Having airline elite status can make travel an infinitely better experience. You’ll qualify for upgrades, receive free checked bags, earn more miles on your paid flights and share some of those perks with your travel companions. In an age of packed airports and tight economy class cabins, having status can elevate your travel to a more comfortable level.
But you don’t have to fly thousands of miles every year to earn elite status. In fact, with some airlines, you don’t even have to step on a plane. You can spend your way there with a co-branded credit card, get status gifted to you by a friend or as part of a challenge. If that’s got your intrigued, here are six ways to earn airline elite status faster:
Credit cards can help you kickstart your status goals with elite-qualifying miles or the ability to earn your way to status through spending. The AAdvantage program lets you earn status entirely through credit card spending, while the Delta credit cards offer Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM’s) and Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waivers. Even the United credit cards let you earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) through credit card spending.
Meanwhile, the JetBlue Plus Card lets you earn TrueBlue Mosaic status after $50,000 in credit card spending. You’ll want to weigh the benefits of Mosaic status against the points and benefits you’re giving up by not charging these expenses to a different card.
Airlines love frequent travelers and what better way to attract them than to poach elite flyers from other airlines? That’s the logic behind offering status matches. Through a status match, some airlines will give you status based on your existing status from a different program. At the moment, only Hawaiian Airlines program offers a true status match. After proving your current status, you can enjoy status with Hawaiian Airlines (up to Platinum) for up to 12 months.
The Marriott and United RewardsPlus venture is another way to get a status match. Marriot Titanium Elite and Ambassador members can get complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver status. Meanwhile, United MileagePlus Premier Gold members and above get matched to Marriott Gold elite status. To claim your free status, head to the RewardsPlus page and register with RewardsPlus.
A status challenge works similarly to a status match, except you won’t receive elite benefits until you complete the flight requirements. Status requirements during a challenge are lower than usual, making it much more attainable.
You’ll get temporary status after submitting the required documentation. If you complete a certain number of flights within a required timeframe, you’ll retain status through the rest of the year.
Currently, four domestic carriers offer elite status matches:
- Alaska Airlines: Match up to MVP Gold 75K by submitting proof of existing status. To retain status, complete 5,000-20,000 miles on Alaska Airlines within 90 days.
- Delta Airlines: Match up to Platinum status by submitting proof of existing status. To retain status, complete 6,250-18,750 MQMs and $750-$2,250 MQDs within three months.
- Southwest Airlines: Match up to A-List status by showing proof of status with another program. Matched status is valid will be extended to 12 months if you complete three round-trip flights within 90 days.
- United Airlines: Match up to Premier Platinum by providing proof of existing status with another airline. Matched status is valid for 120 days. To maintain status beyond 120 days, you must earn 4-10 Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and earn 1,000-3,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP), depending on the status level you’re aiming for.
Mileage runs are usually a last resort for folks who want to requalify for status but don’t have actual travel plans. By merely taking a round-trip flight (a “milk run,” as it’s affectionately called), savvy travelers can hit their elite status goals. The status benefits often outweigh the cost of the mileage run, so it can make sense for many travelers.
But you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to go on a mileage run. Many status-conscious travelers plan out their flights in advance and might realize early on that they won’t hit their status goals. In that case, it makes sense to do a mileage run in advance and speed up their way to elite status.
If you know someone who has elite status, they can help you earn it faster too. Several loyalty programs allow existing elites to gift status to friends or family. For example, Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members can gift Silver and Gold Medallion status, respectively, as part of their annual Choice Benefits.
Delta isn’t the only program that allows status gifting. American Airlines allows Executive Platinum members to gift Gold or Platinum status as part of their annual choice rewards. Additionally, Alaska Mileage Plan members can gift MVP status to others after earning MVP Gold 75K status.
As you can see, it pays to have friends in high places. Gifted status is one of the fastest ways to earn elite status with little effort.
The United Premier Accelerator program is unique in allowing members to earn extra Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) on flights – for a price. You can buy additional PQP for less than a dollar each, which may be worthwhile if you’re close to reaching your status goals and need that extra push. You’ll typically be given a chance to buy additional PQP during the booking process. If not, you can head over to the Premier Accelerator page and enter your booking confirmation number to find out how many PQP you can buy and what price.
Whether this is worth it or not depends on your status goals and how often you’ll make use of its benefits. If you’re thousands of PQP away from your status goal, then it might be costly and ultimately not worthwhile.
Airline elite status can be an incredibly valuable tool in navigating the hectic world of airline travel. By having the distinction and perks that come with being elite, you’ll enjoy a more comfortable experience and ultimately save on things like checked bag fees. Employ one of the methods outlined above and you’ll get there even faster.
Featured photo courtesy of American Airlines