The news yesterday that Delta would be raising the MQD exemption for Diamond Medallion status from $25,000 to $250,000 is a reminder of how much has changed in loyalty programs from 10 or 20 years ago. I know, some things were even more generous at the birth of travel loyalty, but you don’t have to go back far to remember when simply flying a long distance was enough to earn status.
I thought I’d do a quick round up of which U.S. loyalty programs now require you to spend a certain amount — and which don’t — in order to earn elite status. I’m not focusing on other requirements, such as minimum distance flown, but I’ll include it when convenient. Be sure to see the airline program or card terms for details on what kind of purchases qualify to earn a waiver.
TL;DR — You can find limited exceptions with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines either ignore spend entirely or provide alternative ways to earn status without an explicit spend requirement. American Airlines and JetBlue Airways require some minimum spend to earn status.
- Status requires earning a certain number of elite qualifying dollars, as well as either elite qualifying miles or elite qualifying segments.
- No EQD waivers are provided, but as Amol points out, you can earn up to 6,000 EQDs with certain American Airlines credit cards, and that would be enough for Gold or Platinum AAdvantage status.
- Status requires earning a certain number of premier qualifying dollars, as well as either qualifying miles or qualifying segments. In addition, at least four segments must be on United-operated flights.
- Must spend $25,000 on most United credit cards to earn a PQD waiver for Premier Silver, Gold, or Platinum status.
- No PQD waiver is available for Premier 1K status.
Delta Air Lines
- Status requires earning a certain number of medallion qualifying dollars, as well as either qualifying miles or qualifying segments.
- Must spend $25,000 on most Delta credit cards to earn a MQD waiver for Medallion Silver, Gold, or Platinum status.
- Must spend $250,000 on most Delta credit cards to earn a MQD waiver for Medallion Diamond status.
- Although technically no minimum spend requirement exists, qualifying points are based on the amount you spend on tickets and the type of fare purchased.
- However, you may also earn status through a certain number of qualifying flights regardless of the amount spent.
- There is no minimum spend requirement, and spend is not tracked in any way.
- Alaska’s program hews most closely to traditional airline loyalty programs by using either qualifying miles (based on distance and fare class) or qualifying segments to determine status.
Jet Blue Airways
- Mosaic status is earned with either 30,000 base points or 15,000 base points and 30 segments.
- You’ll earn 3 base points per dollar spent, and because you must earn at least 15,000 base points even with 30 segments, you’ll need to spend at least $5,000 on tickets to earn status.
- There is one tier in the EarlyReturns program, which requires 20,000 miles or 25 one-way flights. Miles are based on the distance flown, so there’s no direct or indirect spend requirement.
- FREE SPIRIT, the ironically named loyalty program of Spirit Airlines (where everything has a fee), has two elite tiers. You can earn elite status with 12,000 points or VIP status with 24,000 points.
- These points are based on the distance flown, so no spend requirement exists. However, Spirit practically sells status by offering an alternative route with its credit card, or by tracking dollars spent instead of miles flown.
- Although you can earn MyAllegiant points through credit card purchases, there’s no loyalty program associated with travel on the airline itself.