How To Earn Airline Elite Status Without Flying At All

Having elite status when you fly means enjoying many benefits that aren't available to regular passengers. These benefits might include lounge access, priority boarding, and other upgrades. Elite status programs vary depending on the airline, so it's always best to research which benefits provide value to you, and their requirements.

In general, though, you'll need to spend some moolah to reach elite status. Spending is the name of the game, and with airlines, this typically translates to flying frequently. However, if you're not a regular flyer, don't lose hope. It's totally possible to accumulate miles or points toward elite status without stepping aboard a plane at all.

Airlines have traditionally focused on rewarding loyalty members who are frequent flyers, but today, rewards go beyond the number of miles or flights you have. So, if you're looking to rack up those points sans the airline ticket, here are some of the ways you can do it. (Note: Since we've already covered some of the unique ways you can earn airline miles, you can consider these as additional ways to earn more.)

Request a status match

If you're an elite status holder from another airline and would love to transfer to a new airline where you don't have elite status yet, you can do so via what's called a status match. Think of this as a way to fast-track your achievement of elite status at the new airline. Unlike a status challenge which requires the completion of some actions, such as flying a number of miles or spending a particular dollar amount before the new airline awards you elite status, a status match will give you status at the new airline right away. Some airlines implement both, i.e., they give you elite status for a fixed period and set out additional activities that you should accomplish to extend your elite status. Always check the terms and conditions for details.

The downside, however, is the lack of public information about airlines' status matches, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Before requesting a status match, prepare proof of your current elite status. According to Upgraded Points, this includes your frequent flyer membership number, photos of your card, and your account statement. It also helps if you join the new airline's loyalty program so you can include your membership number for the new airline in your request too. Watch out for the airline's email to know if your request has been approved or denied.

Use your airline credit card

If you don't have elite status with an airline, getting a co-branded airline credit card is the next best thing to flying to gain miles or points. While an airline credit card won't hand you elite status on a platter, it can make it easier for you to achieve it by giving you the opportunity to earn more miles or points. Aside from airfare, some of these cards offer earning opportunities for other categories, such as dining or hotel accommodation, as well. And, while these cards typically have an annual fee, some encourage cardholders to stay on with anniversary bonuses.

Having an airline credit card makes sense when you mostly fly the same airline, and many offer perks that may only be available to elite status holders, such as free checked bags and waived fees. You can consider it as a teaser of what elite status with an airline can be like.

What's more, airline credit cards usually have sign-up bonuses that come in the form of points or miles, though you'll need to meet minimum spend requirements to receive them. Still, it's a great way to start strong in your quest for elite status. With airline credit cards, it's also often the more the merrier, i.e., if you invite your friends to join, both of you will receive rewards: Your friend will receive a sign-up bonus while you'll receive extra points or miles for the referral.