Do Elite-Qualifying Miles via Credit Cards Help With Status Challenges?

Jun 6, 2019

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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

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:

This information is also provided on Delta’s status match and status challenge website. Note that matching to Delta’s top-tier Diamond Medallion status isn’t publicly available.

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

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.

Bottom Line

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.

Thanks for the question, Brian, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy

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