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Frequent Flyer Credit Cards that Actually Help Elite Status

Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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While almost all airlines credit cards earn frequent flyer miles on their own airline and affiliates, few cards earn miles that count toward elite status. Most airlines differentiate between qualifying miles, which go towards earning elite benefits, and non-qualifying miles, which can be used towards free flights and such but won’t help you reach that platinum level. Here, we’ll tell you which cards will help you get that complimentary glass of champagne.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention two caveats, though. The first is that branded airline cards often don’t give the same rewards rate as non-branded travel cards. For example, you earn 1 United mile per $1 spent on the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card and 2 miles when you spend on the airline itself. The [nw:card_name 11712[, by contrast, gives 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, significantly increasing the rewards you earn. The largest benefits of a branded credit card are the auxiliary perks, like priority boarding or free checked bags.

The second is that all of the cards have a foreign transaction fee. This charge is applied on all international purchases, so if you fly Europe and put $2,000 on the card, you’re out an additional $20-$54. If you’re looking to travel internationally, check out our list of credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Virgin Atlantic Credit Card

Earning miles: Virgin bases its system on the number of segments flown, not the distance. A one-way ticket earns 2 tier points on economy, 3 on premium economy and 5 on upper (British for first, we assume). Flying on Virgin affiliates earns tier points too, though at a lower rate.

Ease of qualifying: According to our calculations, you’ll need to fly from SFO to Boston Logan and back:

  • 4 times on economy, 3 on premium economy and 2 on upper to reach Silver status
  • 11 times on economy, 7 on premium economy and 4 on upper to reach Gold status

Benefits: Although Virgin’s elite status is the easiest to qualify for at every level, the benefits are less than stellar. It doesn’t have an unlimited upgrade program, unlike domestic airlines, and offers no seating/upgrade perks other than priority waitlist. It does offer the standard baggage, security and lounge perks. So it hardly seems worth getting the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card, solely to help with elite status on the airline.

How the card helps: Each month, you can earn up to 2 tier points by spending $5,000.

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