Very Last Minute Airline Elite Status Qualification Ideas
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
You might have noticed we've been covering the stuffing out of elite status lately - and that's because there are just two days (today and tomorrow) left to qualify or requalify for elite status with the airlines for 2014. Even with the number of posts we've been churning out on it, readers keep writing in with more and more questions about how to squeeze a few last miles in, so for the final time in 2013, I'm going to compile a list of ways you can earn those last few miles to qualify for status, or buy your way back into status with credit cards or other methods.
BUYING ELITE QUALIFYING MILES
Delta usually runs a high-priced promo every year around this time where you can buy Medallion Qualifying Miles, and just like last year, now through December 31, 2013, Delta is selling MQMs at somewhat ridiculous prices. You may buy between 2,500-10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that will post to your 2013 MQM balance and apply toward 2014 Medallion status. They should post to your SkyMiles account within 24 hours.
Prices are as follows for no status or Silver Medallion Status:
- 2,500 MQMs for $475
- 5,000 MQMs for $675
- 7,500 MQMs for $875
- 10,000 MQMs for $1075
Prices for Gold Medallion Status members are even higher:
- 2,500 MQMs for $595
- 5,000 MQMs for $895
- 7,500 MQMs for $1195
- 10,000 MQMs for $1495
Prices for Platinum and Diamond Medallion Status members are EVEN higher:
- 2,500 MQMs for $795
- 5,000 MQMs for $1195
- 7,500 MQMs for $1595
- 10,000 MQMs for $1995
These prices have significantly increased from last year, and personally, I won’t be buying any MQMs as there are cheaper ways to get them than buying them outright since the lowest rate with this sale is 10.75 cents per MQM – not a great value at all – but if you’re close to one of the higher status levels and just need a little extra bump and plan to fly Delta a lot next year to make up for the up-front expense of purchasing MQM’s, this could be worth it to you. Just remember that if you do buy them, they are non-refundable.
Like the American Airlines Miles Multiplier option and Delta’s Mileage Booster, United offers the ability to buy 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 – even enough to qualify for a tier of elite status. The bad news is, these miles are usually priced astronomically high, especially at the end of the year.
Normally United miles cost 3.5 cents each plus a 7.5% tax, and that’s just for bonus miles you can redeem for award tickets, not for elite miles. Using the Elite Maximizer, miles usually cost around 2-4 cents each. However, if you use the Premier Accelerator function, that price jumps up incredibly high to the neighborhood of 10 times as much.
A quick, easy way to score 5,000 bonus Preferred Qualifying Miles with US Airways is to join the US Airways Club or renew your membership by December 31, 2013. To get the offer, be sure to enter the promo code NM500 for new memberships or CR500 for renewals. Annual membership to the US Airways club costs between $325-$450 depending on your elite status. US Airways Club membership gives you access to over 250 US Airways Club, United Club and Star Alliance lounges worldwide until March 30, 2014, and then after that you will presumably have access to over 550 Oneworld lounges worldwide once the airline joins that alliance on March 31.
American announced a new set of options for elites having a hard time requalifying where they can pay to boost up to their current elite level if they’re just a little bit short, or to renew their status altogether if they’re far short of requalifying.
From January 2014 through May 31, 2014, American elites will have two options.
- Boost: If you end the year close to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum, or Gold status but don’t quite make it, you can boost to the next level.
- Renew: If you are an elite status member in 2013 but aren’t able to retain your status by the end of the year, you are eligible for a status renewal.
Here is how the new options breaks down:
- If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of reaching Gold status, you can boost to the status for the cost of $399. If you are you already Gold and are way off from retaining it and out of the “boost” range, you can buy it back for $649. Gold normally requires 25,000 miles or 30 segments.
- If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $899. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost for $699. If you are you already Platinum and are way off from retaining it and out of “boost” range, you can buy it back for $1,199. Platinum normally requires 50,000 miles or 60 segments.
- If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Executive Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $1,799. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost for $1,199. Unfortunately there is not a renewal option for Executive Platinum, which usually requires 100,000 miles or 100 segments.
Of all the major legacy US airlines, US Airways is probably the easiest to attain elite status with because you can just buy status outright if you’re determined to, and it looks like you should still be able to do that for 2014. 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). You’re basically paying for up to a certain amount of miles or segments in the following increments:
Let’s say you had a few hundred or thousand Preferred Qualifying miles in your account from this year, or even just a single flight segment but were planning on a lot more US Airways flight time next year, you could buy the highest status, Chairman’s Preferred, for $2,999, and that would entitle you to a host of high-level perks including 2 one-way upgrades to First/Envoy class to or from Hawaii, Europe, South America and the Middle East – potentially making up for that entire expenditure. Still, this wouldn’t by my preferred method of earning elite status, especially if you had a ton of miles to buy to qualify.
GET STATUS AS A GIFT
American revamped its Elite Rewards incentive program for elite flyers who go above and beyond their status qualification thresholds by offering them gifts such as mileage bonuses and additional systemwide upgrades as soon as they hit their higher mileage levels, and among the gifts they can bestow is elite status. Flyers who hit 125,000 miles/points or 130 segments can gift someone Gold status, and those who hit 150,000 miles/points or 160 segments can gift one Platinum status good through February 28, 2015, so make nice with your high-flying friends and they just might give you the gift of 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.
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. For the uber-flyers out there, you get additional Gold statuses to give out when you reach 150,000 miles/180 segments, 175,000 miles/210 segments, and 200,000 miles/240 segments. So even if you’re not flying anywhere close to reaching these thresholds, maybe your favorite frequent flyer is and is willing to gift you status.
CREDIT CARDS- Note- it is too late to apply and get a card and spend on it to hit the thresholds for this year, but if you're finding yourself scrambling now, you may want to get one of these cards so you have the entire 2014 calendar year to hit thresholds that might make it easier for you to maintain status.
With American, 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. There is currently an offer available for double the bonus miles – 60,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. If you just got the card recently during this special bonus offer period, you might have a hard time hitting $40,000 spend quickly enough for the bonus EQM’s, but if you’ve had this card for a while, check up on your annual spending so far because you might be closer to that threshold than you think, and those 10,000 EQM’s can really come in handy if you’re close but not quite up to an elite threshold.
Delta offers personal and business versions of two credit cards that can score you MQMs. The Delta Reserve card awards cardholders with 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles with the first purchase, 15,000 more MQMs if a member hits $30,000 in spend within the calendar year and an additional 15,000 MQMs with $60,000 calendar year spend. One other thing to consider is the card’s hefty $450 annual fee. One more thing to note about the Delta Reserve card: It actually allows you to gift the 15,000 MQM’s you earn after $30,000 in annual spend and the other 15,000 MQM’s after $60,000 in spend. So if you have the card and have hit that threshold (or are about to), you can give those miles to someone else who needs them.
The Delta Platinum Amex offers 10,000 MQMs for $25,000 in annual spend, and another 10,000 MQMs for $50,000 in annual spending, for a total potential of 20,000 MQMs. The annual fee is $150, but the card also entitles you to Zone 2 priority boarding, an annual companion ticket and 20% in-flight savings on foo and entertainment on every Delta flight. There is also a Business Platinum card product that offers the same amount of MQMs.
Like many other airline co-branded 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, almost halfway to Silver status. Would I suggest putting $25,000 on your card at this point? No. But if you’re close to that threshold and scrounging for some extra PQM’s, you could consider it. Also, 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 2014 while this card is still around pre-merger.
In addition to lowering the spending requirements to retain status for cardholders who status match from other airlines, the Virgin America Visa awards bonus Elevate status points when cardholders hit the spending threshold of $25,000 within an “applicable” (basically a calendar) year. Cardmembers that have a card with an annual fee will earn 10,000 status points (provided the annual fee has been paid) and Virgin America Visa cardholders not paying an annual fee will earn 5,000 status points. Each year will be measured based on billing cycle end dates beginning in January and ending in December of the applicable year, regardless of account open date. Any eligible purchases made after the December billing cycle end date will be applied to toward the next year’s status point earnings. As with most airline co-branded credit cards’ spending threshold bonuses, this one comes at a fairly high price – $25,000 – so you might be better off starting your spending for next year after the December billing cycle ends, but if you’re close to that threshold and can hit it with some reasonable purchases before your billing cycle ends, you might as well get the 10,000 status points since that’s already halfway to Silver status.
For more information, check out these posts: