What Delta and United’s elite qualifying changes mean for you

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Elite status is the cornerstone of a successful frequent flyer strategy.  The bonus miles, upgrades and priority services can make the difference between a stress-filled trip and a stress-free trip.

Two of the largest U.S.-based airlines – Delta and United – have introduced a significant change to their requirements for elite status.  Historically, elite status has been based on how many miles a traveler flies in a year.  Delta and United have now imposed an additional requirement: A minimum spending threshold.  While this won’t affect many business travelers, leisure travelers looking to qualify for elite status will have to strategize in order to avoid these minimum spending amounts.

The following chart summarizes the requirements.

Spending3

As you can see, the amount of miles required to earn status has not changed for either airline.  What’s new is the Medallion Qualifying Dollars (Delta) and Premier Qualifying Dollars (United).

While it may not seem like it, this change may be positive in the long run, as it will weed out people who aren’t savvy or loyal enough to earn elite status.  Less elites would make upgrades easier to get, and hopefully would prevent the airlines from further reducing the benefits of elite status.

For those of you who are more savvy than spendy, there are a couple ways around these new requirements.  The minimum spending thresholds are waived in the following circumstances:

  • If you spend at least $25,000 per year on the airline’s co-branded credit card.  This waiver works for all levels at Delta, and for every level except 1K at United.
  • If you have a non-U.S. based mailing address on your mileage account.

I predict a rush on Canadian post office boxes in the near future.

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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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