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How Do You Have Elite Status If You Are Accruing Miles On Credit Cards And Redeeming Miles, But Don’t Earn Elite Status Qualifying Miles?

by on September 22, 2013 · 14 comments

in American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Elite Status, Sunday Reader Questions, United, Video Blog Post

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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.

American Airlines Elite Status

How do I get American Airlines Elite Status if I redeem so many miles?

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.

I bought my airberlin ticket.

I bought my airberlin ticket in business class earlier this year.

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!

American Airlines Elite Status Benefits

Here are the American Airlines Elite Status benefits that I get.

So with all that Oneworld travel, I am going to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum later this year. Now for the others.

Sky MIles

Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion benefits.

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.

My United status was a fluke.

My United elite status was a fluke!

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.

Cathay Pacific

I will redeem miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class.

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.

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  • Bill Sandler

    Actually, you did mention the Antarctica trip already. Not sure where I saw it but you talked about going to Antartica at the end of 2013 and Sydney 2014 (I think you had been talking about hitting all the continents). Or maybe I was the one person you told! :)

  • jjflysalot

    As a AA Gold Member I’m a bit disappointed to see how much AA has “diluted” that class of Elite in recent year(s). First–with they inception of MCE they only give comp access through the end of this year, then will have to pay, thus no benefit there–not even reduced cost. Second–I’ve noticed that for pre-boarding they have lumped Gold members in with virtually everyone else (inc non-elite priority access) –they do not specifically “call out” GLD members to board early. Just some observations…

  • Ti

    Please post on Facebook every time you find a flight great deal. For example, I am taking my kids to Beijing because I found a $800 nonstop roundtrip ticket from Chicago. I plan my international trips according to flight deals.

  • Nathan

    I was wondering the same thing of how you maintained status. Thanks for undoing the mystery.

  • Brandon

    Brian, do you pay out of your own pocket for all those plane tickets, or does someone else pay your airfare, like many business travelers who travel on their company’s dime? And if someone does pay your airfare, then who pays it? Also, if you earn a ton of miles flying weekly between Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, then why do you sign up for credit cards and manufacture spend anyway?

  • Gary

    The UA ‘trick’ is not so tough. Find a million miler Plat or 1K who will gift partner / spouse status. And a lot of million miler on these boards are lacking a partner / spouse.

  • dean

    Got in on same deal. It’ll be chilly there when you go, but a cheap flight

  • thepointsguy

    Almost all I pay myself- I’ve done some consulting projects where they cover it. But I always pay for myself when I’m reviewing a flight (took one comp 3 years ago, but haven’t since)

  • thepointsguy

    Bottom tier status across the board is being devalued..always good to evaluate whether loyalty is going both ways!

  • thepointsguy

    Sshhhhh!! ;-)

  • nammak

    it was in the discussion re) travel insurance.

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  • medallservices

    can you have a group of travelers and share and buys points to get more free travel? Is it against the rules ?

  • medallservices

    Do u know any one (plat or 1k)? How do u find one ?

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