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TPG reader Eric asked:
“How do you have elite status if you are just accruing so many miles on your credit cards and redeeming miles? You obviously don’t earn elite-qualifying miles?”
I actually met TPG reader Eric on the street and he asked me how I maintain my elite status on three airlines – I am American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Delta Platinum Medallion and United Premier Platinum – if I am just accruing miles through credit cards and redeeming miles for my travel but not paying for all of it.
The answer is that I do spend quite a bit on airfare. My business is “travel” after all, so I am able to write off almost all my airfare purchases as I fly weekly between Miami and New York and LA. Even though I am not reviewing those flights like I did on my South African Airways flight to Johannesburg back in January, for instance, that I booked using US Airways miles, I am still flying quite a bit on paid fares.
With American, for example, I bought my Air Berlin business class ticket for my trip earlier this year as well as my LAN business class trip to Chile in May. Over Thanksgiving, I am flying on one of the discounted business class fares to Europe that was less than $2,000 roundtrip and is going to leave me with a bunch of miles. I bought another business class ticket to Buenos Aires that was discounted for later this December, and I’ve got a really interesting trip coming up too that I haven’t told anyone about that yet which is to a place that very few people get to go. All of these earn me miles!
So with all that Oneworld travel, I am going to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum later this year. Now for the others.
I will also be requalifying on Delta because I do fly a good amount on them and actually prefer them on some routes like from Miami to New York since it’s less trafficked than American’s flights on that route, and with Delta in particular, it is all about the credit cards. That’s because unlike most other airlines, Delta actually makes it possible to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles with several of their credit cards. For example, the targeted Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex offer I applied for earlier this year already earned me 5,000 MQMs after my first purchase on the card and another 10,000 MQMs, after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months. Not only that, but if I can spend $50,000 on the card within a calendar year, it’s got a built-in “Miles Boost” benefit that will earn me up to 20,000 additional MQMs, so I would be well on my way toward requalification.
Delta also makes it easy to requalify for elite status thanks to their rollover miles feature where you the Medallion Qualification Miles earned in one year above a member’s earned Medallion threshold level but below the next threshold will rollover to the next year and count toward Medallion status qualification. So last year, I had over 7,000 rollover miles which gave me a nice little head start for 2013.
United was actually a fluke because I requested a status match and they gave it to me even though they were only doing challenges at the time, so I have that until February 2014 and I am going to try to pull some trick out of my sleeve to extend it.
I love United elite status – not because I fly United that much – but because I redeem so many of my Chase points on United and it is great to get perks like having those last-minute fees waived and to be able to change awards as much as I want without having to pay a hefty charge each time I change a reservation, so I will definitely try to figure something out there.
So in answer to your question, I do spend quite a bit of money on airfare as that is my business. I don’t redeem miles on every flight I take especially the domestic ones. But on those doozies – like Cathay Pacific first class or South African Airways business class, I will redeem miles from those because I am not about to pay $8,000 for any airline ticket – but on my domestic flights where I can buy cheap tickets and am likely to get upgrades, it just makes more sense to pay and put those flights towards status requalification since I reap so many valuable benefits from my elite status each year.