If you fly frequently, you know the value of having airline elite status. Free checked bags, priority boarding, assistance when things go wrong, and complimentary upgrades can really make travel more comfortable.
Qualifying for elite status year after year, however, has become more difficult. In addition to flying the required number of elite qualifying miles, some airlines have added levels of hefty spending requirements (elite qualifying dollars) in order to achieve any level of elite status.
Qualifying for elite status can be easier with the help of an airline-branded credit card. While none of the major domestic air carriers offers a credit card that offers complimentary airline elite status, there are credit cards that do offer a faster path to elite status.
Being a cardholder and spending on specific airline-branded cards can earn you miles that help you qualify for elite status. You may also earn elite qualifying dollars on certain airline-branded credit cards that count towards elite status revenue requirements or earn a waiver of those spending requirements.
Let’s take a look at the airline-branded cards that can expedite your path to airline elite status and explain how the process works for each card.
Table of contents
- Delta Air Lines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Final Thoughts
Table of Contents
- Delta Air Lines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Final Thoughts
Delta Air Lines
Medallion Elite Status Qualifications
In order to attain Medallion Elite status with Delta, you must fly a specified number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) or segments (MQS) each calendar year and meet the annual revenue (MQD) requirement.
|Elite Status Level||Medallion Qualifying Miles or Medallion Qualifying Segments Needed||Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) Required|
|Silver Medallion||25,000 or 30||$3,000|
|Gold Medallion||50,000 or 60||$6,000|
|Platinum Medallion||75,000 or 100||$9,000|
|Diamond Medallion||125,000 or 140||$15,000|
The revenue requirement (MQD) is met by purchasing paid (not award) tickets then flying on Delta and their Sky Team Alliance partners. The base fare plus a portion of taxes and fees count toward the MQD requirement.
Another avenue for earning some of the required MQMs is by spending on Delta branded credit cards. You can also earn a waiver of the MQD requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion level statuses by spending on your qualifying Delta branded credit cards.
Top level Medallion elite status comes with free system-wide upgrade certificates, Delta Sky Club lounge access, waived fees for changes or cancellations, complimentary upgrades and much more.
To learn about all the benefits of Delta Medallion elite status, you can access a complete overview here.
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card- use this card to get one free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions on your itinerary, which we see as a "must-have" if you fly Delta regularly. Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Card also now earn 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets in addition to 2x miles on Delta purchases (1x on all other purchases). For rates and fees of the Delta Gold card, click here.|
However — you may be eligible for a (much) higher offer by using the CardMatch Tool. (There's no pull on your credit to check for personalized offers.)
How Delta Air Lines Branded Cards Can Help You Qualify
Let’s take a look at each of the Delta branded credit cards that earn MQMs and/or offer the ability to waive the MQD requirement for certain Medallion elite levels.
|Delta Branded Credit Card||Earning Elite Qualifying Miles||Waiver of MQD Requirement for Silver, Gold, or Platinum Status|
MQD requirements are only for those Medallion members who have a U.S. address.
In addition to earning MQM from spending on your Delta credit card, there may be an MQM earning offer included in a Delta credit card’s sign-up bonus. In addition to bonus miles, the new cardholder would earn MQM after meeting the minimum required spending in the first 3 months after card approval.
These offers vary but are typically around 5,000 to 10,000 MQM.
Hot Tip: You can earn Medallion Qualifying Miles on several different Delta credit cards and all of those MQMs count toward Medallion Elite status, even MQMs earned from sign-up bonuses. For example, you could earn 30,000 MQMs on the Delta Reserve® card and 20,000 MQMs on the Platinum SkyMiles® card and all 50,000 will count toward qualifying for status.
AAdvantage Elite Status Qualifications
Each calendar year, in order to qualify for AAdvantage Elite status, you must fly the required number of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS). You must also generate a specified level of Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) by purchasing American Airlines tickets.
|AAdvantage Elite Status Level||Required Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Segments (EQS)||Required Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)|
|Gold||25,000 or 30||$3,000|
|Platinum||50,000 or 60||$6,000|
|Platinum Pro||75,000 or 90||$9,000|
|Executive Platinum||100,000 or 120||$15,000|
Executive Platinum, the top elite status, comes with system-wide upgrade certificates, complimentary domestic and regional upgrades, cancellation or award fee waivers, and flight benefits.
You can learn all about the American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Program in our complete review.
How AAdvantage and Aviator Credit Cards Help You Qualify
Each calendar year you can earn EQMs and EQDs that count toward elite status by spending on your AAdvantage credit cards.
|Barclays or Citi AAdvantage Credit Card||Earn Elite Qualifying Miles||Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars|
|Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®|
|Barclays Aviator® Silver|
The Citi/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with premium travel benefits such as Admiral’s Club lounge access for the cardholder and authorized users, priority boarding, and a free checked bag.
Hot Tip: For more info on all these benefits, check out our article dedicated to the 25+ benefits of the Citi/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard.
The Barclays Aviator Silver card is not open to new applicants but can be requested as a product change once you have a Barclays Aviator Red card.
United MileagePlus Elite Status Qualifications
Each calendar year, the MileagePlus frequent flyer member must complete the required levels of activity to qualify for United Premier Elite status. The first requirement is to meet the appropriate amount of Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS).
If the MileagePlus member has an address within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, they must also meet the revenue requirements (PQD) earned by purchasing United tickets.
|United MileagePlus Elite Status Level||Required Premier Qualifying Miles or Premier Qualify Segments||Required Premier Qualifying Dollars – (For MileagePlus members whose address is in the 50 United States and District of Columbia)|
|Premier Silver||25,000 or 30||$3,000|
|Premier Gold||50,000 or 60||$6,000|
|Premier Platinum||75,000 or 90||$9,000|
|Premier 1K||100,000 or 120||$15,000|
Top level United Premier 1K members receive complimentary domestic upgrades, system-wide upgrade certificates that can be used internationally, cancellation or award fee waivers, and more.
To learn about the benefits of each level of United MileagePlus elite status, you can access a complete summary here.
Additionally, Upgraded Points has two in-depth dedicated posts for what United MileagePlus Elite Status is worth — one in terms of perks prior to departure and at the airport and another for benefits related to seating and upgrades.
How United MileagePlus Credit Cards Help You Qualify
Spending $25,000 per calendar year on a United branded credit card will waive the PQD requirement for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum status levels.
The following United MileagePlus and Explorer credit cards qualify for the exemption:
- United Explorer℠ Card
- United MileagePlus Club Card
- United Explorer Business Card
- United MileagePlus Club Business Card
- United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card (not open to new applicants)
JetBlue Elite Status Qualifications
You can earn JetBlue Mosaic Elite status each calendar year by earning 15,000 flight points or earning 12,000 flight points and flying 30 segments.
Flight points are earned at the rate of 3 points for each dollar you spend on JetBlue flights.
JetBlue Mosaic status comes with free checked bags, waived cancellation or change fees, priority boarding, bonus points, and free alcoholic beverages on board. You also receive a dedicated customer service phone line.
How the JetBlue Credit Card Can Help You Qualify
You can earn JetBlue Mosaic status simply by spending $50,000 in a calendar year on the JetBlue Plus Card credit card.
To learn more about the benefits of JetBlue Mosaic Elite status, you can review this summary.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Elite Status Qualification
Here’s what it takes to qualify for Rapid Rewards elite status with Southwest Airlines.
|Rapid Rewards Elite Status Level||Calendar Year Qualification Requirements|
|A-List||25 one-way qualifying flights OR 35,000 tier qualifying points|
|A-List Preferred||50 one-way qualifying flights OR 70,000 tier points|
|Companion Pass||100 one-way qualifying flights OR 125,000 qualifying points|
A-List Preferred members receive priority check-in, boarding, and security lane access. Free onboard Wi-Fi, 100% bonus points for flights, and the ability to stand by for other same-day flights are also valuable benefits of being A-List Preferred.
A Companion Pass allows a member to purchase a ticket and add a pre-selected companion for the cost of just taxes and fees. The pass can be used unlimited times during the valid time period for which the member has qualified.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card|
Hot Tip: Are you a frequent flier with Southwest? If yes, see our complete guide to the best credit cards for Southwest flyers.
How Rapid Rewards Credit Cards Help You Qualify
Rapid Rewards branded credit cards earn qualifying tier points that count toward elite status and bonus points that count toward the Companion Pass. In addition, anniversary points granted when you renew your Rapids Rewards credit card count toward Companion Pass status.
The generous sign-up bonus you receive after meeting minimum spending requirements in the first 3 months you have the card, also counts toward Companion Pass requirements.
|Rapid Rewards Credit Card||Renewal Points —count toward companion pass||Elite status tier points (don’t count toward Companion Pass)|
|Rapid Rewards® Plus||3,000||Earn 1,500 elite tier points for each $10,000 spent on the card|
|Rapid Rewards® Premier||6,000||Earn 1,500 elite tier points for each $10,000 spent on the card|
|Rapid Rewards® Priority||7,500||Earn 1,500 elite tier points for each $10,000 spent on the card|
|Rapid Rewards® Business||3,000||Earn 1,500 elite tier points for each $10,000 spent on the card|
There are several ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points that count toward the companion pass and free flights. To review some creative ideas and learn more about the Rapid Rewards loyalty program, you’ll want to check out our guides.
If you frequently travel on several airlines and elite status isn’t important to you, you may fare better with a premium travel rewards credit card. These cards offer benefits such as worldwide lounge access, accelerated earnings on all airlines, and travel statement credits.
But, if you frequently fly one particular airline, however, you can experience additional benefits by having that airline’s branded card. Earning frequent flyer miles quickly and companion tickets are two examples of these additional benefits.
Many airline-branded credit cards come with elite-type benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, waived fees, companion tickets, and more.
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