All of the elite qualification changes you need to know about for 2021
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We’ve seen a lot of airlines and hotel chains adjust their loyalty programs in the last year. Nearly every major program announced elite status extensions. However, some are taking things a step further by also reducing the qualification requirements for 2021.
Keeping track of the myriad of changes can be a challenge to keep up with, but TPG is here to help. Here’s a complete list of all of the elite qualification changes you need to know about for 2021. We’ll continue to regularly update this guide as more airlines and hotels announce changes.
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Aeroplan members who qualify for any elite status tier in 2021 (through flight activity) will have their Status Qualifying Miles (SQM), Status Qualifying Segments (SQS), and Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) rolled over to 2022. This will apply to any member who earns qualifies for Aeroplan 25K status or higher this year, requiring a minimum of 25,000 SQM or 25 SQS and $3,000 SQD ($1,500 for non-Canadian residents).
For example, an Aeroplan Super Elite member who earns 28,000 SQM, 13 SQS and $5,000 SQD will start 2022 with Super Elite status and the same number of SQM, SQS and SQD in their account. This will make it far easier for Aeroplan elites to earn or upgrade status in 2022 (for the 2023 status year) without worrying about losing their current status tier.
Alaska normally offers two ways to reach MVP elite status: by taking Alaska-operated flights exclusively (with lower qualification thresholds) or by taking a combination of Alaska- and partner-operated flights (with higher thresholds). However, in 2021, Alaska will follow the lower qualification thresholds for all members.
- MVP: 20,000 elite-qualifying miles or 30 segments
- MVP Gold: 40,000 elite-qualifying miles or 60 segments
- MVP Gold 75K: 75,000 elite-qualifying miles or 90 segments
Although it no longer matters how you earn your miles, you must fly a minimum number of Alaska Airlines segments to earn or retain status: two for MVP, four for MVP Gold and six for MVP Gold 75K.
American was the first U.S. airline to announce elite status updates for 2021. This year, AAdvantage elite status qualification thresholds have been reduced across the board. Any status you earn in 2021 will be valid through Jan. 31, 2023.
The airline is reducing elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) required by 20%. Elite-qualifying segments (EQSs) and elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs) are lowered by 20% to 33%. Here’s how the new requirements break down:
- Gold: 20,000 EQMs or 20 EQSs plus $2,000 EQDs
- Platinum: 40,000 EQMs or 45 EQSs, plus $4,500 EQDs
- Platinum Pro: 60,000 EQMs or 70 EQSs, plus $7,000 EQDs
- Executive Platinum: 80,000 EQMs or 95 EQSs, plus $12,000 EQDs
There’s also a new way to get around the EQD requirements. Specifically, you can waive the EQD requirement up to Platinum Pro status by spending $30,000 on any cobranded AAdvantage credit card during the calendar year.
In addition, American is making major changes in earning rates for basic economy tickets. Come Jan. 1, 2021, basic economy tickets will no longer earn elite-qualifying miles, segments or dollars. On the flip side, elites will be able to enjoy status perks when flying basic economy.
On Jan. 31, 2021, Avianca LifeMiles moved from distance-based mileage earning to revenue-based mileage earning. This change affects both how you earn redeemable miles and elite-qualifying miles. You’ll earn a flat five qualifying points per dollar you spend on a flight, meaning you’ll no longer be able to fast-track status by booking inexpensive, long-haul flights.
On the bright side, Avianca lowered elite status requirements for 2021. The temporary change offers up to a 40% reduction on elite status requirements, with more significant reductions being offered on higher status tiers.
- Red Plus: 8,250 qualifying miles (usually 11,000)
- Silver: 11,200 qualifying miles (usually 16,000)
- Gold: 18,850 qualifying miles (usually 29,000)
- Diamond: 28,800 qualifying miles (usually 48,000)
As before, you must earn 80% of your qualifying miles on Avianca-operated flights to qualify for status. The rest can be earned on any Star Alliance partner.
Choice Hotels reduced thresholds for elite status qualification in 2021. Any status you earn this year will be valid through 2022. Here’s how the requirements break down:
- Gold status: Earned after staying seven nights as opposed to 10
- Platinum status: Earned after staying 15 nights as opposed to 20
- Diamond status: Earned after staying 25 nights as opposed to 40
Delta was the first airline to extend elite status due to the coronavirus outbreak, but those status extensions expire on Jan. 31, 2022. If you’re looking to requalify or earn status through 2022, you’ll need to earn it.
While the airline hasn’t adjusted the qualifying requirements, it is offering a unique fast-track offer. From April 1 through the end of the year, SkyMiles members can earn up to 75% more elite-qualifying credit on flights marketed and operated by Delta, including award travel. Here’s the breakdown:
- 50% boost: All basic economy and Main Cabin tickets will earn 50% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).
- 75% boost: Premium-cabin fares — Delta One, Delta Premium Select, domestic first class and Delta Comfort+ tickets, including those upgraded after purchase — qualify for an additional 25% bonus, bringing the total qualification boost to 75%.
This is the first time a U.S. airline loyalty program offers elite-qualifying credit for award tickets, including Miles + Cash redemptions. Also, keep in mind that Delta has rolled over all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status. So, if you took any Delta flights last year, you’ve already begun making progress toward earning status in 2021.
While Emirates hasn’t adjusted qualification thresholds yet, it is running a limited-time promotion to help Skywards members fast-track to a higher tier status. Members will automatically earn double tier miles on all Emirates and Flydubai flights booked between April 1 to June 30, 2021 for travel between April 1 and Dec. 30, 2021. The bonus applies as per the original ticketed class. Keep in mind that award tickets don’t earn tier miles.
Hawaiian cut Pualani elite qualification for the 2022 status year in half. It has also confirmed that members that achieve Pualani Platinum status at the reduced elite qualifications will still receive their two Platinum upgrade certificates.
- Pualani Gold status: 15 segments or 10,000 miles
- Pualani Platinum status: 30 segments or 20,000 miles
However, there’s no word yet whether Hawaiian will continue to follow the reduced requirements next year.
In addition to extending status for current elites, Hertz reduced qualification requirements for new elite members. In 2021, you can earn elite status by meeting the following requirements:
|Status tier||2021 requirements||Normal requirements|
|Five Star||10 rentals||12 rentals or $2,000 spent|
|President’s Circle||15 rentals||20 rentals or $4,000 spent|
Hilton has slashed 2021 qualification requirements in half, including stays, nights and base points. Here’s how you can earn status starting January 2021:
- Silver: 2 stays, 5 nights, or 12,500 base points
- Gold: 10 stays, 20 nights or 37,500 base points
- Diamond: 15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points
In addition to reducing requirements, Hilton will automatically roll over all 2020 elite-qualifying nights to 2021, so you could get a big head start on your 2021 qualification based on stays this year. However, keep in mind that you could also get automatic Hilton Honors elite status every year with a cobranded Hilton card.
Following Hilton’s footsteps, Hyatt announced it would reduce elite status requirements by 50% for the 2021 qualification year. And remember, any status earned in 2021 will be valid all the way through Feb. 28, 2023.
Here’s a look at how the 2021 tier requirements break down:
- Discoverist: Stay five tier-qualifying nights or earn 12,500 base points ($2,500 in spending)
- Explorist: Stay 15 tier-qualifying nights or earn 25,000 base points ($5,000 in spending)
- Globalist: Stay 30 tier-qualifying nights or earn 50,000 base points ($10,000 in spending)
These requirements may be even lower if you have a cobranded Hyatt card. Those with the World of Hyatt Credit Card automatically get five qualifying nights each year just for having the card. Additionally, cardholders earn two elite-qualifying nights for every $5,000 spent on the card.
Like last year, IHG is reducing IHG Rewards elite status requirements in 2021 by roughly 25%. Here’s what it will take to earn status this year:
- Gold Elite: 7,000 qualifying points or 7 nights
- Platinum Elite: 30,000 qualifying points or 30 nights
- Spire Elite: 55,000 qualifying points or 55 nights
Furthermore, all qualifying nights earned by elite members in 2020 will roll over to 2021. IHG says that these rollover nights will automatically appear in member accounts by the end of March.
IHG is also running a promotion that allows members to fast-track elite qualifying points. Specifically, IHG will allow members to earn 2,000 bonus and elite-qualifying points for every two nights stayed between Jan. 20 and Mar. 31, 2021.
In addition to extending status for JAL Mileage Bank members with Fly On elite status, JAL will be giving elites bonus Fly On points to give them a head start in earning status for the following year.
The points will be credited by around mid-February 2021 based on your status as of Jan. 7, 2021:
- JMB Diamond members: 40,000 bonus FLY ON Points
- JGC Premier members: 28,000 FLY ON Points
- JMB Sapphire members: 15,000 FLY ON Points
- JMB Crystal members: 8,000 FLY ON Points
In mid-December, JetBlue announced some major changes to its Mosaic elite status program. In addition to extending status for current elites, it will make earning Mosaic status in 2021 easier. It is both reducing thresholds and introducing a new way to qualify altogether.
Here’s how you can earn Mosaic status in 2021:
- 7,500 Mosaic Qualifying points (usually 15,000 points)
- 6,000 Mosaic Qualifying points + 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 (as before)
- $30,000 spent on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card + 4,000 Mosaic Qualifying points during the calendar year (new and exclusively for 2021)
If you go beyond the qualification threshold during 2021, you’ll get extra bonuses and perks, including 10,000 bonus points (worth $130 based on TPG valuations) after 10,000 Mosaic Qualifying points, the opportunity to gift Mosaic status after 20,000 Mosaic Qualifying points and a free round-trip coach flight after 30,000 Mosaic Qualifying points.
On top of that, JetBlue will offer elites extra perks. For starters, elites will be able to bring a companion for free for every paid flight booked and flown between Jan. 1 and May 20, 2021, including in Mint. Plus, Mosaics will now permanently get complimentary extra-legroom Even More Space seating on the day of departure.
Lufthansa Miles and More
In addition to extending status for current elites, Lufthansa is making it easier to earn status this year. In 2021, you’ll earn double status miles on all flights operated by Lufthansa Group airlines — Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings. Additionally, you’ll earn double the HON Circle miles in business and first class. No registration is required.
Marriott Bonvoy isn’t making broad adjustments to its qualification requirements. The only change is a reduction in the $20,000 spend threshold for attaining Ambassador Elite status by 30% for 2021. However, it’s still making it easier to earn elite status in 2021 in several ways.
Like last year, current elites will receive 50% of the elite nights needed to qualify for the elite status that they held in 2020. Additionally, from Feb. 16 through April 27, 2021, Marriott will run a promotion that will allow all members, including those who don’t currently have elite status, to fast-track extra elite-night credits. Members who register for the promotion will earn double the number of points and elite night credits for all stays of two nights or more.
Like last year, Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members a head-start towards the Companion Pass benefit and A-List elite status. All members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020 will automatically receive 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs), 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs), 10 qualifying one-way flight segments towards tier status and 25 qualifying one-way flights towards Companion Pass.
With these boosts, here are the remaining requirements to qualify for status this year:
- A-List Status: 20,000 points or 15 flights
- A-List Preferred Status: 55,000 points or 40 flights
- Companion Pass: 100,000 points or 75 flights
Furthermore, cobranded Southwest credit cardholders can earn an uncapped 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent using their card from the first day of the billing cycle ending in January 2021 through the last statement of December 2021. In other words, you can spend your way to status without flying.
Shortly after American’s announcement, United said it would also make it easier to earn Premier elite status in 2021. Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) requirements have been reduced by around 25% for the 2021 qualification year. As a reminder, travelers earn one PQP for each eligible dollar spent on tickets issued by United or based on distance and fare class for tickets issued by partners. You’ll also earn one PQF for each eligible flight segment flown.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Silver: 3,000 PQPs/8 PQFs or 3,500 PQPs
- Gold: 6,000 PQPs/16 PQFs or 7,000 PQPs
- Platinum: 9,000 PQPs/24 PQFs or 10,000 PQPs
- Premier 1K: 13,500 PQPs/36 PQFs or 15,000 PQPs
In addition to the reduced requirements, anyone who currently holds elite status will automatically get 25% of the PQP-only requirement for 2021 deposited into their accounts. Silver members should expect 875 PQPs, Gold 1,750, Platinum 2,500 and Premier 1K 3,750. Don’t forget that United requires that elites fly a minimum of four segments on United or United Express to qualify for status, so you can’t automatically earn status next year from this bonus alone.
On top of all of that, from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021, MileagePlus members had the opportunity to earn bonus PQPs on their first three United or United Express PQP-earning trips. Elite members were able to earn a 100% PQP bonus, with a minimum of 300 bonus PQPs and a maximum of 1,500 bonus PQPs per trip. Non-elites were able to earn a 50% bonus, with a minimum of 150 bonus PQPs and a maximum of 1,000 bonus PQPs per trip.
Now that that promotion has ended, United is running another fast-track program called “Pick Your Path.” Through May 13, current elites can choose from one of three options — a “Welcome-back bonus” for customers willing to fly; an “Easy PQP” offer, without any requirement to travel; and double redeemable miles via the MileagePlus X app.
While not the most rewarding program around, Wyndham Rewards reduced elite status qualifications in 2021 by 40%. Here’s what it will take to earn Wyndham elite status next year:
- Gold: 3 nights
- Platinum: 9 nights
- Diamond: 24 nights
Remember that if you qualify for Wyndham Diamond status, you could match that to Diamond status within the Caesars Hotels and Resorts chain. Caesars Diamond perks include waived resort fees on all stays, complimentary valet and self-parking and a $100 annual celebration dinner at Caesars-owned restaurants.
Many airline and hotel loyalty programs are making it easier to earn elite status in 2021. However, as you can see, there still are a few major programs missing from this list. More changes will likely be announced in the weeks to come, so be sure to bookmark this guide and check back regularly as we update it with more information.
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Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy
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