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Elite qualifying miles without flying in 2014 – Compare your options

by on Mon June 30, 2014 • 6 Comments

We’re about halfway through the year and this is a good time to think about any elite status you might be striving to reach with your favorite airline or hotel program. Thanks to cards and being able to buy status you can earn tens of thousands of elite qualifying miles without flying.

The table below is’s comparison of all of the ways you can earn extra qualifying miles for elite status using your credit card spending. You can see what you’ll earn as an introductory bonus, how many miles you can earn from regular spending, and how much you’ll need to spend to earn them.

We also show the maximum number of qualifying miles you can earn in one year and how much spending you’ll need to achieve that.

Annual FeeQualifying Miles Earned via SpendingSpending NeededMaximum Qualifying Mile EarningSpending Needed for Maximum EarningBusiness version available?Qualifying Airfare Dollar Requirement Waived
American Executive AAdvantage$45010,000$40,000 10,000$40,000 NoN/A
Delta SkyMiles Platinum$19510,000$25,000 20,000 + intro bonus$50,000 YesYes with $25,000 in card spending
Delta Reserve$45015,000$30,000 30,000 + intro bonus$60,000 YesYes with $25,000 in card spending
Southwest RapidRewards Premier$991,500$10,000 15,000$100,000 YesN/A
United Presidential Plus$3951,000$5,000 Qualify up to Platinum$375,000 NoYes up to Platinum status, no spending needed
NOTE: The United Presidential Plus card is not open for new applicants. Some holders of the United Club Card have reported being able to switch to a Presidential Plus which allows earning Premier Qualifying Miles, but this is only case by case if at all and should not be relied upon.

Airlines have up to two hurdles you need to cross before earning elite status:

1. Earning enough ‘qualifying’ miles via flying or card spending

2. Spending enough on airfare during the year (for Delta and United)

Once those two requirements are met you’ll earn all of the privileges of elite status, which include priority boarding, better seats, and a shot at complimentary upgrades depending on the airline.

American AAdvantage Elite

You can earn 10,000 extra Elite Qualifying Miles each year you spend $40,000 or more on the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. These miles will help you qualify all the way up to its top Executive Platinum level which requires 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles per year.

Delta SkyMiles Medallion

Delta is the easiest airline with which to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles via card spending. With two options (the Reserve and Platinum SkyMiles cards), as well as two matching versions for small business owners, you can rack up to 100,000 qualifying miles every year if you hold all four cards, and more if you count one-time sign on bonuses.

You’ll need to spend $110,000 a year to do it, but no other frequent flier program lets you earn so many miles toward elite status via card spending. And if can’t spend that much you can earn in 10,000 or 15,000 increments (10,000 on the Platinum, 15,000 on the Reserve).

While Delta has an airfare spending requirement for each of its Medallion tiers, for example $12,500 worth of Delta tickets + 125,000 Qualifying Miles earned for its top Diamond status, you can get around that by spending $25,000 on any Delta SkyMiles credit card during the year. If you have more than one card the spending from all of them will be combined to count toward the $25,000 goal.

Tip: You can also use your SkyMiles to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles. Just use the ‘Pay with Miles’ option for a First or Business Class ticket and you’ll earn full Medallion Qualifying Miles for the flight.

Southwest RapidRewards A-List

Southwest has two levels of elite status – its A-List and A-List Preferred status – which offer you earlier boarding and extra points on all of your flights. You can only earn these levels via flying or the Tier Qualifying bonus on the Southwest RapidRewards Premier cards, which are available in personal and business versions.

You can earn a maximum of 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points via card spending, and earn in increments of 1,500 points.

Southwest also has another level called Companion Pass. If you rack up 110,000 or more points via spending or bonuses on a Southwest credit card, transferring points from hotel partner programs, or flying, you can earn the privilege to bring a companion along with you for over a year on all of your flights for just the cost of taxes and fees. There is no limit to the number of points toward Companion Pass you can earn via card spending.

United MileagePlus Premier

United has no ways to earn Premier status via card spending unless you already hold its old Presidential Plus card, which  lets you earn unlimited elite qualifying Premier Qualifying Miles.

There are also a couple of old legacy United cards the Select and Platinum that have the option to earn 5 – 10,000 qualifying miles a year, but like the Presidential Plus they are no longer open to new applicants, so if you don’t have one already you’re out of luck.

You can buy Premier Qualifying Miles at any time when you purchase a United ticket and select the option to use ‘Premier Accelerator’ to buy Premier Qualifying Miles. The prices vary based on your status, what fare you’re on, and the time of year, but generally you can expect to pay $0.10 – $0.20 for each Premier Qualifying Mile.

The catch is these purchases don’t count toward the annual Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement for each Premier level. You can waive the Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement for all levels except 1K if you spend $25,000 or more on a United branded card from Chase in a year.

US Airways Dividend Miles Preferred

While US Airways and American are merging, you’ll need to qualify for each program separately for 2015 status, at least initially.

So if you want a higher level of Preferred status you can get an extra 10,000 miles toward status each year you spend $25,000 or more on a Dividend Miles World Elite MasterCard – either the personal or business version.

You can also buy Preferred miles, but it’s not cheap. You can buy 25,000 qualifying miles for $2,499, or as few as 1 – 1,999 miles for $499.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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6 thoughts on Elite qualifying miles without flying in 2014 – Compare your options

  1. David S

    I am at Chairman level on US Airways for 2014.
    By the end of December I will be at 99,600 miles, 400 short of Chairman for the next year.
    Any recommendations of what I can do?

  2. Tee

    I have one more scheduled flight this year (Chicago-New Orleans-Chicago) which will put me within about $1000 miles of Platinum status on United. I see that I can purchase PQM in conjunction with the reservation that I have, but the only option is to purchase $6000 miles which is far in excess of what I need and pretty expensive to boot (~$750). Is there a way to purchase only the number of miles that I need?


      @Tee – Unfortunately this late in the year 5,000 miles is the smallest they tend to sell. If you’re 1,000 miles short, have you considered a quick short weekend trip somewhere for much cheaper? You only need 500 miles each way, so it’s something you could do in a day. Like fly to Minneapolis and back. Since you’re a Premier members all flights still earn a minimum of 500 miles no matter how short.


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