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Should You Aim for Airline Elite Status in 2020?

Jan. 7, 2020
Reward Optimization, Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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The new year presents a fresh start in all things, including your rewards strategy. Now is the time to start planning your travel for the year and figure out how elite status might benefit you. Do you think you’re going to fly quite a bit or just want to experience the perks that come with status? Here are a few things you should consider when deciding whether to aim for airline elite status in 2020.

» Learn more: Nail down your 2020 travel credit card strategy now

Are you flying enough to earn (and make use of) status?

If you’re flying enough to earn or get use out of airline elite status benefits, then you should consider pursuing it. Having elite status can provide a more comfortable travel experience, not to mention increased earnings on award flights.

That said, earning airline elite status takes work, and you shouldn’t pursue it unless you have a use for it.

Can you credit your miles to a single rewards account?

If you can credit your miles to one rewards account, you should consider aiming for airline elite status in 2020. Notice that we didn’t say you must arrange travel on a single airline. That’s because you can earn elite status by flying with partner airlines. For example, if you want to earn Alaska Mileage Plan status, you can earn credit toward elite status by flying Alaska or one of its partners, including Finnair, Emirates or even American Airlines.

So think ahead and figure out whether you can arrange your travel on carriers that have partnerships with an airline you’re trying to earn elite status with.

Will you be able to complete revenue requirements?

Most airlines in the U.S. now have revenue requirements. This means that in addition to requiring you to fly a certain number of miles or segments, they also require you to spend a certain amount to earn status. Even if you’re able to complete the mileage requirements, the additional spending may make earning status less attainable.

Luckily, there are some airlines that will waive revenue requirements if you can manage to complete a certain amount of spending on your credit card within a calendar year. If you plan on going this route, it’s definitely worth it to evaluate your spending habits and consider charging everything to one of these cards in order to meet your goal:

American

American Airlines requires $3,000 – $15,000 worth of Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs). Unfortunately, you can’t complete these EQDs via credit card spending.

  • Gold: $3,000 EQDs.
  • Platinum: $6,000 EQDs.
  • Platinum Pro: $9,000 EQDs.
  • Executive Platinum: $15,000 EQDs.

Delta

Delta’s requirements for Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) range from $3,000 – $15,000.

  • Silver: $3,000 MQDs.
  • Gold: $6,000 MQDs.
  • Platinum: $9,000 MQDs.
  • Diamond: $15,000 MQDs.

Delta waives requirements for Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) for co-branded cardholders who complete certain spending requirements. The Silver, Gold and Platinum MQD requirement gets waived for those who complete $25,000 worth of spending requirements, while the Diamond MQD requirement is waived for those who spend $250,000 or more.

» Learn more: Platinum Delta SkyMiles review: One big perk pays the fee

Can you complete some elite-qualifying requirements through credit card spending?

If you’re able to supplement elite qualifying miles earned from flying with those from airline credit cards, then aiming for airline status might make sense.

AAdvantage elite status

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® offers 10,000 EQMs (Elite Qualifying miles) after $40,000 spent in a calendar year. That’s about  40% of the way to AAdvantage Gold elite status and 10% of the way to top-tier Executive Platinum.

» Learn more: Citi AAdvantage Executive review: Your key to the club

Delta Medallion elite status

Some of the Delta-branded credit cards offer Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) as part of the welcome bonus, as well as a spending-based reward.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card includes 5,000 MQMs in the welcome offer and allows cardholders to earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 and $50,000 in a calendar year. Terms apply.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card includes 10,000 MQMs as part of the welcome bonus, as well as the ability to earn 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000. Terms apply.

JetBlue Mosaic elite status

The JetBlue Plus Card is unique in that it allows cardholders to earn TrueBlue Mosaic status entirely via credit card spending. Cardholders who put $50,000 on the card in a calendar year get upgraded to Mosaic elite status. Aiming for JetBlue Mosaic status can definitely be worth it if you can manage just under $4,200 worth of credit card spending per month.

Normally, earning Mosaic status requires 15,000 flight points or 30 segments and 12,000 flight points. Mosaic elite members get some valuable perks that can make earning status worthwhile, including:

  • Free change/cancellation fees for elite members and travel companions.
  • First and second checked bag free.
  • Expedited security lane access.
  • Early boarding.
  • Complimentary alcoholic drinks onboard.
  • Dedicated customer service line.

United MileagePlus elite status

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, United MileagePlus introduced new requirements for determining elite status. Status is earned based on a combination of Premier qualifying flights (PQF) and Premier qualifying points (PQP).

  • Premier Silver: 12 PQF and 4,000 PQP or 5,000 PQP.
  • Premier Gold: 24 PQF and 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP.
  • Premier Platinum: 36 PQF and 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP.
  • Premier 1K: 54 PQF and 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP.

Those with the United℠ Explorer Card, New United Club℠ Infinite Card, United℠ Business Card and United Club℠ Business Card can earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent, up to 1,000 PQP per calendar year. The PQPs can be used to earn up to Platinum elite status.

» Learn more: United Explorer: Richer rewards, perks you’ll actually use

The bottom line

Whether you should aim for airline elite status in 2020 depends largely on your travel plans. If you’ve got lots of revenue travel planned, then crediting your flights to one program could help you not only earn status but also reap the benefits of having it. If you don’t think you’ll meet airline elite status requirements on time but will benefit greatly from having it, then there are plenty of credit cards that make that a more attainable goal.

All information about the United℠ Business Card and United Club℠ Business Card has been collected independently by Nerdwallet. The United℠ Business Card and United Club℠ Business Card are no longer available through NerdWallet.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Best airline credit cards
How to get top-tier elite status through credit card spending
How to get airline perks without elite status

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