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Will I Earn Elite Credits From an Airline Status Challenge?

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

“If I complete an airline status challenge, how many elite credits will I need to reach the next elite level? For example, if I challenge for AAdvantage Gold status, will I still have to meet the normal requirements to reach Platinum, or will I just have to make up the difference between Gold and Platinum?”

Airline status matches and challenges offer a great shortcut to earning elite benefits. You’ll need to log a certain amount of flight activity to complete a status challenge, but it will be much less than the standard qualification requirements. Once that’s done (usually over a period of a few months), you’ll get the same benefits as someone who earns status the old-fashioned way. However, as Moe’s question illuminates, there are some important differences between status earned by qualifying normally and status earned through a match or challenge.

While you will earn elite credits for flight activity during a status challenge, completing it won’t suddenly boost the number of credits in your account. For example, you’d normally need 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (or 30 Elite Qualifying Segments) to reach Gold status with American Airlines. The most recent AAdvantage status challenge offered Gold status after earning just 7,000 Elite Qualifying Miles in 90 days. If you started from zero and then met the challenge, you’d have the 7,000 EQMs (or more) that you actually earned, but you wouldn’t get bumped up to 25,000.

If you complete a status challenge and then set your sights on a higher elite tier, you’ll still need to earn the normal number of elite miles. Using the same example, you’d need to earn another 43,000 EQMs to reach AAdvantage Platinum status, rather than the 25,000 EQMs that usually separates the two tiers. Starting in 2017, you would also need to meet the new spending threshold by earning at least $6,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars.

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Completing a status challenge won’t get you much closer to reaching the next elite tier.

Similar rules apply to other airlines, as well as hotel status matches and challenges. For example, Starwood doesn’t offer SPG Nights Benefits if you challenge for Platinum status — those are reserved for members who meet the normal 50-night qualification requirement.

Check out these posts for more on the AAdvantage program, status challenges and other ways to get elite benefits:

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

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