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Can I Earn Lifetime Airline Status from Spending Bonuses?

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TPG reader Jared sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning elite status:

“Do credit card spending bonuses (like the MQM bonuses on some Delta Amex cards) count toward Million Miler status?”

Even if you don’t fly often, airline credit cards can offer a lot of value. Sign-up bonuses will help you pad your frequent flyer account, and standard perks like priority boarding and free checked bags make flying a bit easier and less expensive. Beyond that, co-branded airline cards also come with strong incentives for frequent flyers, including opportunities to earn elite credits that count toward both annual and lifetime elite qualification.

Among the three domestic legacy carriers, I think United offers the most rewarding lifetime status, but Delta’s is easiest to earn. Your progress toward Medallion Million Miler status is based simply on the number of MQMs you’ve earned, but how you earn them isn’t important. Unlike United and American, Delta counts non-flight activity toward your total, including spending bonuses from Delta Amex cards.

For example, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card both offer 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable SkyMiles when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year. You can double the bonus after spending $50,000 in that same period, so you can pick up a total of 20,000 MQMs (and SkyMiles) annually from these cards alone. That gets you 80% of the way to Silver Medallion status before you even set foot on a plane, and gives you a bump toward Million Miler qualification.

Another benefit to this strategy is that spending $25,000 on a co-branded Delta card will allow you to waive the MQD requirements for earning Medallion status. That means you’ll still qualify even if you don’t spend much on Delta airfare in a given year. The downside is that airline cards don’t tend to offer good category bonuses, so there’s an opportunity cost to earning the extra MQMs. Instead, you could put that spending on another card that earns more valuable points at a faster rate. It’s up to you to decide which option best suits your needs.

Spending on Delta cards can help you earn elite status, but you may sacrifice more valuable points in the process.

United no longer offers any cards that earn elite miles, and while American offers co-branded AAdvantage cards that earn EQMs, those won’t help you qualify for the Million Miler program. You’ll have to earn lifetime status on those airlines by flying, but there are other shortcuts to normal elite status.

For more on lifetime airline status and co-branded cards, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer ends 11/09/2016.
  • Check your first bag for free and save up to $50 on a round trip Delta flight, settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding, enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Use miles towards flights, seat upgrades, car rentals, merchandise, gift cards, and more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms and limitations apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 15.49% - 19.49% Variable $195 0% Excellent Credit