassified version on reddit? If anyone knows, let me know.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Brian – Thanks for the comment, and agreed on Citi. Some of the follow-up proceedings on this are going to have Citi in the crosshairs. We’ll see how it plays out. ~Craig

  29. *AA miles rich to AA Pauper*

    Thanks for the write up.

    3 of x (being somewhat vague so as not to allow correlation with name) people of our household have been shutdown. 2 are locked.

    1.4 million miles between the 3 gone.

    1.5 million miles for trips that were booked and then canceled (1st class flights booked out of those accounts).

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending on Citi cards with nothing to show.

    Last minute cancelations requiring alternative airline flights. 1 account closed <24 hours prior to return trip.

    I think we all thought we were playing the game by the rules – if a CC company would approve you for the card and grant the miles, once they were in your AA account you were golden. I know it does nothing to rage etc (which is what I feel like doing), and so I have unfortunately jumped to stage of acceptance. I will pursue the DOT complaint angle in the rarest of chances that enough DPs will lead to DOT action or future regulation.

    The thing is, we are NOT AA hub captive. We are Delta hub captive and we intentionally flew AA with miles and cash because of the AA churn game. No more. Will go to Delta.

    *AA miles rich to AA Pauper*

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi “AA Pauper” – Glad you appreciate the article, and thanks for the comment. Wow, ouch on the way this has played out for you and your family. It sounds like you guys were playing a strong game with the Citi AA card approvals, but it also sounds like your household was playing within the written rules and Citi’s approval guidelines. I applaud you for filing a DOT complaint to help increase the cacophony and make AA answer for its actions. ~Craig

  30. Billy Bob

    I wonder: to reach those spending levels did you engage in ‘manufactured spending’? I don’t know the particulars, but it involves buying gift cards and liquidating them somehow — kind of cycling the money back into your spending account.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Billy Bob – Thanks for reading and commenting. A substantial majority of spend on my AA cards was organic – a lot coming from the benefit/burden of having tuition and other payments for multiple kids in college at the same time! ~Craig

  31. DisAAdvantaged Flyer

    Thank you for a reasonable, balanced article.

    Well, if what passes for “collective wisdom” over on reddit has any validity, you are deluding yourself, and you will surely lose everything. And based on my own following of developments, I would agree that you will probably be crushed like a bug. I expect to be as well.

    There have been no reports whatsoever of anyone ever recovering from either being locked nor shutdown. Not a single one.

    Once you are “locked”, you are never unlocked. It seems that everyone who is locked eventually gets terminated. It’s just a matter of whether that happens quickly or you’re left twisting in the wind for a while.

    Once they move to “terminate” you, you’re done. All miles clawed back, AAdvantage account closed, ticketed reward flights canceled, you’re fired. You can keep your AA-mile-earning credit cards if you want, but your AAdvantage account is gone, so you will neither accrue any additional miles (you have no account for them to go into) nor can you use the other benefits (eg free checked bag). This can happen tomorrow, while you’re comfortably at home, or while you’re away on a trip, leaving you stranded on the far side of the world. You get zero notice.

    In my case, I had been collecting AA miles for many years, had a very large balance of AA miles without doing anything contrary to their terms – just signing up for a new card on an occasional basis, and putting real spending on them. Ironically, I eventually concluded that large bucket of AA miles was all but worthless, because AA is so stingy with awards and has so many anti-consumer policies clearly designed to screw their members (eg pushing all transatlantic awards to BA where they impose outrageous surcharges), I had all but given up trying to use my worthless AA miles. Eventually I heard about the mailers, and I did use a couple of them, but eventually gave up on them too because the points were so hard to use for my needs (based on my home airport and travel preferences). At least 95% of the miles I accumulated over the years were all legitimately earned, maybe 5% through the mailers (which I read carefully, and found no terms that I was violating).

    I do not think I am locked yet. But I expect they will take all my miles because I used a mailer or two. That’s just how they are treating anyone that they suspect of doing anything they retroactively don’t like.

    Pretty sure that you are toast, too, Craig, as will everyone/anyone who ever received more than 2 or 3 signup bonuses. And yes, it’s quite possible (in fact easy) to pile up several sign-up bonuses between Citi AA and Barclay AA personal and business cards. They don’t seem to care. They see a target and they shoot first and don’t even bother asking questions later.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi DisAAdvantaged Flyer – I’m glad you appreciated the article, and thanks for the detailed comment. Agreed that the data points to date on locked accounts have been uniformly bad, and you have summarized that situation quite well.

      I’m glad to hear that your AAdvantage account is alive and well for now. Maybe there’s an outlier here or there, but using “a mailer or two” wouldn’t seem to have you in the crosshairs for now. And it seems unlikely that AA will make a deeper cut to that level. I’m sure you’ve seen the same, but none of that really relieves the anxiety felt by you and many, many other AAdvantage members in a similar situation. Even for those not directly impacted, AA’s purge is making its presence felt, for sure. ~Craig

      1. UnAAmerican

        The only thing good about actually being terminated is that the stress of wondering if and when it will happen is over. We are able to move on. My account was locked sometime in the first week or so of December and terminated in mid January, about 6-7 weeks later. Never had communication from AA at all.

        Our flights are rebooked with other currencies and other airlines with points or cash, and we’re going on our travels in spite of this setback. It has taken hours upon hours to search out alternatives, rebook, cancel rooms/cars/events and rearrange our cancelled flights. So far the cost on just rebooking the trips AA canceled is approaching $1000. The unrefunded cost of taxes, fees and other hard costs associated with the cancelled flights is about the same $1000. The cost of dumping AA miles into now terminated AA accounts is also high. We never MS, but paid 10’s of thousands of dollars yearly on business expenses, and used the cards for income taxes and other bills that cost about 2% to use a credit card. There are substancial hard costs and opportunity costs.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi UnAAmerican – Thanks for this, although it’s painful to read. I totally understand that the costs are out-of-pocket and quite real. And your point about the stress is well-taken. I’ve actually been working on an article about the impact that the lockdown is having on me in terms of planning, plus some strategy implications that arise from it. We’ll see if the article actually makes it to press. ~Craig

  32. docntx

    Craig,
    This post has really haunted me, and the bewilderment is obviously shared by many of us.
    Perhaps we are trying to make sense of a very sick, torpid and inept bureaucracy. The AAdvantage system is an illustration of AA, and, it has become material for a Kafka story.
    AA often cannot even tell us when and where we are boarding, and the employees with whom we interact are operating often times with less information than us.
    This, in my mind makes this even more frightening, in this limbo with no clear definition of the problem, and no solution.
    Your kind and gracious replies in the face of a very difficult situation have enhanced our respect for you.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi docntx – Many thanks for the kind words. Agreed, the entire AA situation is haunting. Good word for it, as is Kafkaesque. I was just responding to some comments where thoughtful readers were characterizing the situation as a business decision by AA to cull “bad customers.” I responded in agreement, noting that the cull is ridiculously heavy-handed, and it’s both over- and under-inclusive. I also find the lack of transparency and lack of process terrifying. ~Craig

  33. GreenIsles

    I am newer to points and miles, but I did get the Barclay AA biz and Citi AA biz cards and SUBs late last year. Then I signed up for another Barclay AA biz card this year, because I have two (legitimate) businesses, and want to separate spending. Barclays was fine with me getting a second biz card, after we went over my details. I don’t have access to the private DPs on Reddit – should I meet the spend for the SUB on this card or not? Are Barclay card SUBs being targeted or just Citi? I’ve never used a mailer.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi GreenIsles – Thanks for reading and good question. The AA shutdown project seems to be focused on Citi; however, that said, AA has not revealed the criteria so no one can say with absolute certainty.

      Just my personal opinion based on everything I’ve read, I suggest that you go ahead and meet the spend, collect the SUB, use the miles for a fun trip, and don’t lose any sleep over it. No one can tell you for 100% sure that nothing bad will ever happen, but in my view you are in a zone that hasn’t been impacted and isn’t likely to be. ~Craig

      1. DisAAdvantaged Flyer

        One correction: AA is not looking at Citi versus Barclay, not at all.

        Based on the reports on reddit, they appear to simply be counting sign-up bonuses from any credit card. Multiple credible reports indicate that if you have had as few as just 3 sign-up bonuses in the past 2-3 years, you are in their crosshairs. It doesn’t matter if those 3 sign-up bonuses were all from Citi, all from Barclay, or some combination, they are not applying any filter based on which banks gave you the sign-up bonus.

        From all indications, the banks (both Citi and Barclay) have nothing to do with this. It’s all AA. Citi and Barclay are not firing customers.

        1. GreenIsles

          Hmm, thanks Craig and DisAAdvantaged Flyer…so to be safe I guess don’t do the SUB, because that would be 3 SUBs in 12 months…dang!

          Does anyone know, is there an actual lockdown or shutdown DP of someone who just signed up for the 4 basic cards – Citi/Barclay personal + Citi/Barclay biz?

          Because how the heck is that fishy at all – these are all public offers and not churned??

          1. DisAAdvantaged Flyer

            @GreenIsles –

            In short, yes – you can get terminated just for that.

            If it were me, and if I had a non-trivial stash of AA miles already, I would not complete the minimum spend required to trigger a 3rd or 4th sign-up bonus within 3 years, even if those were all gained via perfectly legitimate and acceptable means.

            Yes, there are a couple data points indicating that if you get a total of just 3 signup bonuses from Citi + Barclay (business and personal) combined across 2-3 years, that may be enough to put a target on your back. Of course, it’s quite easy to do that, and doing so would not violate any of AA’s terms…but they get to make up their own definition of what they consider fraud (the term they are using in shutdown emails, when they send them, is “exploitative” methods, whatever that means). AA has taken the position that they can do whatever they want, making up rules and their own interpretation of them, and then apply them retroactively.

  34. Craig at Middle Age Miles

    Funny story that some readers may enjoy – In response to Frequent Miler’s “week in review around the web” post that linked to this article, commenter “toomanybooks” said he was reminded of this classic quote from one of my favorite movies, Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

    I replied to “toomanybooks” with this funny/ironic tidbit – I didn’t put this into my article, but 2 of my Citi AA mailer applications came in the immediate aftermath of AA providing me with a really bad customer service experience and refusing to do anything about it. I thought, well, if they won’t make good to me on their own, I’ll just get some additional AA miles through a new card application.

    So, there you go, for what it’s worth 🙂 ~Craig

  35. Nervous AA Flyer

    Thanks for a fantastic write-up and comments. Just a few follow-up questions:

    Are the affected AA accounts only those with possibly fraudulent SUBs via the mailers (e.g. – your cat got a mailer and you used the mailer’s code) or are legit mailer SUBs affected as well? A bit worried now because even though all my SUBs have been legit (2 in last year, 2 via Barclays, 2 via Citi), the Citi ones were via mailers.

    If your account is locked/terminated and you have a ticket issued for a partner airline, can you still take that flight? I’ve been using AA points to redeem on Alaska and have some flights coming up in the spring so a bit worried about that.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Nervous AA Flyer – I appreciate the kind words. On your first question – I think it’s pretty clear that AA is looking at SUBs earned from sources other than mailers. One of the reasons that my article and many other comments and articles are focused on mailers is because that was usually the pathway for people to get multiple SUBs in a relatively short time period, and getting multiple SUBs in a short period seems to be the trigger for termination/lockdown. If anyone actually had a chance to interact with AA to present relevant facts, it would seem to be quite important if a person didn’t use any mailers (especially mailers sent to fraudulent accounts). But as we know, AA doesn’t give anyone a chance to speak.

      Not sure about your partner airline question. Maybe one of our readers with direct experience can chime in on that one.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! ~Craig

    2. ForgetAboutIt

      Know 2 friends who have had award bookings in partner flights.

      In one case award flights were booked out from 2 locked accounts, one later was terminated in the early wave of shut down.

      ALL award bookings for March travel were canceled by AA including those booked from an account that is still locked but not terminated, yet.

      In another case award flight booked before account was locked in Mid Dec.

      Person was outside US, when 2 days before travel back home on AA award BA flights, received termination email, said all award tickets were forfeited. Though flights still showed up on both AA and BA sites. Person had booked back up since after learning account being locked. Haven’t heard back which flights person took to get back.

      In other words, there is no telling what is going to happen because the information seems to be all over the place.

      I would suggest anyone who has future award tickets to seriously think thru your own situation –

      Do you must take this trip? If so, then take protection to make sure you have back up flights, on both outbound AND inbound.

      Or, would you change the travel plan, either not travel or to somewhere else, so NOT to rely on the AA award bookings, and no need to constantly worry about it, even if you can fly the outbound, you may be stranded when the inbound is canceled by AA.

      Whether you travel on AA or partners, from JL to BA, does not make any difference.

      It should be clear by now that nobody should still have any illusion on this operation that is extremely unfair, unethical, very sleazy and full of vindictive intention.

      1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

        Hi ForgetAboutIt – Thanks a bunch for responding to Nervous AA Flyer’s comment with good (albeit inconclusive) info. And, good advice to everyone locked, to make sure you have a back-up plan in place! ~Craig

  36. FrequentFlyerSam

    Hi Craig,

    Thank you for a great post. My account is also locked. Wife and I used 3 citi-mailers addressed to us (with our names on them) over a period of one year. Never sold miles or use mailer codes of others. Wife also applied for one Barclay personal. I found out that I was locked after booking a domestic award ticket and it went pending for a week without clearing. We have international business award bookings in the summer and will be traveling with a toddler. I have since book a backup economy tickets since being stranded overseas with a toddler would be a nightmare. We are frequent flyers traveling for both business and leisure. This whole event showed me that AAdvantage award bookings can be canceled by American Airline at anytime without warning. AAdvantage miles & program are worthless to me going forward. I warn anyone reading this to avoid and walk away from booking AAdvantage award tickets. Thank you for sharing your DP.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi FFS – I’m glad you enjoyed our article. Very sorry to hear that you’re locked. Yours is a very strong case where if AA had a reasonable process where you could actually speak, you should be cleared in a heartbeat and AA should be begging you to continue as a customer.

      I absolutely understand your sentiment about AA and frankly, totally agree. I’d ditch AA in a heartbeat in light of its actions if we weren’t hub-captive, given its behavior. ~Craig

  37. Housing1st

    Like Craig, I found out about my account being locked somewhat accidentally. I had redeemed for a friend to fly from our home back to her home and the flight was ‘pending.’ When I called, the agent indicated that the account was “locked..” For medical reasons, had to cancel upcoming award flights on British Air and American redeemed both miles and fees. However, don’t believe we can use account for redemptions moving forward.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Housing1st – Thanks for the comment. But ugh. I’m really sorry to hear about your lockdown. And your story is yet another DP of people being locked down with no communication at all from AA. Even setting aside whether any particular lockdown is “justified,” the way AA has handled this program is inexcusable. ~Craig

  38. JB SanDiego

    I would like to share my current Amx MR locked. My understanding is that my MR locked occured in the month of October 2019 when self referral MR was clawed back. Since then, all of my CC accounts remained opened. So I have been able to purchase with my cards and continue to accumulate MRs. On Jan 7, I attempted a test to transfer MRs to Hilton for a top off, but that didn’t happen. After calling, I was informed my MR is locked. As of last week, I was informed that it will be another month to get a letter from Amx concerning my MR lock down. Since Amx states they may ‘temporarily suspend ability to redeem points’ and a month from now will be 4 months of my suspension, then I am guessing my account will be reinstated?

    I am also in the same boat with fingers crossed!

    I ran into this from FM over the weekend.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi JB SanDiego – Thanks for the comment. I’ve read a lot about Amex shutdowns but don’t know nearly as much about them. It seems like Amex has had different procedures of “shutdowns” at different times. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to shed any additional light on what’s likely to happen with your Amex situation, but perhaps readers can chime in to help. Glad you clicked over from FM, and I hope you continue to read and enjoy Middle Age Miles as I’ve seen your name on lots of good comments on FM and DoC! ~Craig

  39. JB SanDiego

    Thx Craig for getting back!

    I realized my Amx experience is so much identical to your AA experience. Hopefully, my lock down of more than 3 months now, will not resemble the AA lock down time frame?

    Like you said, we are left in the dark with usable cards and ability to accumulate points which just adds to this unpleasent twilight zone experience and with abundance of speculation?

  40. Jenny

    Isn’t AA defrauding Citi by terminating accounts since Citi had paid it for many of those miles? AA should refund Citi for forfeited miles (bonus + those accrued via spending).

    Some idiots mentioned that AA pays Citi but it’s the other way around – they can look at the financial reports of both for confirmation.

  41. MyDosSense

    I could be mistaken, but I thought I read that for airlines to count the miles in their books/accounting, they have to be used, and that used means the actual flight they were used was taken, or the points are no longer valid. Do you have any insight into this? If this is true, then by terminating a large number of accounts/miles, they would be able to realize a substantial amount of cash on their books.

    1. Jake Mueller

      @ MyDosSense: Yes, you are right. On American Airlines’ financial report, you can see that as listed as liabilities for its loyalty program. American Airlines Q4 2019 financial report will be available tomorrow.

      We’ll get to know the difference in liabilities pertaining to AAdvantage. What I’m curious about is whether AA will come clean about forfeited miles (bonus + card-spending), or if it’ll include those miles in the ‘recognition of revenue’ via the loyalty program figure. In case of the latter, it’d be engaging in fraud because it’s obligated to reimburse Citi & Barclays for the forfeited miles that were earned via credit card bonuses and credit-card spending. Then we can report this fraud to the SEC as well, as well as the executive offices of Citi & Barclays.

      I’m sure AA will choose the fraud route.

  42. Jake Mueller

    Craig, I was right about AA defrauding Citi & Barclays.

    Even with public offers, one could’ve gotten 6 sign up bonuses every 2 years in the past, so let’s consider a very conservative estimate – 10k locked accounts with a mean of 300k miles, although many people had millions of miles. If Citi & Barclays had purchased miles at 0.5 cents per mile, then this amounts to $15 million.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Jake – Good observation. I know we’re all wondering what Citi is saying and thinking behind the scenes (and to a lesser degree, Barclays). I’d be fascinated to hear their thoughts about this. It sure seems like AA has put them at risk. ~Craig

  43. nel7883

    I have been terminated out of my account and have the advantage of executive world elite card with a $450.00 annual fee. Do i lose all the privileges associated with the card? Will i have access the Admirals Club or free bags? They won’t even respond to that question. They keep telling me to email the revenue protection email address. Does anyone know who i could call to find this information out.

    1. Johnny AApleseed

      The card benefits are tied to an AAdvantage account #. If your account was terminated, you would no longer get benefits. If you were brazen, you could open a new AA account, maybe in a wife or child’s name and associate the AA account to your Citi card. You would then have to purchase all future tickets through that account, I believe.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Nel – Great questions. Johnny AApleseed’s response on baggage fees is are correct. He is also right about your Admirals Club access being tied to your AAdvantage number. I’m wondering if there’s a “back door” though, if you present your physical Citi AA Executive card and boarding pass upon entering the Club. I’d be interested to hear any first-person DPs on this. ~Craig

  44. Billy Bob

    Here’s a note of hope maybe to some of you. In my case I had SUBs from both Barclays business and ‘red’ within the last 18 months, and another from Citi (business) just over two years ago. Before that I had SUBs from Citi (personal) again in 2014 and Barclays US Airways in 2013. So, five in the last (roughly) six or seven years. Player 2 had Barclay’s red and Citi AA business in the last 18 months, as well as Citi personal 5 years ago and Barclays like me sometime in 2013. So, in her case she had four in the last six or seven years.

    We never received mailers and we either signed up from in-flight offers or from commonly available offers which I probably found on a blog. We engaged in no MS, no two-browser trickery or anything like that, and I took advantage of spend bonuses as they came along (typically for 1000-5000 miles depending) but we have had very few actually paid flights on AA.

    I called about some long-festering missing miles yesterday and asked directly if there were any restrictions on our accounts based on what I have read here and on other websites. I was told that for both of us, there were no such restrictions. However, the agent did ask me early on “how I earned most of my miles”. There must be some field on their screens that requires this particular aspect of all members of AAdvantage.

    We have used the accounts – P2 not so much but we did fly business from Seoul to Singapore on JAL and I had one flight from PHX to ICN on business too – both within the last year. We are both as of today sitting at around 250K each.

    So, if your situation is like ours you might just be ok. I recommend calling as I doubt at this point that will/can change anything. Good luck to all.

    1. Billy Bob

      I want to add that regarding the credit cards, I have never had to pay an annual fee because in each case (three that I can remember) when they come due I have called and asked about retention offers and there has always been one. I do use the cards regularly. Currently I hold the AA and Barclays business cards. I downgraded the Barclays red card to silver (no fee) within the last six months. I cancelled the Citi personal within the last year. P2 has only the Citi AA business at this point. She just got a retention offer last month.She closed her Barclays red rather than downgrading it.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Billy Bob – Many thanks for the detailed and useful DP. I take it that neither your account nor P2s has ever been “locked” – is that correct? Thanks. ~Craig

      1. Billy Bob

        Yes, we are not locked according to the AAdvantage CS agent I spoke with on Friday. She confirmed that our accounts have no restrictions or memos and she seemed very familiar with what I was talking about.

        I can’t remember exactly when but at one point I did have two Citi personal cards at one time too. I think the US Airways card must have gotten converted to a Citi AA card and when it happened I already had a personal Citi AA card.These were likely the ones I got in 2013 (Barclay’s US Airways) and then the actual Citi AA personal I got in 2014. Due to continual retention offers I kept them for years, but eventually closed both of them when a retention offer was not forthcoming. I think the two cards had slightly different names if memory serves.

        I think a lot of people sitting on a stash of miles who have played this game much like we have are worried needlessly, so I tapped out my long post as a counterpoint to all of the doomsayers and those who give them undue attention and credence.

        1. Billy Bob

          Thinking more about that: my memory probably is incorrect as to how I ended up with two Citi cards concurrently but according to my financial software I did indeed have two. One thing I am sure of is that I never applied for a card that I already had. Another possibility is that I noticed that the cards’ names were different and went for it — that doesn’t seem beyond what I may have done (and wasn’t against any rules apparently). I remember that they both had annual fees (waived and/or given back in my case) of around $95. Can anyone remember if the Barclay’s US Airways card were converted? TIA if you can jog my memory.

  45. Prof

    Chiming in late to say thanks for writing such a well thought out piece. I’ve shared it widely among friends who are locked out.

    Myself and P2 have been locked out since 12/12. I learned about it mid-trip. I obsessed over it during my entire trip and booked a backup. After boarding flight I cancelled the backup.

    A second trip to Asia was a mere week later. So paranoid and needing to ensure I made it there (lots of non refundable stuff) I booked another flight and cancelled the CX flights (booked using AA miles). Still haven’t filed for refund of taxes and fees as I don’t want eyes on my account.

    The return home (one way) ticket amazingly held, but it was many sleepless nights on vacation spent worrying about it (no other points options home).

    All that to say that it is the lack of communication and the slow speed which really upsets me.

    We abused the mailers, so I accept our fate, but still with some anger about how it has been handled!

    I am also hub captive 🙁

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Prof – Many thanks for the comment and DP. You are certainly right about the sleepless nights. Really sorry you had to go through that anxiety. Your situation perfectly illustrates how poorly AA has handled this situation, setting aside whatever mailer activity you had. Glad you made it home though (twice)! ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks, UnAAmerican – That’s a pretty good article. It gives some decent context around what’s happening and points out that not all who have been shutdown or locked are similarly situated. ~Craig

      1. UnAAmerican

        There was a Wall St Journal article but I couldn’t find it.

        An ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE is a good defense for kids lured into and then hurt in swimming pools or climbing onto motorcycles. Those mailers and bank SUBS were an ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE IMHO

  46. tushar

    Hi, do you have any updates?

    I did notcreate any fake accounts.
    Didnt do ANY redemptions in 2018 or 2019 (and none were booked for 2020)
    DID NOT use any mailers of any kind.
    Appiled for total of 3 cards (2 citi, 1 Barclays)

    My account first got locked and then cancelled.
    Have no idea why.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Tushar – Thanks for the DP but very sorry your account was shutdown. Your situation sounds quite unusual. I don’t recall seeing other shutdowns with such low activity.

      No update on my end – still in lockdown purgatory. ~Craig

    2. Jake Mueller

      American Airlines is targeting anyone who got more than 2 bonuses. They don’t care how you got them. They’re even defrauding Citi & Barclays by not refunding them for your forfeited bonus miles.

      Sue them in a small claims court. It’s cheap & you don’t need an attorney to represent you. But first file a CFPB complaint against Citi & Barclays. They’ll respond that they’re not aware of what’s going on. That’ll help you with AA’s assertion that you got bonuses through credit card fraud. Plus, it makes AA look bad in court that it even defrauded Citi & Barclays.

      You should be able to get back your miles, or compensation for them within 3 months

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Bear – Thanks for the update but that blows. I’m very sorry. I’ll pour one out for your AAdvantage account. ~Craig

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    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi J – I’m terribly sorry to hear this. Assuming that you earned Platinum through flying, that’s a lot of paid fares to AA. I continue to be surprised that AA wants to alienate good paying customers. I encourage you to file complaints and even pursue AA in court if you’re comfortable with that. ~Craig

      1. Jenny

        Craig, it’d be great if you could share templates for administrative complaints, and for a small claims court lawsuit, because most people are unlikely to spend too much time in pursuing complaints without them. You can even do so anonymously, and mention that the templates aren’t legal advice from you.

  48. zj1

    American Airlines has five billion dollars in liability recorded due to the number of miles they have outstanding. This is more than twice what they have made in their best year recently. Given that the airline would be losing money if not for the sale of miles to credit card issuers and others, they needed a way to reduce liability without reducing revenue. They certainly don’t want to stop selling miles to Citi and Barclays. The easiest way to make the company look profitable is to remove loyalty accounts with large balances.

    Presto- cash income stays the same, outstanding liabilities are reduced, AA looks far more profitable on paper, management gets huge bonuses.

    It’s not likely any accounts will be reinstated; the goal here is to give the balance sheet a quick (if temporary) shot in the arm. Loyalty, customer profitability, and long-term planning are secondary to this goal.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks for the thoughts, zj1. No doubt AA has a strong financial motive for its aggressive actions. ~Craig

        1. JB SanDiego

          Last week an Analyst gave AA price target of $1. If they file for bankruptcy, there goes your accounts and this what I had mentioned a long time ago on this thread, but somehow, people here think they just can file a lawsuit.

          I am not in favor of AA, by no means, but also being realistic during these times.

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi JH & JB SD – Thanks for the comments. Not sure whether there will be an AA bankruptcy or not. I’m still planning to pursue AA in litigation, but it will be an individual case, not class action. ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Jenny – AA and Citi designed the Citi AA Platinum card earning structure to be so weak that it’s simply a bad choice for spend beyond meeting the sign-up bonus threshold. Ongoing earnings for spend on the card are not best-in-class – or even close to it – in any category for ongoing spend. ~Craig

      1. Jenny

        Craig, thank you for your response! I think AA shut down accounts with 3+ SUBs if there isn’t much earning activity on the cards after attaining the sign-up bonus.

        I’m curious about one thing – what if such a person had also bought miles worth thousands of dollars from AA? Would AA still shut down that person’s account & risk litigation that’s almost guaranteed to penalize it?

        As an aside, Citi MileUp cards offer 2 miles on grocery store purchases, so a Platinum card downgraded to a MileUp card can give one good value.

        1. ZJ1

          Not sure post-bonus activity is factored in- I used my cards with some frequency even after earning the bonus (had a lifetime total of 4 AA cards). This was only because I was in Europe and needed a MasterCard- of which I had only multiple AA branded cards to choose from. It wasn’t a ton of money, but several thousand dollars at least.

          And to the second point, I purchased a few hundred dollars worth of miles for my account in 2019. It did not stop me from being shutdown, so again, I doubt that purchasing miles factors in. I also used the shopping portal & dining portal at various times, and did have revenue flights.

          I suspect there are a few key factors 1) Earning 3+ bonuses in 24 months 2) Balance of miles in the account and possibly 3) High redemption values in the past.

          Item 1 gives AA a reason, 2 lets them target their largest liabilities and 3) actually lets them reduce their outstanding liability even on an identical number of miles (since their average redemption rate decreases if the high-value users are gone). Basically they are looking for the biggest “profit” per account closed down; I haven’t seen anything to suggest status, spend, etc factor into the equation.

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi ZJ1 – Many thanks for the detailed thoughts. I’m very sorry to hear about your shutdown. It sounds like your card/sign-up bonus activity was pretty minimal and you were a good AA customer. I hate hearing shutdown stories like yours. ~Craig

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  50. JH

    I applied a total of 3 business + 5 personal Citi AA credit cards since 2010. About 1 different card every 24 month or so:
    2010 – personal card.
    2011- business card.
    2012 – personal card (25 months after my first personal).
    2012 – Personal card Amex (I applied for this card because it’s Citi Amex, different flavor from the usual Citi Visa/Mastercard.
    2014 – busines card (more than 25 months after my first business).
    2015 – Personal card (more than 25 months after my second personal card).
    2017 – business card (25 months after my second business card).
    2018 – Personal card (more than 25 months after my second personal card).

    Just found out they locked my account this month May 2020 without any email or notifications. If they think I violated their terms, why wait until now? I mean, I don’t mind they claw back 50K back in 2012 if that was a violation. But waited after 8 years? The worst part is I also have 50K points from US Air, and 50K bonus from Fidelity which I opened and funded a brokerage account. All in all, worth a couple of thousand $. If anyone successfully sued AA, please let me know.

  51. JB SanDiego

    WoW….this is very scary!!

    I am waiting for my 24 months or 48 months (now a days) to reapply for the personal and business cards, but it is looking more and more like I just may stay away from AA completely.

  52. John

    I too got shut down and I’m now wondering if I could dispute the inquiry to the credit bureau because Citi allowed the miles to be revoked thereby invalidating the terms of the credit application. Thoughts?

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