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How to Get Elite Miles Without Flying

by on December 12, 2011 · 35 comments

in American, Continental, Delta, Elite Status, United, US Airways

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This is an installment in my Maximizing Elite Status series. Articles include; The Basics and Why People Mileage RunUsing ITA Matrix to Find Cheap FlightsHow Much is Elite Status Worth?, Comparing Top Tier StatusComparing Mid-Tier Status, Comparing Low Level StatusHow to Get Elite Miles Without Flying, Understanding Elite Status Bump ThresholdsThe Lowdown on Soft Landings, How to Cope with Losing Elite Status.

Elite status is like a drug- once you get a taste of it, it’s hard to give it up. In fact, the thought of losing elite status is such a painful idea for many frequent flyers, that they will go to extremes to maintain it – like taking flights solely for the sake of getting elite miles, otherwise known as mileage running.

However, mileage running isn’t a viable option for many people because it costs a lot in terms of time. December is generally a busy month for many people and spare days to aimlessly fly around can be hard to come by.

Getting elite miles can be expensive, so before you do any of the ideas I highlight below, make sure your current elite miles are correct. I just checked my AA.com and for some reason I was not credited with a recent Miami to Aruba flight. The return flight posted fine, but my outbound portion is simply MIA (no pun intended). Additionally, if you’ve been re-routed this year to a more direct itinerary, you can request Original Routing Credit from the airline. For example, if you booked and American Airlines itinerary La Guardia-Dallas-San Francisco (to take advantage of the double elite miles on DFW-West coast routes) and then at the airport your LaGuardia to Dallas flight is cancelled so they change you to a nonstop JFK-SFO, you can request original routing credit to get those extra 1,731 precious EQMs.

You can also try to squeeze as many elite miles from existing itineraries by changing your routing through Same Day Confirmed changes. For example, Delta is very flexible with SDC (it’s free for Gold and higher Medallions and $50 for everyone else). As long as the route you want to switch to isn’t completely insane you can have fun with this. If you are on Detroit to LaGuardia, you can Same Day Confirm to Detroit to Memphis to LaGuardia, turning a 502 mile trip into 1,573 MQMs. Last year when Delta was running double MQMs out of Pittsburgh, I turned a $60 PIT-JFK flight into PIT-Detroit-Raleigh Durham-Laguardia for a net haul of 3,000 MQMs! I originally changed to PIT-DTW-LGA, but once I got to Detroit I SDCed to DTW-RDU-LGA. And got my first class upgrades on all legs.

So what do you do if you still need elite miles to reach that next elite level, but you don’t have any more flights planned? Below is a list of ways to get elite miles without stepping foot on a plane. Feel free to add any others that I’ve missed.

American: AA generally makes it very difficult to get elite miles without flying. They were the last of the major airlines to offer elite miles via credit card and they just recently launched their co-branded card that offers EQMs.
Citi Executive AAdvantage
 card gives 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year. Other benefits include: Admirals Club lounge access, no foreign transaction fees and free checked bags. Current sign-up bonus: 25,000 regular miles with $1,000 spend within 4 months. Annual fee:$450.

Continental/United: If you haven’t done so already, you can link your Continental and United accounts and combine any elite miles you’ve accrued this year between both programs to count towards status in 2012.

You can also do the Elite Maximizer: Continental will give you the option of doubling your miles – buying regular miles at about 3.5 cents a piece and then also giving the option to get EQMs as well. The thing is, once you buy the maximizer, you automatically get the miles – not when you fly. So you can cancel your ticket and you’ll still keep the EQMs – granted at a steep price. As the end of the year nears they raise the price of the EQMs because they know people get more desperate. For more info, check out my post on it from last December.

Continental Presidential Plus card: 1,000 Flex EQMs for every $5,000 spent. Other benefits include: Red Carpet/Presidents Club lounge access, no foreign transaction fees, 2 free checked bags, Hyatt Platinum, Avis Presidents Club. Current sign-up bonus: Nothing. Annual fee: $395
Continental Presidential Plus for Business: 1,000 Flex EQMs for every $5,000 spent. Other benefits include: Red Carpet/Presidents Club lounge access, no foreign transaction fees, 2 free checked bags, Hyatt Platinum, Avis Presidents Club. Current sign-up bonus: Nothing. Annual fee: $395

Delta: Delta makes it the easiest to get elite qualifying (Medallion) miles.

Buy MQM Program: Through December 15, 2011 you can buy up to 10,000 MQMs for $895. Delta also lets you rollover excess MQMs from year to year. So even if you’ve already achieved your status for this year, you can buy these MQMs and you’ll roll over any MQMs you have beyond your current elite level. So if you have 55,000 currently and buy 10,000 – you’ll start January 1, 2012 with 15,000 MQMs because that’s how many you are beyond the Gold level (50,000).
1,500 MQMs for purchasing SkyClub membership (starting at $300)

In addition, they offer several ways to rack up monster MQMs from their credit cards (and remember Amex will let you have multiple credit cards – especially personal and business – so think of all the possibilities):
Delta Reserve Card: 10,000 MQMs with first purchase, 15,000 MQMs if you hit $30,000 within a calendar year and then an additional 15,000 when you hit $60,000. Other benefits include: Delta SkyClub access, domestic first class companion ticket (this works for coach and discounted first class so it’s actually pretty valuable), free checked bag. Current Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 MQMs after first purchase. Annual fee: $450. Maximum potential MQMs with sign-up bonus = 40,000.
Delta Business Reserve Card: 15,000 MQMs + 15.000 bonus miles when you spend $30K in a calendar year. Then, get another 15K MQMs + 15K bonus miles when you reach $60K the same year. Current Sign-up Bonus: 10,000 MQMs with first purchase. Annual fee: $450. Maximum potential MQMs with sign-up bonus = 40,000.
Delta Platinum Card: Earn a Miles Boost of 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you reach $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year. Earn an additional Miles Boost of 10,000 MQMs when you reach $50,000 in eligible purchases the same calendar year. Current sign-up bonus: 20,000 regular miles and 5,000 MQMs with first purchase. 5,000 more miles when you add two additional users. Annual fee: $150. Maximum potential MQMs with sign-up bonus = 25,000.
Delta Business Platinum Card: Earn a Miles Boost of 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you reach $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year. Earn an additional Miles Boost of 10,000 MQMs when you reach $50,000 in eligible purchases the same calendar year. Current sign-up bonus: 20,000 regular miles and 5,000 MQMs with first purchase. 5,000 more miles when you add two additional users. Annual fee: $150. Maximum potential MQMs with sign-up bonus = 25,000

If you took advantage of the max MQMs from all 4 co-branded cards and did a 25,000 MQM transfer, you could essential get 165,000 MQMs which would get you their top-tier Diamond status and allow you to roll over 45,000 MQMs to the next year which would almost get you to Gold – all without setting foot on a plane.

US Airways: US Airways’ Barclay’s US Airways Premier World Mastercard  offers up to 10,000 preferred miles. Current Sign-up Bonus: 40,000 miles Annual fee: $89, waived for the first year.

Buy Up to Preferred program (starting at $1,499 for Silver and up to $3,999 for Chairman’s). They also have a Trial Preferred program which sells status for 90 days and gives you the opportunity to keep it if you fly a certain amount.

Buy Up to Preferred Prices

US also gave out Preferred Qualifying Miles as part of Grand Slam, so you may have gotten some as part of that promotion.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://www.awardtravelconsulting.com AwardTravelConsulting

    One trick with US is just get at least 1 EQM somehow and all of a sudden Chairmans drops $1,000 from $3,999 to $2,999.

  • Kim

    I’m about 1300 miles short of next elite status on CO. I have enough spend on my presidential card for 2,000 Eqms.
    Myquestion is my statement doesn’t close until mid January. Will those flex eqms post to my account so I transfer and claim status by dec31?

  • bgiagg

    I didn’t know we could do SDC with route change and could get mqm and mqs for the new route. Thank you! Question: What will happen to checked in luggages if I change to a different route?

  • Trevinb

    I just got the AMEX Delta Platinum card. The first year annual fee of $150 is waived.

  • samuel

    I fly out of seattle 4-6 times a year and wanted to start focusing on an airline to accrue miles and status. Do you have a recommendation on an airline and plan? thanks a bunch. very helpful website.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest that depends a lot on where you are flying to, not from. I can’t even begin to guess otherwise :) If you’re just flying to SFO then maybe just fly Virgin. However if you’re flying to Europe and Asia things start to look a lot different.

  • samuel

    The most important flights will be to hawaii but we also are planning trips to asia (second most important) and europe.
    thanks for the comment

  • niks

    Was this targeted offer? Do you have link for Delta Plat card with first year fee waived?

  • Trevinb

    I just went to the Amex website. I am 4500 short of Gold medallion. The application did not mention that the first year fee is waived, so maybe it is dependent on the individual applying. I did not find out until I read the terms that came with the card.

  • Joe

    I’m currently 4,263 short of Mileage Plus 1P, I have a flight booked through UA Code Shared: Continental to FT. Lauderdale on 12/15/11 which will net me 2364 EQMs which will leave me 1899 EQMs short. However if I go to continental.com and change my MP # to my OP# (already linked) Continental will let me purchase the elite maximizer miles for $234.

    I guess my question is will UA combine my EQMs from MP & OP for next year on 01/01/12 into one bucket to determine my Elite status for 2012?

    Thanks!

  • Liz

    I used the elite maximizer/cancel the flight trick to purchase the extra 1k miles I need to make CO gold yesterday. They are currently charging $100 / 1,000 elite miles. A bit expensive, but could be worse, and since I couldn’t fit in another flight…

  • CupcakeCity

    As always, YMMV, but when I tried to apply for a second Delta AMEX card (I have the Delta Plat Amex), I was told that I could only receive one sign up bonus, so I could get the other cards, but not the miles/MQM bonuses. I was planning on getting all of them to get me to Plat, but looks like that won’t be happening this year…

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  • Jenny

    You’ve violated the cardinal, “no checked bags to maximize your flexibility” rule.

  • Alan

    I’ve found that the miles earned with Presidential Plus (base/bonus/flex EQMs) all post within a day or two of the closing date of the statement that has the charges. So if you’re currently in a billing cycle that ends in January, you won’t get the flex EQMs until January. The good news is that you have until March 31 to transfer in the flex EQMs for the prior year. (See http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/products/cards/creditcards/presplus/faq.aspx)

  • esque

    If you are approved for the Reserve, you’ll get the difference in MQMs between the Reserve and the Delta Plat.

  • Jerzykb

    Thank you Alan for that piece of information (about March 31). You just realized some timing concerns I had.

  • Jerzykb

    Er, I meant relieved some timing concerns.

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  • Tonei

    Probably Alaska. You can earn miles and EQMs on Alaska, Delta, American, LAN, Air France and KLM, and earn redeemable miles on a bunch of other international carriers. The downside is that you don’t really get anything in terms of elite benefits on international flights, but flying 4-6 times a year the flexibility on airlines is probably more useful.

  • Vkm12001

    I currently have a delta reserve card and am contemplating a business am ex platinum and maybe even chase preferred. some years i can spend about 60,000 a year on credit cards, and some years (this one only 30-40000). how much do you spend on credit card charges a year. i assume getting a credit card for one year only, is just bad for our credit scores.

  • Danray

    I just made a reservation on Continental and tried to use the elite maximizer and the only thing that comes up is double or triple miles. Did they stop the elite maximizer?

  • Anonymous

    I already have an AMEX Reserve personal card…….can I get the signup bonus of 10,000 MQM if I get a business card also?

    Also, can you gift the MQM miles to someone who has already met the 30,000 MQM threshold?

  • Anonymous

    Yes- you can get bonuses for both business and personal.

    Yes- you can gift the MQMs to whomever you’d like

  • Anonymous

    The elite option comes up after you buy the regular miles

  • Anonymous

    Business Platinum doesn’t give any spend bonuses or MQMs. Its all about the benefits like lounge access on American and Delta and Global Entry, $200 airline credit, etc

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  • Ben HArgis

    A super fast way to earn miles for me is booking hotel nights through rocket miles. At least 1000 miles per night up to 5000 miles per night, most are 2000-3000 per night. I book hotels not only for myself but anyone I know that is planning on staying in a hotel in the future. Rates are competitive with any other online booking site, usually a few bucks more a night but it is well worth the large quantity of miles. Check it out, I think you get free miles just for signing up, and I rarely get emails from them, if I do it’s usually worth looking at.

    https://www.rocketmiles.com/refer/CARDS7777

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