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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.
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 will start to provide better coverage after the DOT (hopefully) approves the takeover of Virgin America sometime in the near future.
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.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – $195 annual fee
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express – $195 annual fee (Terms Apply – Rates & Fees)
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – $450 annual fee
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card – $450 annual fee (Terms Apply – Rates & Fees)
There are multiple ways of combining Medallion Qualification Miles from Delta cards to reach elite status.
- The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, you'll earn a further 10,000 MQMs after $25K spend and another 10,000 MQMs when you reach $50K spend, giving you the 25,000 MQMs needed for Silver Medallion.
- Utilizing the welcome bonus on the Platinum Delta Amex, and adding the welcome bonus on the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, which offers 10,000 MQMs after meeting minimum spend requirements, you could reach Silver Medallion status after $25K spend on the Platinum Delta Amex.
- After the first year of card membership, members can reach the required 25K MQMs for Silver Medallion by spending $25K on the Platinum Delta Amex (10K bonus MQMs), and spending $30K on the Delta Reserve (15K bonus MQM’s)
- If you only want to hang onto one card, hitting $60K spend on the Delta Reserve will net 30K MQMs and Silver Medallion status. The card also comes with Sky Club® Access, the Delta Reserve Companion Certificate, an annual miles boost and many other benefits. Terms Apply.
- If you want to take it to an extreme, a single person could have the Platinum Delta Amex,Delta Reserve, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, and the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card, which if maxed out on earning would earn 100,000 MQM each year for spending $220,000 across these four cards — locking up Platinum Medallion Status and 25,000 rollover MQMs. Terms Apply.
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 Rewards® Credit Card. Put $75K spend on the card inside one calendar year and earn Platinum Elite with both programs, which opens up access to benefits on Emirates, United, and China Eastern via partnerships between the airlines and hotels.
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 don’t offer any methods of earning elite status through spend on co-branded credit cards alone. The premium United MileagePlus® Club 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 Rewards, 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 or SPG, you’ll keep United Premier Silver through RewardsPlus.
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 spend 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 across Marriott Rewards and SPG after $75K of spend, thereby earning elite status benefits on three separate airlines (United, Emirates and China Eastern) 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: Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (Rates & Fees)
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