Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Dec 8, 2021

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Airline elite status can provide many valuable benefits. For example, airline elites often get free checked bags, early boarding, better mileage earning rates, complimentary upgrades, preferred seat selection and even lounge access.

While some of these perks can be obtained through select airline credit cards, the best of these perks are typically only offered to elite members.

If you want to earn airline elite status, you’ll usually need to accrue a specific amount of elite-qualifying dollars, segments and/or miles each year. Luckily, there are credit cards that can accelerate your progress toward these requirements — let’s dive in and see which cards help boost your chances at airline elite status.

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In This Post

American Airlines

American Airlines is completely rethinking how you can earn elite status in the new year. Say farewell to the long-standing elite metrics (EQMs, EQSs and EQDs) in the American AAdvantage loyalty program and say hello to Loyalty Points, a somewhat simpler approach to earning elite status.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, you’ll need to accumulate Loyalty Points to earn elite status with American Airlines according to the following new requirements:

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

You’ll earn 1 Loyalty Point for each qualifying AAdvantage mile you accrue from the following activities:

  • Flying on American, its Oneworld partners and JetBlue.
  • Using an AAdvantage credit card — all Citi / AAdvantage and all AAdvantage Aviator cards are eligible, as are all AAdvantage credit cards issued outside the U.S.
  • Shopping online through the eShopping portal.
  • Dining out through the AAdvantage Dining program.
  • All other eligible activities with partners, such as SimplyMiles.

In sum, earning elite status through spending on your AAdvantage cobranded credit card alone is easier than ever, as you’ll earn 1 Loyalty Point from each dollar spent. If you’re relying on credit card spending to earn elite status, you’ll need to spend $30,000, $75,000, $125,000 and $200,000 on purchases for AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum, respectively. Just keep in mind that for Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum, you’ll also need to fly 30 segments to unlock Loyalty Choice Rewards, such as systemwide upgrades.

As a reminder, elite status that was originally set to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, has been extended until Jan. 31, 2022.

Here are some of the best cards that American Airlines offers if you’re looking to earn Loyalty Points through your cobranded card spending:

Card Sign-up bonus Earning rate Benefits Annual fee
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1x elsewhere.
  • Admirals Club lounge access for the primary cardholders and authorized users.
  • Priority check-in, airport screening and boarding, and a free checked bag for you and up to eight travel companions.
  • 25% discount on inflight food and beverages.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
$450
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 within the first three months of account opening. 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1x elsewhere.
  • Free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four guests on the same reservation.
  • Preferred boarding.
  • 25% discount on eligible inflight purchases.
  • Earn a $125 flight discount when you spend $20,000 or more on your card during your membership year and renew the card.
$99, waived for the first 12 months
AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days; an additional 10,000 miles when an employee card is used for a purchase. 2 American Airlines miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, office supply stores, telecom expenses and car rentals; 1x elsewhere.
  • Free checked bag for you and up to four people on the same American Airlines reservation.
  • Preferred boarding.
  • 25% inflight purchases discount.
  • Annual $99 companion voucher awarded after $30,000 in spending.
$95
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card 10,000 American miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. 2 miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases; 1x elsewhere.
  • 25% discount on inflight purchases of food and beverages.
$0

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the Aviator Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: 3 reasons why this is the best card for Admirals Club lounge access when travel returns

Delta Air Lines

To earn status on Delta, U.S.-based SkyMiles members need to earn a certain number of Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments along with Medallion Qualification Dollars.

Delta elite status requirements
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

Back in July, Delta extended all current Medallion elites’ status through Jan. 31, 2023. Medallion Qualification Miles will also roll over for another year, making it easier for some flyers to retain status or achieve a higher rung of it.

If you’re looking to earn elite status in the new year, you can waive the MQD requirement for all status tiers with combined spending on select cards, and a few will even help you earn MQMs. Note that to get the MQD requirement waived, you’ll need to spend $25,000 on purchases with your card in a calendar year for all status levels except Diamond, for which the requirement is a staggering $250,000.

Here are the cards that will help you earn Medallion status in 2021:

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

As a Delta Platinum cardholder, you can still qualify for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion status as long as the required MQMs or MQSs are met and you spend at least $25,000 on an eligible card during the qualifying calendar year. Likewise, you can qualify for Diamond Medallion status if you’ve met the MQM or MQS requirements and spend at least $250,000 during the qualification period.

Cardholders earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, plus another 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 in a calendar year with the Delta Platinum card.

The Delta Platinum card currently has a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

Several other benefits come with the card, including a free first checked bag and priority boarding for you and up to eight travelers on your reservation when flying with Delta, an annual domestic companion certificate and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on purchases made directly with Delta or hotels, 2 miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. The Delta Platinum has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).

If you have a business, you may be more interested in the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card. It offers similar benefits as the personal version, along with an MQD waiver and the possibility to earn MQMs via card spending.

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Delta Reserve offers the same MQD waiver as the Delta Platinum Amex, but you have the potential to earn more MQMs with the Reserve. Delta Reserve cardholders can earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on their card, up to four times each calendar year. So, Delta Reserve cardholders can earn up to 60,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 or more in a calendar year.

The Delta Reserve card is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

The Delta Reserve card comes with Delta Sky Club access and Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta, an annual domestic companion certificate and no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). Plus, you’ll get priority boarding and the first checked bag free for you and up to eight other passengers on your reservation when flying Delta. You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The card has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).

If you have a business, you may be more interested in the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. It offers similar benefits to the personal version, including an MQD waiver and the ability to earn more MQMs through card spending.

Related: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

United Airlines

United’s elite status qualification is based on Premier qualifying points and Premier qualifying flights. Here are the requirements to qualify:

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Controversially, United extended status for some elites through Jan. 31, 2023. If you’re not one of them, though, you can still use an eligible United MileagePlus Chase card to earn PQPs based on spending (even up to Premier 1K status!) on select cards as follows:

Earn up to 1,000 PQPs

The United Explorer Card and the United Business Card earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

Earn up to 3,000 PQPs

The United Quest Card earns 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 3,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

Related: Who should (and shouldn’t) get the United Quest card?

Earn up to 4,000 PQPs

Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the United Club Infinite Card will earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 4,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

Related: The best credit cards for United Airlines flyers

Southwest Airlines

Southwest planes at the terminal
(Photo by Edward Russell/The Points Guy)

Southwest only has two tiers of status: A-List and A-List Preferred. You can earn status with Southwest by compiling tier qualifying points or flying a certain number of segments with the airline. Additionally, you can earn TQPs by spending on the following Southwest credit cards.

Status Requirements
Southwest A-List 25 one-way qualifying flights or 35,000 TQPs in a calendar year
Southwest A-List Preferred 50 one-way qualifying flights or 70,000 TQPs in a calendar year

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Premier card
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

With the Southwest Premier, you can earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on your card annually, with no limit to how many TQPs you can earn in a year. You’ll get 6,000 Rapid Rewards points on your anniversary, as well as 3 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases; 2 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting (including ride-hailing services); 2 points per dollar on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. This card has a $99 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Check out the Southwest Premier credit card review for more details.

Related: The best Southwest Airlines credit card for family travelers

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Southwest Priority card offers a $75 annual travel credit valid for Southwest purchases as well as 7,500 points every year on your account anniversary. Plus, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases; 2 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting (including ride-hailing services); 2 points per dollar on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. You also get four upgraded boardings per year, along with 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on your card annually. This card has a $149 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

See the Southwest Priority credit card review for more information.

Related: The ultimate guide to Southwest credit card eligibility

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

As with the two personal cards above, the Southwest Performance Business cardholders can earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on the card in a calendar year. They also get 9,000 points each account anniversary, four upgraded boardings per year, up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits each year and a statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years.

The card has a $199 annual fee, but there’s no charge for additional employee cards. You’ll earn 4 points per dollar on Southwest purchases; 3 points per dollar spent on purchases on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2 points per dollar on ride-hailing services; 2 points per dollar spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services; and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

See the Southwest Performance Business credit card review for more details.

Related: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

JetBlue Airways

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

JetBlue only has one level of elite status: Mosaic. If you’re looking for free same-day changes, first two checked bags free, Even More Space seat upgrades and more, these are the requirements for Mosaic in 2022 (and beyond):

  • 7,500 Mosaic qualifying points (usually 15,000 points).
  • 6,000 Mosaic qualifying points and 15 segments (usually 12,000 points and 30 segments).
  • $50,000 spent on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card during the calendar year.

Mosaic status is not particularly difficult to earn, especially compared to some of the higher status levels on American, Delta or United.

JetBlue Plus Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
You can earn JetBlue Mosaic status by spending $50,000 on the card each calendar year. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

You can earn Mosaic elite status after spending $50,000 on the JetBlue Plus Card each calendar year. With the JetBlue Plus Card, you’ll earn 6 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The card has a $99 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. See the JetBlue Plus credit card review for more information, and consider the JetBlue Business card if you own a small business.

The information for the JetBlue Plus and JetBlue Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Why the JetBlue Plus Card remains firmly in my wallet

Air Canada

Air Canada has just launched the Chase Aeroplan Credit Card — the first card on the market to offer automatic elite status. Cardholders will receive Air Canada Aeroplan 25K status for the remainder of the calendar year they apply and the following year. However, even if you apply in December 2021, you’ll automatically get to keep status through 2023 (as if you applied in January 2022). Cardholders will need to spend $15,000 on the card annually to maintain status thereafter. By spending $50,000 in a calendar year, cardholders can earn a one-level status boost to 35K elite status.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

At the 25K level, you can expect benefits like priority check-in, security and boarding; two one-time passes to Air Canada Maple Leaf airport lounges; 20 eUpgrade credits to upgrade from economy to premium cabins on Air Canada-operated flights; and automatic Star Alliance Silver elite status.

Aeroplan points are flexible and are one of the best airline currencies we’ve seen as the carrier publishes award charts and offers undercutting redemption rates for Star Alliance- and partner-operated flights. Best of all, there’s only a $95 annual fee on the card, making it an affordable yet lucrative option for points and miles enthusiasts who want to diversify their portfolio.

Related: The most compelling new airline card: Review of the Chase Aeroplan World Elite Mastercard

Frontier Airlines

Frontier offers three tiers of elite status: Elite 20K, Elite 50K and Elite 100K. You’ll earn Elite 20K status when you earn 20,000 qualifying miles or 25 segments in a calendar year. Elite 50K status is earned after 50,000 qualifying miles or 50 segments. You’ll earn top-tier Elite 100K status when you earn 100,000 qualifying miles or 100 segments in a calendar year.

However, with Frontier, you can charge your way to status with its cobranded credit card.

Related: Everything you should know before flying Frontier Airlines

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 taxis toward the runway at Salt Lake City International Airport in September 2014 (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
A Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 at Salt Lake City International Airport. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

You’ll earn 1 qualifying mile for every mile flown on Frontier, as well as 1 qualifying mile for every dollar spent on Frontier’s cobranded card, the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard. So, you can earn Frontier’s top-tier status entirely based on credit card spending.

The information for the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

With the Frontier Card, you’ll get priority boarding, unlock family mileage pooling, keep your points from expiring by making a purchase at least every six months and earn a $100 flight voucher every account anniversary after spending $2,500 or more during the preceding year on your card. Plus, you’ll get an award redemption fee waiver when you use your card to pay for the taxes and fees on Frontier awards.

You’ll earn 5 miles per dollar spent on purchases on Frontier’s website, as well as 3 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. The card has a $79 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Related: The best credit cards to use on low-cost carriers

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines revamped its Free Spirit frequent flyer program in early 2021 and now offers actual elite status tiers and benefits such as included seat assignments, waived bag fees and more.

The two Spirit elite status tiers are:

  • Free Spirit Silver: 2,000 status qualifying points.
  • Free Spirit Gold: 5,000 status qualifying points.

When flying on a Spirit flight, you can earn 1 SQP for every dollar spent on things like base airfare costs, seat assignment fees and bag fees. But you can also earn 1 SQP for every $10 spent on the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard®. This card has a $79 annual fee.

The information for the Free Spirit Travel More card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Like with Frontier, you could theoretically earn entry-level status with Spirit by charging $20,000 annually to eligible Spirit cobranded credit cards. You could unlock Spirit’s top-tier Gold status level with $50,000 in annual spending on the card. Or, of course, you could mix earnings from paid flights with SQPs earned with the Spirit credit card.

Related: What to know about Spirit’s all-new frequent flyer program

Bottom line

Recently, we’ve noticed that airlines are relying more on their cobranded cards to offer flyers a pathway to elite status. For the most part, airline credit cards can come in handy for people who might have trouble hitting an airline’s elite status requirements the usual way, by flying.

That said, it’s essential to evaluate your situation and consider whether spending toward status is right for you, since you may be giving up the opportunity to put purchases on other cards and potentially earn more valuable points.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Sam Lipscomb.

Official application link: Citi / AAdvantage Executive.
Official application link: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Platinum.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve.
Official application link: United Explorer Card.
Official application link: United Business Card.
Official application link: United Quest Card.
Official application link: United Club Infinite Card.
Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier.
Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority.
Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business.

For rates and fees of the Delta Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, click here.

Featured photo by Zach Honig for The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.