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Earning Elite Status and Miles with Credit Cards

by on Fri December 29, 2017 • 2 Comments
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Airlines have revamped how travelers can earn frequent flyer status, going from a simple mileage-based system to a more complicated combination of miles traveled, segments flown and dollars spent on tickets.

So what’s the landscape for elite airline requirements these days? Is it harder or easier than ever? Are miles worth more or less? In this post, we’ll look at the credit card offerings at the top U.S. airlines to separate fact from fiction.

Skip ahead to find out how to earn elite status with these airlines:

American

American

American Airlines has four levels of elite status:

    • Gold: $3,000 in EQDs AND 25,000 EQMs or 30 segments
    • Platinum: $6,000 in EQDs AND 50,000 EQMs or 60 segments
    • Platinum Pro: $9,000 in EQDs AND 75,000 EQMs or 90 segments
    • Executive Platinum: $12,000 in EQDs AND 100,000 EQMs or 120 segments

The airline has two cards that allow members to earn elite status:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® has an annual fee of $450. Cardmembers can earn 2X AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent at aa.com, at reservations and the carrier’s airport and city ticket counter locations. Double miles cannot be earned on car rentals and hotel reservations (except taxes and charges paid when redeeming miles for car/hotel), purchase of elite status boost or renewal and AA Cargo products and services. There’s no cap on the number of AAdvantage miles that can be accumulated on the card.

Members can earn 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 in eligible purchases that post to an account during a calendar year. EQDs and award miles can only be earned on base fares paid for a ticket, including any carrier-imposed fees. The bonus miles cannot be earned if members have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Other benefits:

  • Free membership in the Admiral’s Club.
  • One free checked bag each for the cardmember and up to eight traveling companions on a reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Preferred boarding for the cardmember and up to eight traveling companions.
  • Receive a statement credit up to $100 every five years to cover your Global Entry application fee or TSA Pre-check if you paid with the card.
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage purchases on the card.
  • Access to a dedicated concierge for help with foreign and domestic travel, shopping, dining, household and entertainment needs.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® has an annual fee of $195. Cardmembers earn three miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, two miles for every $1 spent on select hotel and car rentals and one mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. The card allows users to get 10% of their redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 miles, each calendar year. There’s also an up to a 7,500-mile discount when a cardmember uses miles to book a MileSAAver award.

For $99 each a year, cardmembers can earn a companion certificate for up to two guests. The certificate is issued annually after an account anniversary when a cardmember spends $30,000 or more; taxes and fees apply. There is no cap on the number of AAdvantage miles accumulated on the card.

The card allows members to receive 5,000 EQMs for every $20,000 spent annually, up to 10,000 miles a year. They can earn $6,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 on purchases each calendar year. Cardmembers earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 and another $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000.

Members can only get 10% redeemed miles on one AAdvantage-branded card. AAdvantage cards cannot be combined to count toward spend requirement to earn EQDs. With the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® (regardless of whether you have multiple AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver or other Aviator® Mastercard® accounts), you can only earn up to 6,000 EQDs each calendar year.

Other benefits:

  • One free checked bag for cardmember and up to eight traveling companions on a reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Preferred boarding for cardmember and up to eight traveling companions.
  • Reimbursement of $100 Global Entry application fee with paid with the card.
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

Delta

delta air lines airplane

Delta has four levels of elite status:

    • Diamond: 125,000 MQMs or 140 segments AND $15,000 MQDs or MQD waiver.
    • Platinum: 75,000 MQMs or 100 segments AND $9,000 MQDs or MQD waiver.
    • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 segments AND $6,000 MQDs or MQD waiver.
    • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 segments AND $3,000 MQDs or MQD waiver.

Delta Air Lines has two cards that earn elite status:

  • The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
  • The Delta Reserve® Credit Card

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card has an annual fee of $195. Cardmembers can earn 5,000 MQMs and 35,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months. They earn a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within the first three months.

The Miles Boost benefit allows cardmembers to earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after making $25,000 in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year. MQMs received in 2017 above a member’s Medallion threshold level will roll over to 2018 and will count toward 2019 Medallion status qualification. All MQMs earned between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, will count toward 2018 Medallion status.

The MQD waiver for earning Diamond Medallion status will change on January 1, 2018. If the MQD threshold is not met for a qualification year, members can qualify for Diamond Medallion status if they have earned the required MQMs or MQSs and spend at least $250,000 in eligible purchases within the qualification year on an eligible card. The MQDs requirement to reach Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion Status during the qualification year will remain the same and will be waived if members make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases in that qualification year with an eligible card

American Express only allows members to receive a welcome bonus offer on one card. If a card is cancelled or downgraded within 12 months of acquiring it or if purchases to reach the threshold amount are canceled or returned, the welcome bonus will not be credited. The company may freeze the welcome bonus credit, may take away the welcome bonus from the account or may also cancel the card account and other card accounts members may have.

Other benefits:

  • The option to carry a balance with interest or pay it in full each month.
  • Access to the Delta Sky Club lounge at a discount rate of $29 per person for the cardmember and up to two guests, paid with the SkyMiles card.
  • One free checked bag for cardmembers on Delta or Delta Connection flights.
  • A Baggage Insurance Plan that covers eligible lost, damaged or stolen baggage when a member purchases the fare on an eligible card. Coverage is up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and up to $500 for checked bags.
  • Zone 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • A domestic main cabin round trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal.
  • Receive one Global Entry ($100) statement credit or one TSA Pre-check ($85) statement credit every four years for an application fee charged to a Platinum Card.
  • A 20% discount as a statement credit on eligible pre-purchased meals and in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express has an annual fee of $450. Cardmembers earn 10,000 MQMs and 40,000 bonus miles after making eligible purchases with the card of $3,000 or more within the first three months of membership. Eligible purchases to meet the spend requirement can be made by the card member and any additional card members on one account. To receive the 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs, a card account must not be canceled or past due at the time of fulfillment.

Cardmembers can use the Pay With Miles program to pay for Delta and Delta Connection carrier flights booked at delta.com in 5,000-mile increments. Pay with Miles tickets will earn mileage and MQDs for the portion of the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges remaining that is paid in currency after miles are applied to the ticket total.  Pay with Miles tickets are also eligible for MQSs and MQMs.

American Express only allows members to receive a welcome bonus offer on one card. If a card is cancelled or downgraded within 12 months of acquiring it or if purchases to reach the threshold amount are canceled or returned, the welcome bonus will not be credited. The company may freeze the welcome bonus credit, take away the welcome bonus from the account or cancel the card account and other card accounts members may have.

Other benefits:

  • The option to carry a card balance with interest or pay in full each month.
  • Access to the Delta Sky Club lounge at a discount rate of $29 per person for the cardmember and up to two guests, paid with the SkyMiles card.
  • One free checked bag for  cardmember on Delta or Delta Connection flights.
  • A Baggage Insurance Plan that covers eligible lost, damaged, or stolen baggage when a member purchases the entire fare on an eligible card. Coverage is up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and up to $500 for checked bags.
  • Access to expedited Sky Priority security line for Delta and Delta Connection carrier operated flights at participating airports. Priority checkpoint is also available for passengers traveling on the same reservation as the cardmember.
  • Zone 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • A domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal.
  • 20% discount as a statement credit on eligible pre-purchased meals and in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

United

unitedairlinesplane

United Airlines has four levels of elite status:

    • Premier Silver: 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS (and $3,000)
    • Premier Gold: 50,000 PQM or 60 PQS (and $6,000)
    • Premier Platinum: 75,000 PQM or 90 PQS (and $9,000)
    • Premier 1K: 100,000 PQM or 120 PQS (and $12,000)

The airline offers three credit cards, but none of them help with earning PQMs:

  • The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
  • The United MileagePlus® Club Card
  • The UnitedSM TravelBank Card

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card starts with a $0 introductory annual fee in the first year, then charges $95 a year. Cardmembers can earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months the account is open. And they can earn another 5,000 bonus miles after a first purchase and adding an authorized user to the account during the first three months from account opening. The card allows authorized users to be added, using the same account number and charging privileges as the primary cardmember.

Cardmembers earn two miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United Airlines and one mile for each $1 spent on all other purchases. They can get 10,000 bonus miles each calendar year when they spend at least $25,000 on the card. And miles won’t expire as long as there is activity on the credit card account, including paying the annual membership fee. Current and previous cardmembers who received a new member bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months cannot receive another bonus.

Other benefits:

  • One free checked bag for the cardmember and a traveling companion on flights operated by United and United Express if booked on the same reservation.
  • Priority boarding for the cardmember and companions traveling on the same reservation.
  • Cardmembers receive two free United Club one-time passes every 12 months as long as their credit card account remains open.
  • Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance that reimburses of up to $10,000 per trip if cancelled or cut short by sickness or severe weather. Expenses reimbursed include passenger fares, tours and hotels.
  • Baggage Delay Insurance that reimburses cardmembers for essential purchases including toiletries and clothing for baggage delays of more than six hours at up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement of up to $3,000 per passenger if a cardmember or  immediate family member has checked or carry-on luggage damaged or lost by the airline.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement where if a flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, the cardmember and family are covered for unreimbursed expenses for up to $500 per ticket.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

TheUnited MileagePlus® Club Card has an annual fee of $450. Cardmembers earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Authorized users can be added under the same account number and charging privileges as the primary cardmember. Cardmembers earn 1.5 miles for each $1 spent and earn two miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased directly from United Airlines. They receive 10,000 bonus miles each calendar year when they make at least $25,000 in purchases on the card. Miles will not expire as long as there is activity on the card account, including paying the annual membership fee.

Current and previous cardmembers who received a new member bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months cannot receive another bonus.

Other benefits:

  • Two free checked bags for they cardmember and their companions on flights operated by United and United Express if booked on the same reservation.
  • Priority boarding for the cardmember and their companions traveling on the same reservation.
  • Free membership in the United Club for the cardmember; authorized users can enter when escorted by a cardmember.
  • Designated check-in lines and priority security lanes.
  • Priority boarding and baggage handling.
  • Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance that provides reimbursement of up to $10,000 per trip if cancelled or cut short by sickness or severe weather. Travel expenses reimbursed include passenger fares, tours and hotels.
  • Baggage Delay Insurance that reimburses cardmembers for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays of more than six hours for up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement of up to $3,000 per passenger if a cardmember or  immediate family member has checked or carry-on luggage damaged or lost by the airline.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement where if a flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, the cardmember and family are covered for unreimbursed expenses for up to $500 per ticket.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.

The UnitedSM TravelBank card is the newest one offered by the airline. It allows cardmembers to earn cash that can be applied to future flights. There is no annual fee for the card. Cardmembers earn  $150 in TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months an account is open.

They earn 2% in TravelBank cash for every $1 spent on United Airlines tickets and 1.5% in TravelBank cash for every $1 spent on all other purchases. TravelBank cash can be used alone or combined with other forms of payment to buy United Airlines tickets. Current and previous cardmembers who received a new member bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months cannot receive another bonus.

Other benefits

  • Reimbursement of up to $1,500 per trip for prepaid, non-refundable passenger fares if a trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations like sickness or injury.
  • Receive a 25% statement credit on food and beverage purchases aboard United-operated flights when paying with the TravelBank Card.
  • No foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.
  • Miles will not expire as long as there is activity on the card account, including paying the annual membership fee, and the account is open and not in default.

Southwest

Image courtesy of Southwest

Image courtesy of Southwest

Southwest Airlines keeps it simple with two levels of elite status for its Rapid Rewards® program:

    • A-List: Fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.
    • A-List Preferred: Fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Those who fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year can earn a Companion Pass, where one person can fly with the traveler for free (minus taxes and fees) every time they buy or redeem points for a flight. The Companion Pass is available for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which it was earned.

The airline offers a personal and business credit card:

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card
  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business credit card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card has an annual fee of $99. Cardmembers earn 40,000 points when they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. The card offers 6,000 bonus points a year after a cardmember’s anniversary. Users can earn unlimited points, including two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Cardmembers can also earn one point for each $1 of the first $15,000 of balance transfers made during the first 90 days from the original account open date. And they can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually, which equals 15,000 TQPs. TQPs can be used to count toward qualification for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. The card is not available to either current card members or those who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.

Other benefits:

  • Points don’t expire as long as your card account is open.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.
  • No blackout dates and unlimited reward seats apply to flights booked with points.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card has an annual fee of $99. Cardmembers earn 60,000 points when they spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months and earn 6,000 bonus points after an anniversary. Users can earn unlimited points, along with two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Cardmembers can earn one point for each $1 of the first $15,000 of balance transfers made during the first 90 days from the original account open date. They can also earn 1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 in purchases, up to $100,000 annually, which equals 15,000 TQPs. TQPs can be used to count toward qualification for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. Business owners can give employee cards under the member account at no additional charge, with the ability to give charging privileges and establish individual spending limits. The card is not available to either current members or those who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.

Other benefits:

  • Points don’t expire as long as your card account is open.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.
  • No blackout dates and unlimited reward seats apply to flights booked with points.

JetBlue

jetblue planes

Earn TrueBlue Mosaic status on JetBlue Airways by either flying 30 segments plus 12,000 base flight points or earning 15,000 base flight points within a calendar year.

The airline currently offers just one card that enables users to earn elite status — the JetBlue Plus Card.

The card has an annual fee of $99. Cardmembers earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Existing cardmembers and existing accounts are not eligible for the bonus.

Once members earn TrueBlue Mosaic status, they earn a bonus of 15,000 points. And for every account anniversary, 5,000 TrueBlue bonus points will be credited to the TrueBlue cardholders’ membership account as long as it remains open and in good standing.

Cardmembers get TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for a year after spending $50,000 or more on purchases annually with the card. Six TrueBlue points are awarded for every dollar spent on JetBlue tickets, two points for every dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores and one point for every dollar spent everywhere else. Cardmembers can earn 10% of points back as a redemption bonus to use toward the next redemption.

Balance transfers and cash advances do not earn TrueBlue points. There are no limits on accumulating TrueBlue points as long as the program continues and the account remains open and in good standing.

Other benefits:

  • Change and cancellation fees are waived for Mosaic members and others on their itinerary.
  • First and second checked bags  are free for cardmembers and those on their itinerary.
  • Access to an expedited security line.
  • Early boarding on flights.
  • Access to a dedicated customer service line 24/7.
  • Free alcoholic beverages onboard flights.
  • 50% savings on inflight purchases, including cocktails, beer, wine, meals, and movies when using the card.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.

Major Airlines with no options for elite status

  • Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
  • Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®
  • Spirit Airlines™ World Mastercard®
  • Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®
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Benét J. Wilson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aviation Queen LLC, an aviation/travel writing, multimedia and consulting business.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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2 thoughts on Earning Elite Status and Miles with Credit Cards

  1. Chris

    “American Express only allows members to receive a welcome bonus offer on one card.”

    Does this mean if you get the welcome bonus for the platinum card, you cannot get it if you also get the reserve card? Or does it mean you can only get one welcome bonus per card, you cannot cancel it and get it again in the future?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Chris – You can get a bonus for a second card type (Platinum and Reserve considered separate) – but you are right about not cancelling and getting a bonus again for the same card in the future.

      Reply

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