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How to earn last-minute airline elite status — and whether or not it’s worth it

Nov. 13, 2022
13 min read
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Editor's Note

We've updated this story with current elite requirements and strategies.

Editor's note: We've updated this story with current elite requirements and strategies.


It’s nearing the finish line for people to wrap up airline elite status. As the calendar rockets toward Dec. 31 (the cut-off with most programs for this year’s elite-eligible activity), the options narrow for travelers trying to decide if they will make it to the next elite tier.

We don't have the space or time to answer every last-minute airline elite status question variation along the themes of: Is it worth it? How can I earn the final necessary miles/flights/dollars toward status? How can I earn status without flying more this year?

However, we can offer some advice for common end-of-year status dilemmas with a few of the main U.S. airlines.

How to earn last-minute elite status with American Airlines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Here are the criteria for earning American Airlines status during the current qualification period (Jan. 1, 2022, through Feb. 28, 2023) with the new Loyalty Points system:

  • Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points.
  • Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points.

In future years, American's elite qualification period will run from March 1 through Feb. 28 of the following year (or Feb. 29 during a leap year). If you achieve elite status during the qualification period, your status will be valid through the following March 31. So, if you earn AAdvantage status by Feb. 28, 2023, you'll keep status through March 31, 2024.

American elite status basics

Under the new Loyalty Points system, you need Loyalty Points if you want to earn elite status with American Airlines.

You might have heard that one American mile earned equals one Loyalty Point earned, but unfortunately, it's not that simple. Instead, you only earn Loyalty Points when you earn base American Airlines miles. Bonus American Airlines miles won't get you Loyalty Points.

So, be careful to understand whether you're earning base miles or bonus miles when looking for ways to earn Loyalty Points.

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Last-minute strategies to earn or retain American elite status

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

You’ll have through the end of February to earn status with American. You can earn Loyalty Points when you fly American and most of its partners.

However, there are also many ways to earn Loyalty Points besides flying. Here are a few of them:

Loyalty Points must post to your account by the end of February to count toward your current qualification period. So, you have some extra time to earn or requalify compared to other major airlines with qualification periods that end on Dec. 31.

Loyalty Points will typically post to your account based on the flight date or transaction date. However, Loyalty Points from credit card spending will post based on the date the activity posts to your AAdvantage account. So, don't wait until the last minute to earn Loyalty Points from credit card spending.

Related: Last-minute strategies for earning American AAdvantage elite status

How to earn last-minute elite status with Delta Air Lines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

These are the criteria to earn Delta Medallion elite status during the current qualification period, which runs from Jan. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2022:

MetricSilver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum MedallionDiamond Medallion
Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM).25,000 MQM.50,000 MQM.75,000 MQM.125,000 MQM.
Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQS).30 MQS.60 MQS.100 MQS.140 MQS.
Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD).$3,000 MQD or MQD waiver.6,000 MQD or MQD waiver.$9,000 MQD or MQD waiver.$15,000 MQD or MQD waiver.

To earn status, you must reach the MQM or MQS requirement, plus the MQD requirement. If you meet the requirements for a status tier by Dec. 31, 2022, you'll keep the status through Jan. 31, 2024.

Delta elite status basics

To earn Delta elite status, you’ll need to earn the required MQDs for your desired status tier and either the required MQMs or MQSs.

However, you can earn an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum status by spending $25,000 on a Delta cobranded credit card. Diamond requires a whopping $250,000 in spending to earn an MQD waiver, which is a major feat unless you have lots of business spending.

Normally, Delta will roll over the MQMs you earn above your Medallion Tier qualification threshold to the next qualification year if you earn at least Silver status. However, Delta rolled over all the MQMs in your account at the end of 2021 to 2022 to help its members qualify for status in 2022.

Earlier this year, Delta made Medallion earning on award tickets permanent. On Delta-issued and -operated award tickets, you'll earn MQSs based on segments, MQMs based on your flight distance and MQDs at a rate of 1 per 100 SkyMiles redeemed.

Related: Delta makes it harder to earn Medallion status in 2024, adds new Choice Benefit options

Last-minute strategies to earn or retain Delta elite status

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

If you're looking to top off your MQMs, MQSs or MQDs by Dec. 31, 2022, here are some options:

  • Spend on a Delta cobranded credit card: Some Delta credit cards let you earn MQMs when you meet specific spending thresholds. You usually need to spend a lot to reach these thresholds, though.
  • Book a flight: You can earn on flights whether you redeem Delta miles for a Delta-operated flight or spend cash to fly on Delta or one of its partners.
  • Fund a Wheels Up account: If you fund a Wheels Up account with $50,000 or more, you'll get automatic Delta elite status.
  • Use a status challenge: Delta offers a generous status match and challenge for elite members of other airline programs.
  • Buy MQMs from Delta: You may be able to buy MQMs from Delta through its Elevate Your Status program (if it offers this program this year; it hasn't offered the program since 2019).

However, remember that the MQMs, MQSs and MQDs must post to your account this year to count for elite status qualification for the 2023 status year. So, especially if you're looking to earn MQMs by spending on your Delta credit card, make sure your spending is on a statement that will be issued before the end of the year.

Related: Last-minute strategies for earning Delta Medallion elite status

How to earn last-minute elite status with United

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, here are the current requirements if you are looking to qualify for United elite status during the current qualification year, which runs from Jan. 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022.

MetricPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier PlatinumPremier 1K
Premier qualifying points (PQP).3,500 PQP.7,000 PQP.10,000 PQP.15,000 PQP.
Premier qualifying flights (PQF) and PQP.8 PQF and 3,000 PQP.16 PQF and 6,000 PQP.24 PQF and 9,000 PQP.36 PQF and 13,500 PQP.

Once you earn United elite status, you'll keep your status for the rest of the current year, the entire next year and the first month of the following year. So, if you qualify for elite status with United in 2022, you'll keep your status through Jan. 31, 2024.

United elite status basics

Each United elite level has two pathways to status. One pathway is to earn a combination of Premier qualifying flights (PQFs) — which is just a fancy word for a takeoff and touchdown (in other words, a segment) on an eligible flight — and a certain number of Premier qualifying points (PQPs). The other pathway is a PQP-only option, which carries a higher PQP threshold.

It’s important to look at how close you are in either pathway to status. After all, you may be multiple PQFs short but within striking distance of the PQP-only number that you could achieve without having to take multiple additional flights before the end of the year.

To qualify for United status through either pathway, you must fly at least four paid segments on United or United Express during your qualification year.

Next year, United will make it harder to earn Premier status. United will also let you earn PQPs and PQFs when redeeming United miles for flights on United or United Express flights in 2023. However, as these changes don't take effect until next year, we won't consider them further in this story.

Last-minute strategies to earn United PQFs

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

If you need additional United PQFs, you will have to squeeze in more flights before the calendar turns to Jan. 1, 2023.

Luckily, distance doesn't matter for PQFs. When earning PQFs, you can take the shortest flights you can find. However, to earn PQFs, your flight cannot be an award flight, can't be booked in United basic economy and needs to be credited to United MileagePlus. You won't earn PQFs or PQPs when flying on select MileagePlus partner airlines, so double-check eligibility if you aren't flying on United or a Star Alliance partner.

In my case, I needed two more PQFs to earn United 1K status after a planned holiday trip to New York City fell apart at the last minute in 2021. So I flew from my home airport of Houston to Austin and back in one afternoon.

Remember that a PQF is a takeoff and touchdown, so an eligible round-trip with a connection each way would count as four PQFs. If you have a few nonstop flights remaining on your schedule in 2022, you could change them to connecting flights to increase your PQF count. Consider a same-day change or rebooking if the fare is the same.

Last-minute strategies to earn United PQPs

You can still earn PQPs for this qualification year with eligible United spending. Keep in mind that PQPs from flights don’t post until you fly. So if you earn more PQPs from flying, the flight(s) have to happen this year.

Here are some ideas for earning more PQPs before the end of the year:

  • Book a paid United or United Express flight: Flights operated by United and United Express typically earn PQPs at a rate of 1 PQP per dollar of base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges (excluding taxes).
  • Book an eligible paid partner flight: Most flights operated by a Star Alliance partner airline and connecting partners — Air Dolomiti, Azul, Edelweiss, Eurowings and Olympic Air — earn PQPs based on the award miles earned (before any elite bonuses) divided by either 5 or 6, depending on the partner.
  • Buy Economy Plus or preferred seats: You can earn PQPs when you buy Economy Plus subscriptions and one-time seat reservations.
  • Splurge on a paid upgrade: You can earn PQPs when you buy an upgrade on United or United Express flights.

United usually credits PQPs from flights and ancillary purchases (like Economy Plus or paid upgrades) to your account two days after your flight. Meanwhile, the PQPs will usually credit to your account two days after you purchase or renew an Economy Plus subscription.

You can also earn PQPs when you spend on select cobranded United credit cards. You can earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 of purchases with select cards, although different cards have different earning caps per calendar year. However, ensure you'll reach the spending threshold with enough time for the PQPs to post to your United account by the end of the year.

Related: Last-minute strategies for earning United Premier elite status

Is it worth trying for last-minute elite status?

BRANDON BELL/GETTY IMAGES

I was 44 United PQPs and two United PQFs short of United 1K status near the end of 2021. Closing the gap only required taking the shortest, most affordable round-trip flight possible. So, that was almost certainly worth the exercise.

However, once you get into the several hundred — or thousands — of dollars of cost to close the gap, the equation quickly shifts to potentially not worth it. Factor in the time additional flights will take if you need to fly and be very honest with yourself about how much the perks will be worth next year.

The amount it’s worth to close the gap to a top-tier status is likely a bit more than a lower-tier status. In any case, if you are going to spend more than a few hours or a few hundred dollars at this point in the year chasing airline status, really gut-check yourself on the true value you’ll get.

Even if you're going for American Airlines elite status and can rely on non-travel opportunities to earn Loyalty Points at home, there's still an opportunity cost to earning Loyalty Points instead of other rewards on your shopping, dining and more.

Related: Is airline elite status still worth it?

Bottom line

Airline elite status can still be worth it, but time is decreasing for you to close the gap to status this year. Depending on your exact situation, you may need to spend some money, fly some additional flights or do both in the quest to have the perks you want next year.

As a last resort, remember that sometimes airlines offer a way to buy your status back after the year has ended. It is also free to ask an airline for a one-time bump if you came very close but missed earning status. Neither of those methods is guaranteed to work, but they are worth considering if all other pathways to status don’t work out.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong, Katie Genter and Andrew Kunesh.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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