How to Spend Your Way to Airline and Hotel Elite Status on Credit Cards

Earning elite status through spending often isn't easy, but there are credit cards that will help get you there.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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With perks like free checked bags, room upgrades and complimentary breakfast, elite status can go a long way toward soothing stressful travel experiences. But what if you’re not a frequent traveler? Or perhaps you are, but you’re likely to opt for whatever’s cheapest, earning you little in the way of loyalty?

Don’t worry. With co-branded credit cards, it’s possible to earn elite status without needing to travel frequently. Let’s take a look at how to spend for elite status with airlines and hotels.

How to get airline status from spending on credit cards

The big three airlines within the U.S. — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — feature co-branded credit cards that will help you earn elite status with your spending. JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines also feature pathways to status with their credit cards.

American Airlines

This year, American Airlines debuted Loyalty Points, an all-in-one frequent flyer program that will award you status based on a number of activities. Those activities include booking flights, using shopping portals and making purchases with eligible credit cards.

Even better? There’s no cap on the level of status you can achieve, which means it’s possible — though difficult — to earn top-tier Executive Platinum status strictly by using your credit card.

The earning structure is simple(ish); you’ll receive one Loyalty Point for every eligible dollar you spend with your co-branded AAdvantage credit card. This includes options such as the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® issued by Barclays, as well as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. Keep in mind, though, that bonus points earned from sign-up offers or spending on bonus categories will not earn you extra Loyalty Points.

Each level of elite status requires a different number of Loyalty Points:

Elite status level

Loyalty Points

Gold

40,000 points.

Platinum

75,000 points.

Platinum Pro

125,000 points.

Executive Platinum

200,000 points.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has a four co-branded credit cards that can help you earn the Medallion Qualification Dollars needed each year for elite status:

As a cardholder, you'll receive a 2,500 MQD bonus annually around the beginning of the year to get a head start on earning elite status. Spending on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card will earn you 1 MQD per $10 spent on the card. Spending on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card will earn 1 MQD per $20 spent on the card.

The requirements to earn elite status during 2024 are:

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue has a total of four published elite status tiers. Its first, Mosaic 1, is its standard level and includes a slew of benefits for members.

These statuses can be reached by spending on either the JetBlue Plus Card or the JetBlue Business Card.

Elite status level

Spending requirement

Mosaic 1

$50,000.

Mosaic 2

$100,000.

Mosaic 3

$150,000

Mosaic 4

$250,000.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest doesn’t have traditional elite status levels like other big airlines, but its benefits for frequent flyers include priority boarding and earning bonuses.

There are a total of four co-branded Southwest credit cards that will earn Tier Qualifying Points toward elite status:

All of these cards will award you with 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend in a calendar year, with no limit.

Elite status level

Tier Qualifying Points required

A-List

35,000.

A-List Preferred

70,000.

(Editor's note: Southwest recently announced some significant changes coming to the Rapid Rewards program in 2024, including lower requirements for A-List status and a reduced credit card spend requirement for earning bonus TQPs. Read more on that here.)

United Airlines

United is the only one of these airlines whose credit cards won’t get you all the way to top-tier status. Instead, you can earn Premier Qualifying Points via credit card spending:

If you had all five cards and earned the maximum PQPs available across every single United credit card, you’d end up with Premier Platinum status, which is the third-highest tier United offers.

Elite status level

PQPs required (PQP only)

Premier Silver

5,000 PQP.

Premier Gold

10,000 PQP.

Premier Platinum

15,000 PQP.

Premier 1K

24,000 PQP.

How to get hotel elite status from spending on credit cards

Happily for those seeking to earn elite status, hotel status is much easier to acquire than airline elite status.

Hilton

Hilton is the only hotel chain that will give you top-tier elite status simply for holding one of its credit cards. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card grants Hilton Honors™ Diamond Status to all cardholders, regardless of spending. Terms apply.

Otherwise, it’s possible to spend your way to Hilton elite status using any of Hilton’s other co-branded credit cards:

Terms apply.

Marriott

Like Hilton, Marriott’s co-branded credit cards also offer some level of elite status. However, you’ll only ever receive Platinum status as a result of merely holding a credit card. This is a benefit of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, but other Marriott cards allow you to spend your way to top-tier Marriott elite status. Terms apply.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Grants you 15 elite qualifying nights per year, which gives you Silver status.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Grants you 15 elite qualifying nights per year, earning you Silver status. You’ll be granted Gold elite status after spending $35,000 in a calendar year. You’ll also earn 1 elite qualifying night for every $5,000 you spend in a calendar year, with no cap.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Grants you 15 elite qualifying nights per year, earning you Silver status. You’ll be given Gold elite status after spending $35,000 in a calendar year. Terms apply.

You can only receive 15 elite night credits total from any Marriott consumer credit cards; these numbers won’t stack. However, if you hold both a consumer and small-business version of these Marriott credit cards, you can get a total of 30 elite night credits toward status per year.

Elite status level

Elite night credits required to earn

Silver Elite

10 elite qualifying nights.

Gold Elite

25 elite qualifying nights.

Platinum Elite

50 elite qualifying nights.

Titanium Elite

75 elite qualifying nights.

Ambassador Elite

100 elite qualifying nights (plus $23,000 in spend per year).

Hyatt

Hyatt only has two co-branded credit cards in total; you can have the consumer version, the business version, or both.

Both of these cards will earn you elite night credits toward World of Hyatt elite status. Holding either of these cards will also grant you automatic Discoverist elite status.

You can earn elite night credits to upgrade your status through spending:

Unlike the loyalty programs from Hilton and Marriott, Hyatt’s loyalty program offers room upgrades at every level of elite status.

Elite status level

Elite night credits required

Discoverist

10 nights.

Explorist

30 nights.

Globalist

60 nights.

If you want to spend your way to airline or hotel elite status

Earning your way to elite status can be an expensive and time-consuming venture, especially if you’re not an a frequent traveler. Happily, there are multiple credit card options from both airlines and hotels that will allow you to spend your way to elite status.

This is true for even the most exclusive levels of a company’s loyalty program, though be aware that you’ll likely end up paying heavily for those higher levels. It’s more likely that a combination of spending on a credit card and traveling will earn you the elite status you seek.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet. The information related to the United Club℠ Business Card (annual fee: $450) has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
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