Beginner’s Guide to Free Travel: Airline Elite Status

Beginner’s Guide to Free Travel

If you’ve seen “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, you’re probably aware that airline and hotel loyalty programs not only earn you tons of points that can be redeemed for amazing trips, but you can also earn elite status, which comes with great perks.

Remember when Ryan Bingham walked through the airport and the American Airlines rep greeted him by name? That probably won’t happen to  most of us, but the bonus points, extra baggage allowance, lounge access, seat upgrades, shorter lines, and priority boarding privileges are just a few of the perks of having status. Here are the top ways to earn elite status without actually flying the required 25-125,000 miles a year.

1. Mileage Runs + Promos. Flying for the purpose of earning both redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles (EQM). Mileage running is all about maximizing the number of miles  earned per dollar spent. Be on the lookout for a great mileage run opportunity on this Flyertalk page, and check out this thread on how to construct and book a mileage run. Combine mileage running with a great promo and earn elite status faster and cheaper.

2. Gifted status. A few airlines offer existing elite members the ability to gift free status to their less fortunate friends and family members. American Airlines makes this gift-giving option available to Platinum and Executive Platinum members. Delta lets Platinum members gift Silver status, while Diamond members can gift Gold.

3. Credit Cards. Several airlines let you earn elite qualifying miles (EQM) through credit card sign-up bonus and spending. Check out my post on Frugal Travel Guy for ways to accomplish this.

4. Status Match. Once you’ve achieved status with one airline, it becomes much easier to get status with another. Simply ask for a status match by providing proof of existing status. Some airlines will require you to travel a certain number of miles to keep this status, but this is far less than the standard requirement.

5. Buying EQMs. I’m not a fan of this method and I certainly wouldn’t straight out buy EQM’s. However, if you are just a few miles short, it might make sense to buy EQM’s in order to achieve status. 

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