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Missing Out on Airline Elite Status — Reader Mistake Story

May 04, 2017
5 min read
Missing Out on Airline Elite Status — Reader Mistake Story
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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there's also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I'm calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Christina, who missed out on Delta elite status after tracking her credit card spending incorrectly. Here’s what she had to say:

Christina fell short of Silver Medallion status when she failed to meet the annual spending requirement.

I mainly fly Delta, so one of my very first credit cards was the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express. I decided to upgrade to the Platinum card in 2016, knowing that I could hit $25,000 in spending to get the MQD waiver and the additional 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles. My plan was to earn 15,000 MQMs through flying and use the spending bonus to get myself to 25,000.

In November, my Delta profile showed that I had topped $25,000 in spending on my card. I was still a little short on miles, so I booked a flight to New York to get myself over the threshold. However, in January I noticed that my profile gave no indication I had qualified for Silver Medallion status. I called Delta, who told me to call Amex, and that's where I heard the bad news.

According to Amex, I actually finished the year just shy of $25,000 in spending. All of my decisions at the end of the year were based on information I got from Delta, which seems to have been a huge mistake. Apparently, the tracker on Delta's website and on the Delta app doesn't account for any returns or statement credits. Because of that, I missed the mark for the spending bonus, missed earning status, and spent money on a flight that I didn’t need.

Amex told me that they only endorse tracking spending through their website. I certainly won’t be making this mistake again, and I hope my experience can help someone else!

Many co-branded airline credit cards offer shortcuts to elite status, including bonus miles and waivers for the revenue requirements on Delta and United. These shortcuts can come in handy if your elite qualification strategy needs a boost — for example, the extra EQMs I've earned through spending have helped me maintain Executive Platinum status with American Airlines over the years, although that isn't a priority for 2017. But as with most credit card bonuses, there's no consolation prize when you end up even a little bit short.

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Refunds and annual fees typically don't count toward the requirements for bonuses or annual spending bonuses. Christina may have charged enough to her Delta Amex to earn the extra MQMs and MQD waiver, but refunded purchases put her back under the $25,000 threshold. To avoid making a similar mistake, I recommend you either get confirmation that you've met the requirements from the company awarding the bonus (Amex in this case), or spend a bit more and leave yourself room for error. Better to use your card more than necessary than not enough.

Christina's story stings because the extra time and money she spent on her New York flight proved to be fruitless. Mileage running can be a useful strategy, but it's important to weigh the cost against the value of the status you're trying to earn. Personally, I feel like the value of my own airline status has gradually diminished, and I'm going to put less effort into requalifying each year. You may feel differently, but it's worth thinking about whether the benefits of elite status justify your investment.

Delta's spending tracker didn't include any returns or credits applied to Christina's account.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Christina for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on her travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!