Big Spenders: Spend Your Way to Airline Elite Status

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BIG SPENDER SERIES:

Airline Elite Status via Credit Card Spending

Airline elite status is a great benefit if you travel frequently on paid tickets because it will help you save time at the airport and you will get additional miles for flights.  But I wouldn’t spend my way to airline elite status if I was an occasional traveler.

You can earn – outright – all levels of Delta Medallion status via credit card spending and Silver elite status on Virgin Atlantic via credit card spending.

For $280,000 in annual spending (less the 1st year because of the sign-up bonuses) you could earn top tier Delta Diamond status which puts you first for upgrades, gets you 125% more miles for paid flights, free lounge access, and the ability to gift Delta Gold elite status to anyone.

Delta is the only US airline which lets you get top tier status via credit card spending.

American Airlines, Southwest, US Airlines, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic don’t let you earn elite status outright via credit card spending, but you can earn elite qualifying miles or points which could help you reach an elite status level.

Note that the calculations below do NOT take into account the sign-on bonus – because you may already have these cards – but just the recurring benefit for regular big spending on the credit card.

Earn Full Elite Status Via Credit Card Spending

  • Delta:

    •  Silver Medallion Status (25,000 MQMs) after spending $55,000
      • $30,000 for 15,000 MQMs on the Delta Reserve card
      • $25,000 for 10,000 MQM on the Delta Platinum card
      • Earn a total of 25,000 MQMs and 80,000 redeemable Delta miles

       

    •  Gold Medallion Status (50,000 MQMs) after spending $110,000
      • $60,000 on the Delta Reserve card for 30,000 MQMs
      • $50,000 on the Delta Platinum card for 20,000 MQMs
      • Earn a total of 50,000 MQMs and 160,000 redeemable Delta miles

       

    •  Platinum Medallion Status (75,000 MQMs) after spending $170,000
      • $60,000 on the personal Delta Reserve card for 30,000 MQMs
      • $60,000 on the Business Delta Reserve card for 30,000 MQMs
      •  $50,000 on the personal or business Delta Platinum card for 20,000 MQMs
      • Earn a total of 80,000 MQMs and 250,000 redeemable Delta miles

       

    • Diamond Medallion Status (125,000 MQMs) after spending $280,000
      • $60,000 on the personal Delta Reserve card for 30,000 MQMs
      •  $60,000 on the Business Delta Reserve card for 30,000 MQMs
      • $50,000 on the personal Delta Platinum card for 20,000 MQMs
      • $50,000 on the business Delta Platinum card for 20,000 MQMs
      •  An additional $60,000 on the Delta Reserve for 30,000 MQMs in someone else’s name (partner, friend etc.) whom you trust to transfer the MQMs to your account
      • Earn a total of 130,000 MQMs and 410,000 redeemable Delta miles

       

  • Virgin Atlantic:

    • Silver elite status after spending $37,500 on the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Air & Virgin America don’t let you earn elite status outright without flying, but you can earn elite qualifying miles  via credit card spending to perhaps get a bump to the next status level.

Spend Your Way to Airline Elite Status – The Details

1.   American Airlines

Link:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 within your January to December billing cycles

2.   Delta

You can earn Delta’s top tier Diamond status just by spending on a credit card without entering a Delta plane.  I’m not sure why you’ll want Delta top tier status if you don’t fly with them, but you can use this method to accumulate elite miles which will count towards lifetime Delta status.

Elite or Medallion miles earned via a Delta Reserve credit card can be transferred to anyone’s Skymiles account, so you can theoretically have someone else transfer elite qualifying miles to your account.

You can earn 100,000 MQMs after spending $220,000 within a calendar year (30,000 MQMs each for the personal and business Delta Reserve, and 20,000 MQMs each for the personal and business Delta Platinum.  

You would also earn 320,000 redeemable Delta miles each year (220,000 Delta miles at 1 mile per $1 spent & 100,000 bonus miles) after spending $220,000 (not including sign-up bonuses).

And if you want to go for top-tier Diamond status on Delta you could have a friend or family member apply for the card and then add yourself as an authorized user and spend $60,000 on the Delta Reserve card.  Your friend or family member would then gift you 30,000 elite qualifying miles.

This together with the 100,000 miles above will get you 130,000 MQMs which is 5,000 MQMs more than the 125,000 MQMs needed for Delta Diamond status!

Delta Platinum Card:

Link:   American Express Delta Platinum (Personal & Business)

  • Earn 10,000 bonus elite & redeemable  miles on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $25,000 in a calender year
  • Another 10,000 bonus elite & redeemable miles on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $50,000 in a calender year

Delta Reserve Card:

Link:   American Express Delta Reserve (Personal & Business)

  • Earn 15,000 bonus elite & redeemable  miles on the Delta Reserve personal or business card after spending $30,000 in a calender year
  • Another 15,000 bonus elite & redeemable miles on the Delta Reserve personal or business card after spending $60,000 in a calender year

3.   Southwest Airlines

Link:   Chase Southwest Airlines Premier (Personal)

Link:   Chase Southwest Airlines Premier (Business)

  • 15,000 Tier Points after spending $100,000 from your December statement date to the next December statement date
  • Earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points toward A-List and A-List Preferred Status for every $10,000 you spend on the card (capped at 15,000 Tier points)
  • $100,000 in spending will count towards the 110,000 points required for the Southwest Companion Pass.

4.   US Airways

Link:   Barclays US Airways (Personal)

Link:   Barclays US Airways (Business)

  • 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $25,000 within a calendar year on the personal and business US Airways card

5.   Virgin America

Link:   Barclay’s Virgin America Card

6.   Virgin Atlantic

Link:   Bank of America Virgin Atlantic

  • Spend $37,500 for 15 tier points to get  Silver elite status (earn 50% bonus miles on flights)
  • You earn 1 tier point for every $2,500 spent on the card, and you can earn up to 2 tier points per month.  That’s 24 tier points a year with $5,000 spending per month ($60,000 per year)

Bottom Line:  Big Spenders can get top tier elite status on Delta and get extra elite miles for spending on credit cards.

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37 responses to “Big Spenders: Spend Your Way to Airline Elite Status

  1. I earn Delta elite status this way — it’s great! One correction: Amex will only let you get one Personal and one business Delta card. They won’t let you get a personal Reserve and Platinum card, for example. You can still do these tricks, but you need to do more with the Reserve card’s ability to gift MQMs

  2. What happened to your new logo? I saw it up last night, but now it’s gone. Was looking good.

  3. Also note that when you spend on your Delta cards that spending counts towards Million Miler status for lifetime Silver, Gold, and Platinum at 1 million, 2 million, and 4 million miles.

    Those that don’t fly Delta a lot can still get status on Delta and then status match to the airline of their choice (results will vary), so this would be a great benefit for those trying to essentially spend their way for temporary status on any airline.

    I thought you could get all 4 cards, but you need to wait several months after applying for the first two. There are successful reports of this on flyertalk.

    Great post! Keep ’em coming!

  4. I’m a small spender so can’t take advantage of these, but still enjoyed the summary. Thanks for pulling it together!

    • @FrequentMilerPer this FlyerTalk thread you can have both the Reserve and Platinum Delta cards. You won’t get the sign-on bonuses on each, but it appears that you do get the MQMs for spending on the card. I also don’t see any explicit mention of not getting the spending bonus in the terms and conditions.

      @guest – Still tweaking the layout. There’s a lot of empty white space with the new logo, so was trying to see how to best fit it.

      @MBFlyer
      – That’s coming up in my post on lifetime status with credit card spending! Thanks for reading!

      @New Girl in the Air – I can’t take advantage of these eager, but there are folks out there who can!

  5. Does the Delta Reserve Card have an international transaction fee?

    Is there anyway to get the $450 annual fee waived for the first year?

    Is there any bonus (miles or MQMs) for adding an authorized user like on United cards?

    • @Flying Away – It has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, but you do get free lounge access with the card. I don’t know of a way to get the fee waived or additional miles for adding an authorized user.

  6. @MBFlyer: When you say that the spend counts toward MM status, I assume that you’re only referring to the MQM earned, right?

  7. Saying “Delta is the only US airline which lets you get top tier status via credit card spending” is slightly misleading, since you can buy status at USAir without using their credit card. $3999 will get you Chairman’s status before you fly a single mile.
    http://shopping.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/preferred/buy-up-to-preferred.html

  8. Spending for airline status is not for me (yet) but I have enjoyed this series.

  9. Michael: On my account I have 20,000 more miles that are in RDM and not included in MM which I believe are my two 10,000 MQM sign up bonuses on 2 reserve cards. All other spending adds to MM. Everyday spending counts for MM and RDM and only the bonuses add to MQM.

    • @Michael @@MBFlyer – I don’t believe that regular spending on the credit card counts toward Million Miler status, but the MQMs earned do count towards Million Miler status.

      @Lisa – What I meant to say is that Delta is the only airline which gives you elite status via everyday spending on a credit card as opposed to just buying it directly from the airline and paying $4K!

      @bluto – It is not for me either, but for some the bonus redeemable and elite miles could be worth it!

  10. Michael: You are right! Spending only counts for RDM. Sorry about that, my bad.

  11. so for a mere $280,000 in credit card spend I can get status?!?
    first, how many of your readers do you think have those kind of resources, arent you the cheap guru?
    2nd, if you had that much cc spend you would be a fool not to be using a cash back card.
    third if you fly enough for the status to matter that much to you, your actual MQM’s should be earning the status with minimal cc spend needed.

    • @wise2u – This series of posts is specifically for the folks who spend hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars on credit cards. I realize that the average median household income in the US is $50,000, so this series isn’t universally applicable. But I get emails on this topic very often. BTW, $280K in spending will also get you 410K redeemable Delta miles (besides the Diamond status) which is a return of 1.46 miles per $1 spent, which for some folks could be better than a cash back card.

      I talked about cash back cards earlier, but plan to cover all the potential benefits of spending on credit cards to let readers choose for themselves. Perhaps reading the 1st post in the series may help.

  12. MMS – You may want to correct your comments regarding Delta elite status from every day credit card charges. Delta is NOT the only airline that let’s you get elite status via everyday spending on a credit card. I have a Chase Continental Presidential Plus Mastercard that still allows for flexible premier miles since Continental merged with United they now accumulate in the United Mileage Plus program. These flexible miles accumulate with no expiration date and can be transferred to top up miles needed to reach any status level including 1K. Thanks for all the great information you provide in your website

    • @Robert – Ha! I actually had the Continental card in an earlier draft, but deleted it because it is no longer available for new applicants. And the benefit of earning unlimited eqms may not last very long especially since there may be a new United card which offers the option of earning eqms. But, yes, I do agree that there is another way to earn top tier status besides the AMEX cards with Delta.

  13. Can you earn the MQMs and bonuses every year you have the card or just the first year? I got the Personal Reserve card. My business parnter will probably get the card and give me his MQMs. I owuld like to try and make Diamond status this year. I am flying Delta alot. Could do a few mileage runs if needed also.

  14. robert weisberg

    After doing some flying with Delta my general opinion is that the Delta card straties make sense if you can get to at least gold status or higher. Especially for the second half of the year because you will get the next full year of full status. Silver really isnt worth much in my opinion. Lifetime Diamond or higher with speding isnt bad either. The only other issue is that Delta miles IMHO are not even worth as much as American. Delta makes many tickets at high redemptions.

  15. I was never made aware of the changes to the American Airlines Citicard last year or that they had a limited time offer in which one could accumulate miles through purchases that would accrue to Million Miler status on American Airlines. I am 60,000 miles away from Million Miler status and I keep checking to see if there are any American Airlines credit cards offered (even for a limited time) that will allow me to get credit towards Million Miler status with purchases that I make on that card. It appears that the very last offer was a year ago where for a $450 annual fee one could accrue miles for Million Miler Status with the opening of a new American Airlines Executive World Elite Credit card. That offer expired December, 2011 and was good for miles accumulated through December , 2012. I have searched everywhere and hope that you can give me the answer. Is this option available anyway, anywhere, anyhow on American Airlines any longer? Thanks!

    • @CAROL PENNY – Unfortunately, there are no current ways to earn miles towards lifetime status on American Airlines using a credit card. But you could just mileage run or try to find cheap flights to get the 60K flights you need.

  16. Thank you so much for your prompt reply! Now I can stop searching everywhere for this answer. I know that you have the definitive answer to all of these questions. Much appreciated. Safe travels! 🙂

  17. Commenting on what Penny wrote on the AA miles with credit card. Frankly speaking you were close so maybe AA GOLD status would have some value for you. In my opinion (Lifetime Plat) Gold is not worth much on American. Even as I am lifetime Plat the benefits are not as much as you think. In fact Delta at Diamond or Plat is better than AA Plat. Delta does upgrade on domestic flights for status flyers. AA will leave empty seats in F and never move a Plat up in class without using stickers or vouchers. Now with American in Chpt 11 they may merge with another airline and who knows what will happen to Plat. I got to AA lifetime (2 million) by using the card over many years etc. Exec Plat on AA does have alot more value than Plat. if you fly AA alot.

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  21. I travel often for business, usually two times or so a month. I used to be Silver Preferred on US Air but that recently went away due to either US Air increasing the requirement or me falling just under the needed amount. To re- establish and keep my Silver Preferred status for the future I wanted to look into getting the US Air Credit Card (the $89 annual fee card) with the hopes that spending a few of my business expenses on there would boost me back into Preferred Status.
    Would you consider this a sound approach? Does it this work this way? Can I get back to Silver Preferred just by using my credit card and doing some moderate travel (which right now doesn’t get me to that level)?

    Thank you!!
    Jerry

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  28. Hi just curious how one can apply both The personal reserve and platinum? I am preparing for the new year application and have some amount to spend but the applications say one can’t have another delta personal card within 12 months. So how is it possible that one can apply for and have both cards at one time?