The Best Credit Cards For Earning Airline Elite Status Qualifying Miles

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

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 AAdvantage Executive 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

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.

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.

Southwest 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 up to $100,000.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 40,000 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 https://thepointsguy.com/go/VirginAtlanticMC65kmiles when you add additional authorized users to your card. Earn up to 15,000 additional bonus miles upon anniversary.
Annual Fee: $90

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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