How to Get Airline Elite Status Without Flying

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Earning elite status with an airline can undoubtedly make your flying experiences more enjoyable. Besides earning extra miles for your spending, it can add prioritized services, seat upgrades, and improved airport experiences.

Unfortunately, receiving frequent flyer elite status can also be a somewhat paradoxical experience. While you need elite status to improve your travel experience, the airline only grants it after you’ve served your time and flown thousands of miles.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

Some airlines provide pathways to elite status (or the benefits of elite status) without having to fly a mile. This post will explore some of these methods for each of the major airline frequent flyer programs. We'll have you on your way to the pointy end of the plane in no time.

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

How To Achieve Airline Elite Status Without Flying

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska is one of our favorite mileage programs. As the last U.S. airline with a mileage-based rewards-earning program, Alaska also partners with a diverse portfolio of airlines. Even better, Alaska recently joined the Oneworld Alliance on March 31, 2021. So, you can now enjoy your Mileage Plan elite status with even more airlines.

Mileage Plan doesn't currently provide a path to elite status through credit card spend. However, members can achieve elite status without flying via a couple of other methods:

  • Receive Gifted Status — Mileage Plan members who earn MVP Gold 75K receive the ability to nominate someone for MVP status. So, if a friend or family member has MVP Gold 75K, they can gift you status without you needing to fly to earn it!
  • Status match — Alaska has a dedicated elite status match program. Elite members from 9 North American airlines can match all up to MVP Gold 75K status. It's possible to earn some of these partner statuses without flying, meaning Alaska elite status is likewise possible without flying.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Like Alaska, American doesn’t offer a path to achieving AAdvantage elite status through credit card spend alone. Also, AA rarely provides matches from other airline elite statuses. However, there are a few paths to easy elite status:

  • American Airlines is known for periodically gifting elite status to non-elite members. Keep an eye on your email for an invite.
  • In the past, Hyatt Globalists have gotten free AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status. More recently, Hyatt elite members have gotten an elite status fast-track option.
  • Non-elite members can challenge to earn AAdvantage elite status. The criteria (and costs) aren't published, but you can call AAdvantage to check your options.

Another option is to leverage elite status from another Oneworld airline. Since all Oneworld partners offer reciprocal benefits to Oneworld elites, having status elsewhere could score you elite status when flying AA.

Alternatively, another path to elite-like perks is via the benefits offered with various AA cobranded credit cards. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (review) gives cardholders free first checked bags on domestic itineraries for the cardholder and up to 4 companions, priority boarding, and a 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases.

Even better, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) offers all that plus priority security screening, TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and a full Admirals Club membership! With card benefits like those, who needs elite status?!

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta is one of the best airlines for earning elite status without flying.

To earn Delta Medallion Status, you're required to meet specific thresholds on two metrics in a calendar year: Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs).

Delta waives the MQD requirement for up to Platinum Medallion for those who spend $25,000 on Delta co-branded credit cards in a calendar year. For members who can spend $250,000 per year, Delta will waive the MQD requirement up to top-tier Diamond Medallion Status!

Moreover, Delta allows members to earn MQMs for meeting certain Status Boost spending thresholds on the following cards:

Put together, and it's possible for Delta cardholders to earn top-tier status without stepping foot on an airplane! Here are some of the ways you could earn Delta Medallion status from Delta cards:

Update for 2021: As part of its Covid-19 response, Delta is adding a 25% boost to MQMs earned via the Status Boost on your Delta co-brand card in 2021. That means Platinum cardholders will earn 12,500 MQM and Reserve cardholders 18,750 MQM at each status boost tier. We've factored these updated numbers into the table below.

Earn Medallion Status using Delta SkyMiles Credit CardsCredit Cards and MQM Required
Earn Silver Medallion Status (25K MQMs)One-Card Strategy
• 25,000 MQMs - $50K annual spend on Platinum Delta Amex
Earn Gold Medallion Status (50K MQMs)One-Card Strategy
• 56,250 MQMs - $90K annual spend on Delta Reserve
---
Multi-Card Strategy
• 25,000 MQMs - $50K annual spend on Platinum Delta Amex
• 25,000 MQMs - $50K annual spend on Business Platinum Delta Amex
Total: 50,000 MQMs/$100,000 spend
Earn Platinum Medallion Status (75K MQMs)One-Card Strategy
• 75,000 MQMs - $120K spend on Delta Reserve
Earn Diamond Medallion Status (125K MQMs)Multi-Card Strategy
• 75,000 MQMs - $120K spend on Delta Reserve
• 56,250 MQMs - $90K spend on Business Delta Reserve
Total: 131,250 MQMs/$210,000 spend
You'll need to spend a total of $250,000 to get a MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion elite status.

Lastly, SkyMiles members can also receive Medallion status by participating in a status match challenge. For these, Delta awards you an equal status for 90 days while offering a path to retain it.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue TrueBlue is unique because it only has one elite tier, called ‘Mosaic'. It offers fee-free flight changes, two free checked bags, early boarding, and complimentary onboard drinks. Unfortunately, Mosaic members don't receive complimentary seat upgrades. This is especially disappointing considering JetBlue Mint is perhaps the best domestic business-class product.

JetBlue Mint is perhaps the best domestic business-class product in the skies today.

JetBlue occasionally offers status match promos, which you can find on its promotions page.

However, the easiest way of qualifying for Mosaic status is via JetBlue co-branded credit cards. You'll earn Mosaic elite status for one year by spending $50,000 in one calendar year on either card:

In 2021 only, you'll only need to spend $30,000 on one of these cards if you earn 4,000 Mosaic-qualifying points through flying.

United Airlines MileagePlus

Unlike Delta, United doesn’t offer any methods of earning elite status through spend on co-branded credit cards alone. However, the United Club℠ Infinite Card (review) from Chase, United's premium card product, does provide several benefits that mimic United elite status—including free bags, complimentary upgrades on award tickets, and a United Club membership.

United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Annual Fee$525
Welcome Bonus Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
The United Club Infinite is the top-tier United co-brand card, and offers some great perks like United Club℠ membership, priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges. If your not an elite, holding this card means you'll be treated like one of United's most loyal and valuable customers. If you already hold MileagePlus Premier status, the card also grants access to Complementary Premier Upgrades on United flights.
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles.
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining at restaurants and eligible delivery services
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee credit
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip. Terms Apply
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights when you pay with your Club Card.
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

If you have elite status with another airline, you can use United's elite status match-challenge to short-cut your way to United elite status.

Related Tip: Marriott elite status also qualifies you for reciprocal benefits with Emirates Skywards via its Your World Rewards program.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Unfortunately, Southwest doesn't allow cobranded cardholders to earn A-List or A-List Preferred status through spending alone. You can, however, get part of the way there. Specifically, those who hold the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent on the card. In most years, this is limited to 15,000 TQP from $100,000 in spending. But, this TQP-earning cap has been removed for 2021.

While not a traditional elite status, the Companion Pass is another worthy goal for frequent Southwest travelers. It won't necessarily elevate your airport or flying experience, but it (potentially) delivers far more value. Plus, it's possible to earn it without a single flight!

To earn a Southwest Companion Pass, Rapid Rewards members need to accumulate 125,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points in a single year. Sure, at first that sounds like a ridiculously tall order. Thankfully, a lot of different kinds of points qualify, including those earned from:

Related Post — Earn a Southwest Companion Pass With Just One Credit Card Sign-up Bonus!

Lastly, Southwest offers a well-known status match challenge. You can match most other U.S.-based carriers' status for a few months with the ability to extend it for a year.

Final Thoughts

If you're looking for the easiest way to spend toward airline elite status, JetBlue comes out on top.

However, perhaps a more important takeaway here is that you don't necessarily need airline elite status to improve your travel experiences. In many cases, airline credit card benefits largely mirror the benefits offered for elite members. Plus, it's much easier to justify paying an annual fee than to dedicate $50,000 of spending (or more) to one airline's cards.

Lastly, anyone interested in earning elite status the “easy way” needs to stay informed on current status match opportunities. These can often transform one elite status into many, delivering a far better return for earning (or manufacturing) the first.

Got any tips on earning elite status without flying the miles? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments

  • Very good information for AAdvantage users!…I’m planning to visit USA this next year and I’m looking forward to receive those status upgrade!…and even without flying!..thank you very much for those tips!

  • I wish there were more ways to earn status without flying, particularly in these times when flying is reduced. Qantas (OneWorld) recently had some offers that allowed you to earn Status Credits from booking hotels, shopping in supermarkets etc, but unfortunately these offers seem to have dried up.

  • Very interesting article and the comparison between the different airlines programs.

  • Thank you for this blog, I can share this with friends now so they can be aware of this and reap the benefits of this information.

  • Thanks for this. I wasn’t familiar with Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K status gifting. I just status matched from United 1K so I’ll be taking advantage of this.
    Looking forward to Alaska joining Oneworld (tomorrow?).

  • Anytime you can get a freebie (IE:elite status) it’s worth looking into

  • The United Silver Marriott Platinum status info is outdated. For the last 2-3 years (since the spg/Marriott merger resulted in the Bonvoyed abomination) you need Marriott Titanium to get united Silver. You can not spend to that with the Ritz or the Amex brilliant bonvoy card, as $75,000 only gets you Platinum not the Titanium status required for United Silver.

    • Shooot. You’re exactly right! Thanks for catching that. We’ve fixed it now.

      • also worth noting, the shortcut to titanium if you were a previous titanium elite from 2019…

        Last year Marriott awarded 2019 titanium’s with 38 nights toward 2020 status, which is a little more than half of the 75 needed to renew as titanium again. My travel days ended in march of last year, but I still managed 68 nights getting the 38 from Marriott, and 30 from amex cards (Marriott bonvoy and business cards give 15 each). I did manage 7 nights myself, so that got me titanium for 2021. Same thing has already happened for me in 2021, I have 68 nights between the 38 Marriott gave me for being titanium in 2020, and 30 for having both credit cards. 7 nights on my own in 2021 gets titanium status again for next year. I am going to start flying again in the next few months on United, and even with Silver I have gotten bumped to business on several routes, so definitely worth having.

        • JT Genter says:

          I’m in the exact same situation! The 30 credit card nights + the 38 nights from the elite status boost + early 2020 travels = easy Titanium elite status. Now I just need 7 nights this year to requalify.

          While this is indeed a great shortcut, it really only works for those of us with prior elite status and the ability to get a small business card. So, we left it out of this post. But, we definitely told about the credit card shortcut here: https://awardwallet.com/blog/marriott-bonvoy-earn-30-elite-nights-credit-cards/

  • Ha this article is definitely so interesting! Wondering if there is a summary on how to get elite hotel status without staying? 🙂

  • angelo fonseca says:

    This information is very useful nowadays. Some loyalty programs have not extended the validity of their members’ status. With the reduction in travel due to Covid-19, it is essential to have other ways to preserve the status. Thanks for the information.

  • Very intriguing but I don’t think I will try to get any elite status with an airline. I might be able to reach it once my kids are older or just try to fly first and then I don’t have to worry. That’s why we are trying to earn points and miles to enjoy these more comfortable seats.

  • I dont seem to comprehend the elite status of airlines. I got status one year for flying business class transpacific. However I was never able to use it as I did not fly again the following year.

  • The UA and Marriott partnership is truly one of a kind.

  • Of all the “Elite” perks/programs mentioned in this article, the Companion pass has by far the potential to deliver the most value. I wish other airlines had something similar besides their one-off companion pass offers (if they have anything at all) that are not always a great value.

  • I have benefitted from the reduced requirements this year to do two status matches from my AA Executive Platinum Status. First to Delta Platinum and now to United 1K. It is interesting comparing how the three major airlines work with their higher status passengers.

    I know that Delta does not have MQD requirement spend for those who don’t live in the US, is this the case with the other airlines? This tip might be helpful for those readers who live outside the US or might have a home in another country as well as the USA.

  • Unfortunately as a Hyatt Globalist the fast track to AA Executive Platinum is no longer available. Hopefully this offer will get reinstated soon.

  • The last year in particular has been pretty confusing and we’ve basically been grounded. I appreciate the clear spelling out of the alternatives here.

  • Nice initiative, in this pandemic period! Thanks for the information.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Got any tips for your European readers?

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • YVONNE JOHNSON says:

    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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Great summary – thank you

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Jimmy Jean-Louis says:

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

    • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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: http://www.winethirtyflight.com/blog/2016/7/29/platinum-status-challenge

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

  • Prashant Gangwal says:

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

  • 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.

  • awesome deal

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Valuable insight. Thanks for the information.

  • 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??

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • “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?

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

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

  • Karen Capasso says:

    Thank you for all the great information.

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

  • Reno Sprague says:

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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 https://www.united.com/web/en-US/apps/mileageplus/promotions/registrationDetails.aspx?promoCode=TB8230

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.
    Ron

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  • wow- if i only had that much money to spend