Elite status with an airline can get you some fantastic benefits: free upgrades, discounts, bonus points and more. While status is generally limited to those who earn the hard way—through flying and spending—you shouldn’t forget about status matches and challenges. These offers can be a quick way to get status with an airline, particularly if you plan to do a lot of traveling in a short period of time.
Most airlines no longer offer straight status matching. They won’t simply hand over elite status just because you’ve earned it with another airline. Instead, they’ll let you participate in a status match challenge.
A status match challenge is when a carrier gives you the opportunity to achieve elite status by fulfilling certain requirements. Typically you’ll be given three months to fly a certain number of miles and/or spend a certain amount of money with the airline.
While match challenges are only open to flyers that already have status with another airline, some carriers will let anyone participate in a challenge for a fee.
We’ve put together a list of the current offers from the three major domestic legacy carriers. Take a look; you might be closer to a quick upgrade than you think.
American no longer offers straight status matching, but it does consistently offer status challenges that are open to everyone who’s willing to pay a fee.
All of American’s challenges take place over a 90-day period. That gives you three months to fulfill the requirements. Until recently, American offered just two challenges:
- Pay $120 and fly 7,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) to get Gold status, or
- Pay $200 and fly 12,500 EQMs to get Platinum
American recently added a revenue requirement and the ability to substitute segments for miles. The airline also added two more challenge options that immediately impart status on the applicant. These are the current offers:
- Pay $120, fly 7,000 EQMs or 8 Elite Qualifying Segments and spend 1,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) to get Gold
- Pay $200, fly 12,500 EQMs or 16 segments and spend 2,000 EQDs to get Platinum
- Pay $400 for the same offer, but receive Gold status during the challenge
- Pay $500 for the same offer, but receive Platinum status during the challenge
While being able to pay extra to immediately get status is a nice option, particularly if you plan to do a lot of traveling during the challenge, the addition of the revenue requirement is not a welcome change.
To sign up for the challenge, call American at 888-697-5636. Some individuals receive targeted offers directly from American giving them the chance to sign up for free.
Delta Air Lines
Delta only offers a status match challenge. If you have elite status with another airline, you can earn a comparable status with Delta if you fly a certain amount on Delta flights within 90 days. Flights on partner airlines do not count.Delta’s website has the details on what status and airlines qualify for the challenge, as well as how to sign up.
Here are the requirements to earn a status match:
- Fly 6,250 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or 8 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) to earn Silver
- Fly 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs for Gold
- Fly 18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs for Platinum
To sign up, you cannot currently be a Medallion status holder or have participated in the status match challenge in the last three years. Delta also requires you to submit documentation of current elite status with another airline.
United has nearly the same status match challenge as Delta. That’s good news if you already have status with another airline, but, since it doesn’t offer a straight challenge, you’re out of luck if you don’t have status.
These are the requirements you must meet with 90 days to earn a status match with United:
- Fly 7,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) or 8 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs) for Premier Silver
- Fly 12,500 PQMs or 15 PQSs for Premier Gold
- Fly 18,000 PQMs or 22 PQSs for Premier Platinum
Like Delta, you have to fly on United, not a partner, to earn qualifying miles. You cannot sign-up if you’ve participated in United’s status match in the last five years.
Co-Branded Credit Cards Can Help
If status matching isn’t working out for you, consider getting a co-branded airline credit card. Some cards will waive the spending requirements to achieve status, while others will help you earn elite qualifying miles. At the very least, you’ll get to enjoy some perks with these cards, like discounts, priority boarding and free checked bags.
Delta and United both offer cards with elite qualifying dollar waivers. That means you won’t have to spend a certain amount of money with the airline in order to get status. The catch is that you’ll have to put a lot of purchases on your card to enjoy this benefit.
If you make $25,000 in purchases on any of the Delta cards—Gold, Platinum or Reserve—you’ll get the waiver. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, which costs $195 a year, also includes 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles as part of its sign-up bonus, while the premium Delta Reserve card comes with 10,000 MQMs.
Both cards also allow you to earn an annual MQM bonus if you reach a spending threshold. You’ll get 10,000 MQMs with the Platinum after spending $25,000 and 15,000 MQMs with the Reserve card after spending $30,000.
Either of the United cards—the MileagePlus Explorer or MileagePlus Club—let cardholders waive the Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement if they put $25,000 worth of purchases on the card. Neither of the cards allows you to earn elite qualifying miles.
American’s cards have yet to introduce an elite qualifying dollar requirement waiver. Though the revenue requirement for elite status is relatively new for the airline and it may yet add this perk.
You can earn elite qualifying miles with the premium Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard. The $450 card, which includes Admirals Club access, requires you to spend a sizable $40,000 dollars in a year to get 10,000 EQMs. Not the best deal, but it might be worth it if you can spend that much.
Elite status can be hard to get, but the benefits can be very valuable. If you travel a lot and already have status with one carrier, consider applying for a status match challenge with another airline. Co-branded airline cards can also be a great way to get status faster. Many cards can help by waiving the spending requirements or offering bonus elite qualifying miles. However you do it, it’s worth chasing status.