Do Elite-Qualifying Miles via Credit Cards Help With Status Challenges?
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 twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
There are a number of different requirements to earn elite status with an airline, including some combination of elite-qualifying miles (which we’ll generally call EQMs), elite-qualifying segments (EQSs) and elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs). However, savvy travelers know that they can leverage a status challenge to earn full-fledged elite status on an accelerated timeline. TPG reader Brian wants to know if all his EQMs will count towards a challenge …
For a Delta status challenge: Do MQMs earned from qualifying spend on a Delta Amex card count towards extending your status beyond the three-month challenge period?TPG READER BRIAN
As you might suspect, the answer to this question varies depending on which airline you’re talking about. Since United doesn’t have a revenue component (Premier-Qualifying Dollars) in its status challenges and doesn’t offer the ability to earn Premier-Qualifying Miles through credit card spending, we’ll instead focus on Delta and American Airlines.
Delta allows you to match your elite status from another airline for three months, and to extend your status, you have to earn a combination of Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) and a certain number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) during that three-month window. Here’s a handy graphic that shows these required amounts:
Brian’s question came at a great time, as all some of the Delta American Express credit cards are offering limited-time, elevated welcome bonuses. Two of these cards — the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and its small business counterpart — offer the ability to earn bonus MQMs, either as part of the welcome bonus or by reaching certain spending thresholds.
The terms and conditions of Delta’s challenge make it clear that only MQMs earned by flying on Delta count towards the challenge:
“Only MQMs, MQSs and MQDs earned through travel on Delta, Delta Connection, and SkyMiles Partner Airlines will count towards the challenge. MQMs/MQSs/MQDs earned through other sources, including but not limited to SkyMiles Credit Cards, do not count towards the challenge.
*The MQDs requirement will be waived if you achieve the MQD Waiver. The MQD Waiver can be earned for Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion Status for the Status Match Challenge if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases with your eligible Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.”
So while Brian can’t complete his status challenge by earning MQMs through his Delta cobranded card, the MQD waiver he’d earn by spending $25,000 or more in a single year would apply to his challenge.
American Airlines also offers a status challenge, allowing customers to shortcut their way to AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status.
Unlike Delta, AA doesn’t offer nearly as many options for earning elite qualifying metrics (miles/segments/dollars) through credit card spending. Barclays recently removed the ability to earn EQDs by spending on the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, leaving the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® as the only option. Customers who hold AA’s most premium credit card can earn 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 on the credit card within a single year.
Unfortunately, American Airlines doesn’t publish the terms and conditions of its status challenge online. While the challenge is publicly available, you’ll need to call AA customer service at 888-697-5636 to initiate the challenge. I spoke to an agent on the phone who confirmed that, like Delta, only EQMs earned by flying would count towards the challenge. Earning 10,000 EQMs from the Citi AAdvantage Executive card might help you level up to the next rung of status, but they don’t count towards a status challenge.
Leveraging a status match or challenge can be a great shortcut to unlocking perks with an airline. Unfortunately, another great fast-track tool (spending on cobranded airline credit cards) does not help. Both Delta and American only count Medallion/Elite qualifying miles earned from actual flights, though Delta will extend your MQD waiver to your status challenge.
Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
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.
- 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.