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Already requalified? Think twice before pursuing elite status with a 2nd airline

July 22 2022
5 min read
UA Polaris seats 789
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If you're like me, it takes until December to requalify for airline status. However, this year is different.

With roughly half the year still ahead, I've requalified for my United Airlines Premier 1K status. And I am not alone — record high airfares coupled with reduced status requirements have resulted in airline elites both requalifying and subsequently upgrading their statuses.

So now, having already requalified, I have the opportunity to fly another airline with the peace of mind that I've got United Premier 1K status through Jan. 31, 2024. Why not shoot for American Airlines Platinum status to enjoy lounge access when traveling on a Oneworld partner through Oneworld Sapphire?

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That's what I thought, too, but here's what to consider before pursuing elite status with a second airline.

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Will pre-pandemic status requirements come back?

Amerian Airlines planes at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The elite status programs of the 'Big Three' U.S. airlines are designed to reward high spenders with status.

Premier Qualifying Points, Medallion Qualifying Dollars and Loyalty Points are fancy metrics to track how much you spend. TPG expects pre-pandemic status requirements to return next year for all airlines. Assuming this happens, you'll have the spend a lot more for airline status in 2023.

Related: Current airline elite status match and challenge options you should know about

How much will you use your secondary status in 2023?

(Photo by Eric Lee/Bloomberg)

So if the pre-pandemic status requirements return next year, you'll have to make some compromises.

Is it better to hold top-tier status with one airline or mid-tier status with two airlines?

In my case, I would opt for the former, and I realize that if I qualify for American Airlines status this year, I might not fly American at all next year. Ultimately, if the pre-pandemic requirements of 54 Premier Qualifying Flights + 18,000 Premier Qualifying Points (aka dollars) return, I'll be flying United exclusively. Even then, I might not requalify for Premier 1K.

Why earn elite status with an airline this year when you won't even fly them next year?

Related: When does airline elite status expire?

Consider the opportunity cost

Without status, you'll spend lots of time in economy class seats without extra legroom. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Let's assume you're a Diamond Medallion member on Delta and now decide to pursue United's Premier Gold status.

In order to become a Premier Gold member, you'll have to fly 16 times and earn 6,000 PQPs, or 7,000 PQPs without a flight segment requirement. Depending on when you move up to Premier Silver, you would earn around 36,000 MileagePlus miles worth $430 at TPG's valuations. If you spent the same $6,000 with Delta, you would earn 66,000 Delta SkyMiles, worth $930. That's a big difference.

Also, you'll spend lots of time in economy class with no upgrades, extra legroom seating or priority access when you start from scratch with United. Checking a bag? On most United itineraries, that will cost you $30. All of these benefits are included with Delta Diamond Medallion status.

In sum, by going for status on another airline, you'll be sacrificing many benefits that you might take for granted with your primary airline of choice.

Related: 5 of the easiest elite statuses to earn, and why you want them

Requalified? Use miles

Why not redeem your miles on a partner airline? (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

If you've already requalified for your primary airline status, now, more than ever is the time to redeem your hard-earned miles. It's a simple equation: Airfares are high + you've made it to your status = use miles.

With the notable exception of Delta, you don't earn toward elite status when redeeming miles for air travel. By the time many travelers hit their status goals, the year is over and it's time to requalify again.

Now is your chance to break free from the hamster wheel of airline status and redeem your hard-earned points.

Related: What are points and miles worth? TPG’s July 2022 monthly valuations

Bottom line

As tempting as it is to pursue status on a second airline now, it's almost certain that you'll have to spend significantly for airline status next year. That means you might not fly your secondary airline next year.

So instead of spending on an airline you might not even fly in 2023, I advise redeeming your hard-earned miles now.

Give yourself a pat on the back, and don't worry about getting the highest redemption ever for your miles. Sit back, relax and fly for free with the peace of mind that you've already requalified for the status that's most important to you.

Featured photo by Kyle Olsen/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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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees