Big Spenders: Spend Your Way to Lifetime Airline & Hotel Elite Status

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Last week we saw how to earn hotel elite status and airline elite status via credit card spending.

You can also work your way towards lifetime elite status on Delta Airlines or Marriott via credit card spending.

I wouldn’t count on any “lifetime” status lasting until the end of your life (and may you have a long healthy life filled with lots of travel and happy memories!)

The “lifetime” usually refers to the lifetime of the hotel or airline frequent flyer program and can be terminated or the benefits can be watered down whenever the airline or hotel feels like it.

1.   Delta

Delta offers lifetime:

  • Silver status after earning 1 million MQMs
  • Gold status after earning 2 million MQMs
  • Platinum status after earning 4 million MQMs

Ok, this isn’t really “lifetime” status because the terms say, for example, “Members who reach one million Medallion Qualification Miles are currently awarded complimentary annual Silver Medallion status.” 

Note the use of the word “currently” and that the Silver status awarded to folks who earn more than 1 million elite miles is only an “annual” but currently recurring benefit.  The terms are clearly written to let Delta change the offering for earning 1 million elite miles when they want.

You can earn 100,000 Delta MQMs after spending $220,000 within a calendar year.

  • 30,000 MQM & redeemable miles on the Delta Reserve personal card after spending $60,000 in a calender year
  • 30,000 MQM & redeemable miles on the Delta Reserve business card after spending $60,000 in a calender year
  •  20,000 MQM & redeemable miles on the Delta Platinum personal card after spending $50,000 in a calender year
  • 20,000 MQM & redeemable miles on the Delta Platinum business card after spending $50,000 in a calender year

In addition to earning Delta MQMs, 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).

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 if you’re unable to get approved for the 4 Delta cards above.

But it takes a long time to get “lifetime” elite status solely via credit card spending.

2.   Marriott

Marriott appears to have an unofficial lifetime elite status program.

Marriott requires:

  • 12+ years of membership AND
  • 600 nights for lifetime Silver, 800 nights for lifetime Gold & 1,000 nights for lifetime Platinum AND
  • 1,200,000 points for lifetime Silver, 1,600,000 points for lifetime Gold and 2,000,000 points for lifetime  Platinum AND
  • One year of elite status at the level

You can hit 3 out of the 4 requirements for Marriott lifetime status via spending alone and wait until you cross 12 years of membership with Marriott to cement your lifetime status.

The Chase Marriott Premier credit card earns 1 night elite credit for every $3,000 spent, so you’d need to spend:

  • $ 1.8 million for Lifetime Silver (600 nights X $3,000 per night)
  • $2.4 million for Lifetime Gold (800 nights X $3,000 per night)
  • $3 million for Lifetime Platinum (1,000 nights X $3,000 per night)

You’d also earn Marriott points for the spending so you’d get at least 1.8 million to 3 million Marriott points by spending your way to lifetime Marriott status.

Bottom Line:  You can earn “lifetime” elite status on Delta or Marriott, but it takes time to complete the requirements.

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18 responses to “Big Spenders: Spend Your Way to Lifetime Airline & Hotel Elite Status

  1. Darius,
    On my USair barclays world mastercard – i got a 10k bonus in July. It says US WORLD CARD: EVERYDAY 50% BONUS on my online statement. I called USAIR and Barclays but noone could tell me what this was for. I’m not complaining 🙂
    but wondering – have you seen this before?

    Thanks for all your posts as always – counting down days until our all-free trip to Europe. One more thing – do you think it is worth it to use 40k marriott points for one night in the Marriott at Cannes?


  2. Darius… Go on and think really big… A couple could double up and earn 200k MQMs for a single account. That’s “lifetime” silver in just 5 years. Of course, it’d require $440k in spending each year,annd if you can do that, you probably don’t really care about silver status because you can just buy business/first class tickets anyway, but hey, what’s a little credit card spend amongst friends? 🙂

    • @groeder – It could be a targeted promotion for more miles for spending. Safe travels!

      @Autolycus – Good point on doubling up, but you can’t transfer MQMs from the Platinum to another Delta account – only the MQMs from the Reserve are transferable.

  3. Groeder – that’s the code for your 10k anniversary bonus. Weirdly, the Barclay’s CSRs don’t seem to recognize its existence.

  4. Oh well… only max of 160k MQMs per year for the one account then. 🙂

    I guess then I would split it this way each year:
    130k MQM for Account A (Getting Diamond each year)
    70k MQM for Account B and find another 5k from somewhere else, like, I dunno, flying on DL 🙂 (Getting Platinum each year)

    Then when Account A has hit 1 million (or 2 million) miles, switch. That’d get each person high level status during the effort and get to that “lifetime” status a little faster. Of course, you could just focus on Account A getting to 4 million miles, but I’m figuring they’ll get there pretty fast at that point anyway, after being Diamond for 15 years.

    But I guess if you’re racking up 100k MQMs from credit card spend, the extra 25k per year to hit Diamond probably wouldn’t be too hard anyway.

    When I win Powerball Wednesday night, I’ll make sure to let you know what I decide to do and how it works out for me. 😀

  5. “You can earn 100,000 Delta MQMs after spending $220,000 within a calendar year.”

    Charging $220,000 on credit cards in a year…no problem.

    Paying of $220,000 in charges…problem.

  6. It’s interesting that two of the most devalued (points wise) programs offer lifetime status with spending. Marriott points are the SkyPesos of hotel rewards.

    That said, being able to dump biz expenses on the Marriott and earn Gold status is reason enough for my girlfriend to keep the card 🙂

  7. I have not received my Marriott card yet, send a secure message to Chase, requesting to add 20k to my 50K card, to match the 70K offer. The Chase Agent added 20K to my account.

  8. An interesting mental exercise, but only of use to Richie Rich or someone with access to the company credit cards.

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  12. Lifetime status gives you what exactly?

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  16. Is it still possible to build life time memberships with Delta via credit card spending?