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While only you can decide how much time to devote to your points and miles hobby, the travelers who reap the most success are almost always the ones who do the most planning. As we have just passed the midway point of 2019, it’s time to check in and see how you’re doing in your quest to earn — or requalify for — those coveted perks that come along with being an elite member of a given program.
Whether you’ve been diligently following a plan since January 1 or are just starting to think about this now, today we’ll share a few tips to help you earn the elite status you want.
If you want to check out how TPG staffers are doing in our elite-qualification goals, check out the following posts:
Know Where You Stand
Before you start to plan your next six months of travel, it’s critical to look back at your previous six months. Take some time to stop and check in with your preferred airline(s) or hotel program(s) and see how many elite credits you’ve already accumulated in 2019. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of tech problems this year — many still stemming from the Marriott/SPG integration — so now is a good time to audit your accounts and make sure all your travel from this year has posted correctly.
Many loyalty programs make it easy to see how many flights or nights you need to move up to the next rung of elite status. For example, every time you log in to the Marriott website, you’re reminded of how many more nights — or qualified spending — you need for the subsequent tier in 2020.
Another great tool is the AAdvantage app, which will readjust your elite trackers depending on which level of status you’re aiming to earn. It defaults to showing the tier above the one you currently have, which is a nice way to keep you motivated.
Leverage the Power of Credit Cards
Picking the right cobranded credit card can go a long way towards helping you qualify for elite status. With airline credit cards — specifically those offered by Delta and United — you can earn a waiver on elite spending requirements by putting a certain amount of purchases on your cobranded credit card each year.
- Delta: Spending $25,000 on a card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express waives the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement for all status tiers up to Platinum, while you’d need to spend $250,000 for a waiver for Diamond Medallion.
- United: Spending $25,000 on a card like the United Explorer Card gets you a Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum, while Premier 1K doesn’t offer a waiver.
In addition, a handful of cards will offer elite-qualifying miles to help you close the gap — either as part of a welcome offer or by spending. Here’s a breakdown of some of these options:
|Credit Card||Welcome Bonus||Calendar Year Spending Bonus|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||N/A||10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express||5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.||10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000; another 10,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000|
|Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express||10,000 MQMs and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months.||15,000 miles and 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000; another 15,000 miles and 15,000 MQMs after spending $60,000|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card||N/A||1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 in purchases (up to a maximum of 15,000 TQPs after $100,000 in annual spending)|
These are some hefty spending thresholds but can still help close the gap.
Hotel credit cards are a slightly different story. For example, if you hold any of the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, you’ll get 15 elite night credits each year (limited to one per Bonvoy account, not one per credit card). This is enough to qualify you for Silver Elite status and jump start you towards a higher tier. It also effectively drops the requirement for earning Platinum Elite status from 50 nights down to 35, while Titanium’s threshold falls from 75 nights to 60.
Several credit cards also let you spend your way to a higher status, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card which gives you Platinum status after spending $75,000 in a year or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card which gives you Gold status after spending $35,000 in a year. Meanwhile, The World of Hyatt Credit Card offers cardholders five elite night credits plus another two for every $5,000 they spend.
If you map out your travel for the rest of the year and realize you’re still going to come up short, it’s also possible to earn status outright just by opening the right credit card(s) and paying any applicable annual fees. Here are a few of your best options for doing so:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Marriott Gold and Hilton Gold status
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Hilton Diamond status
- The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Hyatt Discoverist status
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: IHG Platinum status
For more information, check out our guide to credit cards that offer hotel elite status.
Status Matching, Deal Hunting & Other Tips
One of the dangers of elite status is the impulse to keep chasing it year after year, even if it doesn’t make sense for you. If you’ve recently moved or find your travel patterns changing, it might be time to consider a status challenge or match to a new airline/hotel instead of staying blindly loyal. Make sure to check out TPG‘s complete guides to airline status matches and challenges and hotel status matches and challenges.
While it’s not as easy to take a true “mileage run” these days, you can also get a whole lot closer to elite status by jumping on the right deals. For airline elite status, the sweet — and comfortable — spot is cheap, international, business-class tickets that cover a long distance without costing too much. You can even utilize a pay-with-points bonus on a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, since these tickets are generally treated as normal revenue tickets and thus eligible to help with your elite qualification. When you factor in the value of the elite status you’re earning and the bonus miles you’ll get from flying in a premium cabin, you may actually get much more value from these tickets than the card issuer would lead you to believe.
With hotels, you can take the same approach and look for inexpensive rates in smaller markets to boost your count. The good news is that if you’re trying to hit a certain number of stays or elite nights, it doesn’t matter whether you spend them in a Ritz-Carlton or a Residence Inn. Finally, note that most programs — including Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt — also count award stays toward elite status, so redeeming your points for trips later this year could help put you closer to qualification.
While 2019 is already halfway over, it’s not too late to get serious about earning elite status for this year and next — since most airline and hotel programs award status for the rest of the year and the following year. The first step is to look at how much traveling you’ve already done and how much you have planned for the rest of the year, and be honest with yourself about what you can actually achieve. Next you should look at how a credit card might be able to speed up your goal, and always keep your eyes open for deals with your preferred airline or hotel. A spontaneous trip is so much easier to justify when it also gets you closer to earning valuable elite status.
Featured photo by Shutterstock.com
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