Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

Delta Air Lines recently announced a series of changes whereby they were radically changing how one qualifies for elite status – instead of flying and spending, only how much you spend will count and flying is no longer part of the overall metrics. That means you can spend your way towards Delta’s top-tier elite status without ever stepping on a plane.

How Elite Status Is Normally Achieved

Airline elite status has normally been achieved through a combination of:

  • your fare and booking class on a ticket
  • your flight distance

The higher your booking class was and the longer your flight was, the more elite credit you would get. After all, this makes sense, right? It is called a frequent flyer program, after all.

Adding A Revenue Requirement

A few years ago, U.S. airlines started adding a revenue requirement in order to attain elite status, and therefore the metrics were as follows:

  • number of miles or segments flown
  • amount spent with airline on tickets and sometimes ancillary services

This really started to kill earning elite status easily and basically killed the mileage run and redefined it into a status run instead.

The revenue requirements at the time they were added were something along the lines of:

  • Silver status: $3,000
  • Gold status: $6,000
  • Platinum status: $9,000
  • Diamond status: $12,000

These figures are give or take, but most U.S. airlines had those similar metrics. Basically, in addition to flying, you also had to spend that much with the airline to reach those elite levels.

Only the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges count and not the mandatory government taxes and fees.

Raising the Revenue Amount Required

After the revenue requirement for status was introduced, airlines started getting creative and added new ways you could “earn spend” with them – so checked bag fees and seat assignment fees began to count, which was a positive.

Some airlines also added the ability to earn spend with them by spending on their co-branded credit cards on certain purchases.

Over the years that the revenue requirement existed, it was raised several times while the miles or segments required for elite status was not. Essentially, all airlines care about is your money.

Some airlines allowed you to earn a waiver for their revenue status requirement if you spent a certain amount on a co-branded credit card for certain elite levels.

Removing Miles or Segments Flown

The most recent change by several airlines was the fact that they removed the miles flown or segments flown requirement for elite status and increased the revenue amount required to gain or keep status.

That’s right, it is no longer required to fly some airlines a certain amount to gain elite status – only spend money with them and they will happily give you status. This does not apply with all airlines, but it will apply with Delta, for example, starting next year and I’m sure others will follow.

Is It Worth Spending Your Way Towards Elite Status?


Why? Because for starters, why do you want to be loyal to an airline that only cares about your money and not the amount of times you fly with them? It doesn’t make sense.

Secondly, if an airline is constantly making changes to their frequent flyer program and constantly tweaking it to screw over members (like Delta), why would you want to be loyal to that airline in the first place?

Thirdly, it is rarely worth it to spend money on an airline credit card outside of the initial sign-up bonus requirement. Why? Because you should be using a credit card that earns flexible and transferable points from a bank program that you can transfer to an airline that has the best award availability when it comes time to book. You don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of miles in an airline account and find no award availability with that frequent flyer program.

It’s never worth spending your way towards elite status because there are other programs in the same alliance through which you can achieve alliance-wide elite benefits and status without a spend requirement and just through flying.

All in All

Don’t be loyal to one airline or one hotel program and before getting involved with a program, read about their history and how they’ve changed over the years.

It’s absolutely okay to be loyal and fly with one airline but always have a plan in case the program significantly changes and it no longer provides enough value for you. Remember that foreign frequent flyer programs could provide you more value for less if you play your cards right and plan out your flying and travel – especially if those programs don’t have a revenue requirement for status.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.