The Best Credit Cards For Earning Airline Elite Status Qualifying Miles

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Readers often ask me which credit cards help you earn miles toward airline elite status, and after recently exploring  the best airline credit card offers and the top credit card spending bonuses for 2014, it seemed like a great time to specifically address this question. While most airline co-branded credit cards simply offer award/redeemable miles that have no bearing on elite status, there are actually a few out there that offer them either as part of their sign-up bonus or as a spending threshold bonus…or both.

Taking a look at the top bonus-earning airline cards, I included the following criteria:

  • Status Earning Potential (in miles or status points, per calendar year)
  • Spend Requirements
  • Current Sign-Up Bonus
  • Annual Fee

Here are my picks for 2014’s best credit cards for earning airline elite status miles:

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Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard
Annual Status Earning Potential: 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles
Spend Requirements: $40,000 in a calendar year
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 100,000 miles when you make $10,000 in purchases within 3 months of approval
Annual Fee: $450

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Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
Annual Status Earning Potential: Up to 30,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (can also be used as redeemable miles)
Spend Requirements: $30,000 for 15,000 MQMs, or $60,000 for 30,000 MQMs; in either case, these MQMs are earned for eligible purchases in a calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus:  10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles upon your first purchase, as well as SkyClub access.
Annual Fee: $450
Note: There is also the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card which offers the same Miles Boost as the personal card. Also, spending $25,000 in a calendar year on this card will waive Delta’s new Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirements for elite status at any elite level.

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Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
Annual Status Earning Potential: Up to 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles
Spend Requirements: $25,000 for 10,000 MQMs + 10,000 miles, or $50,000 for 20,000 MQMs + 20,000 miles;  in either case, MQMs and miles are earned for eligible purchases in a calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Up to 5,000 MQMs and 35,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $150
Note: The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card offers the same Miles Boost as the personal card. Also, spending $25,000 in a calendar year on this card will waive Delta’s new Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirements for elite status at any elite level.

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Annual Status Earning Potential: Up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points
Spend Requirements: Every $10,000 in purchases earns 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 Rapid Rewards points (no TQP’s) when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of approval
Annual Fee: $99
Note: There is also a business version of this card with the same terms.

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US Airways MasterCard
Annual Status Earning Potential:Companion certificate, good for up to 2 companion tickets
Annual Spend Requirements: $25,000 each calendar year
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 40,000 Bonus Miles after your first purchase, up to an additional 10,000 bonus miles for a balance transfer within 90 days. Receive an annual companion certificate, good for up to 2 companion tickets at $99 each plus taxes and fees.
Annual Fee: $89

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Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card 
Annual Status Earning Potential: Earn up to 15,000 status points every calendar year and carry forward any additional status points
Spend Requirements: 5,000 points per $10,000 you spend
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 15,000 Elevate bonus reward points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $149, depending on card.

Virgin Atlantic Mastercard feat

Virgin Atlantic Mastercard
Annual Status Miles Earning Potential: One Tier point per $2,500 in purchases (maximum of 2 per month)
Spend Requirements: Up to 24 Tier points per year on up to $60,000 in spend.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase, 25,000 additional Flying Club bonus miles after you spend at least $2,500 in qualifying purchases and up to 5,000 Flying Club bonus miles when you add additional authorized users to your card. Earn up to 15,000 additional bonus miles upon anniversary.
Annual Fee: $90

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