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Airline Elite Status: Is it Worth It?

Aug. 18, 2015
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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» This page is out of date

Qualification requirements for frequent-flyer programs have changed since this article was published, so this page is out of date. See our loyalty program reviews for updated information on frequent-flyer programs. 


Traveling can be grueling. Wouldn’t a little luxury make it easier? Many people are treated well by their preferred airlines, not because they buy first-class tickets, but because they travel frequently enough to earn elite status with the airline’s frequent flyer program.

Some airlines offer free checked bags to elite program members. Some offer access to swanky airport lounges, with entrances so discreet you may not have even noticed them. And most offer members preferred access to security checkpoints and boarding, so they don’t have to stand in line with all the amateurs who only travel a couple times a year.

But you have to fly a heck of a lot to earn elite status. Recently, several airlines changed their rules so they require passengers to spend a minimum amount on plane tickets to qualify, in addition to flying the requisite number of miles.

We ran the numbers to show you how much time and money it’ll take to earn elite status, and what you could be doing with that time and money instead.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best airline credit cards