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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 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.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) annual fee (Terms Apply)
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express – $195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) annual fee (Terms Apply - Rates & Fees)
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – $450 Annual Fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) annual fee (Terms Apply)
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card – $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) annual fee (Terms Apply - Rates & Fees)
There are multiple ways of combining Medallion Qualification Miles from Delta cards to reach elite status:
|Earn Medallion Status using Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards||Credit Cards and MQM Required|
|First Year Silver Medallion Status (25K MQMs) Including Welcome Offers||One-Card Strategy
• 10,000 MQMs - (Delta Reserve welcome offer MQM after spending $5K in first 3 months)
• 15,000 MQMs - $30K spend
Total: 25,000 MQMs/$30,000 spend
|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
• 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
• 30,000 MQMs - $60K spend on Delta Reserve
• 30,000 MQMs - $60K spend on Business 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 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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