What cards can help you earn airline status?

Achieving airline status comes with benefits. You could get free companion tickets, upgrades, checked bags and much more. But you’ll have to earn it by meeting requirements.

A credit card can help you earn airline status, but generally, airline status doesn’t come automatically with the card. “A credit card that will earn you status just for opening and holding the card is really a thing of the past,” says Brandon Neth, credit card and reward travel expert at FinanceBuzz.

The following credit cards may help you earn elite status for their respective airlines:

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

— Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card

United Explorer Card

United Explorer Business Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Earning airline status with credit cards

Reaching elite status typically means targeting a single airline you fly often. You can also pick an airline that has a credit card that helps you qualify for elite status faster.

“Choose the best airline based on your location and schedule, and supplement your travel with a credit card that offers elite status credit when you meet certain spending thresholds,” says Kevin Lawler, host of the Feasting Flyer podcast.

Earning status usually requires taking flights, making purchases or a combination of both. Neth says credit cards can offer a quicker path to status, but there’s still some action required on your part. Requirements may be complex, and you may need to spend large amounts to qualify.

“Spending requirements are steep and different for each airline, but if you can use your card for reimbursable expenditures, you may be able to achieve status more quickly,” says Lawler. Here’s what you need to know about earning elite airline status with four major airlines and how their credit cards can help.

[Read: Best Airline Credit Cards.]

American Airlines status

Earning American Airlines status requires you to meet two of three milestones to earn each level of status. The three milestones are Elite Qualifying Miles, Elite Qualifying Segments and Elite Qualifying Dollars. To earn status, you must earn enough Elite Qualifying Dollars plus enough Elite Qualifying Miles or Elite Qualifying Segments. These are the requirements for each elite status level:

AAdvantage Executive Platinum AAdvantage Platinum Pro AAdvantage Platinum AAdvantage Gold
Elite Qualifying Miles 100,000 75,000 50,000 25,000
Elite Qualifying Segments 120 90 60 30
Elite Qualifying Dollars $15,000 $9,000 $6,000 $3,000

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard can help you earn American Airlines status faster. You earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after $40,000 in purchases within a calendar year. The card has a $450 annual fee.

Delta Air Lines status

Earning Delta Air Lines status also requires you to meet two of three standards. Delta’s three categories are Medallion Qualification Dollars, Medallion Qualification Segments and Medallion Qualification Miles. You must meet the Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement or receive a waiver and meet either the Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments requirements to earn status. The specifics to earn Delta status are as follows:

Diamond Platinum Gold Silver
Medallion Qualification Miles 125,000 75,000 50,000 25,000
Medallion Qualification Segments 140 100 60 30
Medallion Qualification Dollars $15,000 or Waiver $9,000 or Waiver $6,000 or Waiver $3,000 or Waiver

Delta offers many credit cards that can help you earn elite status with the airline. Although you don’t earn automatic Delta status with these cards, you can earn a waiver for your Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement for Silver, Gold or Platinum status for the qualification year. You can do this by spending $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year on qualifying credit cards. To waive the Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement for Diamond status, the spending requirement increases to $250,000 in eligible purchases.

Spending on the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express does not qualify for the Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver unless you also have one of the following credit cards:

— Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (no introductory annual fee, $95 each year thereafter)

— Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express ($195 annual fee)

— Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express ($450 annual fee)

— Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express (no introductory annual fee, $95 each year thereafter)

— Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express ($195 annual fee)

— Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card ($450 annual fee)

Spending on the above six credit cards counts toward the Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver without the requirement to have another credit card.

Additionally, four Delta cards can help you earn Medallion Qualification Miles:

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express offers 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after you spend $6,000 within the first three months of opening your card. And each calendar year you spend $25,000 on the card, you’ll earn 10,000 MQMs. If you spend an additional $25,000 (for a total of $50,000) within the calendar year, you will earn an additional 10,000 MQMs.

The Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card allows you to earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months from opening the card. You can also earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after reaching $30,000 in eligible purchases on your card within a calendar year. Spend $60,000 on your card in one calendar year, and you will earn an additional 15,000 MQMs.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express earns 5,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 within the first three months. You can earn 10,000 MQMs if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year and another 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in a calendar year.

The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express earns 10,000 MQMs when you spend $5,000 within the first three months. The card’s Miles Boost offers 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year and an additional 15,000 MQMs after you spend $60,000 in a calendar year.

[Read: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards.]

United Airlines status

You can earn United Airlines status by meeting two of three categories of requirements. The status tiers have different thresholds for Premier Qualifying Miles, Premier Qualifying Segments and Premier Qualifying Dollars. You must always meet the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement but can use either Premier Qualifying Miles or Premier Qualifying Segments to qualify for each level of status. The specifics for each category and status level are as follows:

Premier 1K Premier Platinum Premier Gold Premier Silver
Premier Qualifying Miles 100,000 75,000 50,000 25,000
Premier Qualifying Segments 120 90 60 30
Premier Qualifying Dollars $15,000 $9,000 $6,000 $3,000

If you’re looking for a faster way to earn United status, the United Explorer Card can help. You can get the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premier Platinum status levels by spending at least $25,000 on a United co-branded credit card issued by Chase. But you cannot get the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement waived for Premier 1K status.

The United Explorer Card and the United Explorer Business Card both qualify for this waiver. Both cards have no introductory annual fee and a $95 annual fee each year thereafter.

Southwest Airlines status

Earning Southwest Airlines status is fairly straightforward, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards can help. To earn Southwest elite status, you either need to complete a certain number of qualifying one-way flights or earn a set amount of tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Companion Pass A-List Preferred A-List
Qualifying one-way flights 100 50 25
Tier qualifying points 110,000 70,000 35,000

Points earned on Southwest credit cards count as tier qualifying points to help you earn A-List or A-List Preferred status as well as a Companion Pass. Even the sign-up bonus points (40,000 for most Southwest cards) count as tier qualifying points. Here are the cards that qualify and their respective annual fees:

— Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee)

— Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee)

— Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee)

— Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card ($199 annual fee)

[Read: Best Hotel Credit Cards.]

Is achieving status worth the effort?

Airline status isn’t for everyone, but it can offer value if you are planning to travel and can take advantage of the benefits. Consider your travel plans and whether you can expect to earn enough for elite status. Account for the value of the status benefits you can use, but also take into consideration credit card annual fees.

The benefits of elite status may not outweigh what it takes to earn it unless you fly frequently for business travel. “For leisure travelers, I don’t think it makes sense to chase airline status. The average person is much better off simply finding and booking the best available deal rather than sticking to a single airline,” says Lawler.

More from U.S. News

Do I Have Too Many Credit Cards?

Should You Choose a Credit Card With a First-Year Introductory Bonus?

Best Cruise Credit Cards

What Cards Can Help You Earn Airline Status? originally appeared on usnews.com

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up