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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?

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.

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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 image 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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
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Recommended Credit

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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.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees