Skip to content

My Street Signs Appearance on CNBC - How To Avoid the Elite Status Frequent Flyer Cliff

Dec. 28, 2012
9 min read
My Street Signs Appearance on CNBC - How To Avoid the Elite Status Frequent Flyer Cliff
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Just in time for a debate on whether the US economy would go off the fiscal cliff, I was invited to appear on CNBC’s “Street Signs” to discuss ways frequent flyers could avoid the elite status cliff with last-minute elite mileage tips, why top-tier elite status is so important, as well as credit card bonus and spending strategies.

As you’ll see, it was a quick interview, but read on below to see some more in-depth strategies to take advantage of current airline offers and bonuses that can put you over the top for elite status for next year.

You can see my appearance on the CNBC site here.


For a general overview, check out my post on the Top 10 Tips on Securing 2013 Elite Status, which includes taking advantage of airline credit card perks like spending threshold elite miles bonuses, partner promotions like Medallion Qualifying Miles for joining Delta SkyClub, being gifted status, or even buying elite qualifying miles through end-of-year promotions or mileage multipliers like United’s.

Here are some last-minute strategies for specific airlines.

Find all the details on last-minute elite qualification strategies on American Airlines in this post, but here are the highlights:

American is offering Double Elite Qualifying Miles until December 31.

-Double EQM Promo: Now through December 31, American is offering Double Elite Qualifying Miles that can make your upcoming travel plans an EQM bonanza. To register for the promotion, click here, log in and enter promo code AATHX. If you haven’t registered yet, but have a few last flights before New Year’s, time to get in on this!

-Credit Card: The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard gives cardholders 10,000 elite qualifying miles when they reach $40,000 in purchases each calendar year – just under halfway to Gold status, but it could be just what you need to put you over the top to the next elite status level, so if you have the card and that spending threshold is within reach, it could be worth going for.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

-Same Day Standby or Change To Maximize Routing: Hand in hand with the Double EQM promo, a great way to rack up extra elite qualifying miles is by switching onto flights through connecting cities that are farther away from either the departure or destination or both and pay a few extra dollars to earn thousands of extra miles.

-Gifted Status: American Airlines offers Elite Rewards where American Platinum and Executive Platinum members who earn elite-qualifying points (points are based on the fare class you buy) above and beyond their qualifying thresholds by flying above their status threshold levels may gift AAdvantage Gold status to a friend

Here’s the master post on last-minute elite qualification strategies on Delta, but to pick out the highlights:

-Buy MQM’s: Through December 31, 2012, Delta is selling Medallion Qualifying Miles. You may buy up to 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that will post to your 2012 MQM balance and apply toward 2013 Medallion status (2012 qualification). They should post to your SkyMiles account within 24 hours. 10,000 miles costs $995

If you were considering SkyClub membership (or renewing), might as well get some extra MQM's in the process.

-Get a SkyClub Membership: Now through December 31, 2012, Delta is offering 1,500 MQM’s to Medallion members who purchase or renew a one- or three-year club membership through the Delta Sky Club holiday promotion. To get the 1,500 MQM’s toward elite status, include the promo code SCMQM when making your purchase.

-Credit Cards: If you have the Delta Reserve card, you would have gotten 10,000 Medallion qualifying miles with the first purchase, and 15,000 more MQM’s if you $30,000 in spending within the calendar year. The Delta Platinum Amex offers 10,000 MQM’s for $25,000 in annual spend, and another 10,000 MQM’s for $50,000 in annual spending, for a total potential of 20,000 MQM’s. So if you have either card and you’re close to that threshold, time to put all your purchases on it before the end of the year.

-Gifted Status: Delta offers Choice Benefits to Platinum and Diamond Medallions, which include the option of gifting elite status. Platinum Medallions may gift Silver status and Diamond Medallions can gift Gold to anyone they want.

Here’s the United strategy master post, but in brief:

-Buying Miles With The Elite Maximizer: United offers the ability to buy award miles as well as elite qualifying miles through their Elite Maximizer. The good news is that you can pretty much buy as many miles as you want. The bad news is, these miles are usually priced astronomically high, around 20 cents apiece at the end of the year!

A status challenge could score you elite status until 2014.

-Ask For A Status Match: If you’re not even close to qualifying for elite status on United but are close on one of its competitors, consider going for a higher level of elite status with that competitor then asking for a status match or challenge to United. I used my American Executive Platinum status to request a match to United Platinum Premier status this year, and Delta Medallions can status match up to United Platinum as well.

-MileagePlus Choices: If you have a MileagePlus credit card like the United Explorer or the United Club card, you can redeem award/bonus miles you earn using your credit card for Premier Qualifying Miles through United’s MileagePlus Choices program. The exchange rate is 10:1, so 10,000 miles to 1,000 PQM’s – a pretty horrible value, but if you’re very close to hitting your elite status threshold without any other options, you could consider it.

-Same Day Standby or Change To Maximize Routing: As with other airlines, another great way to rack up extra elite qualifying miles is increase the distance of your routing by same day confirming or standing by onto different flights through connecting cities that are farther away from either the departure or destination or both.

There are plenty of ways you can earn or buy your way to Preferred elite status on US Airways, even at this late stage:

-Buy Status: US Airways is notorious for selling status outright. For example, if you’ve never stepped foot on their planes, you can buy Chairman’s Preferred (their top status) for $3,999 (though that drops to only $2,999 as long as you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile) or Platinum for $2,999.($2,499 if you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile).

-Status Challenge: Though it doesn’t offer status matches, US Airways does offer trial status challenges (which is basically a paid status challenge) – so you don’t need to already have status with a competitor. When you pay the fee and complete the flight requirements within 90 days, you get to keep your status until February 2014.

When you spend $25,000 annually, you get an additional 10,000 PQM's.
When you spend $25,000 annually, you get an additional 10,000 PQM's.

-Credit Card Spending Bonus: Like many other co-branded airline credit cards that offer spending threshold bonuses, the US Airways Mastercard offers 10,000 Preferred Qualifying Miles after cardmembers hit $25,000 in spending each year, so if you’re near that spending threshold and elite threshold, this could be worth it. However, if spending $25,000 in a short time is within your wheelhouse, you could wait until January to do so and score the bonus PQM’s early in the new year on your way toward elite status qualification in 2013.

-Double Miles Using US Airways Credit Card: If you have the US Airways Mastercard, hopefully you registered for the double miles and double elite-qualifying Preferred miles promotion the airline is on flights booked using the card. You had to register by October 31, 2012, and fly by December 31, 2012.

-Special Dividends: US Airways offers Special Dividends to Preferred members who fly above and beyond elite-status qualification thresholds. Those who fly 85,000 miles or 105 segments in a calendar year can gift Silver Preferred status to a friend or family member, and those who fly 125,000 miles or 150 segments you have the option to gift Gold Preferred status to a friend or family member.

Virgin America launched its elite status program this summer and it has offered double points promos and status matches to United and American elites in order to fill its ranks. Taken from this master post on it, here are more ideas on how to qualify.

-Fly Partners: In addition to buying Virgin America tickets to earn Elevate status points, you can also earn them when you fly Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, so if you have some big holiday trips coming up on those carriers and don’t know where to accrue the miles/points you’d earn on them, consider crediting them to Virgin America.

Status match levels and requirements.
Status match levels and requirements.

-Status Match From Another Airline: Between now and April 30, 2013, qualifying elite level flyers from United Airlines and American Airlines frequent flyer programs can request matched status to Virgin America’s Elevate Gold and Elevate Silver Status levels. Approved flyers will receive their new Elevate status through to April 30, 2013, and will have to retain their status through the end of 2013 by earning sufficient status points by flying Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

-Credit Card Spending Bonus: The Virgin America Visa awards bonus Elevate status points when cardholders hit the spending threshold of $25,000 within a calendar year. Cardmembers that have an annual fee will earn 10,000 status points and Virgin America Visa cardholders not paying an annual fee will earn 5,000 status points.

As you can see, there are still plenty of ways to squeeze a few last elite-qualifying miles out of 2012. And as the end of the year approaches, be sure to audit your mileage accounts to make sure you’ve received credit for all the miles you deserve.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers