Can You Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars for Not Flying?

Aug 4, 2017

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.

“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

Now that all three of the US legacy carriers have added an additional spend requirement in order to earn elite status, TPG reader Diane wants to know if just paying for tickets is enough…

I’m American Airlines Platinum elite and was wondering if they count Elite Qualifying Dollars when you book a ticket and pay for it, but then don’t take the trip?

TPG Reader Diane

You’d think that would be fine, right, Diane? The whole point of American’s relatively new Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) metric is to make sure you spend enough money with the airline. If AA already has that money in its possession, then what difference should it make if you don’t take the flight? If anything, that’s an open seat that can be given to a standby or same-day change passenger, which makes everyone happy.

Alas, it doesn’t work that way. Because if we dive into the Frequently Asked Questions about EQDs on AA’s website, we find the following:

IMG-aa-eqd-not-flown-faq

And if you’re wondering whether Delta or United are any better on this score, rest assured they aren’t — both airlines will only award you elite dollars after you’ve actually flown the ticket you purchased.

Standard economy legroom.
Want to earn Elite Qualifying Dollars? Get ready to get comfortable. Well, probably not too comfortable when it’s 10-across seating.

Why? Well, to be fair, it’s basically the same general rule everyone has to follow when it comes to earning elite miles, elite segments or even redeemable miles. If you could simply buy elite status by purchasing tickets without flying them, it would somewhat defeat the purpose. Of course, airlines routinely offer customers who already have elite status the opportunity to “buy back” that status at the end of the year for an absurdly high price, so let’s not pretend the airlines are completely consistent on this point.

Regardless, even though there’s no way to earn elite dollars on a purchased but unflown ticket, you can reduce or even eliminate the requirement to a large degree by putting significant spend onto the airline’s co-branded credit card. American only offers the chance to offset up to $6,000 worth of EQDs with a great deal of spend on its AAdvantage Aviator cards, but with United you can completely eliminate the elite dollars requirement for all elite tiers except Premier 1K with $25,000 in spend on any of the United credit cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. And Delta will currently let you skip the spend requirement for all of its elite tiers by spending $25,000 on any of its Delta Amex cards, such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

So at least you have some options, Diane, even if buying a ticket and tossing it in the garbage isn’t one of them. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of papi8888/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.