Mid-year elite status check: 10 hotels and airlines making it easier to qualify for status

Jul 2, 2020

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At TPG, we paused traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and federal governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

Six months ago, the state of airline and hotel loyalty was vastly different than it is today. Most of you were planning your elite status strategies for the year ahead, fairly certain of where you would end up. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a major wrench into those plans. Leisure and business travel have taken a huge hit, making elite status less of a priority. It’s also lost some of its utility – when you’re not traveling much and hotels have cut back on services, is status even worth having anymore?

It might be. If travel resumes in 2021, having elite status will once again become useful. With so many loyalty programs making it easier to achieve top-tier status via credit card spending or lower-tier requirements, now may be the time to take advantage of these opportunities. 

To help you achieve your future status goals, here’s a round-up of rewards programs that have made it easier to qualify for status this year. 

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Airlines and hotels reducing elite status requirements

Over the last few years, legacy carriers have consistently devalued their award charts and incorporated revenue requirements into their elite status tiers. Airlines lowering elite status requirements was not something I saw coming, but here we are.

While we definitely don’t encourage anyone to travel right now just to earn status, I hear from many readers who do need to fly in order to care for family members. I know physicians who travel cross-country and stay at hotels in order to be at the frontline of the pandemic. In those scenarios, you might be able to leverage these lower requirements in order to secure elite status for next year.

American AAdvantage

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American Airlines has lowered its elite status requirements and made it possible to once again earn lifetime elite status via credit card spending. If you have an eligible AAdvantage credit card, all of your credit card spending through the end of the year will count towards Million Miler status at a rate of 1 mile per $1 spent:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

If you’re not going to spend more than $1 million in quarantine (there’s only so much toilet paper you can hoard, right?), you’ll appreciate the fact that American Airlines has made earning regular elite status easier. The required Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) have been reduced by 40%, Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) have been cut in half and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) have been reduced by upwards of 40%.

This makes elite status much more attainable if you do have to travel this year – even if it’s in a limited capacity. You can knock out 10,000 EQMs out by putting $40,000 worth of spending within the year on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, getting you even closer to elite status.

Metric Gold Platinum Platinum Pro Executive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) 15,000 30,000 45,000 60,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) 15 30 45 60
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) $1,500 $4,000 $6,000 $9,000

Delta SkyMiles

Delta isn’t reducing the requirements for earning Medallion status, but it’s offering extra time to meet them. All Delta Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned in 2020 will roll over in 2022, including those earned with the Delta credit cards. That makes this an ideal time to channel some spending on a card like the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which lets you earn up to 60,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 in a calendar year. That’s enough for Gold Medallion status, though you can also let them roll over to next year in order to get closer to Platinum status.

  • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs plus 3,000 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs plus 6,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs plus 9,000 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs plus 15,000 MQDs

Choice Privileges

In addition to extending elite status benefits through the end of 2021, Choice Privileges is requiring fewer nights to earn status. Stay requirements have been cut by around 40%. So if you happen to stop by an EconoLodge or Comfort Inn on your next road trip, be sure to check in with your Choice Privileges membership number. Elite status might be as few as seven nights away

  • Gold status – 7 nights
  • Platinum status – 15 nights
  • Diamond status – 25 nights

If you need status before a stay, consider the Choice Privileges Visa, which has no annual fee and offers Gold elite status right out of the gate.

Etihad Guest

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)

If you have an active Etihad Guest account, you may have noticed bonus Tier Miles credited to your account between March 31 and May 31. Tier Miles were issued monthly, based on the average number of miles flown with the airline.

So if you’ve been a frequent Etihad flyer or simply credited your partner flights to the airline in the past, you may be closer to elite status than you might assume. Etihad requires 25,000-125,00 Tier Miles for elite status, though the exact amount varies by tier:

  • Silver status – 25,00 Tier Miles/20 Tier Segments
  • Gold status – 50,00 Tier Miles/40 Tier Segments
  • Platinum status  – 125,000 Tier Miles/60 Tier Segments

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has made some of the most drastic cuts to its elite status requirements. Members will need just half the number of miles or segments that’s typically required to earn Pualani Gold or Platinum status:

  • Pualani Gold – 10,000 qualifying miles/15 qualifying segments
  • Pualani Platinum – 20,000 qualifying miles/30 qualifying segments

IHG Rewards Club

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is generally the best way to earn elite status. The card has an $89 annual fee and comes with automatic Platinum status. Still, if you end up staying at IHG hotels this year, you might find yourself obtaining elite status much faster since its elite status requirements have been reduced by nearly 30% across the board:

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue has one of the most simple elite status tiers out there, consisting of just one status level called Mosaic. Normally, it takes 15,000 flight points or 12,000 points plus 30 flight segments to achieve status with JetBlue. Due to the pandemic, JetBlue is lowering these requirements by 50%. So if you manage to earn 7,500 points or 6,000 points while flying 15 segments, you’ll get upgraded to Mosaic.

If that’s not fast enough, you can spend your way to Mosaic status with the JetBlue Plus Card. It takes $50,000 worth of spending per calendar year to achieve this feat.

The information for the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Southwest

While Southwest elite status isn’t at the top of everyone’s priority list, the airline’s Companion Pass is hands down one of the most valuable benefits out there. Normally, you’d have to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 segments to earn it.

In the past, TPG staff and readers have met this requirement with the sign-up bonus from one or more Southwest credit card. While that’s still an option, Southwest is making things easier by one, extending Companion Pass status through June 30, 2020, and two, issuing all Rapid Rewards members who currently hold 2020 elite status 15,000 tier-qualifying points and 15 segments toward A-List and A-List Preferred status, helping you make progress towards two goals at once.

United

United
United’s 2-1-2 business class, the carrier’s best offering between Newark (EWR) and Milan (MXP). Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

If you’re looking to earn United MileagePlus status in anticipation of spring or summer 2021 travel (let’s all keep our fingers crossed), United has made that easier. Through Dec. 31, 2020, qualifying United credit cardholders can earn extra Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) via credit card spending. 

With premium cards like United Club, United Club Infinite Card and United Club Business Card, you can earn up 4,000 PQPs, which is enough for Gold status:

  • 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 1,000 PQP)
  • Additional 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 3,000 PQP).

Meanwhile, the United Explorer Card, United Explorer Business and United Business Card earn up to 2,000 PQPs, which is enough for Silver status:

  • 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 1,000 PQP)
  • Additional 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 1,000 PQP).

The information for the United Club Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Airlines that allow you to gift status

What’s better than earning elite status faster? Having it handed to you by someone who earned it. Several reward programs have announced status gifting as a temporary benefit. This is a great way for airlines to build loyalty with customers from similar demographics to their elite flyers.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Business class in an Air Canada Boeing 777-300. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Business class in an Air Canada Boeing 777-300. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Aeroplan is allowing elite members who earn status in 2020 to gift the same status level to family or friends. Considering that earlier this year, Aeroplan was counting all mileage earning activity towards Altitude Prestige 25K, some of you may already have status or know someone who does.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue really takes the cake here. Not only is the airline cutting elite status requirements by 50%, but it’s allowing Mosaic members to gift their status to another TrueBlue member. While Mosaic members don’t qualify for seat upgrades, they do get practical benefits including free checked bags, early boarding, expedited security lane access and free alcoholic beverages.

Bottom line

Between the lowered qualification requirements and credit card promotions, earning elite status with hotels and airlines is much easier than it was pre-pandemic. If you expect to travel next year, you could take advantage of these offers to secure status now with much less effort. Through strategic credit card spending, you can even secure status without leaving the house.

If one of these options is viable without endangering your health or racking up unnecessary credit card spending, it could be worth pursuing.

Featured photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy

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