Why I Steal Frequent Flyer Elite Status (And Why You Should Too) | Citicard

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Who, me? No I am not a Platinum Emerald 1K Diamond Elite.

Well, I probably would be if I had the money to travel enough to earn it!

The truth is that for many leisure travelers. like myself, elite status sounds nice but we have no practical use for it.

FrequentMiler and Deltapoints did a brilliant joint post about earning Diamond Medallion, Delta’s highest elite status, without ever flying. All you do is spend a ton of cash on the Delta Reserve AmEx card and have your significant other do the same.

That is an example of one airline giving its top tier to people who do not ever fly.

But why would you need elite status if you never fly?

A Waste of Time

Of course when I first started and knew nothing about Frequent Flying, I thought becoming a top tier elite was the ultimate goal.

However I now realize that earning elite status would be a waste of my time and money.

There is no set of circumstances where it is valuable for somebody like me; who is not on track or close to earning elite status to “go for it”.

The amount of time and money dedicated to earning elite is simply more than I can afford. After all, it is a luxury given to people who fly often.

I generate my frequent flyer miles primarily with CC Signup offers and a smattering of other 3rd party promotional mileage offers. The actual mileage I earn from flying is statistically insignificant to helping me earn my free dream travel.

So putting a majority of my spend on one card, in this case the Delta Reserve AmEx, to earn elite status would be costing me more than it would benefit me. Some opportunities I would miss:

  • CC Signup Offers
  • Cash Back Bonus’
  • Earn RDM Miles

This could easily cost you several hundred thousand miles every year or in free travel terms; TWO Round-trip Business Class tickets to Europe.

Is elite status on a couple flights a year worth sacrificing free dream travel? Not for me.

I search for affordable airfare, irrespective of the airline, because I travel on a strict budget. Saving my cash and creating a clear mileage plan is more important than overpaying for services I do not use.

Why give up so much for these elite services that are not necessary to my travel plans?

In fact I can qualify for many of those benefits without elite status.

Elite Perks without the Status

The opportunity cost and risk outweigh the benefits of gunning for top tier elite status.

Besides, I get plenty of “elite” value from my airline credit cards.

Credit Card Elite

Priorty Boarding:

Citi AA visa is the only card that does not give you Priority Boarding for having their credit card.

The Chase MileagePlus Explorer card gets boarding after elites, special needs and Premier Access passengers but before general boarding. 90% sure it is for cardholder exclusively.

The Gold Delta AmEx  cards allow Priority Boarding into Zone 2; after elites, first class and first row of economy seating. Good for up to 9 people in your reservation.

Last the Barclay’s US Airways card offers First Class check-in and Zone 2 priority boarding but only for the primary cardholder. Zone 2 boards after all elite tiers from Gold up, Star Gold, First Class, Bulkhead and Exit Row passengers.

Priority Boarding before general boarding of passengers is good enough for me. After all that is where most of the confusion and waiting originate.

I don’t mind if elite and first class passengers boards before me. Have you ever experienced a frantic first class traveler getting in the way or taking all the overhead bin room above your seat in economy? Pretty rare.

I would say Delta is great for large groups and US Airways is best for solo travelers.

1st Checked Bag Free:

The MPlus Explorer card serves up a freebie on the first bag for the cardholder and one companion booked on the same reservation.

Yet again Delta is killing it. Here they are offering the first bag free for up to 9 people in your reservation. Amazing.

No offerings from Citi AA or Barclay’s US Airway cards for this category.

Let’s Pause right here. How much have you saved so far? Let us imagine you had a R/T flight and you check two bags. How much do you save?

Referencing my Checked Bag Fee chart lets figure it out.

$25 (1st bag fee)×2  + $35 (2nd bag fee) ×2 = $120 R/T

Nice chunk of change. In NYC That’s half a night out worth of money! haha.

Discount Award Travel:

Both the Citi AA and Barclay’s US Airway cards shave off miles for their cardholders; 7,500 and 5,000 respectively.

Nada from Delta or United cards.

Companion Certification:

Only the Delta and US Airways cards offer these for economy class travel after purchase of certain round-trip fares.

Delta serves up one for $89 and US Airways gives you two, after spend and 2nd after keeping card,  for $99.


Sure, elite status is more than just a name and offers real benefits. But I don’t need that, I have credit cards!

The small savings on bag fees definitely add up. The priority boarding does help remove some of the stress of air travel although priority disembarking would be revolutionary.

I always enjoy curling up to a good credit card T&C’s leaflet to learn all about the perks coming my way. Its a bit ‘mad, no?

Any other benefits from credit cards that you can’t live without or enjoy? Let me know and continue the discussion in the comments section below!

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10 Responses to "Why I Steal Frequent Flyer Elite Status (And Why You Should Too) | Citicard"

  1. deltagoldflyer (@DeltagoldFlyer) says:

    great post! I may just have to add this to my top tips or Q&A should I go for status. one thing you missed. the line in the non-elite line in SLC today was 1hr+ and almost as long at security. I made it in 10 min each part.

    • The Travel Abstract says:

      Thanks. Yea that is true. Unfortunately that is one of the perks CC’s do not afford me. I can only dream.

      However flying on the red-eye out of SLC allowed me to avoid all of that, haha. I was the only person walking through the security maze and getting a full body scan. That way I had some privacy for those invasive security practices. haha.

  2. New Girl in the Air says:

    Never thought about looking at status from this way. Great post!

    • The Travel Abstract says:

      Don’t get me wrong I will still go for the Instant HHonors Gold Status and Kingfisher Silver/OW Ruby opportunities when I see them.

      Even though I don’t know when I use them. Still nice to think I have status somewhere. haha.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. AAdvantage Geek says:

    Great counterpoint to the conventional view of elite status. I think that most people do travel on a budget, and that the value of these frequent flyer programs is that it makes it possible for people to visit places that might not otherwise fit within their budgets.

    Sign me up for Priority Disembarking!!

    • The Travel Abstract says:

      Yup. Totally agree. When you are a noobie you don’t understand the difference between elite status and all the different types of frequent flyer miles, qualifying miles/points vs. rdm.

      I think that’s where some people get left behind. The elite status is unattainable and they think it is the only way they would be able to travel in style. It is much easier to use miles to fly first class and get all those perks when you want them.

      It’s like “on-demand” elite status.

  4. deltagoldflyer (@DeltagoldFlyer) says:

    ….heck as we know some credit cards give you instant GOLD status with Hiltion ;-)

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