How to Get Airline Elite Status Without Flying

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Earning elite status with an airline can make your flying experiences much more enjoyable, adding comfort and prioritized services, in addition to earning extra miles on spend, free checked bags, seat upgrades, free meals, snacks & beverages, and priority check-in.

Receiving your frequent flyer elite status, however, can also be a somewhat paradoxical experience. You want the elite status to make flying that much more comfortable and enjoyable, but the airline won’t grant you that status until you’ve served your time flying thousands of miles.

There is, however, a solution.

JetBlue Tails
JetBlue offers one of the best options for achieving elite status without having to fly.

There are paths providing access to elite airline status, or in some cases just the benefits of elite status (which when you are starting out will work just the same), without having to fly a mile. We’ll explore some different methods for each of the major frequent flyer programs and have you on your way to the pointy end of the plane in no time.

How To Achieve Airline Elite Status Without Flying

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska, where available, is one of the best airline products in America, and consistently scores in the top one or two airlines in ratings every year. As the last of the U.S. based airlines with a mileage-based rewards-earning program, it also offers diverse airline partners and provides better coverage after the DOT approved the takeover of Virgin America.

Mileage Plan does not currently provide a path to elite status through credit card spend, but you can achieve elite status without flying via the following methods:

  • MVP Gold 75 comes with the opportunity to nominate someone for MVP status so if you are gifted status you won't need to fly to gain it.
  • Status match from Aeromexico, Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and Virgin America up to MVP Gold 75 status, if you hold status on any of these airlines, some of which can be reached without flying, you can status match with Mileage Plan.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American doesn’t offer a path to achieving elite status with AAdvantage through spend and credit cards alone. It's also unlikely you’ll get status matched to AA through elite status with any other airline, unless you can verify a significant amount of high spend activity with another carrier, although they will typically offer a status challenge if you ask nicely.

The best you can hope for is holding elite status on another Oneworld member airline, and taking advantage of the reciprocal benefits offered to Oneworld status holders.

Your path to any elite-like perks would be through the various Citi Co-branded credit cards that offer free checked bags, early boarding and perhaps lounge access.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta offers several paths to reach elite status without flying. Achieving Silver Medallion status, which requires 25,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), via credit cards can be accomplished using the following cards.

There are multiple ways of combining Medallion Qualification Miles from Delta cards to reach elite status:

Earn Medallion Status using Delta SkyMiles Credit CardsCredit Cards and MQM Required
Earn Ongoing Silver Medallion Status (25K MQMs)One-Card Strategy
• 30,000 MQMs - $60K annual spend on Delta Reserve
Total: 30,000 MQMs/$60,000 spend
Two-Card Strategy
• 10,000 MQMs - $25K spend on Platinum Delta Amex
• 15,000 MQMs - $30K spend on Delta Reserve
Total: 25,000 MQMs/$55,000 spend
Earn Ongoing Platinum Medallion Status (75K MQMs)Multi-Card Strategy
• 20,000 MQMs - $50K spend on Platinum Delta Amex
• 60,000 MQMs - $120K spend on Delta Reserve
Total: 80,000 MQMs/$170,000 spend

You can also earn Delta elite status by participating in a status match challenge which will earn you an equal status for 90 days and offer a path to retain it.

Tip: The fastest way to make Marriott Platinum is via The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card. Put $75K spend on the card inside one calendar year and earn Platinum Elite with Marriott Bonvoy, which opens up access to benefits on Emirates and United via partnerships between the airlines and Marriott.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue is unique in the respect they only have one elite tier for TrueBlue called Mosaic. Offering fee-free changes to flights, 2 bags free, early boarding, and complimentary drinks onboard, JetBlue recently announced an expansion of its sought-after Mint lie-flat service moving into 2017, which will make Mosaic a more attractive elite status for members from different locations in the U.S.

JetBlue occasionally offers status match promos which you can find on its promotions page, but the easiest way of qualifying for Mosaic status is via the JetBlue co-branded credit cards:

Adding $50K spend to either card will earn cardmembers Mosaic status for one year.

United Airlines MileagePlus

Unlike Delta, United doesn’t offer any methods of earning elite status through spend on co-branded credit cards alone. The premium United Club℠ Infinite Card from Chase does offer a number of benefits that crossover with United elite status such as free bags and United Club membership, but doesn’t provide PQM’s.

The route to Premier Elite status without flying is slightly convoluted, but it does exist. Spend $75K within one account year on the Ritz-Carlton Card to earn Platinum Elite with Marriott Bonvoy, register for RewardsPlus® from Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus, and you’ll earn United Premier Silver status. For every year that you maintain Platinum status with Marriott, you’ll keep United Premier Silver through RewardsPlus.

Final Thoughts

If you were to strip the experience back to benefits for dollars spent, JetBlue would come out at the front of the pack for non-frequent flyers looking to manufacture elite status on an airline through spending alone. With both The JetBlue Plus Card and JetBlue Business Card offering Mosaic after $50K of spend.

Perhaps the most interesting route is once again the Ritz-Carlton Card, which gifts Platinum with Marriott Bonvoy after $75K of spend, thereby earning elite status benefits on two separate airlines (United and Emirates) due to partnerships and reciprocal earning agreements between airlines and hotels.

Got any tips on earning elite status with flying the miles? Let us know in the comments.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (Rates & Fees), Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (Rates & Fees), Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (Rates & Fees), and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (Rates & Fees)

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  • Avatar

    It seems like business owners get the most benefits based on spend. Are the benefits of being elite status truly worth it? What does elite status offer for each carrier?

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    While I can’t get rich (or point full) using it, I do use the Dining Rewards program from various airlines and hotels to keep my accounts active. Their sign up bonuses are indeed initially worthwhile, but the incremental value from subsequent dining in general is not so high as to make me go out of my way to dine at a listed restaurant (unless I have a large party or am on business and go somewhere expensive). I do go out of my way, however, when I need to keep miles or points active.

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    Got any tips for your European readers?

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    Thanks for the info. Now that the programs of all major US airlines were devaluated, it’s good to know about other options.

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    Bertrand Say says:

    You can also use a cash back site along with the credit card promos in order to get lower price when you do online shopping.

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    Something I never quite understood, is there a way to transfer normal miles into status qualifying miles? For any airline really since I know theres two different kinds but were never really explained to me. Maybe make a post in the future about this?

    • Avatar

      Not possible. They are two different types of points. It would be like trying to convert apples into paperclips. While you earn both while flying on a paid fare, think of them as two completely separate and unrelated entities.

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    The amount of spend is daunting…and I have a small business! But I don’t spend anywhere near what I would need to for getting elite status. However, the info is still worthwhile and in the meantime I will continue to get new credit cards and use those offered miles to fly business class! Thanks for all your research!

  • Avatar
    James L Childress says:

    I always check to see the latest credit card affinity offers then apply and use that card exclusively till I earn all the bonus miles.

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    Sandra Newkirk says:

    This info was not helpful to me. I used to have a US Airways card and was able to travel preferred. Now that they switched I am eligible for zone 1 and have to pay extra for seats up front. Not worth having the card if you ask me.

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    Valuable information:) Although I’m more apt to use my chase card to accrue reward points, I will look into the airline card benefits in detail. Thanks!

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    Even if I was going to come close on the spend, I think there are so many other attractive options in terms of miles/points than an airline card with limited bonus categories.

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    Great summary – thank you

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    fwiw, I am Plat at Marriott; they gave me gold status (not silver) on United (which I had never flown). Recently flew to HNL and United upgraded family to first class on outbound and return…

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    Karla Lascot says:

    That’s awesome! I wish I had a small business so I could spend some of the money and get this travel cards.

  • Avatar
    Carol Foster says:

    So, now I plan to review my “point spread” and see where I can add to take advantage of some of these!

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    Jimmy Jean-Louis says:

    I have 116,531 from chase reserve credit card, should I transfer the points to AA to get elite status?

    • Avatar

      You cannot transfer points earned on the Sapphire Reserve (Ultimate Rewards) to American Airlines. Additionally, the only way to earn elite status, other than flying, is using the techniques listed above. The rewards you earn through credit card spend typically don’t earn you elite status — with these exceptions.

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    Sophie Pearson says:

    I’ve just received Silver status with Singapore airlines via my Australian Amex card, higher airline statuses just seem very hard to get without substential spend. Any tips for Australians?

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    Jacob Thayer says:

    Interesting article.

    Looks like there may be some typos in the United and Final Thoughts sections that need correcting.

    You may also be interested in a recent blog post on Wine Flight Thirty on status challenges:

  • Avatar

    “they will typically offer a status challenge if you ask nicely.” This is probably a newbie question but what is a status challenge?

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    Prashant Gangwal says:

    Good to know in case i need to consider switching to any of these airlines.

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    Christopher Barnett says:

    Definitey beneficial for small business owners. I have charged 90k in a month on my business amex plat buying inventory.

    Might be a good idea to get a delta business amex plat just for status.

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    awesome deal

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    For AA you can also do a status challenge if you have the Founders Card. The annual fee is 395 or 295 with a two-year subscription, but the AA status challenge was raised to $240 this year and is complementary with FC.

    I more than made up the remainder of the FC price by staying at a couple hotels, and got AA Platinum through the standard 12,500 miles flown over 3 months.

  • Avatar

    I guess American needs to step up their game. I used to fly them often but do to job change and relocation it seems like Jet blue might be the way to go.

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    Helen Buck-Pavlick says:

    As a frequent flier that doesn’t have the luxury of spending big bucks on flights or credit cards, I’m glad that Alaskan Air still offers the miles in the seats option to earn status. However, I currently have status with American and have been very pleased with their service (albeit not the recent changes regarding mile devaluation). American and One World provide the best service out of my hub airport, where Alaskan does not.

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    Valuable insight. Thanks for the information.

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    What options exist for trying to open a credit card of a non-US airline and then getting status through say Stat Alliance and then back to United??

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    Its really difficult to decide if we shall go with single rewards program to keep building the miles balance to save money later or should we just go with the cheapest fare and put the money back in pocket right then and there. I feel 1 bird in hand is better than 2 in bushes.
    With so many rewards program we sign up its hard to keep track of those and mostly these miles expire without utilizing. Thanks to AwardWallet – we can keep track of all the programs in one location plus get notifications as well.

    • Avatar

      Something always to keep in mind — when collecting rewards, look at how you redeem them. In some cases cash back may make more sense and in others points/miles are the way to go. There is no one answer for everyone but we’re glad we can help to keep things organize.

  • Avatar

    “Perhaps the most interesting route is once again the Ritz-Carlton Card, which gifts Platinum across Marriott Rewards and SPG after $75K of spend, thereby earning elite status benefits on four separate airlines due to partnerships and reciprocal earning agreements between airlines and hotels.”

    Which Airlines do you get elite status on? I see that Marriott gives you United Silver Status but what other airlines do you get?

  • Avatar

    This is great info, especially when combined with the miles for comments program.

  • Avatar

    This is all great in concept, but I have trouble getting enough spend to actually earn status that way. The past couple years I’ve been able to get part of the way to Delta status with card spend and the rest with actual flying. Layovers and their extra qualification miles are your friend.

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    I retired from a job that took me all over the world and I had status on several airlines. Other than the bonus miles and occasional free upgrades (usually with United) I found the application of elite benefits pretty inconsistent and of minor value in the long run. Priority boarding is one benefit that is a joke as they have so many categories and so little time during boarding to honor them that one seldom got on the plane more than 30 seconds before the next category was called. I earned a bunch of segment upgrades which I can’t now use as I am no longer elite on any airline!

  • Avatar

    You can get lower level elite status with some credit cards but they come with high spend for the bonuses. What is a good way to do manufactured spend to meet the spending requirement?

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    AwardWallet has been a great discovery.I have so many airline miles stashed all over the place, I’m happy to have found this tool to organize and leverage them.

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    United might not have the crossover agreements, but you can earn extra miles in other ways such as surveys. Would love to see other options for those of us that are brand loyal to American but don’t fly as often.

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    Kevin Conroy says:

    The fastest way to earn status is to do a status challenge. I received platinum with aa for flying 12500 miles instead of the usual 50000. It has been a huge benefit for my wife and I. We have been upgraded on the vast majority of our flights and the baggage benefits and priority seating and international admiral club access are a no brainer. I don’t know why anyone would fly 50000 when you can do it for a quarter of the miles.

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    Can you explain how that deal works with getting status at 4 airlines after charging 75,000 on the Ritz Card?

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    I have a lot of American miles, and I’m practically close to elite status.

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    I like to apply for the status but only when I’m going to fly, otherwise in my opinion is quite useless especially when you can ask the status match only one time.

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    yeah you really need to have REALLY high spend these days… and MS is getting more difficult to do.

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    Karen Capasso says:

    Thank you for all the great information.

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    Wow! Great info. I did not know that you could nominate someone for status with Alaska Airlines. Good to know!

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    Reno Sprague says:

    Another fantastic, informative post. Thank you and keep up the good work!

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    You used to be able to get status with American just via expenditure as all miles no matter how earned counted towards Million Miler Status. Unfortunately they stopped this a few years ago.

    • Avatar

      Yes, there was even a time years ago when people were opening large-denomination CDs at a particular bank to get AA miles as a CD opening bonus.

      • Avatar

        Even better was when one could order $1 gold coins directly from the government, using a card for the miles/points, obviously. Then, as soon as the coins arrived, taking them to the bank and exchanging for standard money. According to a reliable source, he used this strategy to amass over 100k miles. But once the rest of us caught on, the well ran dry.

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    Kripal Singh says:

    The other way to get status on United Airlines MileagePlus is to get a status on delta or american and ask united to do a status match.

    see this for united status match

  • Avatar
    Christine Gannage says:

    wow, I think American Airlines is great. Have traveled with them for many years. I also like that they are affliated with some of our local airlines. Keep up the good work American!

  • Avatar

    While I have a considerable amount of American miles, it’s hard to pass up great airfare deals offered by Virgin America and Southwest Airlines, so I don’t seem to continue racking American mileage very quickly…I guess that only leaves their credit card to keep those miles adding up.

  • Avatar

    Award wallet provides the best online credit card info out there, letting you chose miles, cash back, low interest rate, transferable balance, etc.
    I have purchased wonderful cards at their suggestion and trust the.
    But don’t apply for too many Chase cards or they will turn you down.

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    I have the JetBlue cards but not for the potential to get status, but because I want to fly in JetBlue Mint from now on when I fly back east to visit my friends and family. Although status is great with the other airlines, Mint is so affordable that I don’t have to worry about the cost and can just be treated like an elite simply by picking a business class fare.

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    I am with Jason and Rob, If only I had money, or if there was a a way with a credit card. But this is a great article and will definitely save it for the future.

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    I wish there was a way with credit card spend for American. Also that I had that much money… Sadly I only really ever fly American (and occasionally their partners when American isn’t available) so it seems like I’ll need to fly a ton to get any sort of rewards.

    • Avatar

      I finally registered for American’s Advantage Dining program and Rocketmiles and have been able to rack up a few thousand miles very quickly. I highly recommend these options.

      • Avatar

        Great tips — easy ways to rack up more miles. The dining programs do their magic in the background (just sign up, link a credit card and dine) and RocketMiles is a great alternative to accumulating hotel points if airline miles are you want.

      • Avatar

        You also should try shopping through their shopping portals. If you browse through them, you will find many if not all the stores you shop at anyway. You just have to shop online instead and click through the shopping portal. This has become our new favorite tool.

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    wow- if i only had that much money to spend