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      American Airlines Cash Upgrade Offers Guide for 2024

      Phil Dengler
      American Airlines Cash Upgrade

      Premium cabin seats on American Airlines flights can cost thousands of dollars. While some flyers are willing to pay high cash prices or use points when initially booking, there is usually a cheaper way to secure premium economy, business class, and first class seats.

      Where to Find American Airlines Cash Upgrade Offers

      After booking your flight, look for cash upgrade offers in the following places. Please note, the price initially shown is for the cheapest leg of your itinerary.

      • The American Airlines App – Under upcoming trips, click your reservation. If a cash upgrade is available, you will see it at the top of the screen.
      • The American Airlines Website – Log into your account at Under upcoming trips, click your reservation. If a cash upgrade is available, you will see it above the Mileage Multiplier section.

      Screenshot: – This shows a cash upgrade offer I received for PHL to PBI, which I did not take.

      Here are a few thoughts and things to know about cash upgrades.

      • They may take some time to appear after booking – On certain flights, I’ve had cash upgrade offers show immediately after booking. On others, the offers did not show until the flight got closer.
      • They may never appear at all – For whatever reason, you’ll never receive a cash upgrade offer for certain flights.
      • They may only show on the app – I’ve had many cash upgrade offers appear only on the American Airlines app and not at Make sure to check the app if does not show any offers.
      • Cash upgrades are not available on award tickets – Those booking American Airlines flights with miles are not eligible for cash upgrades.
      • Cash upgrade prices may change frequently – I’ve seen prices change by hundreds of dollars over the course of a day. For that reason, I recommend making the purchase when you see a price that you like. From my experience, prices tend to decrease the closer the flight gets as long as there are still multiple open seats.
      • Different people may receive different offers – I can’t figure out a pattern on upgrade prices offered to different people. I’ve read on forums that those with higher status receive cheaper offers, but I have not found that to be always true. For example, a non-elite member friend of mine received a cheaper offer than me for the same flight, and I hold Platinum status.
      • No loyalty points – Currently, cash upgrades do not earn loyalty points, but that is set to change sometime in 2024.
      • Multiple cabins may be available – For typical domestic flights, your only option will be to upgrade from economy to first class. For international flights, you may have the option to upgrade to premium economy (which is similar to a domestic first-class cabin), business class, or first class.

      How to Purchase an American Airlines Cash Upgrade Offer


      Photo: Eric Jones of The Vacationer – Photo of Phil Dengler in first class after paying $100 for an upgrade from PHL to MIA.

      Purchasing a cash upgrade is easy. Here is how to do it.

      • Read the Terms – After clicking the offer on the app or at, read the terms and click the continue button. Terms include the class, price per person, baggage allowance, and any priority services you’ll enjoy at the airport
      • Select Which Flights to Upgrade – The cash upgrade price you initially see is per person for the cheapest leg. Upgrade a single leg or more than one if you wish. If you only upgrade one, you may have a chance to upgrade other legs at a later date.
      • Select Your New Seat – After choosing which flight or flights to upgrade, it is now time to pick a new seats. The good news is this is done before paying, so you can decide if the available seats are acceptable.
      • Review and Pay – Read over the cost details, fare rules, and terms and conditions if you’d like. Enter your credit card information and click the Pay Now button. I recommend a travel credit card like The Platinum Card from American Express (earns 5x point per dollar spent on flights) or the Chase Sapphire Reserve (earns 3x points per dollar spent on flights), both of which offer excellent travel insurance on flights.

      Should You Buy an American Airlines Cash Upgrade Offer?

      Eric Jones American Airlines First Class Upgrade to Miami

      Photo: Phil Dengler of The Vacationer – Photo of Eric Jones in first class after paying $100 for an upgrade from PHL to MIA.

      It depends. Here are factors I take into consideration before purchasing a cash upgrade.

      • How Much You Value The Upgraded Seat – There is a huge difference between a domestic first class seat and an international business class or first class seat with a lie-flat bed. Take the flight duration and time into consideration. Is it a red-eye flight? Is it longer than 10 or so hours? Depending on the flight, I will spend at most between $50 to $100 an hour to upgrade. For example, I would only be willing to pay $300 to upgrade a six-hour flight from PHL to LAX ($50 per hour), but I would pay $1,600 to upgrade a 16-hour from EWR to JNB ($100 per hour).
      • Your Odds of a Complimentary Upgrade – Depending on your American Airlines elite status level, the route, and the time of day, you may have great odds of receiving a complimentary upgrade. As a Platinum member regularly flying out of a hub (PHL), I am rarely upgraded. Regardless, Concierge Key members and those with Executive Platinum status and Platinum Pro status have better odds, but still not great as of 2024, of receiving complimentary upgrades.
      • Systemwide Upgrades – Those holding systemwide upgrades can redeem them to potentially move to the next cabin. Such upgrades are becoming harder to redeem, so the cash upgrade may be the better option to lock it in.
      • Mileage Upgrades – Decide if using only miles or miles + cash is a better deal than a straight cash upgrade. Here is the current American Airlines Mileage Upgrade Chart. For example, I recently paid $130 for a cash upgrade that would have cost me 15,000 American Airlines miles and $75 cash.
      • Fare Change Price – Consider a trip change if the first-class fare difference is as cheap or a little more expensive than the upgrade price. To do that, click your reservation and then click Change Trip. You should see your current flight and the first class price. With a fare change, you’ll receive miles and loyalty points on the difference, which is not true if you do a cash upgrade. If you do not see your flight when clicking the Change Trip button, search for it on or on the app to see the current first class price.

      Are American Airlines Cash Upgrades Refundable?

      Should you decide to cancel or change your trip, you will not receive a cash refund for a cash upgrade. Instead, you’ll receive a trip credit, which can be used for future travel.

      Further Reading: How to Cancel or Change an American Airlines Flight

      If I Purchase a Cash Upgrade, Will My Current Seat Assignment Be Refunded?

      Those purchasing a cash upgrade who already purchased a seat assignment, including Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, automatically receive a refund. If you do not receive the refund after a week or so, contact American Airlines support for assistance.

      Further Reading: American Airlines Main Cabin Extra vs. Preferred Seats

      Can I Upgrade Multiple Times on the Same Flight?

      American Airlines Cash Upgrade Confirmation

      Screenshot: American Airlines App – Confirmed upgrade for a recent flight from PHL to PHX. It fell in my budget of under $50 per hour to upgrade domestic flights.

      After upgrading a specific flight, the option to upgrade always disappears for me. For example, I recently purchased a Premium Economy upgrade for a flight to Barcelona. Prior to doing that, it offered me the option to upgrade to either Premium Economy, Business Class, or First Class. That option has not reappeared, and that is true on every upgrade I have done. For that reason, decide which cabin you ultimately want to end up in before purchasing.

      Cash Upgrades Are Watering Down American Airlines Elite Status

      American Airlines seems to be offering cheaper cash upgrades every year. While that is good for those without elite status, it is really upsetting American Airlines loyalists. Concierge Key members and those with Executive Platinum status and Platinum Pro status routinely received complimentary upgrades on most flights just a few years ago.

      Now, customers are buying those seats for sometimes under $100, which leaves little to no complimentary upgrade space for elites. Whether or not that continues remains to be seen, but American Airlines may lose some loyalists if complimentary upgrades remain rare.

      Further Reading: American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Program

      The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts

      I regularly take advantage of American Airlines cash upgrades. As someone with only Platinum status flying out of the PHL hub, I am rarely upgraded. As previously mentioned, I will spend at most between $50 and $100 an hour to upgrade. For domestic flights, I almost always do it if it is under $40 an hour. For international flights, especially long ones, I may even spend over $100 an hour if I really need to sleep. Decide how much upgrading is worth it to you and regularly check the American Airlines app and for offers.

      Featured Image Credit: Phil Dengler of The Vacationer. The photo shows The Vacationer’s Eric Jones enjoying a first-class cash upgrade on a trip to Tampa, Florida.

      Phil Dengler The Vacationer Bio

      By Phil Dengler

      In addition to being a co-founder of The Vacationer, Phil Dengler is also the head of editorial and marketing. Previously, he ran a popular holiday deals website where he was a trusted source for all things Black Friday. With The Vacationer, Phil combines his knowledge of deals with his love of travel to help you plan the perfect vacation.